The University of Pennsylvania men’s basketball team announced its 2015-16 non-conference schedule Aug. 13, and included the team’s first trip to Drexel’s Daskalakis Athletic Center since 2008.
The Quakers will make their second-ever trip to the Dragons’ basketball arena Dec. 22. The two teams haven’t faced off since Drexel topped Penn, 61-59, on Nov. 17, 2012.
The teams have faced each other 24 times, dating back to the early 1900s, with 23 of those games having taken place at the Palestra, Penn’s historical basketball venue. Drexel has won the last five contests.
In the last meeting between the two teams on Drexel’s home court, the Dragons topped the Quakers 66-64 as a part of ESPN’s 24-hour college basketball tip-off marathon.
Over the past two seasons, the respective athletic departments were unable to reach an agreement on future matchup in large part because former Penn Athletic Director Steve Bilsky was uninterested in playing at Drexel.
Drexel head coach James “Bruiser” Flint told The Triangle that Bilsky was the main barrier between the two teams in the past two seasons. Bilsky stepped down from his post after the 2013-14 season, and M. Grace Calhoun replaced him on July 1, 2014.
The two sides were unable to strike a deal in time for last season’s schedule, but this offseason, Penn reached out to Drexel and informed the Dragons they would like to rekindle the rivalry.
“They knew we were wanting to play again,” Flint said. “Bilsky retired, and that just made everything easier. They actually called us and said, ‘Do you guys still want to play?’ and we said, ‘Yeah.’ They said, ‘Look, we’ll come there.’”
“The only reason we didn’t play before was Bilsky. He’s not there anymore, doing any interference, so we just did the game.”
Flint said that he and the Drexel athletics department offered Bilsky and Penn favorable deals in the past few years, suggesting going “two-for-one” in which Drexel would play two games at the Palestra in exchange for one game at the DAC, but Bilsky wouldn’t budge.
“Bilsky, he didn’t want to even do that,” Flint said. “Bilsky didn’t want to come here at all.”
Penn’s previous visit to the DAC was predicated largely on an opportunity to appear on ESPN’s college basketball marathon program.
“That’s the only reason they came here, was because it was on ESPN,” Flint explained. “ESPN said, ‘We’re going to do the game at Drexel. If you can get Penn to come and play…then we’ll do it. If not, you won’t be on the marathon.”
With Calhoun now in charge as the athletics director and new head coach Steve Donahue at the helm of Penn’s team, it seems the animosity
“The people that are there now, the new AD [Calhoun], she’s cool,” Flint said.
Flint said the two teams would continue to face off in the coming seasons, including a probable visit to the Palestra next season.
“We’ll play. We’ll continue to play, no question,” he said.