Big East Expansion: Is Villanova A Red Herring?

Just about all the momentum to add Villanova as the 10th football-playing member of the league has dissipated. While the football coaches are obviously not the athletic directors and don't get to vote on expansion, it seems likely that most of them are on the same page as their bosses. So the results of this poll on CBSSports.com look like a good indicator of the Wildcats' chances of success.

Villanova fans may be taking this "waffling" personally, but I think there's something else going on here: Villanova is a red herring, while the football athletic directors are busy staging a vote of no confidence on commissioner John Marinatto.

Remember the gag order Marinatto put on anyone talking about the league's expansion plans? Well, that's pretty much out the window. Especially with West Virginia athletic director Oliver Luck, who becomes more and more... I guess "aggressive" is the word for how his statements are trending. Then came the news today from the Big East meetings in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, where several people admitted that the league had a verbal agreement to extend its TV contract with ESPN and were apparently pretty close to signing it, but backed off in the end.

It turns out the decision to wait until next year to begin contract negotiations happened before the Pac-12 signed their massive contract with Fox and ESPN. So you can't even chalk that up as Marinatto being smart enough to recognize what just happened in front of him. It's quite possible he was forced into saying no by people like Luck and Rutgers athletic director Tim Pernetti, a former executive with CBS College Sports, who want to take the TV rights to the open market. And so now he's kind of stumbled into this "smart" move, as the Big East is now the only BCS conference left for the taking by a host of TV suitors.

If that's in fact what happened, that says very little about the faith some of the ADs have in John Marinatto. It could be the first step towards either Marinatto being moved out of the way by the football athletic directors (as On the Banks suggests), or the first step towards the league splitting apart and the football schools going their own way.

I understand Villanova fans feel used, but this is much bigger than whether or not Villanova joins the league for football... which is itself a mini-referendum on Marinatto that he appears to be in the process of failing. For the football schools, there's a lot more at stake than that.

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