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Thursday, March 8, 2012
Villanova, Temple working together

By Andrea Adelson

Was the love fest between Villanova and Temple on Wednesday afternoon happening in some parallel universe where lollipops fall from the sky and the sun always shines?

The two schools worked really, really hard to present a unified front when the Owls were introduced as the newest Big East member in New York City. They are cross-town rivals, separated by mere miles, but they sounded like they had have always held hands while singing kumbaya.

You understand why commissioner John Marinatto kicked off the news conference by making it a point to mention it was Villanova University father Peter Donohue who brought the motion to extend full membership to Temple, with football joining in 2012 and the rest of its sports in 2013.

Because adding Temple back into the mix could severely jeopardize any future decision for Villanova to move up to FBS. Remember, it was the Big East that approached Villanova last year about moving up a level and joining the league for football. After Villanova appeared ready to make a decision, the Big East backed off and said it needed more time to evaluate its expansion options.

Now here comes Temple.

So where does that leave Villanova? Well the door has not exactly been closed on a future invitation for football. Perhaps the most interesting development to come out of the news Wednesday was that the Big East would provide financial assistance to the school as it continues to study whether to move up to the FBS level.

If Villanova is admitted within the next three years, its entry fee would be waived.

"In terms of future conference expansion and where we are, as I said earlier, we're taking a pause right now," commissioner John Marinatto said. "We're going to continue to explore with Villanova regarding their FBS potential moving forward and we'll see where we ultimately end up. But for the meantime, as I said earlier, we've made a financial commitment, we've also devoted a lot of resources, and we're here to support all our member schools in terms of everything they want to do, and in this case the FBS possibility of Villanova moving forward."

More than that, Marinatto said the league was going to hire a consultant to determine how Temple and Villanova can retain their own individual basketball identity. Basketball poses the bigger threat right now. Temple has never been a Big East member in hoops, while Villanova is one of the founding programs in the Big East. How do two Big East schools so close to each other coexist?

"For the next 12 months, what we're going to do is explore how we best move forward in order to ensure that we accomplish that because it's in the best interest of the conference obviously for the two schools to coexist in a very, very positive way, and one of the things we want to do is ensure that's the case by doing this," Marinatto said.

For his part, Donohue said the Big East needed to bring Temple into the fold in all sports, to help the conference and the city of Philadelphia.

"It's critical that the conference and both universities succeed in Philadelphia, even as my loyalty and obligation is to Villanova, we recognized early on that we could not achieve  that we could achieve this winwinwin, which ultimately we did," he said. "We just needed time to work through all the issues together, and so to the Big East I want to say that we look forward to a very bright future."