During the whole Conference Apocalypse That Wasn’t — at least, not nearly as landscape changing as rumored — this past offseason, there was chatter that the Big East had an interest in Villanova joining its 1-A ranks in football.
That chatter has now become a full-blown discussion, with seemingly the only thing standing between Villanova and a Big East football membership is a simple “yes”. And a whole helluva lot more work/money.
In a letter sent from the President Rev. Peter M. Donohue to the alumni association and forwarded to CFT, the school acknowledged that “recently, the Big East officially informed us that its football schools were interested in adding Villanova as a football member of the Conference.”
Villanova is currently a Big East member in all other varsity sports, but plays at the Div. 1-AA level in football. There are several issues that would need to be addressed before the Wildcats could make the jump from Div. 1-AA to 1-A in football.
The NCAA requires all 1-A schools to have a stadium that seats a minimum of 15,000 people; Villanova’s current home field seats in the neighborhood of 12,000. In concert with a stadium upgrade would be the requisite upgrade in training facilities that would allow the school to compete at that level.
Additionally, Villanova would be required to add 22 additional football scholarships. Thanks to Title IX, they would also have to add the same number of scholarships in women’s sports according to the Associated Press.
Even given those hurdles, the school has decided to expedite the decision-making process and will conduct an in-depth study into making the jump to big-time college football.
“As part of the University’s Strategic Planning process, we have been studying our athletic programs, including assessing possible options for the football program,” Pres. Donohue said in the alumni letter. “Given the current situation, the Board of Trustees’ leadership and the President’s Cabinet have decided that the most prudent course of action is to expedite our timeframe and embark upon an in-depth and thorough evaluation of the opportunity presented by the Big East. This is a complicated issue with numerous, multi-dimensional factors that come into play, and it is important that we investigate scenarios related to making – or not making – such a move.”
The Philadelphia Daily News reports that, according to sources, the Big East would like an answer from Villanova by the end of the year, although the school has not yet been given a deadline.
If Villanova were to decide sooner rather than later that they will be making the jump, it probably wouldn’t be until 2014, and only after playing two years at this level on a provisional basis.
The addition of Villanova would be a scheduling boon for the Big East. With their current eight-team structure, each school must schedule five non-conference games per season. Add another school, and not only would that drop out-of-conference games to four, but it would also give each member four home and four road league games annually; as it’s currently constituted, four schools play three home conference games while the others play four.
It should also be said that adding Villanova could provide a bit of a safety net should a conference whose name rhymes with “Schmig Schmen” decides to go plundering again next offseason.