Villanova certainly was competitive until the end, beating both BC and Temple in 1980. (see http://www.jhowell.net/cf/scores/Villanova.htm
). I think their problem was the stadium and attendance requirements of 1-A. They would have had to build a stadium or move off campus, neither of which they wanted to do. Query whether their view would have been different if entry into the Big East at the time was contingent on doing so. My guess is not. I think that they would have been comfortable that they could be competitive in hoops in the E8, and their risk aversion about upgrading football would not have changed by the opportunity to play in a conference. But, other opinions are welcome - this is why we are asking "what if?"