Hoping to find a clever means of ridiculing the St. Joseph's basketball team for its dismal 7-19 record, Temple students decided to take aim at one of their city rival's most treasured traditions: its motto.
St. Joseph's fans always chant "The Hawk will never die" after every game, whether they win or lose. That slogan irked Temple student Jeff McDevitt enough that he hatched a plan to throw the Hawk a funeral.
Members of the Temple student section arrived at the Liacouras Center for Sunday's matchup with St. Joseph's dressed head-to-toe in black and clad in T-shirts that read "RIP The Hawk" on the front.
Some wore black veils and carried flowers. Others waved cardboard headstones spray painted silver. One student dressed as the grim reaper even brought a black casket with Jameer Nelson's No. 14 St. Joseph's jersey draped on the front.
"I thought it was incredible," McDevitt said. "A lot of times it's hard to get college students motivated to do things, especially on a Sunday afternoon. But everyone came out in full force. Girls were wearing black dresses and guys were wearing suits. We brought the casket in and people were throwing flowers at it. I was really happy with the result."
What elevated this prank above others of its ilk was months of detailed planning by McDevitt and other leaders of the Temple student section. They even printed a funeral program with "In 'Loving' Celebration of The Saint Joseph's Hawk 1956-2011" in cursive script on the front and some of the clever jabs inside.
A list of the date and scores from each of Temple's previous eight victories over St. Joseph's appeared on the second page of the program under the heading "Thanks for the memories, Hawk. Especially these ones." Below that, the Temple students honored those who weren't able to attend the funeral, listing six players who have transferred from St. Joseph's recently and two others who were suspended for the game.
Maybe the funniest moment of the game was the "funeral hymn" the Temple students sang late in the second half. They adapted the ubiquitous "I believe that we will win" cheer, chanting "I believe the Hawk is dead" instead.
Whereas other student sections have resorted to vulgar or malicious chants to take jabs at a rival school, credit Temple for being creative without being cruel. The stunt was so well received that St. Joseph's athletic director Don DiJulia actually approached the Temple students during the game and asked if he could have one of the shirts with "RIP The Hawk" printed on them.
Even though Temple had beaten St. Joseph's by 18 in their previous meeting this season and entered Sunday's game a heavy favorite, McDevitt's worst fear was that the Hawks would spring an upset and the funeral stunt would backfire.
"The night before, I had a nightmare that we lost and I got expelled from Temple for making us look bad," McDevitt said. "If we had gone through all the motions of doing this funeral and not won, that would have been really embarrassing."
McDevitt shouldn't have worried. The Owls cruised to a 66-52 victory, making the Temple students the happiest mourners in funeral history.