Presidents of BIG EAST schools will meet this Sunday to discuss the future of the conference as it pertains to realignment. Numerous reports indicate that service academies Navy and Air Force are atop the conference’s wish list to replace the departing Syracuse and Pittsburgh. Some reports have come out stating that Central Florida is also being considered by the conference, while other news outlets have stated that the conference would consider adding either Temple or Villanova, but not both.
May I make a suggestion to the BIG EAST presidents? You should add both Temple and Villanova. Mike Jensen of the Philadelphia Inquirer already made a reasonable case for both schools earlier this week. Temple football has drastically improved since its last stint as a BIG EAST football member, as evidenced by the 38-7 shellacking they doled out to Maryland at Maryland last weekend. Villanova football hasn’t had any Division I-A FBS relevance since the days when Howie Long was trekking from The Quad to The Pit. But in 2009, The Wildcats did bring an FCS National Championship to the Main Line campus, suggesting that it too may be ready to return an FBS conference.
Now, in order for Villanova to be a more attractive candidate for the BIG EAST it would have to presumably increase its scholarships in football. Even then, the Wildcats would probably need another year or three to be consistently competitive at the FBS level. But as we’ve clearly seen during this rush for realignment, time is of the essence and university presidents and conference officials aren’t interested in exercising patience. Perhaps Villanova’s candidacy for the BIG EAST is not very appealing or realistic on its own merit.
But as part of a package deal that includes Temple football (and possibly all sports if Temple was willing to abandon the Atlantic-10), Villanova’s candidacy makes more sense. Adding these two Philadelphia Big 5 universities, would give the BIG EAST two footprints in a major media market that has been virtually ignored by college football. Granted, the quality of college football within the city limits of Philadelphia has never rivaled that of Happy Valley and may never generate the sort of buzz in the city as college basketball.
However, the Mayor’s Cup showdown between Temple and Villanova, which began in 2009, proves that rivalries DO matter . And they especially matter in a city like Philadelphia, where the students and alumni of the Big 5 schools are always looking for an excuse to root for their school and neighborhood and to disparage the others. The addition of both Temple and Villanova to the BIG EAST would provide the conference with an instant, natural rivalry that would boost the profile of the conference and the sport in a major media that is rabid about any athletic competition.
Should Temple join the BIG EAST as a full-fledged member, even better, because that would also strengthen the basketball side of the ledger for the BIG EAST, bringing the passion and the flavor of the Big 5 rivalry to both revenue-generating sports.
The City of Brotherly Love is in the midst of a sports resurgence with all four major professional sports teams making the playoffs last season and with the Phillies poised to make another World Series run. Yet, there remains one glaring omission in this cornucopia of athletic ascendancy: college football. Getting two universities into the BCS mix by joining an (for now) AQ conference would be a step in the right direction to fixing that glaring omission.
So, Presidents of BIG EAST Universities, help us to help you. Extend a football invitation to both the Temple Owls and the Villanova Wildcats.
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