For the first time since the formation of the Big 5, the St. Joseph's Hawks will host the Villanova Wildcats on their own campus. Rather than playing the game at the Palestra, per usual, SJU will take its bi-annual home game with rival Villanova to its newly refurbished fieldhouse—the Hagan Arena.
Detailing the story for the Daily News, Dick Jerardi also writes that the Temple Owls will be similarly impacted and thus making the trip down City Line Ave at some point this season.
University officials say the move is far from permanent, and really more of a temporary decision aimed at reinvigorating the program. Plus, the school won't vacating its second home altogether, as SJU will still play the remainder its Big 5 match ups versus Penn and La Salle at the Palestra.
Comments from head coach Phil Martelli and SJU athletic director Don DiJulia after the jump...
Coach Phil Martelli has long insisted that his school would continue to play its home games at the home of the Big 5. Unfortunately for the program, the Hawks haven't seen much success inside the Palestra in recent years, a factor no doubt, at least in part, prompting the move.
It does seem quite a long time ago that university had so many people in the Fieldhouse that it was potentially in violation fire codes. Those Jameer Nelson-David West, St. Joe-Xavier show downs have become a forgotten relic of a not so distant past.
Though the move has generated some blow back, particularly this ESPN piece lamenting the end of tradition, it's nearly impossible to fault the Hawks. They've willingly played their Big 5 games at the Palestra longer than any other school, save for, of course, Penn.
Villanova makes the Hawks travel to the Main Line every other year, just as Temple similarly enjoys the atmosphere of its own confines. Both schools play better on their own campus. So, it makes sense for Joe's to try something of the sort.
True, the school will lose the additional ticket revenue generated from playing in the substantially larger Palestra, but it may be a short term loss for a long term gain.
We were able to get in touch with university athletic director Don DiJulia to get his thoughts on the move. While DiJulia acknowledges that the 2011-2012 ticket returns will obviously be less than usual, he stresses that move was made for the basketball reasons Martelli mentions above.
That said, the AD remains hopeful that the added buzz will prompt an increase in season ticket sales, thereby sparking a renewed interest in the program.
If the experiment works, then the Hawks succeeded. If not, the school always retains the option to move its full slate of Big 5 home games back to the Palestra.