Reaching for the Stars or Just Reaching?

Darian Bryant

Darian Bryant

Ronald Reagan once helped win The Cold War with a simple phrase: “Trust, but verify.” When it comes to college football recruiting, that’s as good a mantra for any fan base to follow.

It looks like Matt Rhule’s first couple of classes were the result of some pretty solid legwork, based on the fact that many of his Temple recruits were also offered by Power 5 schools. That is not so much the case this season so far.

So far,  at least for the “trust but verify” crowd, the favorite recruit of the Temple football class of 2016 has to be Darian Bryant. The offensive lineman out of Chestnut Hill Academy committed to the Owls early. He holds a unique distinction among the several early Temple commits. He turned down a Pitt offer.

I’m sure the rest of the guys are nice guys and good players, but it is comforting to know that another big-time staff saw in Bryant what Temple’s staff saw in him.

Al Golden build a solid MAC team with a simple recruiting formula: Trust the film, but also reach up and get a few guys who were wanted by the Power 5 schools. The first player he brought to Temple who fit that later criteria was a defensive back named Kee-Ayre Griffin, whose interception against Penn State would have won the 2011 game had not Mike Gerardi—unrecruited by anyone else—returned the favor with an interception of his own.

Golden also got big Mo Wilkerson, who was a two-star recruit, but for every Wilkerson he got an Adrian Robinson, who also turned down a Pitt offer.

Golden, who could sell ice cream to the Eskimos, also made some serious mistakes tied to offers made at his camp. He was saw a workout warrior, Vaughn Charlton, complete 21-straight passes in a 7-on-7 drill and offered him a scholarship on the spot. Several Southern Chester County League head coaches, who saw Charlton play against a rush, said, “say whaaaat?” when they heard Charlton got the offer. In that case, the SCCL coaches were right and Golden was wrong. Adam DiMichele, nowhere near as good in 7-on-7 as Charlton, but way better against the rush, was a much better investment of a scholarship.

Golden learned to be much more prudent in offering camp scholarships after that lesson.

Got to have a good mix of both in order to beat the big schools.  Hopefully, the Owls will pick up a few Adrian Robinson and Kee-Ayre Griffins along with these (err, also hopefully) Mo Wilkersons:

Recruit Position Height/Weight Other Offers
Kimere Brown WR/DB 5-11, 166 None
Dan Archibong DE 6-5, 245 Army, Villanova, UConn, Delaware, UMass, Stony Brook, Western Michigan
Darian Bryant OL 6-6, 295 UConn, ODU, UMass, Pitt, Towson, UConn
Kareem Gaulden DB 6-0, 187 Monmouth
D’Andre Dill DT 6-3, 295 None
Branden Mack ATH 6-5, 190 Delaware State

Temple Putting the Cart Before the Horse With Rhule Extension

This had to be the reaction of a lot of Temple fans reading the news of Matt Rhule's contract extension this morning.

This had to be the reaction of a lot of Temple fans reading the news of Matt Rhule’s contract extension this morning.

The way it works in the business world is that a promotion or contract extension usually goes to the guy or gal who has proven to be an asset to the company with a history of proven results.

Anything else is called putting the cart before the horse. That’s why it’s extremely puzzling that the university would give a contract extension to a guy who has coached two years and has yet to produce a winning season or even secure one of the 76 bowl bids that go to the 126 FBS teams.

Temple could afford to wait for two important reasons. First, we do not know if this fine young man possesses the game day decision-making acumen that leads to winning football games. You do not give promotions and contract extensions to people for just being nice guys. If that were the case, a lot of guys pushing carts in super market lots would be CEOs of Shop Rite and Acme. Second, a contract extension buys Temple no security.

Unless the buyout is $8 million or more—and there is no reason to believe it is—any Power 5 team can break Temple’s contract with Rhule without a sweat.

