On April 10, 2011, Villanova was ready to commit to the jump up from its 23-year football home in the CAA to the bright lights of the Bowl Championship Series Automatic Qualifier conference that sprouted out of the northeastern basketball league they helped build. The Big East, however, wasn't quite as ready on April 10, and while the Wildcats are still prepared to invest massive dollars into a program that won a National Championship at the I-AA level in 2009, the Big East is still doing it's "due diligence."
In April we were told that the main sticking point for Villanova was it's stadium situation. At that point in time, the Villanova administration was proposing to use PPL Park as a site for all home games in it's current form, with future expansion likely, but not certain. The football committee sent Villanova, who was aware that such objections existed prior to the meeting, back to the drawing board on the stadium plan.
That was similar, of course, to the reception given to Connecticut in 1997. 14 years ago, both Villanova and UConn were asked by the Big East to provide a definitive answer about whether or not they would join the Big East in football by the end of the year. Villanova famously declined despite the lengthy study produced by the upgrade committee showing favorable financial figures for the program. UConn, however, responded in the affirmative at that time, but hadn't yet secured the details of it's a stadium plan or funding. The Big East told the Huskies, "not yet," and asked them to provide a more definitive stadium plan before membership would be made official, and it wasn't until 1999 -- two years later -- that the Huskies were voted into the Big East football conference.
According to Mike Jensen in today's Philadelphia Inquirer, "talks between the Big East and Villanova aren't dead at all, more like 'a restart.'" His sources do not expect any action on Villanova football to be taken until the conference's November presidents' meeting, and the process could drag along into 2012. In all likelihood, the future of the Villanova program will be decided by the early part of next summer.
Villanova is reportedly still working on stadium plan details. It appears that PPL Park is still the target venue, and more-and-more it has become apparent to both insiders and observers that the Philadelphia Union are eager to host Villanova football games at a stadium that has otherwise struggled to book non-soccer events. In order to make the move feasible, Villanova will have to lock down a timetable and financing for the expansion of PPL Park to at least 30,000 seats, if not more, and may have to provide for access to an alternative venue, such as Citizens Bank Park, for higher-demand games (similar to what Cincinnati is doing with Paul Brown Stadium).
Despite the cone of silence surrounding the upgrade on Villanova's part, we have heard that such discussions have been underway. If those talks can be wrapped up by the November meetings, then it is possible that a final yes-or-no vote could be taken at that time, but don't get your hopes up too high. The 'Cats will have to make a convincing presentation that they can not only make the move, but do so successfully.
The 'Cats don't have much leverage to force the Big East to move any quicker on the issue, but as Jensen points out, the delay also works in Villanova's favor, allowing the 'Cats to see how some of the conference realignment drama will shake out. Texas A&M, for example, is expected to withdraw from the Big XII sooner rather than later, and that move could have a ripple effect that alters the ACC, Big East and college sports generally.