By Will Kavanagh, Class of ’13
Two years ago, as we came back to school and the football team began its title defense after winning the National Championship the year before, rumors began to circulate about the future of the football program. Had Villanova Football reached a point where they could jump to the Football Bowl Subdivision level (formerly known as Division I-A)? The Big East thought so, and on September 10th, 2010, it was reported that the conference had officially invited Villanova to become a full member of the conference by moving the football team to the next level. Father Peter addressed the Villanova community and announced that the administration and the Board of Trustees were committed to ensuring that any decision would be in the best interest of the school, and so they began their feasibility study. Students, faculty, staff, parents, alumni, and fans eagerly awaited a decision from the Board of Trustees. The Big East did not wait though, and instead decided to add TCU to the conference, ignoring the second word in the conference name in their quest for another major TV market. The conference sent Villanova another message, saying that they wanted the school’s decision by January.
As history shows, the school decided to call the Big East’s bluff and did not believe that it was necessary to humor the conference by responding to the invitation in the timeframe the conference set down. In April 2011, the Board of Trustees announced that Villanova would accept the invitation to send football up to the FBS level in the Big East. There was rejoicing in Nova Nation, but it was short-lived. The Big East’s invitation to Villanova had expired, and upon further review, the conference decided not to admit the Wildcats into their football ranks. Sadness and finger-pointing erupted as the Board of Trustees and the University administration were accused of taking too long to decide on the offer of membership and wounding the conference’s pride by ignoring their deadline.
Fast forward to the next academic year, when it was reported that Temple wanted to join the Big East as a full-sports member and that Villanova was working behind the scenes to block them. Rabble-rousing Nova fans praised the school’s muscling of Temple. Why should Temple get football when Villanova didn’t? Then the fan base had even more to rabble-rouse about, when the Big East announced that Temple was being added, and it came out that Father Peter had struck a deal with the conference for additional consideration of any future plans by Villanova to join FBS football. Wait… what? The school rolled over and accepted a vague statement of support in return for letting Temple into the conference? Father Peter even issued a letter to the community explaining the situation, which was short on details and never mentioned the future of the football program.
And now, the Conference Crisis is back, with Rutgers leaving the Big East for the Big Ten. Maryland is heading for the Big Ten, as well, after announcing its intentions to leave the ACC. Alumni, students, and fans were excited, wanting the school to strike while the iron was hot and secure a bold new future for the football program. And what happened? The Big East announced the additions of Tulane and ECU to the conference and STILL no Villanova football membership in the Big East… Director of Athletics Vince Nicastro issued a letter regarding the recent conference realignment news to try and soothe angry fans and donors, in which he never mentions the football program. Really, Vince? Come on!
It seems as though the administration at Villanova is either not committed to the future advancement of the football program or not committed to having an honest discussion with fans and community members about what is happening with the school and the Conference Crisis. As with many other issues on campus, such as the terrible state of VU Mobile, the school’s leaders are being remarkably silent, preferring to not confront the problems head on and instead insult the students, alumni, parents, etc. by declining to involve us in the solution. What is the point of continuing to praise ourselves as being a cohesive community at Villanova if our leaders clearly do not value an honest discussion of the problems that we face? Why are the most contentious issues on campus given the silent treatment by those at the top? It is only natural that students, faculty, staff, parents, alumni, and fans are going to resort to relying on rumor and speculation, in the absence of a direct address of the major questions being raised on campus. And as we learned last week, that is something that the school, particularly the Athletic Department, does not want to have happen. Silence is not golden, so start talking.