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Conference Realignment

Big East templePhilly.com's Jonathan Tannenwald recently asked the question, "could Big Ten expansion benefit Temple?" His theory being that if the Big Ten were to snag a Big East team (and that appears to be their plan), that the Big East might replace that school with Temple. Clearly the Big Ten wants a football school, but they could very well steal away a basketball school (Notre Dame). Tannenwald works from the (IMHO, correct) assumption that the Big East will look to replace the departing team with a school that can be competitive in in more than just football.

There are a couple of likely teams to depart for the Big Ten (and feel free to speculate on that in the comments). Clearly the Big East would be more pressed to replace a football school in a hurry, if only to maintain BCS status. In my opinion, the Big East would be in no real rush to replace a departed Notre Dame. Either way, in the unlikely event that Notre Dame was to leave us, the conference would certainly use the opening to add a football school and balance the schedule.

Tannenwald believes that Temple would be a good fit for the conference. They are currently a top-25 basketball team and are headed to their first football bowl game in decades. He dismisses the possibility of adding Memphis (an school with a tremendous basketball history and mediocre FBS football) because it is too far away, even though he admits that it is closer than USF -- because South Florida is "psychologically" closer.

The last time Temple wanted to join the Big East as a full member, Villanova successfully blocked them in every sport except football. Tannenwald thinks that times have changed since then, and that Villanova would/could/should be on-board with Temple joining now, especially because it might help with Big 5 scheduling.

The fact is, however, that Villanova's situation really hasn't changed much at all since the Temple was kicked out of the Big East football conference. Ostensibly the reasoning is that if Temple is in the Big East, we'd have to share the Philadelphia market. We'd have a bigger school in our backyard, playing the same Big East teams that we play. Villanova may even be forced to give up some dates at the Wachovia Center in order to accommodate a Temple/UConn game, for example. Right now we have drawing power in basketball, but that could be diminished with a state school in our market.

The other thought is that this would help with scheduling. In a way, yes, playing Temple every year in the Big East would make it easier to schedule for Villanova. What this overlooks is that playing Temple in the Big East schedule means one-more non-conference game to schedule every year. Temple is a quality, non-RPI-killing, team that we play every year in the early season. Would it be better for Villanova to pay out money to another Monmouth or Delaware State to come to town and take a beating, or to scramble to find mutually open dates with Duke? Temple in the Big East is more work for the Athletics staff, and potentially more expensive for Villanova.

I firmly believe that Villanova will continue to block Temple from being offered an invitation to the Big East -- and we have only gained clout since the last time this came up. Memphis is desperate to join a BCS conference, and would add to the basketball conference as much as Temple or any of the other options being discussed. Hell, the Big East could maybe even convince Boston College to come back home. There are a hundred ways to add a football team to the Big East, and I doubt that the conference is prepared to hurt Villanova basketball to do it.

What do you think about the possibility of our neighbors joining the Big East? Is this the new look of Big East Football:

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Update (1:27pm): Main Line Mike's comment reminded me that I've also heard Maryland being kicked around as a candidate for the conference and I think they would fit. Nobody is talking about it, but I'd also like to throw out Vanderbilt as a more academically-strong alternative to Memphis (Vandy doesn't really fit with the SEC, but has respectable basketball and football). The other schools I've heard mentioned include: UCF, ECU, Army (however unlikely), Navy and Marshall, as well as Villanova (though, we actually can't move up immediately so Nova is not a good candidate to rush a member into the conference).