Is The Villanova Invite a Power Play For Control of The Big East?

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Is The Villanova Invite a Power Play For Control of The Big East?
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Stay or go, coach?

In talking about future collegiate athletic conference expansion and/or realignment, no one ever gets it totally right.  I think most articles about Villanova and the Big East may actually be glossing over one of the more interesting sports stories out there.

I do think that there is a lot that has not been discussed in the media regarding the invitation of Villanova to join the football Big East as a full member of that BCS Automatic Qualifier football conference and the motivations behind it.

There are a lot of things that the move to add Villanova isn't and a lot of things it may be that aren't really being investigated enough by the paid media.

First of all, almost no one in the paid media covering the Big East is asking the simple question, "Why add Villanova?"

Sadly, it isn't ALL about academics...

I'd love to come out here and say that while institutional academic esteem and reputation largely doesn't matter at the BCS non-AQ level,  the fact that the Big East - one of the six BCS conferences - inviting FCS member Villanova to join the football Big East over East Carolina, Memphis, and Central Florida or even fellow Philadelphia school Temple is proof positive that those do matter at the BCS level.

How else does Villanova - a school that doesn't even break 10,000 in attendance over a multi-year period land an invitation over the ECU Pirates who averaged 41,742 per game last year?  How does it trump a combination of media markets and attendance?  What about UCF with their 38,078 attendance average and the Orlando DMA? or if you just want to say it is strictly due to the value of the Philadelphia DMA, why not Philly neighbor and current FBS school Temple who won their half of the MAC last year and played in a bowl game?  They averaged 17,379.

Villanova, the reigning FCS champion, averaged 7111 fans per game last year.  If I had championed a similar small private school in the West with those numbers for WAC inclusion, I'd have had my sanity questioned...and here they are in line to be the 9th football member of the BCS Big East ahead of ECU, UCF, or any other candidates. 

They've already been invited.

The difference?  I'd love to credit it all to academics and institutional reputation.  After years of hearing people say academics doesn't matter in conference affiliation, I'd love to point out that the football Big East is nervous about their perceived standing as a conference of BCS-like attributes. 

I'd like to point out the curious fact that of the now 66 teams in the BCS, 54 of them are ranked in the top half (what they used to refer to as "Tier1") of the US News's rankings of doctorate granting "National Universities" while in the Non-automatic qualifier FBS ranks, only 11 of their 54 members are ranked that high.

I'd love to point out that all 12 ACC & Big 10 schools, 10 of 12 Pac-12 schools, seven of the 10 Big 12 schools have such strong overall undergraduate academic reputations that they are ranked in that group.  Even the SEC - a conference much slandered for their academics - has nine of their 12 members in that group. 

The only BCS conference that doesn't have at least 70% of their universities in that group is the football Big East, where only 4 of their 8 members academics measurables fit that distinction - Syracuse, Rutgers, Connecticut, & Pitt.  (Now sure West Virginia may deserve an "asterisk" as some of the requirements of the state probably hold their measurables down a bit and hurt them in this particular ranking system, but a lot of conferences have a member who can make a similar argument.  At the end of the day, it is still four of eight and more telling 4 of the 5 lowest ranked BCS schools in the US News rating are in the 8 member football Big East.)

You combine that with suspect attendance numbers....

2009 Division I FBS per game Attendance Averages
BCS AQ conferences
Conference Attendance
Southeastern 76,288
Big Ten 71,769
Big 12 62,875
Pacific-10 54,186
Atlantic Coast 51,249
Big East 44,804

BCS non-AQ conferences
Conference Attendance
Independents 48,627
Mountain West 33,202
Conference USA 26,600
Western Athletic 22,749
Sun Belt 16,463
Mid-American 15,317

And it is easy to speculate that the Big East is not a favorite of either half of the BCS alliance - the big BCS bowls or the large, wealthy, and prestigious academic institutions.

I'd love to really underscore the need the Big East might feel to add other top academic institutions like Villanova.

Villanova is not evaluated on the same doctorate granting scale as the rest of the BCS, but that might be something that could be overlooked due to the small size of the school.  For universities that are not classified as doctorate granting institutions there is a regional rating system.  Villanova is in the North region - home of most of the better small universities in the nation - and they are ranked first in that grouping.

With apologies to Temple alumni, Villanova is a more prestigious academic name.

Certainly a lot of it is better academics, but sadly there appears to be more going on here, so it can't exclusively be used as proof that academics matter at the BCS level.

