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Big East invests in exploring Nova's FBS Future

Villanova university made the motion to add Temple University to the Big East conference in a symbolic move, seconded by the president of Rutgers University. In return the Big East has voted unanimously to "continue working closely with Villanova University regarding its FBS Football future and, in doing so, take into account its longstanding relationship and many contributions to the Conference over the past three decades to give all due consideration to a football membership application."

The Conference pledged to continue support Villanova's continued process of examining a move to the Big East. According to university president, Father Peter Donohue, there isn't much exploration left to be done on Villanova's part, but considerations including the future Big East television contract and the impact of the new make-up of the university (including Villanova's ability to co-exist with a Big East Temple program) are of concern for the university.

"I don't think its necessarily a position of exploring it more," Fr. Donohue responded to an inquiry about what exploration remained to be done. "It's how will this fit into the strategic plan of the University, but also how the Big East will continue to expand and what it needs to expand. So it's a joint project in terms of looking at how it is."

"We've looked at all the issues. We've examined all the issues. It's not a matter of kind of going back and examining it. We know the answers. This will change it a little bit, at the time we were looking at it, Temple was not a part of it, but now there could be, in the future, two schools sharing a Big East football conference within the same city, so we have to look at that, what implications that has for both of us."

"Also, the invitation needs to come from the Big East, in terms of how they wish to expand even further than they are now in the football arena."

Villanova views this news as giving them some greater flexibility in the future, but there is no time-frame on the move at the present. It remains unlikely that Villanova will make any changes to its football status until after the Big East negotiates a new television contract. Those negotiations will inform both the school and the conference as to the feasibility of such a move.

"We are poised to move forward, and if it fits into our strategic plan and the strategic plan of the Big East, we can move forward with the idea."

The Big East has committed to "offer financial assistance to cover future costs incurred by Villanova to exploring BIG EAST football membership," and will waive any football entry fees for the Wildcats program if they are extended an invitation (and accept it) within the next three years. Villanova will need to satisfy the Conference's requirements for membership and the NCAA's requirements for FBS status for these concessions to apply.

An invitation to play Big East football is not, however, assured for Villanova.

"The Conference's position is that it wants to support all of its membership institutions and especially in this case, Villanova," Big East commissioner Marinatto offered. "Toward that end in our discussions over the course of the past several weeks, we actually made that commitment in a tangible way, so we're going to support Villanova on a number of fronts moving forward to further explore how this fits into the strategic plan over the next several years."

"In terms of future expansion . . . we're taking a pause right now. We are going to continue to explore with Villanova regarding their FBS potential moving forward and we'll see where we ultimately end up, but for the meantime, as I said earlier, we've made a financial commitment, and we've devoted a lot of resources, and we're here to support all our member schools in terms of everything they want to do, and in this case the FBS possibility of Villanova moving forward."

Villanova's football membership would likely be the 15th or 16th football member of the conference, barring additional defections. The conference does hope to have even divisions of 7 members each, but is seeking an additional western partner as the 14th football member.

"It is our intention to obviously have equal divisions of seven moving forward, and over the course of time between now and our television negotiations, as we better position ourselves to attract a quality 14th partner in that direction," Marinatto said of the short-term membership of the conference. "We want to get to even divisions, and I think we're looking specifically for a western partner to help us with that."

"We appreciate the Big East’s demonstration of support for our football program, which provides Villanova with financial resources to continue positioning our football program in the context of supporting our Strategic Plan," Father Donohue stated.

A source in the athletics department at Villanova confirmed that Fr. Donohue and athletic director Vince Nicastro fought hard over the last few weeks to get concessions from the conference as part of the Temple move. This was ultimately what they were able to achieve, despite having almost no leverage in the situation, as Temple's membership became inevitable once West Virginia was allowed to buy its early exit.

Temple pledged their support for Villanova football's aspirations in the future. Temple athletics chair, Lewis Katz stated, "I hope that it happens in the future, and trust me, Temple will be very supportive, very supportive if Villanova ever seeks to come into the Big East, you can be sure our vote will be let them in, because it's good for our community, and we deserve to play each other."

"He has an incredibly wonderful athletic program, a beautiful school, and I'm really looking forward to someday seeing a real football rivalry, as we've had, between Temple and Villanova so that the entire city of Philadelphia can turn out and really support the Big East program."

This move doesn't guarantee that Villanova football will ever move to the FBS ranks, but it does leave the door open for that move to occur, at least publicly. It also assures Villanova of a certain amount of financial support from the conference if the move does occur, which may alleviate some of Villanova's concerns going forward.

According to a source, the athletics department is working out a plan on how to proceed and that details will soon be finalized regarding how the university will proceed, the next steps and a plan of action will be produced.

Update 3/8: According to the DelcoTimes, Villanova will receive $1million from the Big East to be put toward upgrading football facilities. Another $2 million could be offered by the league if Villanova does ultimately make the move. Facilities currently being built at the FBS level usually cost $30 million or more.

Apparently, "high-level discussions were held about giving 'Nova top consideration," after the Big East adds a western school to even out at 14 members.