Friday, August 12, 2011

What's the Point: How the Wildcats get to D1

As a die-hard Villanova sports fan, nothing would make me happier than seeing Villanova football move up to division one, via the Big East Athletic Conference. Recently, there has been mutual interest on both the part of the school and the Big East about a move. The move makes sense for many reasons. In short, the Big East wants to expand their stable of football teams to keep up with the bigger, more powerful conferences. Villanova is a logical choice because they are already a member of the Big East in basketball, and have had much success lately in the FCS, (Football Championship Series) which is one level below division one. They have recently recruited many players worthy of playing division one football. My colleague Greg Thompson goes into more detail on the merits of the Villanova-Big East union here. However, two things stand in the way of a happy Villanova-Big East marriage: a subpar stadium, and a lack of enthusiasm for Villanova Football.

The first reason, the stadium, is by far the biggest obstacle to Villanova joining the Big East. As the Big East was considering the addition of the Wildcats, several schools had a big concern with Nova's stadium, which only holds about 18,000 people, and the ability of Villanova to help the conference generate revenue and not be a financial drag on the Big East. In all honesty, the stadium looks a lot like my high school stadium, which is not saying much. It is unlikely that the school will build a division one appropriate stadium. So, the Cats would have to play elsewhere. This is totally feasible, seeing as Nova basketball has many of its games in downtown Philadelphia, about 45 minutes from school. Some options include Ben Franklin Field at the University of Pennsylvania, which is a cavernous stadium, or PPL Park, home of the Philadelphia Union, which seats only 20,000 or so but would generate much more revenue than Villanova Stadium. There are options here. But clearly, playing at a football field reminiscent of a high school stadium is not one of them.

While Nova and the Big East wrangle over stadium size and revenue, there is another issue that must be addressed: Villanova football's flaky support from the student body. I understand that Villanova is a basketball school and that that takes precedence in the minds of many students. Maybe it is the fact that we are not currently competing at the highest level. But, when I see the majority of our student section arriving in the middle of the first quarter or hear only a few students really cheering, I do not think division one football. I think high school football, consistent with the size and look of our stadium.

There are times when the Villanova student section is really into the game and fully cheering the team on. But these instances are too few and far between. In order to get into the Big East and take that big next step, we, the student section, must fully commit to Villanova football. By showing passion and true support for the team, we will have the opportunity not only to cheer our Wildcats on to victory, but to send a message to administrators and decision-makers that Villanova is ready and capable to support a Big East football program. We can make a difference, we just have to let our voices be heard.

The best way to support a team is with force and coordination. Luckily, my friend and colleague Brendan Garrity has just what we need. Recently, Bendan has started an organization called "Talley's Troops," affectionately named after Coach Andy Talley himself. This group will be used to organize support for Villanova football, including chants, team information, and everything you need to know as a Villanova football fan. This is the same guy who started the "I believe" chant at Nova basketball games, so he has some experience with this kind of thing. United, we can show our support for Villanova football while sending a message that we, the fans, are ready to take the next step with this team.

There are many things as fans we cannot control. The stadium issues are a perfect example of this. But, by joining an organization such as Talley's Troops and really going out and supporting the team, we can change the perception of Villanova football. We can make a difference, and by showing our support as a true student section, we can do our part to help the team, and Villanova itself, take the next step.

What's the Point is a column written by David Straple. Feel free to comment.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Villanova Stadium only holds 12,500. Your numbers are off significantly. It is not an acceptable FBS stadium as you mentioned.
Franklin Field is dilapitated and falling apart. A reported crowd of 10000 (notice the exact round number) was all Villanova drew there in a HOME game where they hosted PENN this fall. They were lucky if there were 5000-6000 there total. (numerous pics on crowd are posted at PENN site...its ridiculously sparse)

PP&L is the one that only holds 18500 although the UNION soccer promises to add 1500 by the end of 2014. Big Deal.

The problem isn't just the students (only have a small undergrad enrollment to begin with so getting a high % like 4000 students doesn't solve the attendance issues) or the small alumni base, it's that you have to have regular unafiliated PHILADELPHIA/Delaware Valley football fans willing to drive to Chester to see a Villanova football game on a regular basis if they hope to draw more than 16-19000 to a Big East Football game.

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