Power and Control

The Big East was reformed as a balance of 8 football and 8 non-football members.   That created a voting stalemate that has largely blocked expansion that the football schools rightly feel may be necessary to retain their BCS bid.

Sure, they could add football only members, but would a top level candidate school take that offer seeing what a cash cow BE basketball is?

Notre Dame and the 7 Catholic dwarfs

Today, it would not be inaccurate to say the Big East is a conference where the tail wags the dog.  Basketball runs the conference.  They own the best media markets (NYC, DC, Philadelphia, Chicago) and as such the football schools have to go along.

The basketball schools are all Catholic Universities and they all dig playing Notre Dame.  Notre Dame is the rockstar of the American Catholic university world.  The seven Big East Catholics are essentially Notre Dame groupies.

The privates like the status quo.  The affiliation with the football schools gives them BCS conference caliber recognition of their basketball exploits and good ratings.  They recognize that they can block the expansion efforts of the football Big East and retain their comfy lot in life and their affiliation with Notre Dame.

If the privates allow more football schools in, they lose their voting stalemate and could effectively lose control of the conference.

It may not be a stretch to say that the privates might be OK with the Big East losing their BCS bid and being affiliated with a CUSA level football conference - albeit one with better academics.

That is the niggling logic the football schools run against in the Big East.

The Villanova gambit

But what if you could flip one of the existing members over to the football school's way of thinking?  What if you could make that vote 9-7 overnight without needing the basketball schools to vote your way?

Then the majority of the conference would be of like mind in supporting decisions that make sense for football.

Enter TCU

The New York Post ran a story stating that TCU and the Big East were having talks.  (I have championed this idea for months as a "win-win" scenario for the BE, TCU, and the state of Texas.)   Many fans largely blew off that article as poor journalism as it really seemed very light on specifics.

What has been overlooked is the article from the Forth Worth Star Telegram that did offer some details.  That story reportedly confirmed through multiple sources that TCU had a meeting with the Big East over the last 30 days and that the deal with Villanova could impact whether or not TCU gets an offer.

Putting the pieces together

I think the football Big East wants at least 10 football members. As the only BCS AQ conference with fewer than 10 football playing members, they have a target on their backs.  Their members split the same BCS Bowl payout that the other automatic qualifier conferences split, but as the Big East only has eight football members, each school gets a larger share than a school like Michigan, Ohio State, Texas, or Alabama gets in their conference.  That cannot sit well.

TCU is likely the football Big East's first choice. They want the credibility TCU provides on the field and academically in BCS terms and they look at a partial share of the DFW market as a very worthwhile building block for generating better TV money. (The Big East's TV deals are up in 2012-2013 and as a conference they have discussed the possibility of starting their own network.  Is that talk strictly for leverage as the SEC used their talk of starting a network or is their intent sincere like the Big 10's proved?)

One of the biggest problems facing the football Big East is that they don't have enough TV sets for their football product.  As they are at the bottom of the BCS AQ the pecking order, they do not have as many major state flagships with statewide followings as the other BCS conferences do.  Their schools tend to have followings focused primarily in a DMA and in a lot of cases those DMA's are not large.  They have very few big Markets and they have fewer members.  Networks pay for what a conference brings to the table.

The Big East football schools take in about $7M per school in football and basketball TV revenue.  That puts them at a major competitive disadvantage vs. the Big 10 ($22M ea.) and the SEC ($20M ea.) as well as the second tier BCS conferences like the ACC (~14M ea.) and the Big 12 (most schools should be making around $13M ea. now).

Adding strong programs and big markets can increase their TV negotiating leverage and increase each football school's payouts, making the conference more stable and competitive.

The football schools also want to fix their New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Washington DC donut hole to improve their leverage in TV negotiations.  All of those markets are largely delivered only in basketball by the basketball schools.

There is little that can be done today to improve the Big East's football offering in some of those markets, but Philadelphia is very fixable.

A Quick look at the other Philadelphia option (Temple)

Temple offers a big enrollment and an FBS bowl caliber team, but they have no interest in building a right sized on or near campus stadium, instead preferring to play in the NFL Eagles's stadium.  Playing in a cavernous stadium eliminates the chance for sellouts and suppresses attendance. 

