Villanova’s had an offer on the table to join the Big East in football for the better part of three months.
Today, it appears said offer will continue to sit there for another few months.
In a letter addressed to “Alumni and Friends”, Villanova president the Rev. Peter Donohue wrote that the “formal evaluation process” that began in September and involves studying a move from Div. 1-AA (FCS) to Div. 1-A (FBS) is still ongoing. And, in a timeline that certainly won’t please the conference that’s expressed interest in their football services, Donohue stated that a final decision will not come until April. Donahue laid out the school’s entire timeline for the decision to — or not to — jump up a level in football.
- January 2011: Continued community meetings, stakeholder dialogue, and research and analyses
- February 2011: Board of Trustees meeting; discussion of research findings to-date
- March 2011: Assessment of remaining research findings
- April 2011: Board of Trustees meeting; discussion of outstanding items; Board decision
The president also answered several questions at the end of his update, including stadium options for home games — off-campus venues are being explored — and whether the school could meet the minimum Div. 1-A level of 15,000 per-game attendance — a feasibility study has been undertaken to address that issue. Additionally, Donohue addressed the financial ramifications of a jump to the next level.
Q: Would Villanova make money playing Big East football?
A: Even as the 2009 national champion in the Colonial Athletic Association, Villanova—like the majority of universities—makes an institutional investment in its football program. Our current net investment is approximately $4 million per year. If Villanova were to join the Big East, its levels of investment and revenue would both increase substantially. We are conducting extensive financial analyses to assess the potential budgetary implications (revenue, expenses, and changes in institutional support) of various scenarios in the short and long term.
Q: What are the more significant costs/investments involved in a move to FBS?
A: Some of the more significant costs/investments involved in a move to FBS would include:
- Improvements to our on-campus football practice/training facilities. The cost of upgrading practice facilities is preliminarily estimated at $35 million (for physical improvements only).
- Operational costs involved in an FBS move (above our current net expenditures), such as additional salaries, marketing, and ongoing facility maintenance.
Because of competing institutional priorities, many of these investments would need to be fully funded through private gift support from donors. We are conducting financial analyses as well as a feasibility study to assess the implications of such private gift support—especially in terms of opportunity costs. That is, we are seeking to understand if donor support for football initiatives could preclude support for other initiatives at the university; and if so, how and to what extent.
While it’s not exactly what the Big East wanted to hear — they would’ve preferred an answer to their offer by the end of this year — Villanova is obviously taking a very methodical approach to what is a major decision for their athletic department. Their timeline may not be optional for a conference looking to expand further beyond TCU, but it appears that it will be in the best interests of the school.