Wright: Villanova isn't blocking Temple from Big East

Jay Wright denied that Villanova was attempting to prevent Temple from joining the Big East. (Ed Hille/Staff file photo)

NEW YORK - Amid all the rumors swirling around Big East realignment, expansion, subtraction, or even possible extinction, one of the biggest has been a report that Villanova was trying to keep Temple from being added as a member for football only or for all sports.

Jay Wright heard the rumors, and he even talked to his good friend, Temple basketball coach Fran Dunphy, about them. He said Wednesday that the media are "being given information that is wrong, and the schools in the Big East are posturing for position."

However, the Wildcats basketball coach added that one of the Big East's next moves should be admitting Villanova to be part of its football-playing institutions, then he would welcome Temple into the conference for any or all sports if that's what the conference wanted.

"Villanova wants to be in the Big East for football, bottom line," Wright said during Big East basketball media day at the New York Athletic Club. "We've said it. We've worked with the Big East on it. We understand the situation in the Big East right now. We have to be loyal members and let the football schools do what's best.

"Temple's got nothing to do with that. Whatever they do with Temple is great. Just put Villanova in for football, that's all. We're 30-year members. If they want to put Temple in, great. We have great respect for Temple. We know all the positives that would come if they came in. Just put Villanova in for football, period."

The latest model for football expansion included neither Temple nor Villanova. The Big East and Villanova have talked continuously about the Wildcats' moving up from the Football Championship Subdivision (formerly Division I-AA) to the Football Bowl Subdivision (I-A).

However, Villanova officials reportedly have been reluctant to take the plunge until they see which teams commit to what the conference hopes will be an expanded, 12-team model that includes Navy, Air Force, and Boise State for football only and Central Florida, Houston, and Southern Methodist for all sports. Some of those schools also have adopted a "wait and see" attitude, and if some back out, the Wildcats could be more strongly considered.

Temple had been part of the mix, but interest appeared to have cooled. Reports had said Villanova was ready to support the Owls for football but not other sports, and Big East basketball schools were united in trying to keep Temple out for all sports.

Keeping Temple out was seen as a way for Villanova to maintain its recruiting edge in the Big Five since it's the only university that could offer a high school player an opportunity to play in one of college basketball's premier conferences.

But Wright said he's not worried about losing any recruiting advantage if Temple comes in, "as long as we're in it for football."

"Getting football in the Big East helps us in basketball," he said. "That's what we need to concentrate on. Whatever happens after that, we're fine with. Whatever the Big East says, we're fine. If they said we wanted to add [Temple] and create a rivalry, kind of like USC-UCLA, great."

Louisville coach Rick Pitino doesn't have a vote in this, but he said Wednesday that he supported Temple's bid to get into the conference, saying the university "would be my pick over everyone" among new members.

The issue continues to be fluid, but Wright wants to make sure Villanova's interests are protected.

"We have to let the football schools decide what's best for football," he said. "We're lobbying that we're best for football. So that's the situation. It was portrayed wrongly, but it's because other schools are trying to help their cause, and I understand that.

"We've all worked our butts off to get football, and we're trying to take care of Villanova. Then [the reports about Temple] come out this way. It's trying to get somebody else in and how they did it which - hey - is part of the world today. It's not right, but we're all big boys; we can handle it."


Contact staff writer Joe Juliano at 215-854-4494 or jjuliano@phillynews.com.