(MLS had many of the same issues years ago.  Their teams were capable of pulling 14-30,000 fans per game, but their home stadia were college or pro football stadiums that sat 2 to 4 times that capacity.  As a result MLS teams never sold out any games.  There was no ticket scarcity. The games and the sport in general was seen as unpopular and uncool.  That fans that did go sat in mostly empty stadiums with that niggling feeling in the back of their mind that they were one of a handful of fools following a very unpopular, valueless sport. In that environment it was difficult to build a fanbase.  On the verge of a league-wide collapse, Major League soccer started building stadiums that would essentially house their existing game attending fan base.This is why MLS teams now build right-sized "soccer specific stadiums" - intimate stadiums with seating capacities in the 14,000-30,000 range.  The seating capacity matching the size of their fan base allows MLS teams to create ticket demand, create a good game experience, and build fan bases from the general public.)

The Big East has to look at that Temple situation and make some simple mathematical assumptions. As a MAC school Temple played 6 home games at The Eagles' stadium and drew a total of 104,276 fans last year for a total of 17,379 fans.

In the more prestigious Big East, Temple would probably be able to play another home game each year. They would experience a bump in the Temple fan turnout as they would be playing teams the Temple fan base cares about. 

We will say optimistically that Temple might see a 15% rise in their own fans coming out to see games, so add 15641 to the season total. 

With regards to the additional game, lets be very charitable.  Lets say with Temple in the more prestigious Big East, Penn State would agree to play home and home rather than 2 at Penn State and one at Lincoln Financial Field.  So we will say one year drawing 69,029 (what they drew the last time they hosted Penn State) and one year drawing their 17,379 against Joe Blow University.   Average that and you get 43,204 to add to the season total.

Then you have to think there would be a Big East travelling fan bump from schools like Pitt, Rutgers, and West Virginia.  Lets say those teams added 10,000 fans each for their games in Philadelphia.  Divide it in half for home and away and you add another 15,000 on to the season total.

That is 104,276 + 15,641 + 43,204 + 15,000 = 178,121 / 7 home games = 25,445 per game.  Perhaps attendance alternating from 22,000 to 28,000 each year depending on the Penn State game.  That's just my quick look at it.

I am an attendance follower. I cannot comfortably predict that Temple in the Big East would average more than 30,000 fans per game over a season at Lincoln Financial Field anytime in the next 20 years.  It is too large and too far from campus. I think Temple taking the path of least resistance and tying their future to Lincoln Financial Field instead of starting the arduous process of trying to get a 40,000 seat stadium built on or within a mile of campus will probably keep them out of the Big East.

I think the Big East probably has reached similar conclusions.  They probably look at Temple and say as long as they are playing in that cavernous, off campus stadium, Temple is not going to be able to tap their student body like most FBS schools of that size and will draw something southward of 30,000 per game in the Big East.  

I think they have to look at it an assume Temple would be the conference's worst draw and would be a fifth school out of nine that is not in the top half of the US News rankings of doctorate granting universities (Temple barely misses the cutoff).  Even though Temple is higher ranked in that rating system than the four Big East "academic stragglers", Temple's inclusion would probably not favorably impress either half of the BCS coalition.

And adding Temple would be perceived by the dull media as a bit of an admission that the Big East made a mistake in kicking Temple out in the first place.

Why Villanova trumps Temple

David Jones of the Patroit News wrote an excellent article detailing the problems Villanova would be facing moving up

Rather than rehash that I am going to deal with why it works for Villanova and the Big East. 

FCS schools that are trying to upgrade often find that the difference in losses between operating an  athletic program at the FCS level and at say the Sun Belt or MAC FBS level is not that significant.  They decide to move up because even at the Sun Belt level the exposure gain of playing FBS football is worth it in terms of the exposure gains for the university.

Unlike most FCS upgrades the question of value gain does not figure in for Villanova who would be jumping immediately to the BCS level.  The only question is the cost increase.  Value-wise it is a no-brainer.  Being in the football Big East will bring a lot more attention to the University and if leveraged properly could lead to enrollment and endowment gains.

The question really boils down to costs.  Are the costs manageable by a mid-sized private school like Villanova?  That is the question Villanova is struggling with today.

It seems like the football Big East may be trying to ease that question.

Of particular note was a comment in the first article on Villanova which said, "To help offset Villanova's   transition costs, sources said one way the Big East could help is to schedule home games against the Wildcats that would include guaranteed payouts."

Now I read that to be that the members of the football Big East are discussing the possibility of taking body bag payouts they would normally give to an OOC non-BCS AQ school and giving them to Villanova when they host Villanova in conference.

