Sep 112010

Villanova considering move to Big East

September 11 Philadelphia Inquirer:

For years, Villanova has had a “standing invitation” from the Big East to play football in the conference in which it competes in all other varsity sports.

But the Big East “officially informed us that its football schools were interested in adding Villanova as a football member of the Conference,” Villanova president Peter Donahue said Friday in a letter to alumni.

What’s the difference?

As the sands keep shifting in college sports, as conferences realign – adding or losing members, the Big East is trying to protect its flanks. The window is open for Villanova now, but it could close. The school is expected to give the conference an answer around the end of the year. If ‘Nova decides to stay put in the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA), expect the Big East to look elsewhere for an extra member.

That suggests another wrinkle. Several college sources said that Temple, a former Big East football member before it was booted out of the league after the 2004 season, has been mentioned as a potential member now that the Owls are winning games in the Mid-American Conference. On Sept. 3, in the opener for Villanova and Temple, 32,000 fans saw the Owls beat the Wildcats in a last-minute, back-and-forth thriller.

The Big East would not be interested in both Villanova and Temple, those same college sources said. The Wildcats are at the plate now. The overture to Villanova, the defending FCS national champion, is considered a preventive move in case the Big East loses a member – if the Big Ten comes calling for Rutgers, for instance.

“It’s the cleanest move,” one Big East source said of taking Villanova.

Even if it doesn’t lose a team, the Big East wouldn’t mind adding a member. It’s easier to schedule with a nine-team conference, with each school playing eight league opponents.

“I think we’ve done a great deal of homework on this,” Villanova athletic director Vince Nicastro said. “You continue to cross-check all of your assumptions. I think most of the work will be packaging it and presenting, educating our trustees who will be making the decision.”

A major issue is a playing field. Temple is in the eighth year of a 15-year lease at Lincoln Financial Field, so that doesn’t appear to be a likely option. PPL Park, the new soccer stadium in Chester, could be viable. Franklin Field certainly would meet the criteria.

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