Expansion Apocalypse: Indecision Halts Big East

A Big East source recently described the Big East's process of considering Villanova football's entry into the Big East conference to Mike Jensen as being, in a "holding pattern." Jensen does not expect a decision to come down this month and believes that the process could extend out into the summer.

The source of the delay is a disagreement among the football schools about what direction the conference is headed. Our sources have suggested that individuals involved in the decision-making process at some schools may even internally disagree -- preventing any truly hard stance on the matter to be taken. Ultimately, the opinion of Athletics Directors and University Presidents is what will truly rule the day, but the various individuals involved will need to try and get on the same page.

Part of the dispute is based on the conference's vision for the football league. Some involved believe that a 12-team league is the only suitable course, while others feel that 10 teams is a must, but don't want to add two more schools simply for the sake of a championship game. Still other parties have offered that regardless of how many teams are added, Villanova might not be one of the schools they want.

Despite all of the disagreement, Mike Jensen's sources tell him that the delay is no precursor to the conference turning Villanova down. No decision on the matter has been made and no agreement exists among members to make one at this point. Though a number of Conference USA schools have been discussed as candidates for Big East expansion, Villanova is still the conference's most-likely target.

While the Big East sits in a stalemate on the matter, Villanova is continuing to work on an expansion plan for PPL Park.

Sources close to the situation have told us that the Philadelphia Union management is very interested in adding another tenant to their state-of-the-art stadium to help PPL Park become a greater source of revenue for the franchise. They have already moved to expand their offerings to include Rugby, college lacrosse and college soccer since opening the structure.

Are they motivated enough to allow their grounds to expanded? Union CEO, Nick Sakiewicz told a reporter last month that, "Villanova could feasibly accelerate those plans as another tenant in the building." That is, it would be feasible if the plan to do so were acceptable to the Union, who would likely not be willing or able to pay the full cost of construction at this time.

While the building was designed to expand to seat 30,000 patrons, Villanova and the Union will need to produce a feasible plan and time-line for that expansion to be completed. Villanova is currently in the process of working out that plan, figuring out the costs associated with it, and coming to an agreement on financing the construction. Rumors have circulated that some sort of architectural assessment to that end could be planned or even underway.

Significant delays in the Big East's decision-making process could move Villanova's timeline for the upgrade back to 2015 or later. As it stands, Villanova will have to give the NCAA notice of it's intention to reclassify the football program on June 1st preceding the first of two "transition" seasons, under NCAA rules. This means that the 'Cats would file their paperwork with the NCAA on June 1, 2012 in order to begin play as a full member of the Bowl Subdivision in the Fall of 2014.

To the chagrin of fans, however, that deadline gives Villanova and the Big East plenty of time to wait.

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Check back later this week for a discussion on whether the Big East could stay at 9 teams, or expand to 12 for football.

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