It may be Plan D by now, with E and F next week if more schools leave the Big East Conference. That brings us to Temple and Villanova. We'd argue right now that Big East football will have a hard time getting to 12 schools without including a school from the second-largest television market east of Chicago.
So it could get down to a choice between Temple and Villanova. Big East sources say both schools are in the mix.
With Pittsburgh and Syracuse headed for the Atlantic Coast Conference, and Connecticut and Rutgers still looking south longingly, and the Big Twelve still needing another member or two, the Big East is moving forward. Reports have Navy and Air Force headed into the conference just for football. (That may or may not be a done deal, we're hearing). Army, which has passed on the idea, may feel pressure to join for football if its brethren are in. Let's say all three academies are in, though. That brings the Big East up to 10 football schools.
Let's give Central Florida a bid, which seems more likely now. The Newark Star-Ledger reported Wednesday that the Big East isn't willing to consider any other Conference USA school, which would take Houston, East Carolina, and others out of the mix.
The assumption has been that no league would want Villanova and Temple together. That's presumably still true, but given how we're seriously talking about a Big East football league with Navy and Air Force and maybe Army, what could be off the table?
If the Big East holds together, or even if the football league breaks away, a vote could have to be taken - Villanova or Temple. If Villanova is asked to move up, its answer presumably rests on what it is being asked to join, what the membership looks like. If Temple is asked to join, it could be for football only, staying in the Atlantic Ten Conference for other sports, just as the Owls once did. Or some configurations could invite the Owls in for all sports, especially if Big East football schools break away.
Talking Wednesday to a couple of veteran college administrators with no stake in this, I asked the Villanova-or-Temple question - how they thought the full Big East membership (including non-football members such as Georgetown and St. John's) would vote. One said Temple, the other Villanova. Both thought any vote would be close and dependent on which schools are voting. The Temple voter said he would have thought Villanova a couple of weeks ago, before Pittsburgh and Syracuse bolted.
Since 'Nova is a Big East member for all other sports, assume it would be difficult for some veteran members to say no if Villanova decides it is willing to make the move. (The counter argument: If the last week hasn't proven it's now every man for himself, nothing will). And the leagues did put the brakes on inviting Villanova in April.
Leagues are looking at markets, not standings. And understand that Connecticut couldn't fill its on-campus bleachers when it played I-AA football. It's a mistake to make a correlation with the higher level. Villanova is a proven television brand - with 20 regular-season basketball games this season on ESPN, ESPN2, or ESPNU - and it has been the dominant local basketball draw, averaging 18,270 a game at the Wells Fargo Center in the 26 regular-season games it has played there since 2006.
Some negatives for Villanova are positives for Temple. Villanova would have to add scholarships and ramp up to the higher level of football, and it is looking at playing most of its games at PPL Park. Temple could make a jump immediately, and it has a contract to play at Lincoln Financial Field through 2017. One source said the school is working on extending the contract.
The reasons the Big East kicked the Owls out in 2001 no longer exist. They control their playing dates, and had more than 10,000 students at Saturday's Penn State game. The game, won by Penn State, 14-10, attracted 202,663 ESPN viewers locally – that was 43 percent of the households on at the time, believe it or not - and 1.9 million nationally. Parse those numbers any way you want. Nobody was tuning out because Temple was playing.
In the coming days, those and many more facts could be in front of Big East schools. We don't know, but will assume there is plenty of lobbying going on.
The only problem: It's hard to know just whom to lobby.
Contact Mike Jensen at 215-854-4489 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or @Jensenoffcampus on Twitter. Read his "Off Campus" columns at http://www.philly.com/offcampus.