Villanova was supposed to be making a final decision on their football future on Tuesday but Mike Kern of the Philadelphia Inquirer reports this morning that the decision Villanova fans and the Big East have been waiting all spring for will not be made as expected. Citing sources Kern reports that the delay should leave no indication that Villanova and the Big East are parting ways but a number of issues are still left to be resolved before Villanova would become the conference’s 10th football member.
The news that Villanova will not make a decision as planned follows a conference call between current Big East football members (and not TCU, who will join the conference in 2012) to review the prospects of Villanova joining the league. Details of that call were not made available but it would seem to indicate that Villanova was informed that the school’s invitation to the conference might not be as automatic as it once was suspected to be. Financial concerns continue to stand in the way of Villanova joining the BCS conference from the FCS ranks.
VUHoops.com reports that opposition to Villanova joining the Big East was not universal, but as previously reported there are some big names that are not as excited about seeing Villanova join, such as Pittsburgh. The main problem is the stadium Villanova plans to home games in the event they move up in college football ranks. PPL Park, home of Major League Soccer’s Philadelphia Union, currently seats just over 18,000 and even with room for expansion it would still be the smallest stadium in the Big East and one of the smallest in the nation.
Villanova’s president, Father Peter Donahue, sent a mass email to the student body and faculty touching on the situation. VUHoops.com reposted this email.
“We very recently learned that the Big East Conference needs more time to complete its due diligence regarding Villanova’s potential football membership,” Donahue said in the email. “Without a clear and formal invitation from the Big East, we cannot proceed. We are now working with the Big East to provide whatever additional information and details we can. It is our hope that in the near future we will proceed with the Board of Trustees vote as planned.” The decision could come as late as June but may come earlier if these issues can be resolved. In order to join the Big East in 2012, when TCU joins the conference, a decision would have to be made before July 1, 2011.
“I am sure that some of you may be disappointed by this delay,” Donoahue continues. “But please know that whatever the outcome of this situation, we greatly value the positive relationship we have enjoyed with the Big East for over 30 years and look forward to the continuation of this partnership.”
As Kern mentioned, this does not officially rule out Villanova as a potential Big East member, but Big East commissioner John Marinatto has said before that the conference will not necessarily wait for Villanova when it comes to possible expansion. The Big East is set on increasing to ten football members and Villanova would be the easiest addition in the conference because they are already a conference member in other sports such as men’s and women’s basketball. Any other potential Big East member would mean creating an imbalanced conference in other sports.
Central Florida has been one of the candidates discussed in Big East expansion, and with this news about Villanova it would not be a surprise to see the Orlando university to push for further consideration by the Big East. The move would still make some sense for the Big East, but would make the most sense if the conference could find a way to add Central Florida (or any other candidate) as a football-only member. Central Florida, currently in Conference USA, would probably consider that move because football is what drives athletic budgets and the Big East, as an automatic BCS conference, has more access to money than Conference USA.
Of course, the best resolution for the Big East would be to have Notre Dame join the conference in football. Notre Dame, like Villanova, is a conference member in other sports but remains a football independent. The conference and university have a respectable relationship in regards to Notre Dame preferring football independence and that appears very unlikely to change any time soon. Notre Dame’s better fit may be the Big Ten and if the Irish continue to turn down the idea of joining that conference, then the Big East appears to have no shot of getting the Irish on board.
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