Saint Rick

It would be fascinating, if it wasn't so frustrating for Temple fans, this dance with the Big East Conference. Perhaps most surprising is that the Owls' biggest supporter to gain the full membership in the Big East they have coveted has been Louisville coach Rick Pitino. On three separate occasions in the last month, Pitino has touted the Owls' candidacy for all-sports inclusion.

It would be fascinating, if it wasn't so frustrating for Temple fans, this dance with the Big East Conference.

Perhaps most surprising is that the Owls' biggest supporter to gain the full membership in the Big East they have coveted has been Louisville coach Rick Pitino.

Pitino told ESPN's Andy Katz and SNY.tv this week the Big East needed to add Temple and Memphis for all sports.

"Memphis has 18,000 season tickets in basketball and a gigantic following, it's a major city," Pitino told Katz. "Temple is in a major city (Philadelphia) and is a top 30 program with Fran Dunphy. We need them. Having Temple in the Big East would be great for all the other sports. And here Memphis is a great rival for us. Our fans would be excited to play Memphis.

"I'm giving my opinion and the Big East has told me that all my points are valid. We just lost two really important basketball programs in Syracuse and Pitt and maybe a third in West Virginia. We have to make the Big East strong again. Memphis and Temple is what we need right now."

Pitino's comments came a week after he sung the Owls' praises at Big East media day and a month after he blogged a plan to save the Big East, starting with adding Temple for all sports.

Pitino has lauded not only Temple's basketball but its budding football program as a reason for Big East membership.

"They have an outstanding football program the last few years," Pitino told the Philadelphia Daily News' Dick Jerardi at Big East Media Day. "I think their basketball program is every bit on the same level with any Big East team . . . I think it fits the inner-city Big East-type mentality that we've had for years."

Louisville, of course, could be heading to the Big 12 and that would mean the Owls' top supporter would be going with them. The Big 12 is apparently considering Louisville as well as another Big East member West Virginia for inclusion in its league, though as of late Wednesday night the Mountaineers appeared to be the strong favorite with no further plans to expand, according to USA Today.

Temple needs at least one of those teams to leave to open a spot because the Owls aren't included in the current model – which includes Boise State and Air Force, Houston and SMU, none which has formally committed.

If West Virginia leaves, the Big East might not be able to keep the creaky house of cards it is building from collapsing, but with commissioner John Marinotto on his way to Idaho, it will certainly try.

What Temple really needs is for Pitino to convince Villanova to get on board with his plan. The Louisville coach has apparently been lobbying his similarly well-dressed friend from Villanova, Jay Wright, to get in the Owls' camp.

Wright's stance at Big East Media Day was he would welcome Temple into the conference as long as it didn't come at the expense of Villanova's football program – which was left at the alter by the Big East in April.

Several media outlets have put Villanova at the head of keeping Temple out of the Big East on the latest round of expansion. Ironically, the Wildcats' interest in still making the move up from the FCS level in football had been debated since April, so it was a little ironic that it was the men's basketball coach that formally declared it would still be all in if asked.

Granted, it's understandable if Villanova wanted in for football and was upset the league was looking a couple miles down the road a few months later. But you would think it would be just as peeved if not more that the league was looking to add teams from Colorado, Texas and Idaho instead.

If Temple is snubbed when the conference wheel stops spinning, it's possible the animosity towards Villanova would be significant if the belief on Broad Street is the Main Line school played a vital role in keeping the Owls out.

Significant enough that everything from the Big Five to the Soccer Seven to the Liberty Bell Classic to intramural tiddlywinks tournaments - any sporting event involving the two schools - could be in jeopardy when the current contracts run out.

But with West Virginia potentially leaving, the Big East should be in the market for an all-sports member and it would appear Temple could be near the top of the list.

Villanova could help matters and salvage its reputation by putting its support behind the Owls. If not, Temple AD Bill Bradshaw could make a call to a gentleman in a white suit down in Kentucky to see how he feels about joining the Big Five.

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