Villanova alum and highly-respected sports business expert Scott O'Neil recently walked away from a powerful position running MSG Sports — a company that operated the World's Most Famous Arena and all of the sporting events held there, including three professional sports franchises (Knicks, Rangers and Liberty). His resignation likely had much to do with the meddlesome Dolan family that has a stake large enough to control the MSG operations.
Nonetheless, O'Neil was a rising star, young and ambitious in the industry and well respected for his knowledge of sports marketing and management. For the NBA, he was in charge of team marketing and business operations. He has been previously named a top 40 sports executive under age 40 by Sports Business Journal and Advertising Age.
That resume is the reason why Villanova needs him right now.
The Wildcats are in uncharted territory. The last time they lived in a basketball-only world was the 1980s and the landscape has changed significantly since then. People aren't watching regular season college basketball as much because there are far more options on the TV dial, locals aren't as willing to follow a program just because. The Big 5 has lost some glamour and the alumni and fans will need to learn to love Xavier and whichever other schools are imported, if Villanova hopes to keep ticket revenues up.
They need a marketing plan for Villanova sports.
The Big East of old pretty much sold itself. Unlike Temple and St. Joe's, Villanova hasn't had to struggle to bring fans in to watch a game in the recent past, but with the program going through a period of both on-court struggle and off-court conference change, it's unlikely that the same old strategies will work. They'll need new ones.
O'Neil brings a specialty in selling sports entertainment products, both to television and to ticket-buying fans. He also brings a deep appreciation for Villanova athletics and an understanding of the school's history, tradition and capability going into the future.
And he isn't too busy right now. He sits on the board of The Hain Celestial Group, according to his LinkedIn profile, but he hasn't accepted a full-time role anywhere since leaving MSG.
Maybe the new league office could use his help as well, and perhaps Villanova could help him get business consulting for the rest of the league as well. Regardless what happens on that end, however, alma mater needs him.
They need his experience, ideas and leadership to help position the Villanova athletics brand going forward. A athletic program is as good as the investment made in it, and it is high time for the university to bring someone in to take a look at the department from the outside and make expert recommendations for its direction going forward.
Scott O'Neil is available. There may never be a better time to pick up the phone.