The Big East presidents were not supposed to meet until November, but in a time of conference crisis, plans have to be changed. Now, the Presidents will assemble this weekend, on Sunday, to discuss issues related to repairing the conference in the face of the loss of two longstanding members. According to a source, athletic directors were not initially intended to be included in the meetings, but some schools have been asking to bring them along.
The move to bring along athletic directors shows those Presidents hope to conduct real business at the weekend meeting, since they are seeking the advice and presence of their chief athletics administrators.
The conference's pursuit of Navy and Air Force will likely be discussed, as might other candidates. It is possible as well, that the presidents could take expansion a step further and issue official invitations at the meeting or vote on applications that have been received. Our source did not provide a rundown of the exact items of discussion for Sunday.
But who would accept?
Navy has reportedly become uneasy about the idea of accepting a football-only invitation to a conference that is currently in danger of further raids by just-about any conference but the Pac-12 right now. The Big XII athletic directors met yesterday and today in Dallas to discuss rebuilding their conference going forward, and reportedly have a top-four candidates of Boise State, Brigham Young, West Virginia and Louisville.
Any of the Big East schools, or none of them, could be on their way out the door at this point. No school wants to walk into a conference in the process of dismantling. If the Big East hopes to do any serious re-building, the remaining members will need to work together and make a very strong commitment to sticking together -- just like the Big XII has done in the past week.
Increasing the withdrawal fee is a good place to start. The ACC upped their fee to around $20million and that should be a floor for the Big East. The Big XII talked about committing their media rights to the conference for 6 years (1 year beyond current TV deals), a move that would mean that the Big XII would still retain a school's media right s (and money) even if they left the conference during that period. Those conferences emerged from this fall's mess, looking silly, but strong. The Big East, in comparison, looks weaker than ever -- a carcass for the other conferences to pick at.
From Villanova's vantage point, the future has never been so cloudy. Father Donohue, who had previously been prepared to allow the Trustees to vote in a measure to begin the process of upgrading the football program and affiliating it with the Big East conference in April, is now reportedly offering only lukewarm support for an upgrade.
Perhaps he should be concerned. If a commitment to upgrading the football program were made and the Big East disbanded before Villanova could join or shortly thereafter, or if subsequent departures lowered the status of the conference significantly, you might as well throw the earlier financial projections out the window. Much like Navy, Villanova's president views Big East football is a risky proposition right now without commitments from current members to be a part of the conference in the future.
If a commitment can be secured, however, Father Donohue would be a fool to hesitate any longer if given another opportunity to bring Villanova football to the big time. If the current membership can remain stable, experts believe that the Big East will likely retain it's BCS automatic qualifier status, which brings with it the prestige, exposure and money that were driving the Trustees toward a "yes" on football in April.
Villanova's priorities this weekend have to be a push for a firm financial commitment to the conference across the board first, and a push for football membership for Villanova as a close second.
...and another thing
Rollie Massimino appears to be recovering well from his recent cancer surgery. The 76-year-old basketball coach left the hospital over a week ago and has been recovering in the Villanova, PA area. He has family in the area, including a grandson who plays Division-III football at Johns Hopkins.
Massimino has also made a few appearances at Villanova football practices this week. The program was rebooted at the I-AA level at the same time that he was leading the basketball team to it's only NCAA National Championship.