Football upgrade for Villanova in a holding pattern

Wound tight: Former Maryland coach basketball coach Gary Williams offers a suggestion.
Wound tight: Former Maryland coach basketball coach Gary Williams offers a suggestion. (GAIL BURTON / Associated Press)
Posted: May 09, 2011

If you listen closely, the sound you hear around Villanova's campus is the grinding of brakes.

That's what appears to be going on right now in the dance between Villanova football and the Big East. On Friday, I talked to somebody in the Big East, somebody in a position to know a few things, and he used the words "holding pattern" to describe the current state of affairs.

Do not expect a decision this month from the Big East about whether to allow Villanova to upgrade its football program. Do not be surprised if this drags into the summer. If Villanova makes the move up, the timetable probably will be moved back by a year.

So what's going on? It appears that a number of the Big East's football schools aren't sure what they want their league to look like. Would adding 'Nova as a 10th team be enough for a while? Would adding 'Nova and two others - Central Florida and Houston are popular rumored additions - be the better option? Is 'Nova the right choice at all? These decisions are not going to be made in the next three weeks, I'm told. That means the three-year timetable to move up, an aggressive one under the best of circumstances, isn't likely.

We're also told this is not some interim step toward turning Villanova down. (Although that obviously could still happen; it just hasn't happened yet.) Some people believe that if the league takes only one new member, Villanova still has the best shot at being that school. So why doesn't the Big East simply add one school now and decide about adding more in the months ahead? Answer: Let's assume that league officials realize that the Big East hasn't exactly covered itself in glory for the way this whole episode has been handled.

In the meantime, the word is that Villanova is continuing to talk to the Union about the possible expansion of PPL Park. That's the latest in the saga that doesn't end.

A character gone

Maryland coach Gary Williams, just retired after 22 years in College Park, certainly qualified as a character. If you were going to study a hyperintense hoops coach, Williams was your man. I knew one of his former managers, who remembered taking a charter flight home after the Terrapins had lost at Wake Forest. On the flight, the flight attendant began going over the safety instructions. All that chatter was too much for Williams. He grabbed the arm of then-assistant Billy Hahn: "Get her to stop Billy. Get her to stop. . . . Tell her to stop, Billy!''

A winner with character

It's expected that for the second time in six years, the Kentucky Derby winner will show up at the Fair Hill Training Center in Elkton, Md., right on the Pennsylvania border, to prepare for the Preakness Stakes. That's where Barbaro trained, in the barn of Michael Matz, and where this year's Derby winner, Animal Kingdom, is expected to go, to trainer Graham Motion's barn.

Motion has as sterling a reputation as any trainer in the business, no drug violations on his record.

"He is your absolute classic British horseman,'' said Alex Brown, another Englishman who exercised horses at Fair Hill, and just wrote a book, Greatness and Goodness: Barbaro and His Legacy.

"Everybody who knows him a little bit likes him. He's a humble dude. He's also a poster child for what the racing industry needs, a winning trainer who nobody could ever accuse of doing anything but the right thing by his horses. I would stake my reputation on his reputation.''


Contact staff writer Mike Jensen at 215-854-4489 or mjensen@phillynews.com.

|
|
|
|
|