The Trustees of Temple University will meet on Wednesday afternoon via conference call to discuss the conference affiliation of that university's athletics program, according to CSNPhilly.com. The meeting suggests that the board has something to vote on, and based on recent rumors of discussions with the Big East conference, an invitation to join Villanova in that conference.
Though the Philadelphia Inquirer has suggested that a Big East invitation could be in football only, most reports believe that it will be an all-sports invitation. Basketball might not join the Big East conference until 2013 or 2014, however, since the Big East does not have a desperate need to add a basketball program in 2012-13 as they do with football.
The Owls have also had discussions with the Conference USA and Mountain West Conference officials who have been working to create a new league involving the remaining membership of each conference. It is unlikely that Temple would choose that option, which wouldn't necessarily include their basketball program, over an offer of membership from the Big East.
The Big East needs to make a move quickly, in order to fill in its 2012 football schedule after the untimely departure of West Virginia.
"This is driven by the 2012 football schedule," Patrick J. O’Connor, Chairman of Temple’s Board of Trustees told CSNPhilly.com. "Because of that, decisions have to be made. There are time considerations."
None of the new additions already lined up by the Big East were either willing or able to get out of their current conference affiliations by the beginning of the 2012 football season. The Big East attempted to get Boise State to do so, but the financial costs for doing so were too large and the conference was not willing to assist them.
That created a perfect storm for Temple to come into the picture. Temple, like West Virginia, is technically supposed to give two years notice to the MAC prior to withdrawal, but as the West Virginia case proved, those notice requirements (without concrete penalties written in) are difficult to enforce. The Owls have had to negotiate an early exit fee with the MAC prior to finalizing any relationship with the Big East.
Villanova is affected by any changes to the Big East membership. Temple University joining the conference in all sports would have a greater impact on the Wildcats' athletic programs than other additions, since the Owls are in Villanova's backyard. Villanova, however, continues to decline to comment on the matter.
"Our policy since all this conference expansion started has been not to comment on rumors and speculation," wrote Athletics spokesperson Dean Kennefick in an email. "I don't see that changing. We will issue a statement once anything becomes official with any expansion issues."
Better loud than late
When I was a child, I once got upset because at a circus, the cotton candy vendor came and went and I didn't have any cotton candy to show for it. After noticing that I was upset, my dad asked me what was wrong and I told him. His response was advice that applies far beyond the cotton-candy scenario: "Why didn't you say something? If you want something, speak up, otherwise how will I know?"
If you don't speak, you can hardly expect a desirable result.
Villanova isn't speaking publicly, and while many would believe that they are speaking privately, that isn't assured either. Alumni and fans have to simply cross their fingers and hope that the Main Line administration is acting to secure itself and its investments in athletics.
The policy of silence is a mistake by the university. Practically every university that has received a favorable outcome from conference realignment has made public statements on the matter. Moves are made as much in the media as they are in the board room, and the media favors those who talk to them. Silence just allows others to control the discussion — often to the silent party's detriment.
That isn't to say that speaking up will always lead to a desirable outcome. East Carolina University made a very public pitch to be added to the Big East that has thus-far fallen on deaf ears. Similar proclamations have not caused any harm, however, to UCF, SMU, Houston, Boise State, West Virginia, and now Temple.
One needs to hold power to have control and silent parties that defer to others have no power.
Furthermore, in order to weather the storm of realignment, Villanova will need the support of its stakeholders more than ever before. So what is the purpose of the policy of silence? Why is Villanova more concerned about what Rutgers thinks than its own alumni?
Temple football has improved since joining the MAC and though they still do not possess a MAC football title, their program has been more competitive than past-iterations, including the abysmal teams that competed in the Big East during its first decade as a football conference. That said, the Owls program isn't going to be expected to become a national power in short order (but they certainly are well-funded enough these days to be as competitive as UConn).
Basketball is the real power at Temple. The Owls have long been competing with some of the nation's top programs in their non-conference slate, and their successes under John Chaney and recent resurgence under Fran Dunphy leaves the Owls among the best programs outside the six power conferences.
So, no brainer, add Temple and improve basketball, right?
Not necessarily. If the addition of Temple causes financial disruptions at Villanova, the 'Cats may have to alter the way that they fund and operate their program. The local competition could send fans and their entertainment dollars to North Broad instead of the Main Line. Lease arrangements and terms with the Wells Fargo Center could change (and even become more expensive if Temple wants to use the facility as well.
If Villanova's bottom-line suffers, so will their ability to fund a major conference program and compete on the hardwood.
Recruiting is only even an afterthought in all of this — a side effect of what would be a greater problem. Programs need money to pay for travel, trainers, medical care, facilities improvements, coaches salaries, and any of a myriad of other expenses that the nation's top college programs pay for without hesitation in order to stay competitive or gain an advantage. If Villanova can't pull the trigger on these expenses going forward, it would be a serious change in the way the program is run and a step backward.
In other words, the addition of Temple is only a net-plus for the Big East if it does no harm to the Villanova program. Otherwise, the conference will have added a good program and turned one of its better members for the past decade into a Mid-Atlantic Providence College. A program where students would celebrate an NCAA Tournament bid as if it were a trip to the Final Four.
That would not be an improvement, it would be a wash.