Villanova Prescription for the Big East

Big football game in Morgantown, Aug. 30: West Virginia Mountaineers vs. Villanova Wildcats.nova

Fans seeking solutions to the Big East football scheduling challenges should see this as a dream game, anticipating that a match up in front of 60,000 fans will help Villanova fans acquire a taste for big time college football.

Significant scheduling issues for Big East teams could be resolved if Villanova were to move up to Division 1A football. Unlike the basketball team, which competes at the highest level, the football team plays in the Colonial Athletic Association at the Division 1 level.

The idea is not a new one but the fact that Villanova has agreed to play West Virginia certainly gets the creative juices flowing again. Add to that the news that Mike Tranghese plans to retire as commissioner of the Big East Conference, and you have plenty of ammo for renewed speculation.

Notre Dame is a no go as far as football; let’s get that out of the way. Also, any advantage gained by adding Memphis or East Carolina would help football but would disrupt the basketball equation.

The best option for the conference would be for Big East football members to provide financial incentives to Villanova, making it easier to make the move. Short-term sacrifices would have to be viewed as investments in the future of the league.

If Villanova is like most Division 1 programs, the school probably loses between $2 million and $3 million annually on football. VU currently has 62 scholarship football players; they would have to add 23 men’s scholarships to get to 85. They would probably have to add about the same number of scholarships for female athletes to meet Title IX requirements. Neither of these challenges is insurmountable.

The university would also have to upgrade its seating capacity under Division 1 rules, which require a minimum of 30,000 seats. The Villanova Stadium currently seats only 12,500 fans. But just down the road in Philadelphia is Lincoln Field, the home of the NFL Eagles with more than 67,000 seats. The University of Pennsylvania’s stadium stadium seats 52,000. The point is that there are options already available to them.

Villanova was invited to move up in 1997, and apparently the vote was close. You know VU football fans want it. So should administrators want to take advantage of the obvious advantages in the greater exposure or increased revenue potential that Division 1A football offers the university.

The speculation should be heating up on August 30, even more so if Villanova manages to not be embarrassed by the Mountaineers.

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Back in the olden days before there were football divisions, Villanova played in five bowl games, posting a 2-2-1 won-lost-tied record:

1937 Bacardi Bowl: Tied Auburn, 6-6
1947 Great Lakes Bowl: Lost to Kentucky, 27-7
1949 Harbor Bowl: Defeated Nevada, 27-7
1961 Sun Bowl: Defeated Wichita, 17-9
1962 Liberty Bowl: Lost to Oregon State, 6-0

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Charlie Springer

Charlie Springer is a former Louisville editor and sportswriter, a public affairs consultant, a UofL grad and longtime fan.

3 thoughts on “Villanova Prescription for the Big East

  • June 6, 2008 at 10:53 am
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    Villanova makes more sense than any of the other options. Sounds like they just need better leadership to make it happen.

  • June 11, 2008 at 2:13 pm
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    I think the biggest concerns from the administration are would we draw enough fans, do we have the start up cost, which is estimated near 40 million to start playing in the bowl division, and should we invest money into our stadium on campus or at the Linc. There was some talk of adding ECU and Memphis moving up and Nova coming up to make a 12 member league. That would be great, but we would miss playing Georgetown in basketball. Making the Big East larger in football is great, but it will hurt the basketball side. Would adding a 9th football member like ECU be better than split up the conference? We can do without DePaul and Seton Hall and add ECU and Memphis to keep things in tact as well.

  • June 11, 2008 at 2:15 pm
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    Just go ahead and add a school that already has big time football–ECU! I think the Big East must be afraid of stepping on the toes of the ACC. Adding ECU, which is in the heart of ACC country, would give ACC schools in the region a fit and would be some payback for the Big East raid. ECU can be a giant and the area is growing fast.

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