Owls, Cats will put on a basketball late show Their stalemate ended when they agreed to a game on Nov. 21 - at 12:01 a.m.

Posted: September 06, 2003

This will be true Midnight Madness and one for the Big Five history books.

Temple and Villanova solved their basketball scheduling impasse yesterday by agreeing to play at 12:01 a.m. on Friday, Nov. 21, the first day of the regular season.

The strange game time will allow Villanova to catch a flight that morning for Los Angeles, where the Wildcats will play Saturday morning at the nearby University of Redlands. They will catch a flight that afternoon to Hawaii, where they will play three games in the Maui Invitational starting Nov. 24.

Villanova had wanted to get two games en route to Maui in order to work off part of the three-game suspensions handed several players for unauthorized use of an athletic-department phone-access code. It had lined up games with two Division III teams - Redlands and Claremont, which is also located near Los Angeles. (Games against Division III teams will not be taken into consideration by the committee that selects teams for the NCAA tournament.)

Although Villanova believed that it had communicated to Temple that it did not want to play on Nov. 21, Temple's position was that it already had an agreement to play a home game against the Cats on that date at the Liacouras Center. Last month, Owls coach John Chaney made it clear that he had no interest in playing them on any other date.

"We all had to give in on something," said Bill Bradshaw, the Temple athletic director. "If you look at 12:01 a.m., you may not see this as ideal, but it was in the best interests of everyone. We really ran out of options, but through creativity and Jay [Wright, Villanova's coach, being] willing to do what he had to do . . . . Coach [Chaney] gets up early enough as it is. His willingness to do this shows a lot about Coach."

"I'm just happy that we're playing that game," Wright said. "It's Villanova-Temple. You've got to play the game."

Both sides had acknowledged that communications problems led to the impasse. Earlier this week, Bradshaw sat down with Wright and Penn coach Fran Dunphy, a longtime friend of both. That helped the process, Wright said. There also were conversations between Bradshaw and Villanova AD Vince Nicastro.

Temple wanted the game to be played when students were on campus.

"Bill Bradshaw presented it and talked about the possibilities from his end on it," Nicastro said of playing the midnight game. "He tried to recognize that we wanted to play two games before going to Maui. This was a way to logistically make it work. Jay thought about it. We talked about it a lot. It kind of worked itself out."

"They had to jump through hoops, cancel one of their games," Bradshaw said. "They're going to have a real furious couple of days. They showed a lot of character in terms of wanting to get the game done."

"They did what they had to do, and we did what we had to do, and I agree with it," Chaney said. "I respect their judgment, and I hope they respect ours."

Villanova has dropped plans to play Claremont. It is now looking for another game.

Wright was asked about whether his phone conversations last month with Chaney had gotten heated. Chaney had been talking about not playing at Villanova next year if this year's game wasn't played.

"I've never had a problem with Coach Chaney," Wright said. "I respect Coach Chaney. I know he wears his heart on his sleeve."

As for the tortuous trip his team will take, Wright said: "It's going to be tough, but we know the situation. We knew it was going to be tough the other way. But we're going to make it a positive - a nice trip to L.A., a nice trip to Maui and play ball. This has become such a storied trip. I don't want to make it any bigger than it is. It is what it is."

Contact staff writer Mike Jensen at 215-854-4489 or mjensen@phillynews.com.

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