A Match Made In Ward 2: GWU Vs. Georgetown

Sunday, March 25, 2007

It almost happened. The Ward 2 Championship -- George Washington University vs. Georgetown University in basketball -- almost happened.

If both teams had won in the first and second rounds of this year's NCAA Men's Basketball Tournament, they would have met Friday in East Rutherford, N.J. Although Georgetown has defeated Belmont University, Boston College and Vanderbilt University to advance to today's East Region final, George Washington lost in the first round to Vanderbilt.

Why don't these two basketball powerhouses, about a mile apart, play each other these days? Why haven't they played since the 1981-82 season?

They used to play annually, long before either school rose to such prominence. The games were always exciting, and, as with many rivalries, beating a crosstown opponent made the season, no matter the teams' records. Georgetown hit the big time in the 1980s and was clearly the superior team for years. More recently, George Washington has become a powerhouse. Last season, the Colonials were ranked in the top 10 nationally. This season, Georgetown won the Big East title and George Washington won the Atlantic 10 championship.

I went to college in Philadelphia, at the University of Pennsylvania, a member of the Ivy League and, more important, a member of the Big 5.

What's the Big 5? Penn, Temple, St. Joseph's, LaSalle and Villanova. Every season, these teams play one another for bragging rights of Philadelphia. Big 5 games at the Palestra are as exciting as any anywhere. The Palestra is one of the oldest gymnasiums in the nation. It has been host to some of college basketball's greatest stars and most memorable games. The Big 5 doubleheaders are legendary. And Philadelphia is not alone. Other cities foster similar rivalries.

Why not in the District?

No one is quite sure why Georgetown and George Washington stopped playing each other. Last year, I proposed a Ward 2 Championship between the schools to be played at Verizon Center. (Both schools are in Ward 2, as is Verizon Center). Although I contacted the schools' presidents and received responses, scheduling problems prevented any action this season. But a commitment by both universities could make this happen.

And the rivalry could be expanded to include George Mason, Howard and American universities, the University of Maryland and any other interested local schools. As a start, maybe the BB&T Classic in December could be limited to regional teams -- just an idea. Not only would the basketball be great, but the event would bring the city and the metropolitan area together behind a common endeavor. Sports have a way of uniting people. Think: Redskins.

A 2007 NCAA matchup between Georgetown and George Washington would have been great. And I would have been up there in New Jersey to award the Ward 2 Championship trophy to the winner. But I'd much rather do it next season, and for many seasons thereafter, here in the District at Verizon Center.

-- Jack Evans


The writer represents Ward 2 on the D.C. Council. His e-mail address is jackevans@dccouncil.us.

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