Back in the fall, the Big East extended an “invitation” to Villanova to move up from Division I-AA football and join the football side of the conference. After several postponements on a decision by Villanova, the school’s Board of Trustees was finally prepared to vote today to approve the football upgrade.
However, the Big East suddenly said, “SIKE!”
The issue appears to be Villanova’s choice of 18,500-seat PPL Park as a home football venue, which is the soccer home to the MLS Philadelphia Union. I would certainly understand the hesitancy on the part of the other Big East football schools… if it weren’t for the fact that PPL Park has been well-known as the only realistic stadium option for Villanova for around 5 months now. Regardless of whether one believes that Villanova joining Big East football is a good idea, it appears to be disingenuous on its face that some of the conference’s football members brought up the stadium situation that they’ve known about for quite awhile at the very last minute.
The New York Daily News reported today that 75% of the Big East’s football members would need to approve the upgrade, which means that it requires a 6-3 majority. What’s interesting is that the scuttlebutt among Villanova insiders is that the Big East members that are blocking the process are Pitt, Rutgers, Syracuse and West Virginia as opposed to the newer members. (See the 4/11 9:37 am post from the publisher of Rivals site VUSports.com.) It doesn’t surprise me to see Pitt, Rutgers and West Virginia up there, but the talk about Syracuse having objections is quite jarring as the Orange (along with UConn) have the longest conference relationship with Villanova of any of the football schools.
I explained the rationale for the Big East prodding Villanova to move up in football in my last post: (1) approval of any all-sports expansion (including the addition TCU) by the Catholic members was predicated on Villanova getting a chance to move up and (2) none of the potential expansion candidates from C-USA would clearly add enough football revenue to risk diluting the conference’s basketball revenue even further. That’s not to say adding Villanova would really do much for Big East football competitively, but they were a necessary political mechanism to obtain the votes for football expansion overall with TCU (which virtually everyone agrees was a great move).
The Big East released a statement that it would continue to perform “due diligence” on the Villanova upgrade. What I don’t understand is what’s going to change over the next few months – the PPL Park plan “is what it is” and there aren’t any alternative options for Villanova. If Pitt, Rutgers and others don’t like the Villanova proposal today, then they’re not going to like it in June. Everyone involved would be best served by an up-or-down vote ASAP instead of dragging this out further.
(Image from Sports Business Daily)