Villanova has an invitation to join the Big East in football, according to the Philadelphia Daily News, and Montana is likely to get an offer from the Western Athletic Conference to move its athletics program to the Division I-A level
Big East officials were not commenting, but Villanova athletic director Vince Nicastro told the Daily News: "The Big East very recently communicated its interest in adding Villanova as a football member. 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."
Villanova won the Division I-AA national championship last season with a 23-21 victory over Montana. The Wildcats are a Big East member in every other sport.
The jump to I-A status could prove problematic for Montana, which has the top-ranked team in I-AA. The Grizzlies' athletic budget is only $13 million and the school would have to add 22 football scholarships and two women's sports. There would also be increased travel costs.
The Grizzlies are members of the Big Sky, which announced this week that it would be adding UC Davis and Cal Poly San Luis Obispo. Both currently compete in the Great West Conference, and a timetable for adding the two teams has not been announced. But the Big Sky's move was considered a preemptive strike against the WAC, which had targeted not only Montana, but Davis and Cal Poly SLO.
What Montana decides to do could have an impact on Hawaii, which continues to research its future. Hawaii reached out to Senator Dan Inouye this week in its bid to secure a conference home for its athletic programs.