Posted by Adam Jacobi
Over the last year or so, the Big East has been courting I-AA football power (and current Big East basketball power) Villanova to bump its program to I-A and strengthen the Big East's numbers from within. With TCU set to join the conference in 2012, a Villanova addition would push the conference up to 10 football teams. 10 is good. It's certainly better than eight.
Now, we've noted before that Big East commissioner John Marinatto wasn't going to "sit around and wait" for Villanova to make a decision on moving up a subdivision or not, but sometime between late January and now, Marinatto decided to do precisely that, because as the Sporting News reports, Villanova is coming close to accepting the Big East's offer and joining the big boys in football:
A Big East source told Sporting News that Villanova is the “clear leader” in the conference’s goal of expanding to 10 teams, but that the university still is trying to complete a revenue plan of $25-30 million in startup costs.
Villanova announced it would have a decision by April, but the process could be moving along faster than expected. VUhoops.com reported last week that members of the athletic administration held a meeting for “major boosters” at the Syracuse basketball game.
This would probably be a solid move for Villanova; not every school that has jumped to I-A has met immediate success, but 'Nova would have the built-in luxury of money coming in from the Big East's BCS deal, the Big East's TV deal, and healthy visiting ticket sales. Again, it's still up to the Wildcats to get good at football and keep their fans interested for the long haul, but that's a definite possibility, and one that could bring a significant payoff to Villanova's athletic department.
The fundraising comes first, though, and every week that passes without Villanova having the cash for those daunting startup costs is another week that Marinatto has to "sit around and wait" and wonder whether the fanbase is really there for Villanova. The Big East is hardly a titan of fan support, as BCS conferences go, but if Villanova and its fans can't afford the move up, they can't afford it, and Marinatto will have to look elsewhere for his expansion.
Still, Villanova wouldn't be trying to raise the funds if it didn't think it had a good chance to accomplish the task, and we could see a 10-team Big East in 2012. If so, the question facing the conference changes to a no-less-important, but happier one: nine-game round robin conference schedule, right? Don't let college football down on that front, Mr. Marinatto.