Countless realignment moves have been made since Villanova first told the world that it was considering whether to move football to the Big East in 2009. Old conference foes like UMass have raised their programs and new conference foes like Old Dominion and Georgia State have already come and gone from the FCS ranks. These schools have positioned themselves to becomeplayers in the game going forward, while Villanova is riding the pine.
It didn't need to be this way. The football upgrade talk was generating a lot of discussion and excitement from fans, but the University played things too cautiously and cost themselves a chance at an invite.
Since then, the Big East has crumbled -- every member that has the option to leave seems to be punching their ticket on the next train out. Villanova is still waiting in the station. No communication with alumni, no campaigning, and seemingly no action.
Fortune favors the bold, however, and while Villanova was prepared to be bold when it comes to dormitories and performing arts centers, the university has been mild at best at protecting one of its most valuable assets -- athletics. Nothing else that the university does currently brings the same level of recognition and marketing as athletic success, but Villanova seems to keep taking hits in that department.
Perhaps this is an elaborate a rope-a-dope maneuver, waiting for the perfect time to strike and make the big move. Most likely it is a failure of leadership to make the tough decisions. It's time to take a risk.
Football is, was, and will continue to be the key to all of these conference moves. Conferences with FBS football generate tremendously more revenue than those without and the power-conferences are the only ones that can truly generate enough to support athletics at the highest levels long into the future. If Villanova had made the bold move and found a way to upgrade either within the Big East or not (football-only MAC membership, perhaps), the university would be far-better positioned to improve it's station in the college athletics food-chain than where they are today.
The paltry sums generated in even the best non-football conferences like the Atlantic 10 are not sufficient to operate athletics programs at the level that Villanova has become accustomed to. The history and success in basketball, the prestigious running programs, and yes, the football program that has sent 109 players to the professional ranks, had numerous all-americans, and regular post-season appearances -- all deserve more than that.
The Villanova football program is going to lose money playing in I-AA and facilities enhancements are not a cost of upgrading -- they are a fact of life in FCS football as they are in the BCS conferences. The additional expense of 44 more scholarships (22 for football and 22 for women's sports) is far less than the cost of the campus expansion into the Lancaster Avenue parking lots, but the exposure gained from that athletics move is far more valuable to the university.
It is time for Villanova to drink the coffee, wake up to the realities of conference realignment and make a move. At the very least, the administration of the university owes alumni and fans -- the same individuals they ask to donate regularly -- an open and honest answer as to why Villanova has seemingly backed itself into a corner and an honest statement about the direction of the athletics department.
So lets petition Father Peter Donohue, Vince Nicastro and the Board of Trustees -- it's time to do SOMETHING to try and save the athletic future of Villanova from obsolescence. It's time to be bold.