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Goodbye St. Louis Rams, Hello St. Louis Billikens?

Cruel doesn't begin to describe what Stan Kroenke has done to fans of the St. Louis Rams.

He didn't only move the Rams back to LA this week.  "On his way out he decided he had to torch the city, saying 'Any NFL club who signs on to this proposal in St. Louis will be well on the road to financial ruin,'" a not-so-cheery recap from the fans recapped on MMQB.  "This from a guy who proudly claims he was named after two amazing St. Louis baseball players. It was a completely classless act of revenge from a little man who profited greatly by being in St. Louis. He not only made himself look pitiful, he also made the NFL look like a heartless organization that only cares about money."

St. Louis is now left with a stadium that isn't yet paid off, the Edward Jones Dome, and no football team to play games there.

Nobody asked me, but to me, this presents the opportunity of a lifetime for the private, Jesuit Division I school in St. Louis.

When people think of the University of Saint Louis, people think of the glacial-paced men's basketball team that seems to wreck their NCAA brackets every year.  (At least they always wreck mine.)

They Are Not Penn State
The Billikens - which has to be a Top 5 school mascot name, ever - are best known lately as being the final head coaching stop of the late, great Rick Majerus.  Competing in the Atlantic 10, Saint Louis was a serious contender for membership in the Big East once that conference reformed.

With the Rams in town, it most likely didn't really make a lot of sense for the Billikens to think about starting an FCS or FBS football program, sharing a stadium with them.

Certainly not at the FCS level, where Saint Louis would probably need to apply as an associate member to the OVC or Missouri Valley Football Conference.  (Ironically, Saint Louis was, at one time, a member of the Missouri Valley Conference in basketball.)

But with the Rams gone.... suddenly there's a very intriguing case for Billikens football in the AAC at the FBS level.

The Edward Jones Dome had one major tenant: the St. Louis Rams.  With them gone, the EJD's main sources of revenue are conventions, the occasional concert, neutral-site college football games involving Missouri, and high school championships.  It also has hosted the NCAA Final Four in hoops in 2005.

There is talk of an MLS franchise popping up in St. Louis and filling the city's void for a pro franchise.  But such a move is still, as of now, theoretical, and it doesn't solve the issue of the status of the EJD.  If the past is any indication, any new ownership group might insist on making their own soccer-specific stadium.

Furthermore, the Edward Jones Dome, famously, is not paid off.
“We can’t come up with a long-term solution until we know what the relationship is going to be with the Rams,” said Jim Shrewsbury, a former city alderman/president and current chairman of the Dome authority board. 
For instance, he said, if Kroenke wants any public money for a new stadium here, officials will likely turn to the Dome authority to help with public financing. And any bonds sold to fund a new stadium would, almost as a necessity, also fund the Jones Dome. 
But the St. Louis Convention & Visitors Commission also uses the Dome — it books millions of dollars in conventions every year, many of which use the Dome as additional event space.
So now the future of the Rams is known, and the Edward Jones Dome is desperate for a long-term solution, and an MLS team may not be the help that the Dome needs.

Enter Saint Louis University.

Saint Louis is widely quoted as the first school to complete a forward pass in a college football game.
On September 5, 1906, SLU opened the season against Carroll College. QB Bradbury Robinson attempted the first pass in history, but it fell incomplete, resulting in a turnover under the rules of the time. Later, Robinson completed a pass to Jack Schneider for a 20-yard touchdown, and SLU won 22–0. Critics argue that other teams threw passes in 1906 and that the glory went to SLU simply because it played the first game, a fluke of scheduling. That sells short SLU coach Eddie Cochems, whose pioneering use of the pass created an unstoppable offense. SLU finished 1906 with a perfect 11–0 record, outscoring its opponents 407–11 in an all-out aerial assault. As retired SLU archivist John Waide notes, that was all the more impressive because “the football was more like a rugby ball, much fatter”—and harder to throw.
Saint Louis QB Bradbury Robinson
Saint Louis' football history paralleled that of Fordham in some ways.  In the earlier days of football, Saint Louis was a national contender, and even as late as 1947 there were motions that the Billikens were "out to crack the big-time ranks," according to The New York Times.

But a terrible campaign in 1949, a 2-6-1 record where "attendance at five home games totaled 35,797" and a loss of $200,000 was reported (an astronomical sum at the time), prompted the Rev. Paul C. Reinert to disband the team.

"Father Reinart left the door open for St. Louis if it should choose to re-institute football at some future date," the article continued.  "He said changing circumstances might dictate such a course."

The Rams' departure and the Edward Jones Stadium situation, not to mention the current status of the AAC, defines "changing circumstances", even if it's in a way inconceivable by Rev, Reinert more than sixty years ago.

First, consider how a move to the AAC would help Saint Louis' basketball program.

In the AAC, the Billikens would relocate from the conference that gives you Dayton, St. Bonaventure and Fordham to the one that gives you Houston, Temple and UConn.

That's a compelling upgrade in competition, and actually would broaden Saint Louis' recruiting area from a largely-Northeast conference to one that stretches into Louisiana and the Midwest.

Conceptual Uni's for the Billikens
Second, in football would compete in the G5 with teams like Houston, Tulane, Tulsa and perhaps even Navy, who competes in the AAC in football.

There's a lot to like in regards to a team like Navy visiting St. Louis every year in the Edward Jones Dome for everyone involved.  The Dome would get at least one high-profile game every two years, and that doesn't even include possible games against Missouri or other P5 schools that might find St. Louis an intriguing place to play.

Third involves the AAC football championship.

Currently, the AAC holds its football championship game at the home of the higher-ranked team.  With St. Louis as a member, the Edward Jones Dome could be the permanent home of the AAC football championship game - giving the EJD another high-profile event.

Down the line it could also potentially be the site of their men's basketball tournament, too, which is currently staged at the 20,000 strong Amway Center in Orlando, Florida.

That's an awful lot in the "plus" column.

There are still the ever-present questions of cost - whether the cost of football is something the school can afford, and whether it's something that the students, faculty, board of trustees and president want for Saint Louis University.

What is clear, though, is that the Rams' departure has placed in the Billikens' lap the near-perfect confluence of events to have them consider the option.  Yea or nay, they would be crazy not to at least give it a look.

After all, changing circumstances dictate such a course.

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