Friday, September 10, 2010

Thoughts On Villanova

So there was the news that came out about the Big East inviting Villanova to join the conference as a football member.

Go ahead and make all the jokes you want about this being insignificant.  About this adding nothing to the conference in terms of quality.  The fact is that it does matter.  Before anything happens, though, there are several key things to consider:

For starters, we've seen this back in 1997 when the school was made the same offer.  They rejected it then, but the school might be more willing to make the move now. The school won a championship last season and that could be seen as the first step towards wanting to taking the next step to Division I.  Villanova is also a big fish in the basketball conference, widely considered as the best in the nation.  While a basketball-only conference could still survive the Big East extinction, why mess with a good thing?

As blogger Brian Bennett mentions, the problem the Wildcats have with not having a large enough stadium per the Division I rules is easily alleviated by playing at either Lincoln Financial Field or even in the school's soccer stadium, which, solmewhat surprisingly, seats more fans than the football field. Also according to Bennett, the earliest the school could join as a football member would be 2014.

Now if you're one of those criticising this invitation, you're missing the point. The Big East isn't doing this to add quality to the conference.  It's doing it, in part, so that it can survive.  The Big East was on the edge of destruction this year until the Big 12 remained intact, thus delaying major moves across the board.  Had everything played out, the Big East could have stood to lose several of its teams to other conferences.  If the Big East lost three teams, that very well may have signaled the end of the conference.

A key thing to remember is that if Villanova accepts, it's hardly cause for celebration.  The conference needs to get up to 10-12 teams to stave off extinction - and even that's not assured depending on what teams might depart.

I've made this point before, but if Syracuse, Rutgers, and someone like Louisville left, the conference can stay alive.  It's still got teams like Pitt, WVU, and Cincinnati to build around and losing those football programs wouldn't be the end of the world.  However, say it's Pitt, WVU, and Syracuse that leave.  The Big East would have a much harder time remaining relevant, and more importantly, keeping its BCS bid.

If Villanova accepts, I also don't think it necessarily means the door is permanently shut for teams like Memphis who would do almost anything to join a BCS conference.  If the Big East truly wants to be proactive, it needs to add more than just one team.  A three-team purge, if it happens, will just start the process of looking to add teams all over again in the future.  Unless only one team defects, a one-team addition does little to fight off elimination.

Teams like Memphis, Temple, and East Carolina may add little in terms of quality.  But if they can keep the Big East afloat, the conference may have no other choice but to open the doors.

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