Cranney argues that after opposition, Temple and Villanova are now Big East rivals.
Nothing makes a rivalry grow like a school trying to block another from getting into a power conference.
The Temple and Villanova rivalry, which sports an illustrious 98-year history in basketball and has spiked recently in football as the Mayor’s Cup enters its fourth year, added a new chapter with Temple’s all-sports entry into the Big East.
Temple will play football in the Big East in 2012 and all other sports will join the conference in 2013, it was announced Wednesday, March 7.
The move was rumored to be in the works for months, but was delayed and had its terms set by Villanova, which plays basketball in the Big East.
Temple was a natural fit to fill space in the Big East after Pittsburgh and Syracuse announced they would be leaving the conference in September 2011.
As the Big East fished for schools to replace its departing members in the fall, Temple’s name came up time and time again. At one point, it wasn’t a question of if Temple would get into the Big East, but when.
But Villanova stepped in and flexed its basketball muscle to keep Temple out, at least temporarily.
Multiple published reports in November 2011 concluded that Villanova generated enough support from the basketball schools in the Big East to block Temple from gaining admission.
The Big-5 school didn’t want to share the Philadelphia media market and pool of recruits on an even playing field with Temple, which has the sixth-winningest basketball program in the country despite always playing in a non-power conference.
Leaving Temple out, the Big East extended football-only offers to Air Force, Navy and Boise State and all-sports invites to Central Florida, Houston and Southern Methodist University.
The Owls could only shake their heads and wonder what happened.
How was it that Houston, which hasn’t won a game in the NCAA tournament since Phi Slama Jama in 1984, and SMU, which literally scored 28 total points in a basketball game this season, gained entry into the most storied basketball conference in the country, and not Temple?
It was only natural for Temple fans to think that something had run amok, and for those who follow the news, it became apparent that Villanova was the cause for the Big East’s questionable decisions.
Only after West Virginia negotiated an early exit from the Big East for football for 2012 did the Big East get desperate and offer Temple its all-sports invite, but not before Villanova’s one-last act of defiance.
The Owls will have to wait until 2013 to join the Big East for basketball and all other sports, because, according to Big East Commissioner John Marinatto, the Big East has to explore how Temple and Villanova could “coexist in the same marketplace, maintaining their separate identities there, and continue moving forward to share the Big East conference brand.”
Villanova put up enough of a fuss with the Big East to delay Temple’s basketball membership by a year so the Wildcats could have a one-year head start on recruiting.
At the very least, it was clear Villanova played a huge role in the process when Villanova President, the Rev. Peter M. Donohue, was on the dais that included Temple’s athletic director, chairman of the athletics committee of the Board of Trustees and football coach, at the press conference that indicated Temple’s Big East membership.
“It’s critical that the conference and both universities succeed in Philadelphia, even as my loyalty and obligation is to Villanova,” Donohue said at the press conference. “We recognized early on that we could not achieve that we could achieve this win win win, which ultimately we did. We just needed time to work through all the issues together.”
Donohue’s statement is hard to believe when the facts are taken into consideration. Villanova doesn’t play football in the Big East because its FBS football program doesn’t have the facilities or university support to make the jump to Division I.
Villanova’s men’s basketball program has only one more NCAA tournament appearance than Temple during the past decade despite having the allure of a power conference to recruits.
For Villanova, Temple into the Big East for all sports isn’t a “win win win,” it could be a step toward the Owls taking a stranglehold on college sports in Philadelphia.
Given the two schools’ standing history, Temple’s foray into the Big East and Villanova’s actions that predicated it will only intensify the rivalry.
Temple Chairman of the Athletics Committee of the Board of Trustees Lewis Katz said it best when he spoke honestly about the competition between Villanova and Temple.
“Everybody come on down and watch us kick Villanova’s butt one more time,” Katz said.
Joey Cranney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.