Dear Villanova Administrators:
It doesn't seem like it should be connected, but athletics status has a major effect on the academic status at a school like Villanova. For a small university (in every respect, from enrollment to research), the alumni engagement stoked by a big game leads to donations and the national exposure provided by big time television coverage attracts interest in the university from prospective students and builds a brand that extends to academics that might not otherwise occur. It is exceedingly unlikely that Villanova would be where it is today if it hadn't affiliated with the Big East conference in 1980.
In 2011, the Big East entered a period of uncertainty and likely collapse, and Villanova's athletic future, and because of that its academic future, are likely to enter a period of decline. That is, unless the university is able to land on it's feet.
Villanova doesn't have a lot of leverage in these talks, but a passive approach to the process is about the worst thing the university can do. Villanova needs to be active and proactive at this time — opening lines of communication and building networks and relationships to help explore the program's options in a fast-changing landscape.
With Syracuse and Pittsburgh departing the Big East, many of the remaining schools are now scrambling to figure out their conference futures. There will likely be additional departures of programs with large fanbases and alumni groups. Those are the schools that Villanova benefits most from an athletic affiliation with.
So please, brew a pot of coffee and reach out to friends at Notre Dame and Boston College. Villanova wants to be more like those schools. Call the commissioners of all of the major conferences. Build on relationships with administrators at schools like Maryland, create new relationships with administrators at schools like Duke or Wake Forest.
It is time to sell Villanova University. Strong academics, a commitment to funding athletics, a strong national brand, and a large television market should make the university a stronger commodity than it has been. Create a strong pitch and sell them on a positive future for all involved.
In a recent poll (unscientific) on VUhoops.com, Villanova alumni and fans voted overwhelmingly (90%) that they appreciate the schools' association with the Big East conference as it was constituted prior to the most recent departures. In another poll question, VUhoops asked readers which non-Big East conference options they would be happy with, and the ACC was the clear winner with 92% of the votes, both the Big Ten and SEC also had significant support, but the CAA and Atlantic-10 did not.
Villanovans clearly believe that the university needs to or ought to be associated with a major conference in all sports. Villanova opened its doors at around the same time as Notre Dame, in 1842, and both were operating for over two decades before Boston College opened its doors. Why then, does Villanova lag so far behind those two universities in academics, alumni giving rates and endowment dollars?
Doug Flutie, Charlie Davies, Jared Dudley, Glenn Foley, Matt Hasselbeck, Mathias Kiwanuka, Bill Romanowski, Matt Ryan, Joe Montana, Joe Theismann, Jerome Bettis, Rudy, the Four Horsemen, Carl Yastremski and dozens of other athletes that drew attention to their universities while enrolled and served as unofficial spokespersons every day of their lives thereafter, have been invaluable to those two schools.
This university should want to be more like Notre Dame or Boston College than Providence and St. Johns. In order to do that, it is important to keep Villanova's name in the same paragraphs and sentences as those schools. It is important to have a healthy athletic-conference future.
None of the Villanova stakeholders want to see the eventual decline of the university that would result if the university does not maintain it's athletics status. Those phone calls might be fruitless in the end, but they are important. It's the bottom of the 9th with your team down by a run and there are two strikes already in the count, if you are going to strike out, better to do so swinging.