In response to alumni outcry since it first emerged that Rutgers and Maryland would move conferences, continuing the shuffle of schools between leagues, athletics director Vince Nicastro released a letter that was posted on Villanova.com. The letter is heavy on promises and short on details, promising that there will be a place for Villanova, in the conference landscape, and a place for elite basketball programs as well.
The letter seems to ignore the reality of college athletics: Television ratings and interest, nationally, in regular-season college basketball are weak. The growth of college basketball interest revolves around the post-season, which will continue to expand, for sure, but the schools gaining entry to that are the ones that will have the money to finance their teams at a high level.
Nicastro is right, however, there will always be a place for elite college basketball. The issue is that it is becoming abundantly-clear over time that the place for elite basketball will be within the confines of the elite football conferences going forward. Elite basketball outside of those conferences will ultimately be the exception, rather than the rule.
The letter below does not address that reality. One that was apparent to many decades ago. In fact, the letter does not address the football question at all. If FBS football is an impossibility at Villanova, the university should offer a real explanation: What options have been considered? What costs are estimated?
The lack of mention makes clear that there is little or no interest on the part of Villanova to bring FBS football back to the university. Instead, Villanova will continue to plow ahead as an athletics department that will see diminishing returns on its investment. The university will lose money on athletics and gain little -- save for the occasions where the mid-major basketball that is coming to the Main Line will be able to make a decent post-season run.
The letter indicates that Villanova would likely remain in the Big East conference, regardless of changes and will not make an effort to change the athletics department to position the university for the future. If the non-football concept sinks, Villanova will go down with the ship.
Sticking with the Big East is likely the best option for Villanova. Memphis, Temple and UConn are better names and brands in basketball than any of the programs that a Catholic- or small-school conference could cobble together. None of those programs may be there in the future, however, and there are no guarantees that other additions to the Big East will grow in brand or athletic achievement in the future. Schools with FBS football are mobile in realignment, they have options. Schools without it have far fewer options, and the options they have are worse.
Dear Alumni and Friends of Villanova Athletics:
I know how much you all care about Villanova's athletic programs and how they bring our community together. And, as fans and supporters of the Wildcats, I know that you are all concerned about what the continued realignment of college athletic conferences means for the future of our athletic programs.
We recognize that you have questions and concerns, especially as you see the news that some of our long-standing Big East colleagues are departing for other conferences. The very nature of this realignment only fuels rumors and speculation, much of which is beyond our control. But rest assured that Villanova is engaged and actively doing all that is in our power to protect the best interests of our University and our student athletes.
We are prepared to do whatever is necessary to secure and advance Villanova and our brand. The Big East membership has expressed openness to our insistence to work to further advance the core asset of the Big East Conference--its basketball programs. With Villanova taking a leadership role, the basketball schools are exploring every avenue to do just that.
While the model of athletic conferences continues to change and unique conference paradigms emerge, there will always be a place for elite basketball, and Villanova is steadfastly committed to maintaining a basketball program that competes at the highest level. We have the resources available to ensure that, despite any changes to the conference landscape, our Wildcats will continue to be a nationally competitive program.
In close, I can assure you that a tremendous amount of time, energy and resources from Villanova's Board of Trustees through all levels of University leadership have been focused on this issue for a long time. I wish we were in a position to share more specifics, but in this type of situation that is just not possible. I thank those of you who have been in touch, and while we are not able to respond to all of your inquiries, know that we genuinely appreciate your steadfast support and passion.
As we move forward, our objective remains the same--insuring national prominence for our athletic programs, driven by men's basketball. And we have genuine reasons to be confident. Things may not look the same, but we can absolutely still achieve our goals.
Director of Athletics