Rather than paying a Sun Belt or MAC school money with no return on investment, they would pay Villanova and get an indirect ROI.

With 4 Big East road games a year, VIllanova could be being offered $2M+ a year in bodybag payouts in essentially the form of a bribe from the football schools to get the Wildcats to upgrade.

Most FCS schools can expect a large attendance bump moving up to the FBS level. Villanova can probably realistically expect their attendance to double immediately at the Big East level.   Playing in a right sized stadium like their rumoured FBS home, the new PPL Park (a Philadelphia Major League Soccer Stadium) would help. 

PPL Park has permanent seating for a very appropriate 18,500 and can be expanded to seat more if needed.  There was a little talk that Villanova fans might not want to drive to the area creating an attendance suppressing situation just like Temple's with Lincoln Financial Field, but PPL Park might overcome that in ways Lincoln Financial cannot. 

The stadium is new and clean. It is small enough that occasional sellouts even with Villanova's small fan base would be more than possible and even crowds in the 14,000 range would enjoy a good gameday experience, increasing the possibility of return visits.  These two factors should allow Villanova to build a game attending fan base in ways Temple currently cannot.

Then there is the TV revenue. 

There are a lot of Big East fans living in the Philadelphia DMA, but if you want to generate viewership you really need a team playing in the area to generate better media coverage to spur the increased viewership.

Philadelphia is a top 10 DMA.  With a Philly team in the conference, the football Big East would have a lot more leverage in negotiating TV terms, which means the per share TV revenue would likely go up even with a new team taking a cut.

Once you add in a TV share payout that will likely exceed a current Big East football share, a BCS bowl share,  a likely doubling of their gameday attendance, and the bodybag payouts, it seems fairly likely the finances could be made to work for Villanova.

Why it works for the football Big East

From the Big East's standpoint, adding the Philadelphia DMA would land TV share increase to ease some of that revenue loss.  They'd add another top academic school to their football mix improving the conference's academic reputation in BCS AQ conference circles. Finally if a schism did happen and the football and non-football schools parted ways, the football Big East would keep one of the best basketball teams on the non-football side of the equation.  I think that is a key element in this discussion.

As far as the football Big East goes, the conventional wisdom is that the football Big East is talking to Villanova to keep the 16 member conference in tact.  Some influential observers have deemed it as a compromise of sorts between the football and basketball mebership. While I think that is how it is being sold internally to Big East members, I think there is a lot more too it.  I think the balance of power between the football and basketball schools could have the Big East failing to expand, which in turn puts the football Big East at risk of falling out of the BCS AQ ranks in a few years. 

I think the BB schools might be OK with that as an eventual end result as they would retain control of the direction of the conference.  They are the more stable end of the conference.  The football Big East could lose Rutgers at any time.

The football schools and (likely) the commissioner are not good with that scenario and as such are pushing down on the scales on the football side of the equation.  (I want to be clear, I am not saying the Big East's commissioner is attempting to screw the basketball schools by selling them a bill of goods today, but I think he is not going to let the basketball schools degrade the conference by inaction.)

If the football schools wanted to, they could likely add a football only member - like Temple - any time they wished.  Temple would clearly be a better draw than Villanova  in the Big East even if Temple played at Lincoln Financial Field.

As we discussed earlier the problem is Temple doesn't help the Big East's case with either half of the BCS Bowl coalition.  ECU and UCF would at least be less annoying to the Bowls, but their academics would only further make the conference look substandard in comparison to the other BCS AQ conferences.

The only school that upgrades the conference in both categories and adds TV revenue would be TCU.  It is not a difficult scenario to imagine TCU telling the Big East they would only accept a full membership.  TCU must realize they have all the leverage in this negotiation.

It could be that the only way the football Big East could add TCU to an intact Big East is by flipping Villanova's vote.

Flipping Villanova rather than adding Temple gives the football Big East a lot of leverage over the basketball Big East.  Villanova is the basketball Big East's 2nd best draw and strongest program.

Additional factors to be considered

Continuity of membership and the "5/6/7 rule".

Any discussion of the Big East that includes talk of splitting the Big East should be prefaced by a discussion of the NCAA Bylaw 31.3.4.5, the so called "5/6/7 rule" that determines a conference's eligibility to retain an automatic berth in the annual NCAA basketball tournament.

