Villanova eventually could join Temple in Big East football

Posted: March 07, 2012

NEW YORK - Now that the Big East finally has decided to add another Philadelphia team to what's become an ever-fluctuating mix, could it eventually opt to bring in a second for football as well?

That seemed to be part of the message coming out of Wednesday's press conference to announce that one-time football member Temple was indeed coming back for that sport next season, and for all others beginning in 2013.

Because all indications are that Villanova, which last April was set to vote to move up from the FCS level before the Big East backed off its invitation at the last moment, could be back in the serious discussion at some point.

"The circumstances have to be right, but I think there's definitely [mutual] interest," said Villanova athletic director Vince Nicastro. "And [the conference has] made a tangible investment to help us to continue to position ourselves for a potential move."

While he wouldn't go into specifics, sources said that includes $1 million as a "good faith" gesture to enhance the football facilities. And if the program does come in, there would be another $2 million made available. Also, the reported $2.5 million entry fee will be waived if it happens within the next 3 years. Such a move requires a mandatory 2-year transition period.

Villanova, which has been a member of the Big East for most sports since 1981, plays football in the Colonial Athletic Association.

Navy is not scheduled to join (for football only) until 2015, which would give the league 13 teams. But the way this has been going, there obviously could be more changes by then. If there is, the first consideration would be to bring in another "western" school. But Villanova could at the very least be next in line after that.

"Short of giving us an invitation, because there's so many moving parts, the membership gave us a real vote of confidence," Nicastro said. "I think that's really important that, moving forward, they're going to help us prepare."

There are other financial considerations, such as Villanova retaining exclusivity for conference basketball games at the Wells Fargo Center.

"We've built a lot of equity in this market," Nicastro said. "Our approach through this process has been consistent. We just want this to be the best conference it can be moving forward. Ultimately, that's what's important for Villanova.

"If it's going to be a little more challenging in recruiting, or a little more competitive in how we do our business, you know what, it'll probably help us all to raise our level of play."

As for the possibility that Villanova could one day be playing Temple in a Big East football game . . . 

"It's hard to pin down," Nicastro hedged. "Yeah, there's a chance. If you had asked me at this time last year I would have had a different answer. Some things have been settled with today's announcement. It's still a very unpredictable landscape. The Big East wants us to be ready to go, in case there's an opportunity and it makes sense for Villanova."

Basketball coach Jay Wright is the guy who might face the biggest challenge in all of this, now that another Philly program can offer a Big East option.

"Any time there's change, it's tough for people to take," Wright said before last night's Big East Tournament second-round game against South Florida. "But I think you have to look at the positives. Temple's always been a factor in recruiting in Philadelphia anyway. This might change more of their national scope. I think the teams that have been the best in the Atlantic 10 consistently can play in the Big East.

"Obviously, we have to share the market now, but we're kind of excited. I look forward to solidifying Philadelphia as a Big East basketball town [with two of us]. It's good for the Northeast, because the Big East still has Philly, New York and [Washington] . . . You never know how it's going to turn out. For Villanova football, Temple might be helping us have that opportunity. All along, all I ever wanted was to just give Villanova football a chance."

Contact Mike Kern at kernm@phillynews.com.

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