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Villanova Blocking Temple from Full Big East Membership? We Outline Realignment Contingencies

Oct 13, 2011, 11:39 AM EDT

Villanova is reportedly opposed to Temple joining the Big East as a full-member. Nick Menta breaks down the potential fate of the Big East should Villanova stay its course.

We were turned on to this story late last night by John Lamb over at The T Stands Alone.

There are now a variety reports—New York Post, Philadelphia Daily News, Star-Ledger—that Villanova officials spent their time during Tuesday’s Big East conference call doing their utmost to undermine Temple’s admission to the Big East.

The reports vary from VU simply pointing out other expansion options to the entire call breaking down over “‘Nova bashing Temple rather than making a strong case for the league to consider the Wildcats’ potential in football.”

While Villanova’s—alleged—position is understandable in terms of the school attempting to protect its basketball program, it’s otherwise short-sighted. To paraphrase Billy Crudup’s portrayal of Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner in Too Big to Fail, Villanova—and consequently the Big East—is limiting its options at a time when it has very few.

The entire realignment puzzle seems to revolve around the University of Missouri. Mizzou is threatening to leave the already floundering Big-12 for the greener grass and conference chants of the SEC. In the event the Tigers ultimately opt out and go the SEC way, there is a strong belief that the Big-12 would try to quickly re-expand by immediately going after Louisville and West Virginia. There’s also a fear that even if Mizzou stays put, the Big-12 might still make a play for the Cardinals and Mountaineers to sure up their own footing as a viable, money-making, automatic-qualifying conference.

Here’s where the contingencies and hypotheticals really get fun (and painful for the Big East). Should those institutions depart, the Big East would be left with just four teams playing football; and if those two do indeed leave, UCONN to the ACC seems more and more likely—especially if Notre Dame were to finally join a football conference or merely transfer its non-football playing entities, thereby raising the ACC’s membership number to an even 16.

IF that is the case, then the Big East will have just three teams left playing football—Rutgers, Cincinnati, South Florida—and will have potentially lost four more basketball-playing members to the ACC and Big-12.

Sound like a mess? That’s because it is. And, before moving further, we should also reiterate that the inclusion of the service academies—Army, Navy, Air Force—is becoming increasingly unlikely.

So, at this time, we’re going to once more refer to Mike Jensen’s Monday piece in the Inquirer explaining some the finer points of conference realignment, specifically the influence of women’s athletics. From Jensen:

“The Big East needs eight football members playing women’s basketball
and others sports within the league. Just adding football-only members
to replace defectors won’t keep the league in business. This increases
the odds Temple will get in for all sports. (It also explains why
Villanova remains in a strong position; it could really help the Big
East, adding a football school without having to add to the basketball
total.)”

If that as indeed the case, then as far as I can tell, the Big East has two options. They can either a) admit Temple and UCF as all-sports members immediately, thereby hopefully bolstering the loyalty Louisville, West Virginia and UCONN or b) continue to drag their feet until they lose their AQ-bid and potentially lack enough member programs to even play football.

Is that a false choice at this stage in the game? Yes; I can’t predict (even the very near) future. But is that latter scenario looking increasingly possible? Yes, it is.

Of course, as the guys over at TheNovaBlog pointed out, this could all be one big power play on Villanova’s part to have itself admitted for football by acquiescing on its opposition to Temple as a full-member. Such a scenario is, more or less, what Jensen describes above and what we labeled earlier this week as “a scenario with which all parties could potentially live.”

Head on over to The T Stands Alone for a full breakdown of who’s badmouthing who and check out TheNovaBlog for reasons why the basketball schools—like ‘Nova— really aren’t ruining the Big East. According to the latter, as matters currently sit, it looks as though the basketball schools are really the ones holding the power in the conference. Funny, I don’t think the football schools saw it working out that way.