Temple game back on

Leslie Combs

The coronation of Philadelphia’s Big Five champion for the 2003-04 season was resurrected last week when the Temple and Villanova athletic departments reached a scheduling agreement upon the date of the men’s basketball game between the two universities. The contest between the two city rivals will take place at 12:01 a.m. on Nov. 21 when the ‘Cats travel across town to the Owls’ Licouras Center and will open the 2003-04 season for both teams.

The scheduling conflict arose when Villanova asked to change the original, but supposedly tentative Nov. 21 date for the Temple game when it became apparent players would still be suspended at the start of the season for misuse of a University telephone access code. Already scheduled to play in the Maui Invitational Nov. 24-26, Villanova hoped to travel across the country to play Claremont and Redlands College before continuing on to Maui. The purpose of these added games against Division III schools was to enable more players to serve their suspensions and return to the hardwood earlier in the Maui Invitational.

Temple, as Owls head coach John Chaney explicitly and publicly explained, would not change the Nov. 21 date of the Villanova match-up and said if the ‘Cats would not travel to play them on their court as originally planned, the Owls did not intend to play them at all this season.

The proposed cancellation of the game posed not just a problem for the fans and players of the two universities, but since both are members of Philadelphia’s Big Five, the void is detrimental to the round-robin tournament between LaSalle, Pennsylvania, Saint Joseph’s, Temple and Villanova. Without all the schools playing each other sometime during the season, Philadelphia college basketball is left without a true city champion.

Eager to see the conflict resolved, coaches and athletic directors at both Penn and Saint Joseph’s got involved in working to settle the disagreement.

In the end the game remains on the date as originally scheduled, only with an unusual starting time. The tip-off time is one-minute after NCAA regulations state two teams can meet on the court for regular season play this season, and allows Villanova time to fly to the West Coast later that same day in order to play the College of Redlands Nov. 22 at noon. The Wildcats will then continue on to Maui Sunday where they will arrive in time to attend the banquet and news conference.

The Nov. 21 match-up between Temple and ‘Nova is the first time since 1999 that the two schools will meet on the Owls’ hardwood, but for some ‘Cats, their journey will take them as far as the visitor’s bench. Senior forward Marcus Austin and junior forward Andreas Bloch were suspended for eight games, all which they have yet to serve, while senior guard Derrick Snowden and sophomore forwards Curtis Sumpter and Chris Charles have three game suspensions to serve. Snowden recently underwent knee surgery to repair his ACL and possibly could sit out the entire season.

While the rest of ‘Nova’s schedule is yet to be released, Kansas and Villanova announced the two programs are going to start a home-and-home series with the first game in Lawrenceburg, Kan. on Jan. 2, 2004.