Blog Entry

Could Pitt get in Villanova's way?

Posted on: March 7, 2011 6:16 pm
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Posted by Tom Fornelli

Last week there was a report that Villanova was close to coming to a decision and making the jump from the FCS level to join the Big East. The Big East added TCU to the conference with play beginning in 2012, and as the conference looks for a tenth member, Villanova does make sense based on their success at the FCS level. Add in the fact that the school is already a member of the Big East's basketball conference, and it becomes even more feasible.

Though according to one report, though it may make sense for both Villanova and the Big East to become partners, there's another school in the conference that may not be as excited by the idea.
According to sources close to the situation, administrators at the University of Pittsburgh are unhappy with the idea of having such a small venue in the conference, and would prefer that Villanova plays it’s home games at a venue that can hold a minimum of 35,000 fans (to match Cincinnati’s Nippert Stadium).
Pittsburgh was also reportedly upset that Villanova has pushed the ultimate decision on this issue back until April, despite the fact that large the capital investment in moving from FCS to FBS football requires more due-diligence than a move from one FBS conference to another.
The tiny venue Pitt seems worried about would be PPL Park, which is where Villanova would prefer to play its games. As presently constructed, the stadium only seats 18,500. Only two schools in the FBS have stadium's with a smaller capacity than that: Idaho and FIU. It would also be the lowest capacity in the Big East by far.

Still, I'm not sure Pitt's real problem with Villanova is stadium size. I wonder if Pitt's hesitation has more to do with a third BCS conference school suddenly showing up in the state of Pennsylvania, as Pitt already has to compete with Penn State for recruits in the state.

Besides, it's not as though Villanova doesn't have options. While the school isn't likely to spend money constructing a new stadium, there are other places it can play. First of all, PPL Park was built with expansion in mind, and it's possible that the place could seat around 30,000. Then there's Franklin Field, which seats over 50,000, but that would be a problem because it's on another campus: Pennsylvania. Scheduling could prove to be quite a headache with both the Quakers and Wildcats sharing the stadium.

A natural move would be to have Villanova play at Lincoln Financial Field, the home of the Philadelphia Eagles. The problem there is that Temple holds the lease on the stadium until 2017, and there's no way that three football teams can call the place home at once. Though it is possible that Villanova could play in a temporary home until 2017 when the lease expires, and then move into Lincoln Financial Field.

Bottom line, if Villanova wants to join the Big East, then Villanova is going to join the Big East. The only thing that can keep Villanova from making the move is Villanova itself.
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