I don’t doubt that overtures were probably made to schools like W&M, Richmond, GW, Fordham, and maybe even schools like Fairfield. At least I hope those avenues were pursued. I think all of those schools would see the academic benefits, but would realize going from a Colonial in football or an A-10 in basketball would be a step backwards. What I wonder is why the need to expand if you don’t get the right schools coming in? The PL is not the Big East. There are not other bigger conferences coming in to pick off our members. And, not sure the current members really have anywhere else to go. So, I don’t see the rush on something like this. I understand in current day college sports it is better to be proactive (SEC, Big 10, Pac 10) then reactive (ACC, Big 12, Big East), but at the PL level not sure this really applies. If somebody said to me, look we need more football teams in the conference I could understand that. But, this move, adds 2 non football schools, so you haven’t really solved that problem. You have diluted the league, for what, to say you’re bigger? I can’t see why the current member schools would really push for this.
The only reason I see this makes any sense is if you fear the loss of current members. I think it is clear that Lafayette, Bucknell, Colgate, and Lehigh are tied together for eternity. So, that core of 4 isn’t going anywhere. That leaves your potential defectors at American, Holy Cross, Army and Navy. Army and Navy already don’t play football in the PL, and are independent, with Navy going to the Big East in football only in 2015. So, I don’t think you need to fear them leaving, as they are already non-football, and Navy could have taken all sports to the Big East and chose not to. Holy Cross, I think, would love to be included in a conference of Catholic primarily basketball schools if the Big East implodes. They would probably die to be included with St. John’s, Villanova, Seton Hall, Depaul, Marquette, Providence and Georgetown. If that happened, which I would say is highly unlikely (it is not the Bob Cousy led Holy Cross), then they would still need a place to play football, so you probably could retain them in football, unless they tried to move into the Colonial to join Villanova and potentially Georgetown, if they too, left PL football. But, I think the loss of HC is unlikely. American, again, no football, probably unlikely to go anywhere. So, the only potential football loss would be HC, and to a lesser extent Gtown, and that scenario highly unlikely. I don’t see losses on the horizon for the PL. In any scenario, you still need football teams.
Does the addition of BU and Loyola strengthen the PL? In shear numbers, obviously, yes. In quality of membership, probably no. BU’s best sport (hockey), PL doesn’t play. Football, obviously no upgrade. Basketball, a slight upgrade. I saw somewhere else this pushed PL strength up a couple slots from say 22nd to 20th (somewhere along those lines, not exact). If you want to say it is a big upgrade in lacrosse and soccer, I guess it is, but does anybody really care about those sports? In the PL and Ivy, maybe yes. I can’t think of another conference that really cares. Even the ACC which is a powerhouse in both, has over half the teams who don’t even field teams. So, the thought of building a powerhouse lacrosse or soccer league is sort of far-fetched. Although maybe in a non-revenue generating conference like the PL, it is not so far-fetched.
I’m on record in the past saying I would like to see Lehigh try to increase their level of competition and conference quality. I would love to see a jump up long-term to a true Division I, FBS level. Use a UConn or now UMass type model. Or, short of that, build a powerhouse program in a sport like basketball in a model like Butler or Gonzaga. When I mentioned that on this board, all I got in return was numerous people telling me that notion is ridiculous (I know it’s a pipedream), it is all about academics and that is why the PL is so great for Lehigh. Well, you can’t have it both ways. Either you want academics or better sports. But, diluting the academics for the same sports make no sense to me. I say either try to upgrade, or decide that is not in your long-term future, and stick to academics, and true student-athletes, but don’t dilute with lesser schools for no apparent reason.