For most schools in the Southeastern Conference and even the Southern Conference, basketball programs rarely overshadow football programs.
It's different at Villanova.
The Wildcats are making their first trip to the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision title game Friday night at Finley Stadium after defeating William & Mary 14-13 last weekend. Their semifinal victory was held at 12,000-seat Villanova Stadium, but only 4,171 seats were filled.
"Making the national championship is huge for our program, just because we are a little overshadowed by our hoops team," junior receiver Matt Szczur said. "They're in the top 10 in the country right now, and we didn't have 5,000 people for our game the other night. It just goes to show it's a basketball school.
"We're not getting as much of a fan base as we'd like. It was cold Friday night, but come out and support us, you know?"
The Philadelphia-area school played football at the Division I level before dropping the sport after the 1980 season and reviving it at the FCS level (known then as I-AA) in 1985. The Wildcats play basketball in the Big East and won the '85 national championship, defeating Georgetown 66-64 in one of the biggest upsets in the history of March Madness.
The basketball Wildcats lost to UCLA in the 1971 title game, reached the 1939 Final Four and made the Final Four earlier this year before being bounced by eventual champion North Carolina. They have lost eight times in the Elite Eight, most recently in 2006.
Football coach Andy Talley is in his 25th season at Villanova, and he's always viewed the basketball team's success as a plus.
"I've been close to all three coaches who were here in my time -- Rollie Massimino, Steve Lappas and now Jay Wright," Talley said. "When you take recruits to a Big East basketball game, they are pretty excited. The national exposure Villanova receives in basketball has allowed us to recruit, because we have a lot of kids from Florida and a strong base from California. That national image allows us to go to a lot of different places, and when you walk in, they know who Villanova is.
"Sometimes they're not sure if they've heard of Villanova football, but they've heard of Villanova."
David Paschall is a sports writer for the Times Free Press. He started at the Chattanooga Free Press in 1990 and was part of the Times Free Press when the paper started in 1999. David covers University of Georgia football, as well as SEC football recruiting, SEC basketball, Chattanooga Lookouts baseball and other sports stories. He is a Chattanooga native and graduate of the Baylor School and Auburn University. David has received numerous honors for ...