For some context, the official attendance at Lincoln Financial Field Thursday night for the first overtime win in Temple football history was a hair over 15,000, an extremely generous guess for one of the most traditionally ignored I-A/FBS programs in the country. Where college football is concerned, Philly is a less-celebrated/exploited version of Boston: It exists, but it definitely doesn't rate.
So the really big news out of the City of Brotherly Love today is that that one of the local dailies is actually displaying the slightest shred of interest in a hometown football team that isn't the Eagles. But the scoop itself, a Philadephia News report that longtime Big East basketball power Villanova may be preparing to make the leap in football, comes a close second:
IF VILLANOVA WANTS its football program to move up from the Football Championship Subdivision level to join the Big East, all the university has to do is say yes.
The Daily News has learned that the Big East, one of six BCS conferences, has asked the Wildcats to make the jump. And the school is officially considering the offer.
"The Big East very recently communicated its interest in adding Villanova as a football member," Villanova athletic director Vince Nicastro told the Daily News yesterday. "As a result, we have decided to embark on an in-depth evaluation of this opportunity.
"As you might suspect, this is a complex issue, which entails many dimensions - both quantitative and qualitative. While we will move forward on this as quickly as possible, it is critical that all of those dimensions are vetted thoroughly prior to making any final decision."
Translated: "Where do we sign?"
So it may not be quite that easy. The Big East offered the standard "no comment." 'Nova will have some work to do to either expand its 12,500-seat on-campus stadium or find a more suitable venue. And the Wildcats' last-second loss at Temple in last Saturday's opener dropped them to 1-5 against I-A/FBS competition (the only win coming over Temple last year) since 2005, including not-very-competitive beatings at the hands of Rutgers, Central Florida, Maryland and West Virginia. 'Nova didn't even field a football team from 1981-84, and judging from its consistently dramatic encounters with Temple lately – both teams have beaten the other twice over the last decade, always by a touchdown or less – it seems roughly on par with the cross-town Owls on the field, which was just good enough to get Temple booted from the Big East for perpetual ineptitude in 2001.
It was also good enough last year for 'Nova to knock off No. 1 Montana for its first I-AA/FCS national championship, making it the second straight FCS champ (following Richmond in 2008) out of the Colonial Athletic Association. That, combined with their existing membership in the Big East's packed-to-the-gills basketball lineup, apparently makes the Wildcats a more attractive addition – for now, anyway – than potential Conference USA targets Central Florida and Memphis, even though UCF is a demographic gem and Memphis has gone all-out to grease the right pockets. (The Tigers have made it clear that they're willing to literally buy their way into a BCS league if necessary.) When it comes down to it, I guess you have to go with the marginally competitive, largely indifferent major market you know.
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Matt Hinton is on Twitter: Follow him @DrSaturday.