"31.3.4.5 Additional Requirements, Men’s Basketball. The member conference must include seven core institutions. For the purposes of this legislation, core refers to an institution that has been an active member of Division I the eight preceding years. Further, the continuity-of-membership requirement shall be met only if a minimum of six core institutions have conducted conference competition together in Division I the preceding five years in men’s basketball. There shall be no exception to the five-year waiting period. Any new member added to a member conference that satisfies these requirements shall be immediately eligible to represent the conference as the automatic qualifier. (Revised: 8/14/90, 12/3/90, 4/27/00, 4/29/04 effective 8/1/04)"

No under siege conference wants to risk losing their automatic tournament bid as losing it is both a blow to conference perception and makes recruiting replacement teams much harder.

The hard part is the continuity of membership component - that is to retain six core members who have played together for 5 years.  If a football only Big East was raided, it could very well suffer this fate and receive a second blow to its stature.

Looking at Big East's NCAA basketball tournament payouts

Teams that make the NCAA basketball tournament's field get a share of most of the tournament's total revenue for each game they play in the tournament.

Their shares are paid out to conferences bit by bit over a series of years.

Over the last 4 years the 16 teams Big East has combined good on the court play with BCS status to garner a number of invites and an impressive 72 shares over that period.   These shares are now portable should the conference split up.

The football schools earned 43 of these shares and the basketball schools 29.

Year - total shares - school-share = FBS school shares v. Non-FBS school shares
2010 - 16 - Georgetown-1, Syracuse-3, Pitt2, Marquette-1, West Virginia -5, Louisville-1, Notre Dame-1, Villanova-2 = FBS-11; non-FBS-5
2009 - 24 - Louisville-4, West Virginia-1, UConn-5, Marquette-2, pitt-4, Villanova-5, Syracuse-3 = FBS-17; non-FBS-7
2008 - 19 - Notre Dame-2, Louisville-4, Villanova-3, Georgetown-2, Pitt-2, Marquette-2, UConn-2, West Virginia-2 = FBS-10; non-FBS-9
2007 - 13 - Villanova-1, Pitt-3, Marquette-2, Georgetown-5, Louisville-2 = FBS-5; non-FBS-8

Four basketball schools earned those 29 shares. Villanova earned 11 shares, Georgetown earned eight shares, Marquette earned seven shares, and Notre Dame earned three shares.

The ownership of tournament share revenue

If the football Big East were to convince Villanova to play BCS football, those nine football Big East schools would have control over 54 of those shares and the basketball schools 18.

If those 9 schools left they would likely add TCU (for their football impact) and offer slots to a pair of big east non-football schools to give the resulting conference 12 all sports members to protect a continuity of membership cushion in case of raids.

Georgetown and Notre Dame would be likely targets.  If both accepted, the football Big East would control 65 of those 72 shares.

That would leave the remaining four non-football big east schools with their seven shares little option but to petition the Atlantic 10 for membership.

The legal power of the Big East name and the possibility of an ugly divorce

It is rarely discussed that the Big East is named as a BCS Automatic Qualifier conference.  If the Big East football schools leave the conference, it would seem to make sense that they are leaving behind the Big East name with the basketball schools.

That could have legal ramifications in terms of the BCS.

Did Mike Tranghese craft a provision in allowing the football schools to retain the name in some form if they leave? I have not read anything suggesting that and as he was working to preserve the union, I suspect that was not provided for.

Now if the football Big East were to aggressively damage the viability of the basketball side on their way out, could you see the basketball half sending a letter to the BCS spelling out the fact that the Big East no longer supports FBS football and declining their BCS bid?

It would seem an open door invitation to the Big 10 to expand, allowing the other BCS AQ conferences to divide up at least a portion of the BCS Bowl payout that currently goes to the Big East.

Today the basketball schools hold the cards

Today the basketball Big East has leverage on the BCS schools because they can thwart expansion.

Without expansion, if the Big 10 expands to say 14 taking Pitt (Big 10 level attendance, ratings, academic reputation, and research spending) and Rutgers (NYC DMA, academic reputation, & a state flagship) and the SEC follows through on their stated intention to not be left out in the era of the mega conferences, it would seem to end with a progression that would leave the BCS Big East with four (or possibly five) football playing members.

(I should note I am making an assumption here -  as a Texan who follows realignment, one I feel is fairly well grounded  - that with UT "committed" to the Big 12, there is no longer an avenue for A&M to leave the Big 12, therefore any expansion of the SEC to a matching 14 would come at the expense of the ACC and probably indirectly the Big East.)

