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Penn History

Penn Plays Philadelphia Big 5 Basketball


On April 15, 1955, the University of Pennsylvania Trustees’ Committee on Student Affairs resolved to

recommend that the Finance Committee approve a loan not to exceed $60,000 to be amortized equally over the five year period beginning 1955-56 as a part of the Palestra Double Header Budget; these funds to provide seats to bring the Palestra capacity to approximately 10,000, to repair and refurbish 4 team and shower rooms on the court level, to install new basketball backboards, and to reinstall the ventilation system.

A radically expanded Palestra opened the door for a radically expanded schedule for the five preeminent Philadelphia basketball teams: La Salle, Penn, St. Joseph’s, Temple, and Villanova. On September 12, the Daily Pennsylvanian announced that those five teams would compete in “a round robin city series at the Palestra” against each other.

More on the history of the founding of Philadelphia’s Big 5 »


In the first game of the “round robin city series,” played on December 14, 1955, St. Joseph’s chalked up an “83-70 upset win over a previously unbeaten Villanova at the Palestra.”

View game statistics and newsclippings for the 1955-1956 through 1999-2000 seasons »


The University of Pennsylvania Archives houses the Philadelphia Big 5 Records, 1954 – 1996. This collection documents the operation and activities of the Philadelphia Big 5 program since its formation in 1954. Included are administrative records and scrapbooks, but the bulk of the collection consists of 257 broadcast quality tapes and ten film reels, which have recorded games among the teams, men or women, of the five institutions in the Philadelphia area from 1973 to 1996 and, in addition, a few games between teams of the group and outside teams.

More on the Philadelphia Big 5 archival records »