At some point over the next two days, Father Peter Donohue and Trustees Chairman Terrence O'Toole will need to sit down and discuss their recommendations regarding the football program's proposed upgrade. At the end of that meeting, they will make a phone call to Providence, during which, they will advise Big East Commissioner John Marinatto of their expectations for the outcome of the Board of Trustees' vote on the matter, which is scheduled for Tuesday.
All of that will have to happen, because if Villanova accepts its invitation to play football in the Big East, John Marinatto will be one of three officials present at Tuesday afternoon's press conference (Along with Fr. Peter and O'Toole). If Villanova declines the offer, there will be no need for the Big East commissioner to be present.
Though it is unlikely that every board member will agree on the matter, the majority's vote will likely be reported as unanimous. Regardless of the decision, there will be a press conference on Tuesday to make the announcement.
What about PPL Park?
The two biggest questions that we are awaiting answers were whether Villanova could raise the money to fund an upgrade to the Football Bowl Subdivision, and whether the facilities at PPL Park are sufficient for that purpose.
As we reported earlier, the University of Pittsburgh had been voicing some displeasure with the choice of PPL Park as a venue for Villanova football after the new year. Despite that, the Big East has no official stadium capacity requirement for football (though the average capacity is 52,896).
The smallest stadium in the Big East conference, Nippert Stadium in Cincinnati, has an official capacity of around 35,000. PPL Park was designed to be expanded to seat around 30,000, which is close to that capacity. However, no expansion will happen unless the Philadelphia Union (who control the facility) approve it -- and the last thing they (or the MLS) want is a half-empty stadium for soccer games.
That said, the expansion was planned from the start because it was always the intention of the Union to eventually play in a larger stadium. It is ultimately a matter of the timeline that would have to be worked out.
So, what about the money?
Money was always central to this decision. Right off the bat, the football program will require a new $30 million dollar indoor training facility with weight rooms, lockers, offices, academic support centers and other amenities common among Big East and BCS-level programs. Frankly, the current state of Villanova's facilities is below the standards for even the best FCS programs.
In addition to that, there would be increased expenses during the 2012 and 2013 transitional seasons of around $5 million in each year. Those increases would not necessarily be cancelled out by an increase in revenue since those seasons would be played, essentially, as an independent.
The Trustees and Development staff have been reaching out to donors to raise the money needed to fund an upgrade. Recently, they approved an exception to the standing rule against accepting contingent donations for programs that are not in existence -- the rule that caused checks sent in by Villanova Alumni earmarked for "Big East Football" back in September to be returned uncashed.
They have been quietly reaching out and accepting contingent donations from "heavy hitters" over the last few weeks.
The amount pledged and made available is the subject of rumors still, but some sources are indicating that the amounts so far have been significant. It should be no shock to anyone if the money for the move is there on Tuesday.
Other than the venue and money, the last two issues are the school's dealings with the conference and the vote itself.
Regarding the conference, my sources (one of whom is Father Peter himself), have stated just that, there are "a few issues to be worked out," with the Big East. As for what those issues are, we don't know exactly.
PPL Park is likely a part of that equation, as will the financial deal between Villanova and the Big East once the school enters the conference officially in 2014. Perhaps most importantly would be any scheduling arrangements in 2012 and 2013 and the financial payouts that might be awarded as part of that.
The Big East could easily assist Villanova's transition expenses by asking it's football members to schedule the Wildcats in either 2012 or 2013 in a "buy" game. One-0ff games with no return date typically cut the visiting team a six-figure check, with the quality of the opponent determining the amount of the payout. A visit by second-year FCS program Georgia State to the University of Houston in 2011 will cost the hosts $300,000, for example.
That is all speculation, of course. All that we do know is that Villanova administrators have been, or will be discussing whatever specifics of the arrangement need to be hammered out with the league office this week.
So, lets pretend it's April 12th...
A source close to the situation has relayed to VUhoops that the trustees in favor of this move currently have enough votes for the measure to pass on Tuesday. That news was, of course, pending the results of the discussions with the Big East as well as the final fundraising push.
President Fr. Peter Donohue will also make his recommendation to the board when they assemble, and it is expected that his recommendation will carry much weight with the Trustees -- though it is unknown exactly how many would be swayed to change their vote based on it. Fr. Donohue is reportedly stressed about the situation and it is unknown exactly what he will recommend.
Some members of the "no" contingent are reportedly unhappy with the way things have worked out so far. It is expected that they would attempt to use any late snags in the process to try and pull some of the "yes" voters to their side.
It does seem, however, that the University is very close to a vote in favor of moving Villanova football to FBS status and joining the Big East conference. It would be the first instance of a private university upgrading from the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly known as I-AA) since Division 1 football was split in the late 70's.
Tune back in on Tuesday for coverage of the official announcement from the University.