The Times West Virginian

WVU Sports

April 12, 2011

HERTZEL COLUMN - Big East doesn’t need 10th team

MORGANTOWN — It seemed to be a foregone conclusion that by the time this week was over, Villanova would become the 10th football-playing school in the Big East.

Now that’s not quite as sure as it was ... and that’s a good thing.

Villanova may need Big East football, but Big East football doesn’t need Villanova.

The meeting that was supposed to be held Monday was canceled, reportedly because Pitt and a few other Big East schools had concerns about the stadium situation for Villanova. More to the point, the concern was directed at a lack of a quality stadium that Villanova had.

That, however, is one of many reasons Villanova is not the right school to step in and give the conference a 10th member, even though it is a top-of-the-line FBS school. It is, in fact, the national champion of that smaller division.

From the moment it was revealed that the Big East was considering adding Villanova to the football mix, an inquiring mind wondered why.

What does Villanova bring to the party?

From Big East Commissioner John Marinatto’s point of view, the biggest selling point has nothing to do with football at all. Adding Villanova to the mix avoids complicating his precious basketball commodity, already an unwieldy 18 teams that is, if you will pardon a pun, and Irish stew of mismatches.

Notre Dame, of course, plays basketball but not football, and that’s fine with Marinatto, as it gives it just another highly regarded Catholic university not in the football mix ... along with St. John’s and Seton Hall and DePaul and Marquette and ... well, you get the idea.

Add a football playing school that also would bring a basketball program and you have 19 basketball teams, which just doesn’t work, no matter how much the Big East ego tells it that it can do whatever it wants to do without penalty in the big time basketball world.

What you want out of a football program is to have one that adds something to the quality of the football league.

Villanova does not do that.

It doesn’t bring great tradition. In fact, it is a program that once was a Division I school and opted to cut back.

It doesn’t bring a big stadium. In fact, the plans are for it to play in a soccer stadium in Chester, Pa., that seats 18,000 but could be converted to 30,000 if necessary. At 30,000, that is not big enough.

It isn’t a city clamoring for a football team.

Hardly. Already noted was Villanova’s inability to sustain a Division I program. How about a similar school there, Temple, which was a Big East football member and kicked out for an inability to play at the required level.

Philadelphia, of course, is a great sports town ... but it is one that is oversaturated and a Big East football team could not really compete for the fans’ attention. It would be going against the Phillies, the Eagles, the 76ers and the Flyers in the major professional sports, and battling collegiate allegiances to Temple, Penn, St. Joseph’s and LaSalle.

Connecticut is a similar school that entered the Big East after having established itself as a basketball power, and while it has a decent following, the sport did not capture the imagination of the public, one that is similar to WVU in that it really had only a hockey team professionally with which to compete.

Rather than ramped up after winning a spot in the Fiesta Bowl this past season, the school lost $1 million on its trip to Phoenix, failing to sell more than 2,700 tickets.

Why should Villanova be different ... or even that good, for that matter?

The truth is, the Big East doesn’t need a 10th team, and the group out there to select from is hardly overwhelming, the most likely ones if Villanova doesn’t come in being East Carolina, Central Florida or Florida International ... all of them not doing a thing for basketball.

The Florida schools, at least, could get the conference into the Miami or Orlando area and be someone to twin on road trips with South Florida in the minor sports, at least cutting costs there.

But having added national power TCU as a ninth team would seem to be enough, allowing an eight-game regular season schedule and four non-conference games. Why screw it up by adding a 10th team that offers little of football value?

Email Bob Hertzel at bhertzel@hotmail.com.

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