Community feedback sought in FBS move

Daina Amorosano


After focusing on the engagement of on-campus constituents over the past six weeks, the University will extend its outreach to alumni and engage a firm for more specific data analysis before the Board of Trustees votes on whether to make the move to FBS football — a decision now targeted for this April, according to Athletics Director Vince Nicastro.

Since the Board of Trustees met in October, Nicastro has delivered about 15 presentations, including several for the University’s administrative bodies, a couple faculty forums and a student leadership forum that took place on Nov. 12. 

The idea behind engaging the community is both to get feedback and disseminate what Nicastro called “real information.”

At this point, this includes speculative upfront and ongoing costs, such as the estimated upfront cost of $35 million to improve practice facilities, which would be funded through private donor contribution.

Whether the University is capable of procuring this funding for a Davis Center-type facility — contemplated to be in the far endzone though there are no drawings or designs at this point — has yet to be determined.

“We haven’t gotten a great feel for whether we’re capable of getting that kind of money,” Nicastro said. “We’re going through this feasibility to see if there are enough donors who have an interest and capacity to give.”

There would also be a cumulative cost ranging from $2 to $4 million during the three-year ramp-up before Villanova becomes a full member and a part of the full revenue distribution. The additional net cost thereafter is estimated to be anywhere from $500,000 to $2.5 million a year.

“The financial piece is clearly a big element no matter how it shakes out,” Nicastro said.  “People are concerned about the financial component. We’re flushing out our financial models all the time so we can come down, specifically to the cent, if there is some additional investment on what that cost will be.”

As of now, while it canvasses for private donors, the University is unsure whether there will be an additional investment either in the facility or ongoing operating costs, so the University has not yet come to a conclusion about how the financial component could impact academics.

During the faculty forums, general concerns were about the financial investment and academic issues, according to Nicastro.

The University has collected data on all 120 schools in the FBS to examine their ongoing academic metrics and compared them to those of Villanova in order to show that there are schools that don’t have to compromise their academics to compete in the FBS, according to Nicastro, who cited schools such as Wake Forest and Boston College as examples with a similar size and academic mission.

Villanova has also benchmarked itself against other schools in terms of how they run and fund their programs. 

Student feedback was primarily predicated on enthusiasm for going to games against higher profile opponents and the notion that a move to FBS football is a way for Villanova to become one of those higher national profile schools, according to Nicastro.

“The general sentiment was that students want Villanova to be one of the premier Catholic schools like BC and Notre Dame,” said senior and student liaison of Student Government Association Meghan Williams, who reached out to Athletics a few weeks back to arrange the Nov. 12 presentation. 

The presentation was the first opportunity for student feedback and was attended by about 35 student-leaders, according to Williams.

That the issue itself is complex is the one thing that has come out of a lot of the sessions, according to Nicastro. 

Other than that, feedback has been down the middle, he said.

“The people who are hearing about this decision get a better appreciation for how complicated it is,” he said. “It’s not just a financial decision. It’s not just a football decision.”

Athletics is working with the Office of University Communication to get information out to alumni and elicit feedback from them, which will probably be done in the form of a survey, Nicastro said.

“Alumni are kind of chomping at the bit to get more information and be more involved, but we consciously and intentionally had to start from the inside out,” he said. “We’ve been consciously expanding the scope outside the walls [and will continue to do so] over the next month, two months.”

A firm will also help the University gather research on particular things like demand for tickets from students, current ticketholders and even those with no affiliation to Villanova. 

Although the decision was initially expected to be made by early 2011, the Big East has not yet commented about the extended timeframe, according to Nicastro.

“I think when they come to see us, that could be a topic of conversation,” he said. “I don’t know that there’s a sense of urgency that December is better than April. This is a decision of such magnitude that you don’t want to rush through it because of an arbitrary deadline.”

Instead, Nicastro emphasized the importance of the University giving itself enough time as an institution to do its due diligence. However, factors that impact the landscape or sense of urgency could develop, he said.

After the bi-annual meeting of Big East presidents, the University and the conference are now going to embark on a more formal discussion of the terms of the expansion.

“We haven’t gotten to [them] yet,” Nicastro said. “But between now and the December board meeting, we’re going to have more specific information.”

Nate McGann contributed to this report.