Thursday, October 6, 2011

What Effect Will Conference Realignment Have on Villanova Track?

One thing that I don't cover enough on here is my love of track. It's ironic that I don't cover it on a weekly basis because of the success Villanova has had in the sport, but there's already a blog that does that exclusively and I don't want to steal their thunder. Other than basketball, the only sports at Villanova that should be absolutely untouchable regardless of conference affiliation are cross country and track. Villanova's success throughout history in track makes Villanova basketball look like small potatoes. Throughout its history, Villanova track has won numerous national championships in track and cross country on both an individual and team basis including the last two NCAA women's cross country titles, won 11 Olympic medals (7 gold, 4 silver), plus the men's and women's cross country teams are both currently ranked in the top 20 nationally (the women are #1, the men are #19).

To go along with the success that they have achieved in competition, the track team has proven a useful tool for attracting students from foreign countries including greats such as Ron Delany, Eamonn Coghlan, Marcus O'Sullivan and Sonia O'Sullivan of Ireland; Sydney Maree of South Africa; and Carmen Douma and Sheila Reid of Canada.

That history could be under threat from the shifting conference landscape that is going on, and the future of the Big East looking very murky. Forming strategic alliances with schools such as Notre Dame and Georgetown, which both share Villanova's interest in being academically prestigious, but also keeping their Olympic Sports, (especially track) nationally competitive is a vital step to stabilizing Villanova track. If Notre Dame were to be forced into joining the ACC, that could have potentially disastrous consequences to Villanova track unless they suddenly develop a Kenyan recruiting pipeline. NCAA championships are too hard to win at the revenue sports to take the ones at smaller sports for granted.

Given Villanova's rich history of success in the sport along with its relatively inexpensive bottom line, it's a sport that is worth protecting and is another reason why Villanova should be as aggressive as possible in the conference realignment front. Villanova has too rich a history in track to take for granted and consistently winning NCAA championships is a testament to a well run athletic program regardless of what the sport is, so it is in Villanova's best interst to continue its track program at its current rate, or even to attempt to ramp it up from where it is now once the conference situation is settled.

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