Villanova's block of Temple could hurt both schools, big time

Posted: October 15, 2011

Let's start with the long view: The Big Five is in jeopardy.

If it splinters again, if all the schools stop playing each other, Villanova will be the culprit, again.

Friday's Big East realignment news: Temple is not included now, even as a football-only member. Villanova got the ball rolling against the Owls, arguing against Temple as a full member, and the ball rolled right over the Owls Friday. The school isn't included in the league's latest football model.

The Big East is in the midst of inviting Navy, Air Force, Central Florida, and Boise State. The league has also decided to go with Houston and Southern Methodist, rather than Temple.

This gets a little complicated, but Villanova's decision to lobby against Temple's all-sports membership is hurting Temple even as a football-only member. To operate as a football league, the Big East needs to have at least eight members playing women's sports within the league. Since Air Force, Boise State and Navy are being invited for football only, the league would have nine football schools that also play women's sports. If Louisville and West Virginia leave for the Big Twelve, that makes seven, short of a league.

Navy still hasn't offered a firm commitment, so there is a chance Temple could be added as the football-only replacement. It's also possible that Temple gets a bid if Louisville and/or West Virginia leave.

But today's news is bad for Temple, and worse for intracity relations.

Let's get this out of the way. A Big East source said that on a league conference call earlier in the week, Villanova spoke out against Temple as an all-sports member, but after several basketball schools spoke against Temple for all sports, Villanova said it had "no problem" with Temple playing football in the league. Skeptical of this? "It 100 percent happened," the source said.

Is it possible Villanova lobbied against Temple behind the scenes? Of course. But that doesn't make any sense at all, creating this kind of ill-will when Villanova wouldn't be affected by Temple playing football in the league.

But let's say this again. However this plays out, Villanova has hurt Temple's athletic department. Temple fans are pointing out that UCLA coexists with Southern Cal, Auburn with Alabama, Duke with North Carolina. But it's also true that schools already in leagues try to keep nearby schools away. Florida doesn't want Florida State in the SEC. Boston College doesn't want Connecticut in the ACC.

But this has real repercussions if Temple can't get in for football, forced to stay in the Mid-American Conference, which is the toughest of draws in this city.

For those who say Villanova is scared to recruit against Temple, it isn't that simple. Villanova is the powerful hoop draw, selling out the big arena downtown basically anytime it wants. Look at it from this angle: If Temple comes in for all sports, plays Big East football at Lincoln Financial Field, and is in the same league for basketball, the landscape could be substantially different in 20 years.

That's not a talking point from Villanova, just a guess of what the conversations would have sounded like in-house, which Villanova isn't big on sharing.

If Villanova isn't duplicitous in this football move - if the behind-the-scenes lobbying wasn't different than the conference-call talk - even the Main Liners couldn't have foreseen this turn of events. Temple is smart enough not to comment on all this right now. We doubt too much of it would be printable.

There was more news Friday, such as an alliance announced between Conference USA and the Mountain West, as they look to a future after the Big East plucks some of their teams. That news doesn't mean much in Philadelphia.

The news is that Villanova's opposition has hurt Temple more than anyone could have imagined. Will the Big Five survive this?


Contact Mike Jensen at 215-854-4489, mjensen@phillynews.com, or @Jensenoffcampus on Twitter. Read his "Off Campus" columns at www.philly.com/offcampus.

 

|
|
|
|
|