If you've been following Big East expansion over the past year or so, Villanova moving up from FCS to the Big East has been on the table for a while now. After going through the process of accumulating as much information as possible, Villanova will make their decision one way or the other on Tuesday. We were able to talk to Brian from the wonderful Villanova site VUHoops.com, who have been on top of expansion news since the beginning. In this edition of Bulls Recon, we talk who will make the decision, if PPL Park is the preferred venue for VU football, and how Jay Wright feels about possible expansion.
1. Who is on the Board of Trustees? How are they aligned for expansion at this time?
There are 33 Trustees currently appointed (though a measure passed this winter that allows the board to be expanded to 40 in the future) to the board. The Chairman is Terrence O'Toole, a 1980 graduate and a former Partner at Goldman Sachs, and the Vice Chair is Catherine Keating, a 1984 graduate and the chief executive of U.S. Private Banking at J.P. Morgan.
Nine members of the board (including university President Fr. Peter Donohue) are Augustinian Priests or Brothers. The rest come from varying backgrounds, including lawyers, financiers, registered nurses and professors. A full list is available here.
I can't in good conscience tell you how each board member will vote, but a trusted source has indicated that there were enough votes on the board to pass a measure in favor of the upgrade process. It is always assumed that the Augustinians will vote as a block, and they did so in 1980 when football was cancelled as well as in 1997 when the last Big East invitation was declined -- it is presumed that they will vote with Fr. Peter's recommendation on Tuesday, whatever that will be.
2. There was a 30 million dollar fundraising goal to improve the facilities and to increase the budget. Has the Athletic Department reach that goal yet?
My most reliable sources haven't commented much on this matter. There was a very strong response to fundraising pitches that were made earlier in the process, but the university reportedly only began accepting the actual money from donors over the last few weeks. There had previously been a policy against accepting contingent donations for programs that didn't yet exist -- an exception was made for this.
The rumor mill seems pretty convinced that the fundraising goals have been met at this point, but ultimately, it has proven very difficult to confirm those rumors.
3. You reported last month that Pitt isn't happy about the prospects of Villanova playing at PPL Park. Are there any other stadiums use other than PPL? Will Nova try to compete with Temple when their lease at Lincoln Financial Field ends?
All I know right now is that PPL Park was pegged by Villanova's study as the most reasonable and best venue to play the initial few seasons of FBS football at. After a certain amount of time, it may be possible to expand PPL Park, but doing so would require working with the Philadelphia Union on the issue, and it would only happen if the soccer team gave their approval.
Other than PPL, it may be possible for Citizens Bank Park to host some football games (similar to Yankee Stadium hosting one late season Army game and a Bowl game each season). I believe that the Phillies ownership is open to exploring new revenue streams, such as college football, but any games there would necessarily be limited to after the end of the MLB playoffs.
Expanding the current on-campus stadium is not a possibility. In addition to architectural concerns, the township has a lot of logistical concerns and will be unlikely to ever allow a stadium of suitable size to be built.
Franklin Field is also theoretically an option. The oldest football stadium in the area seats over 52,000 people. The downsides are that the stadium is on the campus of another university -- the University of Pennsylvania -- has very limited amenities, and all-bleacher seating.
More-likely, however, is that PPL will be the home of Villanova's prospective FBS program for the foreseeable future. With an expansion to 30,000 seats eventually occurring, when it becomes convenient for the Philadelphia Union.
Who knows though, maybe this thing will take off and Nova will be able to afford a brand new, state of the art off-campus stadium just minutes from campus at some point.
4. Is Jay Wright for or against upgrading? Does his opinion hold any weight with the BOT members?
I asked him about football at the Big East media day in New York this year and his answer was, essentially, "football is important and it sets Villanova apart from other small Catholic schools." Not quite a solid pro- or con- regarding a move to the Big East, but it is believed that Wright is backing the move behind the scenes.
Jay Wright was in attendance with many of the basketball players at the Mayor's Cup game against Temple this past season, and his players were visibly present at virtually every on-campus football game this season. Savon Goodman was even spotted watching a football game with Maalik Wayns this fall before he gave Jay Wright his verbal commitment.
Wright wants to use football as a tool to better his basketball program.
His opinion would only hold weight with the Trustees if he were prepared to walk away from his job should the move not happen. While it has been suggested that he might do just that, he would likely want to wait for an appropriately attractive opening before doing so. Without that threat, his opinion carries as much weight as the faculty -- not much.
The weight of Jay Wright's opinion with boosters, however, is a different story.
5. Finally, do you think Nova makes the move up Tuesday?
There are a lot of indications that it will happen. I haven't heard that anything was a lock (and honestly, I'm not much of a gambler), but right now, it seems more likely than not.
The results of the final discussions with the Big East and the actual fundraising figures are the two biggest factors that could change a likely 'yes' into a 'no' vote. A strongly-negative recommendation to the board from Fr. Peter could also change things -- and that should be finalized soon.
Thank you Brian from taking time out of your day to answer our questions. Make sure to bookmark VUHoops over the next couple of days before the vote on Tuesday, and make sure to follow Brian and VUHoops on Twitter.