After a year of little conference realignment talk, the news broke Monday that Maryland and Rutgers would be headed to the Big Ten. This has aroused talks once again of Villanova possibly being on the move in the coming years. The question is: do these big conferences want Villanova and its small football program?
After several years of sustained success at the FCS level (minus the dismal 2011 season), ‘Nova has been looked at by the Big East as a possible addition for football. The Big East will add Central Florida, Boise State, Houston, Memphis, Southern Methodist, and San Diego State in 2013 after adding Temple this year. That season, they will lose Pittsburgh and Syracuse, as well as Rutgers in 2014. The Big East already lost West Virginia last season. Connecticut, Louisville, and Cincinnati have also been rumored to be on their way to the ACC after Maryland jumped ship today. With one or more spots open in the the Big East, the conference may want to add another member, either a mid-major like they have in the past, or an FCS team like the Wildcats.
Currently, there are three teams on their way out of the Colonial Athletic Conference. Old Dominion is headed to the Conference USA, Georgia State to the Sun Belt, and Massachusetts to the Mid-American Conference. ODU was the best team in the CAA this season, and are probably good enough to be mediocre in the FBS. But Georgia State and UMass are hardly powerhouses at the FCS level. UMass went 1-10 as a transition team in the FBS, and went a pedestrian 5-6 in the CAA in 2011. GSU was even worse. They had a 3-8 record in 2011 and were 1-10 in the CAA in 2012!
An FCS National Championship and a semifinal appearance back-to-back years by Villanova were not even good enough for the Big East. A dismal 2-9 season lost the interest of the FBS, but is another playoff birth good enough to get it back?
A move to a mid-major FBS conference makes sense as far as program size and competition are concerned, but not geographically. No mid-major conferences have seriously considered adding Nova—yet. In my opinion, Villanova would be best suited to play in the MAC for football only. They currently have 13 teams, and Nova would be able to hang with the majority of the conference.
But what to do about basketball? In 2013, the Big East’s members will include Louisville, Cincinnati, South Florida, Marquette, DePaul, Rutgers, Temple, Providence, St. John’s, Georgetown, Seton Hall, Connecticut, Rutgers, Villanova, Memphis, UCF, SMU, Houston, Boise State, San Diego State. That’s 20 teams. Even though Nova will not say it, they might want out.
What makes the most sense is to get together with some other schools and start a new conference. Is it going to happen? No. Does it make sense? It might. Nova could rally together schools with small or no football programs from the Big East like Georgetown, Seton Hall, Providence, St. Johns, Marquette, or DePaul. They could also add some top-tier A-10 schools like St. Joe’s, Xavier, St. Bonaventure, or La Salle. Even schools like Boston College would be a good fit, or Notre Dame if they can pry them away from the ACC.
So, let’s say this new league includes everyone mentioned above aside from ND. That’s 12 teams. Why would teams want to go to this new conference? It is going to get TV deals and endorsements left and right. Who wouldn’t want to see this crazy idea in action? It is going to bring in money from basketball, much more than they would in a declining Big East. Call it the Catholic Athletic Conference. All Catholic schools playing all sports except football. Just a theory.
So these conference shake ups may or may not affect Villanova, but they will affect dozens of teams across the college landscape in years to come.