That likely progression would have the football Big East planning to retain an affiliation with the basketball Big East to protect their automatic bid to the basketball tourney and the conference name ....and hopefully the BCS Bowl bid in the short term.

Ultimately the non-football teams would own the vote and be able to dictate who would join the conference.  They would look out for the basketball conference first and foremost.  Schools like Memphis which are great in basketball and lousy in football would be favored for admission over a school like TCU which doesn't help basketball revenue enough to significantly outweigh travel costs... but might be viewed positively by the BCS coalition.

Well...What if the football schools broke away today?

Today, if the football Big East were to break away, get raided, and fall below the continuity of membership threshold losing their basketball bid on top of everything else, the perceptions would be that the BCS Big East in fact no longer existed.

Sure, the football schools could add six CUSA schools (probably Memphis, UCF, ECU, UAB, Houston, & maybe Marshall) but that would be a majority of teams.  The perception would be that the football big east no longer existed and that the remaining borderline BCS AQ-caliber Big East schools essentially joined CUSA.

Without the Big East name (which would be retained by the basketball schools) or the strongest Big East programs, why is there any reason to believe the resulting league would not quickly or even immediately fall out of the BCS?

Today the football schools really have to stay with the basketball schools in case of a raid.  The Basketball schools provide the name and the continuity of membership numbers to survive a raid by other BCS conferences.

The leverage a Villanova upgrade would create

Flipping Villanova potentially changes the math. The football Big East can go to the basketball Big East schools and say, "We now have a 9 votes out of 16 to add some more FBS schools - a majority."  (I really don't know if Big East expansion votes are determined by a simple majority, but even if they aren't, at that point the football schools can say, "Either you guys go along with the wishes of the majority, or we leave and try to cherry pick the best of the rest of the conference on the way out".  When you think about it, the football Big East would almost have to raid the basketball Big East of a few members to protect themselves from raids by other conferences that might drop the football faction below six members and cost them their automatic basketball tourney bid.)

Maybe the basketball Big East would survive that with an automatic bid.  Maybe they would have solidarity and that would protect their faction from raids by the football faction.  Maybe only Notre Dame would bail on them (perhaps even for a non-football membership in the football Big East). 

But there is a pretty good possibility the basketball schools would lose enough members that they would lose their tourney bid leaving the remnants to petition the much less prestigious Atlantic 10 for membership.

If the football Big East were to take a school or two like DePaul (Chicago DMA), Georgetown (Washington DC DMA) and/or Notre Dame (Chicago DMA + strong following in the NYC DMA) with Villanova, it dramatically increases the football Big East's chance to ride out realignment by protecting their automatic tourney bid.

Adding TCU on top of that adds a school with a better football reputation than any school currently in the Big East and one that other BCS conferences aren't likely to steal due to geography (ACC), prior ownership of the Dallas/Fort Worth Market (Big 12), or a combination of distant geography and a perception that TCU is undeserving/brings too little to the table (SEC).

If the football schools broke away and added TCU in this scenario, it seems far more likely that they would be "recognized" as the heir to the Big East BCS bowl bid and that they would be able to retain it.

With that in mind as a realistic possibility, the entire leverage shifts.   The basketball schools have to realize that.  If they push the issue, they could lose badly.  The basketball schools' best play with Villanova in the BCS is to become compliant members of a larger football driven Big East.

(As I run over the possibilities, it does make me wonder why the other six Catholic dwarfs aren't ready to offer the football Big East approval votes for a package expansion of all sports memberships to Temple and TCU. That kind of maneuver might kill Villanova's nerve to move up, which would leave the non-football schools with one more school that is not likely to be raided by the football Big East - in much better shape should a schism happen.)

Ultimately if the football schools can flip Villanova, I think the basketball schools will concede the point and TCU will get in to get the school to 10 football members and an awkward (for scheduling) but tolerable 17 basketball members.

Adding Villanova and TCU dramatically improves the BCS AQ arguments of the conference and probably increases their TV revenue a noticeable degree.

Most expansion tends to be incremental, so while I can see further possibilities (adding UCF as all sports team #18 - adding the sizable Orlando DMA and easing non-football travel costs to play USF - and ECU for a football only #12), I would think those might be down the road moves.

TCU and Villanova appear to offer an immediate and sizable positive impact. 

Adding TCU isn't a final solution for the Big East, but in combination with Villanova it does offer the conference a needed cushion should it lose Rutgers to the Big Ten in the next 5 years.

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