EDITORIAL: Speculation shouldn’t overshadow season

With the future viability of the Big East conference in doubt, Villanova began exploring the feasibility of a move to big-time college football. 

No, we’re not talking about the events of the last week, although the above passage certainly fits.

Just over a decade ago, Villanova found itself in a very similar situation. Several important Big East teams, such as Boston College and Virginia Tech, were planning a split from the conference, and it was far from certain that the Big East would emerge from the split as a strong and vibrant athletic conference.

Villanova began to explore the possibility of moving up to what was then known as Division 1-A football, putting out the necessary feelers across the conference and the NCAA and examining the financial and logistical practicality of such a move. Ultimately, the University decided that such a move was not feasible, and Villanova remained in Division 1-AA. 

Villanova’s national reputation and prestige have certainly increased since the late 1990s, and the University was in many ways different from what it is today. But it’s difficult to see what circumstances have changed to make a move more likely now than when the University last examined the possibility. 

The decision lies in the hands of the Board of Trustees, and the financial viability of a transition to FBS football will be its primary determining factor. And despite the buzz on campus, on Internet sports blogs and in other media outlets, it is too soon to reasonably assess the University’s ability to overcome the numerous hurdles that stand before such a move.

It’s plausible that an unknown variable, such as a wealthy benefactor coming forward to support the program or a financial assistance package structured by the Big East to ease the transition, will come into play. If that is the case, it will change the calculus affecting the decision. Regardless, the hurdles to successfully transition to FBS football are significant. 

Title IX requirements will necessitate that Villanova finance over 40 additional full athletic scholarships per year on top of the current scholarship requirements. Multiply 44 new scholarships by the going rate for a Villanova education and price that out over the next 10 years to get a sense of the scope of how much scholarships alone will cost the University. And along with those costs come huge increases in other areas such as academic support, recruiting, sports medicine and travel expenses. Villanova’s current athletic facilities will not meet certain NCAA requirements for FBS football. In addition to financial hurdles, another obstacle for Villanova’s move is the stadium attendance requirement. Villanova Stadium’s current size is insufficient to meet these requirements, so an alternative will have to be found. Ultimately, what is clear is that for at least the first several years, Villanova will go from being among the best teams in FCS football to being among the worst in FBS and will likely pay an enormous amount of money to do so.

It’s too soon to say that a move to FBS football is a good or bad idea, but Villanova’s administrators and coaches certainly have their work cut out for them. 

In the meantime, the invitation is no doubt a testament to the stellar achievements of the football program and its coaches and players. So during this highly speculative period, whether you are an avid supporter or in stark opposition to the move up in football, let’s try not to let talks about the future of football cause us to lose sight of the current season and the defense of our FCS championship.