Why the Notre Dame move is terrible for Villanova

Mar 8, 2012; New York, NY, USA; South Florida Bulls guard Hugh Robertson (34) works against Notre Dame Fighting Irish guard Jerian Grant (22) and forward Jack Cooley (45) in the third round of the 2012 Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Jim O'Connor-US PRESSWIRE


The Irish are joining the ACC, and that move will have a small impact on the next Big East TV deal. Only a small impact, because the Irish weren't football members of the Big East (though they likely won't schedule many Big East schools going forward -- except for Navy), but their value in basketball will be lost.

How much value is that? Something close to the value of Pittsburgh's basketball program would be my guess.

For Villanova, however, the move stings a little more. With Notre Dame leaving a gaping hole in the all-sports side of the Big East conference, the impact on the league's Philadelphia entry could be much bigger. This discussion starts with the sport that started all of the shuffling: football.

Without Notre Dame, the Big East now has 17 basketball-playing members lined up for the future and 13 football-playing members. The conference has been very publicly seeking a 14th football member, likely a football-only member from the western half of the continent. Speculation, however, suggested that expansion beyond that, to 16 football schools, would also be on the table -- especially if both Brigham Young and Air Force were interested in joining from the west.

In that scenario, the conference would have considered Villanova's football program for the 16th spot. Now, they might not.

The best argument for inclusion in a 16-team Big East football league that Villanova had was the 18-team all-sports conference. While it would be possible to expand beyond 18 teams, with the conference already considering a 20-game conference slate, it would potentially be undesirable to do so.

So, while the basketball league sat at 18 teams, the Wildcats' football team had a slight boost to its argument for inclusion as a 16th member: Nova was the only school that could have been added in the east without (most likely) needing an all-sports invitation (especially if Army remained disinterested).

With Notre Dame out the door, however, Villanova can scratch that argument. The Big East could easily invite FBS-playing UMass, ECU, FIU or any other school in need of a basketball home as an all-sports member.

In fact, they might.

An odd number of basketball members means an odd-man-out scenario in scheduling, where teams may be given an inconvenient 'bye' or have games stacked a little closer than they'd have liked anyway. So a move to get back to 18 members in all-sports might be on the table still, and the Big East hasn't added a school without football since Marquette and DePaul in 2005.

Maybe not a death-knell, for Villanova football, but already long odds seem a bit longer.

But that's not all

The Big East basketball brand is going to suffer. Notre Dame is much more of a football school than a basketball one, but they are a media darling in whatever they do, it seems. The attention heaped upon the Irish is something that a league that was losing Syracuse and Pitt, and already missing WVU might have needed.

Losing Notre Dame basketball is maybe more of an instance of bad P.R. than a terrible fate, but it is undoubtedly another shot at the Big East's basketball brand at the hands of the ACC.

Villanova/Notre Dame was never a premiere Big East rivalry, but the association with Notre Dame itself was of value to other Catholic universities hoping to be viewed as a peer to the giant.

Then there is the issue of Notre Dame's impact on any Big East television deal. Football will drive the majority of the value, but without Notre Dame's influence in the conference, the basketball side of the conference might see a smaller share of the deal.

Even if that isn't the case, the league appears less stable than it did a week ago, which isn't going to inspire much confidence in potential television partners, especially if the members don't significantly raise their exit fees or offer a grant-of-rights deal similar to the one agreed by the Big 12 to show solidarity.

Still, the Big East basketball schools shouldn't end up worse off financially. The question is whether they get an inflation-adjustment or a real pay-raise.

We're not done

The Big East also has yet to close out it's negotiations for an extension with Madison Square Garden for the Big East tournament.

The discussions on that account have been "close" on a decade-long extension since last March, according to reports, but no extension has been announced. The league may not have that high on their priority list, but for the basketball brand, anchoring their signature event in the media capitol of the universe (that may be overstating a bit) has been a huge benefit since the 1980s. Losing it would be tough.

ACC commissioner John Swofford would like to move his basketball tournament into the World's Most Famous Arena at some point, though, and now with Boston College, Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Notre Dame, his offerings look a little more like the Big East than they ever have before. Add Duke and UNC to the mix and you have a tournament that could be a success in New York City.

The Big East used to have a friend in the pilot's seat at MSG in Scott O'Neil, a Villanova alumnus who became one of the youngest sports executives out there. He was running the show over all of the arena's sports operations until recently, but then he resigned.

Despite that, a healthy basketball league that could bring big brands to the Garden for a week-long event every spring would have been in good position to land that extension. After suffering this latest public relations hit, however the league might have to fight for the space.

Bottom Line

Villanova will take a hit in football dreams and basketball prestige as the Big East works to pump in mid-major lifeblood to remain viable. It might not be the death of Villanova athletics, but things sure look like they are trending downward going forward, and if all of this leads to the Wildcats playing in a basketball-only conference, it would be even worse.

I haven't even mentioned the damage this does to non-revenue sports like lacrosse, where the Irish had been strong.

Then again, maybe Villanova has its own self to blame. The writing was on the wall in 1997 and Villanova entered the 2000s, unprepared to emerge from realignment as a victor.

Coming-up Later Tonight: Why Notre Dame leaving the Big East is good for Villanova.

Star-divide

Related Stories: Notre Dame Moves To The ACC | Lucrative Big East Deal Still Possible Without ND | Why the Notre Dame move is good for Villanova

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