Once again, the University of Delaware athletics department has done the right thing and actually put the welfare of the community above its own self-interests. What makes that largesse even better is that both of these cases also involve the only other FCS (aka Division I-AA) program in the state, Delaware State University.
The first surprising move came when Delaware agreed to play a football game at Delaware State. The two schools, just an hour’s drive apart, had never played in each other in football ever before they met in the 2007 playoffs, and they’ve played each other on a semi-regular basis ever since.
And both teams benefited – Delaware got an easy “W” and Delaware State got some easy “$.” And the reason the Hornets always received a nice payday is because the games were always played at Delaware, which has a bigger stadium and a bigger fan base.
Delaware also made money off of the intra-state game, and that’s why it was surprising that the Blue Hens agreed to play the 2024 and 2025 games at Delaware State.
It was the right thing to do, mainly because Delaware didn’t have to do it – the Hornets would have gladly driven up Route 1 every year, even though that would give Delaware a competitive advantage it doesn’t need every year.
Now, Delaware has again seen the bigger picture. They will play Delaware State in basketball this season, just as they have in 19 past seasons.
Those games were mostly home-and-away affairs and, unlike football, Delaware State has actually won its share of basketball games against Delaware – the Hornets have won five of the 19 games, including last year’s 73-71 thriller won on a last-second basket.
Now, for the first time, the game will be played at a neutral site, and it’s a great idea to have the game at the spanking new 76ers Fieldhouse in Wilmington. The game will be played on Dec. 16 and tickets are $30 for floor seats and $18 for bleacher seats.
The 76ers Fieldhouse has already hosted the ESPN morning show First Take, with special guest Magic Johnson in the house.
Then the 76ers held their first public scrimmage there last week and local fans got an up-close-and-personal look at their heroes, including Ben Simmons and Joe Embiid, as well as their first look at recently acquired players like Al Horford, Josh Richardson and rookie Matisse Thybulle.
Alas, Simmons didn’t shoot a three-pointer in that scrimmage, but you can’t have everything.
These kinds of events are why the 76ers Fieldhouse was built and they’re why it was built where it was, in an area of South Wilmington that desperately needs an economic boost.
It’s main purpose, of course, is to be the home court for the Delaware Blue Coats, the G League affiliate of the Sixers, but if that’s all it was, then this investment would be a failure.
And a big part of what has made it a success will be on display this weekend, when the 76ers Fieldhouse will host the Black Cager Fall Classic featuring high school basketball teams from the tri-state area, including Delaware schools Howard, Smyrna, Middletown, Appoquinimink, Salesianum, Sanford, St. Elizabeth and St. George’s.
Kids sports draw participants, and G League games and college games and NBA exhibitions draw spectators, and that’s the one-two punch the facility needs to thrive and to make a real difference in the community. And, thankfully, the two Division I colleges in the state will help make that happen.