A Slam Dunk
Florida State might have ruined North Carolina's perfect season, but there's still one basketball school undefeated in football. Villanova is 9-0 and ranked No. 1 in Division I-AA for the first time. "A lot of people say, 'You're a basketball school,' " Wildcats coach Andy Talley says. "Well, we've been to the playoffs four times in eight years, so we're showing we can do it in football as well."
Villanova, which defeated visiting New Hampshire 23-20 in wet and windy conditions last Saturday, has already clinched a berth in the 16-team I-AA playoffs, which begin Nov. 29. Using a West Coast offense and a slew of West Coast players (19 from California alone, including 10 starters), the Wildcats are averaging 39.0 points per game, second in Division I-AA, while limiting opponents to 16.6 points. Villanova's best player, 6' 5" wide receiver Brian Finneran, a senior from Mission Viejo, Calif., leads I-AA with 15 touchdown catches.
Football success is not entirely foreign to longtime fans on the Main Line. Playing the top division, Villanova appeared in the 1961 Sun Bowl and the '62 Liberty Bowl and later produced NFL standouts Mike Siani and Howie Long. But the school was unwilling to spend the money to remain in big-time football, and it eliminated the sport from '81 to '84. In '85 Talley, a cigar-smoking martinet from nearby Bryn Mawr, Pa., was hired away from St. Lawrence University to reinstate football, and he has since built the Wildcats into a I-AA force.
Don't look for the football program to join its basketball counterpart on the big stage. Last month the school's board ol trustees declined an invitation to join the Big East in football. "It would have cost us $50 million to $60 million to build a stadium and do all the other things the Big East requires," Talley says. "For the time being, it wasn't something we were willing to do."
Villanova, for now, will have to settle for being the best undefeated basketball school in football.
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