If I could ask Temple University Athletic Director Kevin Clark and Temple President Neil Theobald one question it would be: “Is the cost of trying to turn Temple Owls Football into a big time College Football program worth cutting the cost of other athletic programs and student clubs?”
Last December, Temple University became one of a number of big time schools that had to cut a sizable amount of it’s Olympic sports programs, citing in part an inability to financially support the teams that don’t bring revenue back into the athletic department, to boost funding for the remaining sports and become more competitive in the athletic conference it entered this summer. That announcement affected about 208 Student Athletes, nine full time coaches, five men’s and two women’s athletic programs. The cuts aren’t Chess Club either; baseball, softball, men’s crew (which participated in every Olympics from 1992 to 2008), women’s rowing, men’s gymnastics, and men’s track and field, both indoor and outdoor. That’s pretty staggering considering Temple University has a student enrollment of nearly 40,000 (I am one of them) and an alumni base of about 270,000.
The most infuriating aspect is that the cuts will save just 3 million of Temple athletic’s 44 million dollar budget. The cuts will take effect in the next few weeks with the academic year just ending. The university will continue to honor the students’ scholarships until they complete their degrees and help those who want to transfer to another school, Temple officials said. Because their sports were eliminated, the students can play at another Division I school without having to sit out a year, according to NCAA rules.
Mr. Clark had this to say regarding the decision,”Nobody wants to do it. It’s a tough, very, very difficult call, but at the end of the day, it’s the right thing to do to give the remaining sports the ability to compete at the highest level.”
Temple Owls football program has a notoriously bad history, with an overall record of 416–544–53 (.437 winning percentage). The Owls were a football-only member of the Big East Conference from 1991 until 2004. Temple was forced out of the league due to poor attendance averages, non-competitiveness, and a lack of commitment to the football program from university officials. Temple played the 2005 and 2006 seasons as an independent before joining the Mid-American Conference (MAC) in 2007 where they resided until the end of the 2011. On March 7, 2012, the Temple Owls rejoined the Big East Conference with football membership beginning in the 2012 season and all other sports beginning conference play in 2013, at which point the conference was renamed the American Athletic Conference. A conference that seems to have more big time programs leaving than entering.
When Rutgers moves to the Big Ten Conference in 2014, Temple will be the last original Big East football member still in the The American. West Virginia has moved to the Big 12 Conference, and all the other charter members of Big East Football that have left (Boston College, Miami, Pittsburgh, Syracuse, and Virginia Tech) are now in the Atlantic Coast Conference.
During the Al Golden era (2006-2010) the football program started to show real promise.
The Owls won 4 games in 2007, including three straight wins at one point in mid-season. During Golden’s second season, Temple’s defense was ranked 49th in the nation, as opposed to 118th in 2006. The offense also improved from 118th to 113th, but it was clear that Temple’s defense, despite their incredible youth, was the heart of their team. The Owls won 5 games in 2008, their most since 1990. After his fourth season, Golden’s record stood at 19-29.
In 2009, the Owls went 9-4, their best record since 1979 with three of four losses being competitive including a last second loss to Villanova. The lone exception being a lopsided 31-6 loss to a Penn State team that finished 11-2 and ranked #8. Temple accepted a bid to play in the EagleBank Bowl, where they faced the UCLA Bruins. In the Owls’ first post-season appearance since the 1979 Garden State Bowl, the Owls lost 30-21 to the Bruins.
In 2010, the Owls lost a crucial game to Ohio University which would have given them a potential MAC Championship. The week after, Temple added another loss to Miami (Ohio), and coupled with losses to Penn State and Northern Illinois, the Owls finished at 8-4 for the season but did not receive a Bowl bid.
On December 12, 2010, Al Golden was hired as the head coach of the University of Miami.
Former University of Florida offensive coordinator Steve Addazio was hired after Golden and continued to build on Golden’s success. The team went 9-4 going to its 4th bowl game ever, the Gildan New Mexico Bowl. They dominated the University of Wyoming winning their 2nd bowl game ever, the first since the 1979 Garden State Bowl. They showed signs of promise during the year, almost beating Penn State, losing in the last minutes and winning their last 4 games. In 2012, Addazio led Temple in its return to the Big East Conference, going 4-7 overall and 2-5 in conference play. On December 4, 2012, Steve Addazio was hired as the head coach of Boston College.
On December 15, 2012, Matt Rhule officially accepted offer to become head coach at Temple University. During the 2013 season, a young Rhule squad struggled mightily, posting a record of just 2-10.
Despite the poor results, Temple University is spending a lot of money on advertising trying to make NCAA football a big hit in Philadelphia. Representatives could be seen at supermarkets in Philadelphia, as well as Temple Football players at the Reading Terminal Market. At Temple, football has lost more money than any other sport, starting with a $1.6 million annual payment to the Eagles to use Lincoln Financial Field for six Saturdays a year. The crowds last year and most of Temple’s tenure at Lincoln Financial Field are sparse, rarely over 20,000 fans in a stadium that fits nearly 69,000.
Being a student at Temple, this is kind of embarrassing. Last season, I decided to bring my mother to the final home game of the season against UCONN, figuring it would be nice for me and my mom to see a game. It was anything but that however, not only was the temperature freezing cold but the stadium was nearly empty and Temple blew a 21-0 half time lead, losing 28-21. “That’s the last game I go too,” my mom said.
Temple football, once a program that no conference wanted, is now in a conference no program wants to be apart of. Temple football has always lost the university money, but with increased spending now, it’s likely just losing the school even more money. Worst of all, the men’s basketball program, the only athletic program that actually makes the school some money, got pulled out of an ideal fit in the Atlantic 10, and struggled last season, their first in the newly formed American Athletic Conference.
I think everyone at Temple would love if big time college football came to Philadelphia. I am personally tired of Rutgers and Penn State dominating the college football talk around here. However, college football hasn’t been a big deal in Philadelphia in decades, making my above question something Temple University should really think about.
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