Since the expansion talk started, VUhoops has reminded readers that nothing matters at all in any of this, except money, and ensuring that the powers-that-be get as much of it as possible. Since only two revenue sources are shared among conference football schools, it makes sense that adding programs that will maximize those two areas is the goal. Those revenue sources are Bowl pay-outs and Television rights -- and if you had to pick just one you would lean toward the television rights.
The Big East does well with Bowl revenue -- it is among the top conferences in bowl revenue per-school (mostly because the combination of an 8-school conference and BCS money helps out a lot). That per-school number will ultimately drop with a 10th addition, but that may be inevitable regardless of who is added.
Taking a hit on bowl revenue is probably okay though, because Television dollars are much larger -- especially in the latest round of rights-fee negotiations.
So how do the Big East football candidates compare on television revenue? Mike Jensen tossed this quick-hit in this morning's paper:
Consider this: We're told that a future Big East football television package is a bit more valuable with Villanova in it than any of the other obvious current options, schools such as Central Florida or Houston. (Not sure if Villanova vs. Temple was included in the projections.)
If Jensen is correct, Villanova is in a great position. How can the football schools turn down more money? More money is what makes the Big East members BCS schools -- it is what separates the Big East from the mid-major football conferences. The ability to keep making more money than the lower-level conferences is absolutely vital to their continued annual participation in the BCS system.
One reason why the TV networks likely put so much value in the addition of Villanova over others is that massive Philadelphia TV market -- around twice the size of the Orlando market, and almost a million households bigger than Houston. Networks want ratings and inventory (as we pointed out earlier), a tenth team adds to the inventory regardless of who it is, so the question then becomes: Which school has the most potential to add ratings over a 10 to 12 year period?
Networks are also confident in their ability to promote content -- but sports tend to have a notably-local interest level. ESPN would have an easier time, presumably, promoting Villanova football to Philadelphia and northeastern markets than Central Florida or Houston. Those schools could do tremendously-well in their own markets, but for a network looking to bid on Big East football rights, the real value is their ability to grow interest in the massive northeast corridor. In that regard, a foothold in the Philadelphia market is more valuable than another team in central Florida.
That's not to say that any addition would have to come from the Northeast, but there are no "blockbuster" schools that would be willing to join the Big East. Those schools are almost universally entrenched in BCS conferences that generate more TV revenue than the Big East can offer already. Only Notre Dame and BYU, perhaps are not, but neither is presumably looking for a football conference affiliation at the moment (as an aside, we can also probably throw out Army and Navy, who are both happy competing as independents).
UPDATED WITH Fr. Peter's May 11th email to Students, Faculty, Alumni, Parents, and Friends...
Fr. Peter Donohue, O.S.A.