Most Novans are frustrated and disappointed in the failings of our athletics program in positioning us for the future. Count me in. While there is still plenty of more complaining to do, here is an attempt at a constructive look forward on where we can go from here.
We have started down the path of a basketball first conference that will also be home to the other non-football sports. A few constructive points have already been made:
- This is not a Catholic conference, it is a basketball first conference.
- New members will be sought on the basketball first mentality.
A few more points should be made in the near future:
- The strength of a conference, most often, is enhanced with a regional connection and regional rivalries. There are some exceptions (Notre Dame), but we are a long way from that level of recognition. As this new conference will be home to not only basketball but also our other non-football sports (22 sports), travel is a consideration.
- The new conference should limit its geography to DePaul and Marquette on its western edge, the southern borders of Virginia and Kentucky as its southern edge, and inclusive of Massachusetts as its northeastern edge.
- The new conference will strive for stability, but we will risk some stability to try to bring in top basketball schools. A $5M exit is a reasonable copy from the old Big East.
We have a starting point of the C7 schools. From a historical perspective, it may be interesting to compare the C7 core of the new conference to the "old Big East" of 1982-1990.
Old Big East: C6 of Georgetown, Villanova, Providence, Seton Hall, St. John's, Boston College plus Syracuse, Pitt, and UConn
C7+: C7 of Georgetown, Villanova, Providence, Seton Hall, St. John's, Marquette and DePaul plus...?
While the Catholic core to the old Big East looks similar to that of the old Big East, it is important to note that Providence, Seton Hall, and St. John's of the 80s were much stronger than their recent selves. Nova is trending down. BC was a strong old Big East member. And while Marquette is a strength to the new conference, DePaul is a dog.
Outside of the Catholic core, the C7+ needs some strong complimentary programs much like the old Big East had Cuse, Pitt, and UConn.
I support extending invitations to UConn, Temple, and Cincy to meet this need for quality basketball programs. These are solid additions on their own merits. But in addition to the quality of their programs, this is an opportunity to break from the tradition of the back stabbing in realignment and show some loyalty to these programs. UConn is a Big East original. Temple was just brought in with our backing. Cincy came into the conference with Marquette and DePaul. We should not leave these 3 programs hanging. They might not accept our invitation, but we should offer it. More on these programs shortly.
Within our region, there are limited targets for basketball first programs. As a quantitative guide, a Saragin ratings average for the last 5 years is compiled for reference (yellow are power conference programs that we could not land, grey are outside of the region, red are the Big East target schools, and blue are other regional targets). I support extending invites to Xavier, Butler, Dayton, and Valparaiso. The best basketball programs available to target happen to be in Ohio and Indiana.
Another case could be made for adding a Virginia base of ODU, George Mason, and Richmond. I view this as a fall back target list. We are already spread to the west with Marquette and DePaul. Xavier, Butler, Dayton, and Valpo bridge that regional gap, and are better hoops programs than the Virginia schools.
So how many schools? Adding the Big East 3 plus the Ohio/Indiana 4 gets us to 14. That seems like a comfortable max for now, and we would need to land at least 2 or 3 of the 7 to get to a min of 9 or 10.
This is a smaller detailed point, but if we landed all 7 schools, the new conference could have an eastern 7 and a western 7. Play each school twice within the division (these are more natural historic and geographical rivals) for 12 games and teams from the other division once each for 7 more games to total 19 in-conference games. Our current benchmark this year is 18 in-conference games plus 13 out-of-conference.
What will become of the current Big East? With the C7 exit, it is only weaker as an all sports conference. While a national footprint could have worked for football or basketball, it is not practical for the non-revenue sports. I can see at least 3 credible options for the Big East:
- Status Quo... A collection of programs across the nation looking for a football first home, as a temporary step to somewhere else.
- Becoming a "football only" conference from Texas to the northeast, if not national.
- Retrenching to the Northeast as a mid major.
If UConn, Cincy, and Temple join the C7+, and stayed in the Big East for football only, the Big East as a "football only" conference seems like a more probable path. This could be the best of both worlds for these 3 schools. The basketball conference would rival the "old Big East" and the "new ACC". Non revenue sports would have a solid regional league. Football would be in the same position it is today.
What is in a name? The "Big East" does not fit the current football first national conference. It would be a valuable name for the C7+ and we should negotiate for it. It is not needed so much that we should overpay for it though, if the negotiation was unreasonable. If UConn, Cincy, and Temple join it only strengthens the case for taking "Big East" name. If the "Big East" name proves to be unavailable, an other than "Catholic" name needs to be adopted sooner rather than later.
C7+ conference leadership? This is a critical point. While a good commissioner is critical, the real power in a conference lies with the voting university presidents and their ADs. The failure of the Big East lies with the voting members. Have lessons been learned? Should we expect competence from the same players?
What about Villanova itself? We desperately need a professional athletics representative. Athletics is Father Peter's blind spot (he is not interested personally). Vince has failed as a strong AD to fill that void. We need a strong AD with experience, professional competence, credibility, and forthright communications. The Trustees should step in to facilitate this change. We have to break the cycle of failures.
FBS football remains unfinished business. It is the key to so many future options for the athletics program and the greater university. Joining the "Big East" as a football only school should still be considered, with other alternatives.