Posted by Tom Fornelli
The Big East has been waiting for Villanova to make a decision on whether or not it would be joining the conference as its tenth football member, and it looks like the conference will need to wait a few more months. Villanova's Board of Trustees have spent the last couple of days discussing the subject, and though the school was expected to make its announcement on Tuesday, it released a statement on Monday morning saying that no such decision will be coming.
Though the delay seems to be more the Big East's doing than Villanova's.
"Villanova recently learned that the Big East Conference needs more time to do its due diligence regarding Villanova’s potential football membership," the university said in a statement. "Villanova is now working with the Big East to provide whatever additional information we can. It is the university’s desire that in the near future its Board of Trustees will proceed with the vote as planned."
Considering that the statement says the Big East needs more time, and that the school wants to proceed with its vote as planned, I'm inclined to believe that means Villanova wants to make the jump, and the Big East may be having some second thoughts. Again, that's just pure speculation on my part from an attempt to read between the lines.
While the schools concern over making the jump from the FCS to the FBS level is no doubt financial, the Big East is likely concerned with where Villanova would play its home games. At the moment the leader in the clubhouse for Villanova home games would be PPL Park in Chester, but the stadium as presently constructed holds only 18,000 fans. That would make PPL Park the smallest stadium in the Big East by far, with only Idaho and FIU having smaller stadiums in the FBS.
Of course, PPL Park does not have to be a long-term solution. It is possible that Villanova could move into Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Philadelphia Eagles, after the 2017 season, when Temple's lease expires.
Odds are that, even with concerns, the Big East will try to do everything it can to make this Villanova move work. While the conference wants to add a tenth member to the conference, it would also prefer not to add another school to a basketball conference that will already claim 17 teams once TCU makes the move next year.
Though if the conference decides Villanova is not a viable option, or Villanova ultimately decides against the move, that would mean Central Florida, Houston and Memphis would once again be in play.
[UPDATE, 5:30 pm: Big East commissioner John Marinatto has just released a statement on the matter. It is reprinted in full below.]
“The Big East Conference and Villanova University have worked closely with each other over the past several months regarding potential football membership. We will continue with our due diligence process and work with Villanova to continue to share relevant information and materials. The Big East Conference obviously very much values its long-standing relationship with Villanova and we are committed to continuing to work with them on this matter in an open and forthright manner. Until there is additional information to report, the conference plans no further comment.”