Big East reacts, moving Villanova closer to irrelevance in athletics

Chris Graythen

The Big East will add Tulane in all sports and ECU in football only in a reaction to the latest round of conference realignment. All while Villanova remains impotent in conference realignment.

You have to believe that Villanova could have been on the Big East football radar if administrators like President Fr. Peter Donohue, the Board of Trustees or any of their predecessors had wanted to. The conference, still trying to recover from the loss of Rutgers to the Big Ten and to strengthen through westward expansion, seemingly struck out with BYU. Instead, they have settled for adding Tulane University -- a relatively small, private school in New Orleans with no real athletic success -- as an all-sports member, and adding East Carolina (or ECU) as a football-only member.

While ECU has been a good program in football, Tulane has been among the nation's worst major sports programs in both revenue sports.

The Big East chose to add both schools, and Villanova fans sit idly by wondering when something good will happen for their alma mater. While Fr. Donohue has spent over $22 million dollars on landscaping and moving statues around campus, his disinterest in athletics has allowed the flagship basketball program to reach new depths as it's conference home has quickly transformed into a mid-major league.

Football was the ticket to becoming a player in realignment, and it is the area where Fr. Donohue's predecessors shares the blame for the situation that the university finds itself in. Villanova never had to cancel football in 1980, and should have joined Big East football when they first had the chance in 1997. The 'Cats also had the opportunity to move up in 2010, and while an argument could be made that they didn't work hard enough to get the program to the Big East at that time -- it is perhaps more notable that the university didn't pursue other avenues to an upgrade at that time.

Tulane improved their situation athletically because they have football (and showed a willingness to invest in that sport), and in short order, when the ACC chooses a 14th football member, it is expected that UConn will have improved their situation through their own turn-of-the-century move to FBS. The schools that moved then and that are moving now saw long ago the importance of football -- the days when basketball could get big time TV exposure and dollars without a football product attached are over.

The Big East is a mid-major.

Villanova is a mid-major.

While the university asks you to "beat St. Joes" in annual giving, alumni should ask their university to explain why athletics have been tossed aside.

Sure, academics come first, but athletic success on a major scale has notably helped to build an academic reputation at Villanova. Admissions was overwhelmed after the 2009 Final Four trip and after nearly a decade of success in basketball, admissions standards and ratings are across-the-board stronger than ever. Despite this, it is still a regional school with a regional reputation, but breaking out of the northeast basketball mindset and into football could have built a bigger national brand name for Villanova.

The kind of brand name that attracts students, professors and all of the other trappings of academic success that university presidents covet.

Instead, Villanova decided spent $22 million dollars to landscape a campus that was already considered a beauty by many (and has committed himself to a $200 million dollar bid to ruin town/gown relations).

This is where Villanova stands. No bowl subdivision football. No exposure. No hope for a better outcome.

As bad as sharing a conference with Tulane and SMU in basketball might be, when it comes to television exposure, it is likely still better than a conference with nothing but other northeastern Catholic schools -- and that's what Villanova basketball was always about: exposure.

The new Big East will get a national television deal. Villanova basketball will be on television. Not as much as in the past, rarely in the best time-slots, but it will be there.

Life will go on and Final Fours, number-1 seeds and the like will become treasured memories of times gone by. Just like they are at the University of San Francisco and La Salle.

Petition: Villanova Univeristy: Become more Active and Transparent in Conference Realignment

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