Greg put up a great post earlier this week outlining why he doesn't think Villanova should be invited to the Big East as a football member. I've gone back and forth on it a bit and ask me again and my answer may change. For now, I'm undecided - I can see the pros and cons, but the scenario that makes the most sense to me is adding Nova along with a few others that can realistically improve the conference.
From a purely survival mode, the conference needs to add three teams in my opinion to still be viable in the event of a purge from another conference. But if the Big East wants to legitimately improve the quality of the conference, it's going to take more than simply the additions of Nova and teams like East Carolina, Memphis, etc.
But anyway, the point of this is to take a look at the jump from the FCS to the FBS. What's the likelihood for success?The thing that gets lost is that it's a much more difficult move than it appears. You can't simply take an upper-level FCS team, add scholarships and expect instant success. Here are some recent programs, for example, that have made the move:
Buffalo: Ah, the Bulls. Buffalo joined FBS in 1999 as a member of the MAC and has had one (count
them it, one) winning season going 8-6 in 2008.
Idaho: The Vandals have had slightly more success, joining the FBS in 1997 and experiencing three winning seasons - but only one in the past 11 years.
Troy: Troy's actually had a great level of success since moving to the FBS in 2001 as they've had seven winning seasons.
A-HA - see...SEE?!? There you have it - definitive success for an FCS team moving to the FBS. Well, while it's true that Troy has done well since movin' on up, they've done so in the Sun Belt conference. Their best recent win? Probably defeating a 6-5 Oklahoma State in 2007.
Clearly, a move to the FBS doesn't even mean guaranteed success after several years of transition time.
Moral of the story? I'm a firm believer that Villanova would have a difficult time competing in the Big East. The teams above played in lesser conferences and only one of the three has been successful so far. Why would Villanova fare any better in a more difficult conference?
A look at Villanova's recent history provides a glimpse into how they've competed against similar teams recently - last year is a good example, particularly. The Wildcats were 9-5, but dropped contests to Temple, William & Mary, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, and Eastern Washington. Think that team could compete in the Big East?
But looking at one year wouldn't be quite fair and the fact is that Villanova has fielded better teams. The Wildcats were 31-8 from 2007 - 2009 and have been one of the better teams in the FCS even winning the National Championship in 2009. But again, level of competition comes into play. Over that span, the team has failed to impress on each opportunity they've had, save a three-point win against Temple in '09. Villanova lost by 27 points to West Virginia in 2008 and by 17 points to Maryland in 2007.
Does that mean they shouldn't be invited to the Big East as a football member? Not necessarily. The Wildcats could bring a big TV market and bring more recruits from Eastern Pennsylvania into the conference. But if the Big East is looking for instant help in upgrading the conference, Villanova isn't it.