Villanova has been "lucky" according to the Philadelphia Inquirer's Mike Jensen, but down the line, we may be calling Temple the biggest realignment winner in the Philadelphia area.
Villanova gets to leave a sinking Big East Conference for a league that features many old Big East schools, that will be called the Big East, will (probably) still host a tournament at Madison Square Garden, and will get a big check from the good folks over at Fox Sports every year. It was a lot of luck (and a motivated Rupert Murdoch), according to Mike Jensen, that delivered the Wildcats to a spot that seems out of harms way.
Temple has been a bit lucky as well. By moving to the conference-formerly-known-as-Big East, the Owls have compiled most of their athletic programs into a single league. That league will pay them more combined for Football and Basketball than they would have been likely to receive otherwise from the Atlantic-10 and MAC conferences. They have also tied their basketball brand to schools like UConn, Cincinnati and Memphis, which are all programs with some history of success in hoops.
Temple will also get a piece of the nine-figure pot of exit fee and NCAA Tournament money that the Catholic 7 schools will leave behind. The "Catholic 7" will get a piece of that too, but it won't be a significant share, according to reports.
It isn't the deal Temple was hoping for when they signed up, but it is undeniably an improvement.
So both schools seem to be in good shape, or at least better shape, as a result of these moves (arguably if the old Big East stuck together, Nova might have been better off). Where Temple may take the lead in Philadelphia's realignment depends on the ACC's next moves.
This morning Jensen wrote:
For the Owls, the long game may be determined by one factor . . . the ACC Network.
If the Atlantic Coast Conference does start a network and is able to replicate the success of the cash cow that is the Big Ten Network, then Temple's future could be greatly impacted, and Villanova will be wondering what could have been.
[. . .]
That's where the ACC Network comes in. Everyone realizes the Big Ten didn't take Rutgers for performance reasons or even to deliver ratings in the New York market. Right now, the Big Ten Network gets 41 cents a month from every home it is in. That figure may go as high as a dollar. And that's why the Big Ten took Rutgers (and Maryland) - to get in more homes. That's the only reason.
Right now, the ACC doesn't have the same priorities right now, but if the conference launched a network, the number of cable homes in a given market are going to become more and more important -- and the Philadelphia market would seem attractive.
Jensen claims that Villanova punted on the FBS football question at least partially because an ACC Network wasn't a certainty, while the Cathlic 7's schism was.
Luck saved Villanova from a very ugly athletics future. The new Big East will offer the Wildcats an infusion of cash to push their program into the next decade.
Despite what Jensen claims, however, investing the cash to upgrade football would not have been a total loss for Villanova, however. The woeful state of Villanova's facilities for football (and for all-sports outside of perhaps the Davis Center) are in desperate need of an upgrade that could easily cost tens of millions of dollars whether the Wildcats play in the CAA, Big East or elsewhere.
The 'Cats would have had some disappointment if the Big East had allowed them to upgrade to FBS and then it largely disbanded, but they would still have had options. They could have finally have the facilities to match their "peers" in the CAA if they chose to go back to the FCS level in football. They could have also chosen to stick it out with the FBS schools in a league that wouldn't have been a power in any sport, but wouldn't have been terrible either -- and with odds in favor of more realignment, that may have offered the most upside.
So was Villanova lucky? Not in the way that Jensen suggests; not because the Big East said 'no' to football, but because Fox Sports decided it needed and wanted the Catholic 7 for it's new network, and wanted to pay handsomely to try and inject cash into a group of schools that need to invest and spend at a rate to match the FBS power conferences.
Villanova was lucky, but if Temple somehow ends up in the ACC, they could be luckier.