It's long been an open secret that after TCU joined the Big East as the conference's ninth football member, the league's top choice for a 10th member was original member in all-other-sports Villanova.
But how committed is the conference to that choice? Based on the timetable established today in an open letter from President Father Peter Donahue, committed enough that they're unfazed by that timetable coming with something of a sticker shock (emphasis added):
That's right: even with an open invitation on the table that an awful lot of schools would rename their biology buildings "Big East Hall" for, the Wildcats won't come to a final decision for another four months.
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
So why is 'Nova permitted to take its time when so many other conference alignment decisions in the past year's reshuffling have been made on the fly? Because while the leap from FCS directly into a BCS league wouldn't be easy for any program, there's several reasons to think the Wildcats can make it work: a well-established championship program at the FCS level; an administration with a history of overseeing and supporting successful athletics programs; and maybe most key of all, their location squarely in the middle of a major Eastern metropolitan area without a prominent college football team to follow. (No, Temple doesn't count.) If UConn can become a viable BCS-level program, there's zero reason to think 'Nova can't.
As long as 'Nova offers the league the chance to add that kind of football program without burdening the already badly-overstuffed basketball collective and bring Philadephia into the fold in the process, the conference -- apparently -- will be willing to wait.