Temple could afford to wait. The uni’s highly paid publicity staff tried to put lipstick on this pig with a slickly-worded press release yesterday but, if they were really honest, this is what they would have penned:

PHILADELPHIA (6/25/15) – Temple University announced today that it has extended the contract of head coach Matt Rhule for four years, which might or might not keep him as leader of the team through the 2021.

Rhule was hired to become the Owls’ 26th head coach on December 17, 2012, succeeding Steve Addazio and inheriting a team that went 4-7 in 2012. Despite returning 16 starters from a four-win team, Rhule turned that into a two-win team, which included arguably the three worst losses in Temple history—to an FCS team, Fordham, the worst FBS team in 25 years, Idaho, and to an 0-9 UConn team. Fordham would later get blown out by Lafayette.

That did not engender a whole lot of confidence for Owl fans for the 2014 season but the Owls finished the season with a 6-6 record, still not good enough to secure one of the 76 bowl berths that go to the 126 FBS teams.  Despite a four-win improvement in one year, Rhule had the Owls in the bottom third of FBS teams. The Owls often called a puzzling parade of time outs in the opening portion of each half which left  them without valuable timeouts at the end of each game.

In 2014, thanks to a Hurricane-like storm that took the sails out of an ECU Pirate ship that shot a full volley of 70 points into North Carolina, Rhule led the Owls to their first win over a ranked opponent since 1988. Still, Temple suffered a puzzling loss to a Navy team that got hammered by Western Kentucky for the second-straight year. The Owls were able to muster only two field goals against a Cincinnati team that gave 448 yards per game (102d nationally) and ranked 66th in the nation in scoring defense (27 ppg). That was a game the Owls had to win and a game in which the offense suffered a 60-minute malaise. 

The Owls’ offense was ineffective, largely because the coaching staff gave sophomore quarterback P.J. Walker empty backfields on numerous third-down situations, making him a sitting duck for blitzing linebackers. Not surprisingly, the Owls finished last in the FBS in third-down efficiency (23.8 percent) and last in the AAC in rushing. Running the football historically been a Temple strongpoint with players like Paul Palmer, Brian Slade, Harold Harmon, Zach Dixon, Stacy Mack, Jason McKie, Bernard Pierce, Matty Brown and Montel Harris following the blocks of lead fullbacks through the hole (Shelley Poole, Nelson Herrera, Henry Hynoski, Mark Bright, Wyatt Benson and Kenny Harper).

With the addition of a fullback as an additional blocker at the point of attack to jump-start the running game (and give P.J. some needed pocket protection) and the recent reacquistion of wide receiver Robbie Anderson, the BOT is confident Matt can fix last year’s problems on offense and decided to jump the gun and give him a contract extension.

TU’s Next-Toughest Foe: Cost of Attendance

NEW ORLEANS, LA - OCTOBER 31:  Detailed view of the American conference logo on the field prior to a game between the Tulane Green Wave and the Cincinnati Bearcats at Yulman Stadium on October 31, 2014 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

The calendar says Temple’s next foe is Penn State on Sept. 5, but the toughest foe over the long haul could prove to be something called Cost of Attendance.

As many as 13 years ago, the schools from the larger conferences decided that there were too many schools in what was then known as Division I-A. They pushed through a NCAA rule in 2002 that required a 15,000 annual average attendance for three consecutive years to remain at that level. While some schools dropped their programs, more upgraded and that rule did not significantly change the landscape.

Failure to cull the herd of teams wanting to be part of the now Football Bowl Series (FBS), the Power 5 essentially separated itself from the rest of the teams now known as the Group of Five. Simply put, all of the championship bowl criteria are slanted to the P5 teams, the teams from the SEC, ACC, Big 12, Big 10 and PAC-12.

Now a new means of separating the haves from the have-nots is something called cost of attendance, a stipend per athlete that should drive the wedge further between the P5 and the G5 schools and that threatens the very foundation of college football. That goes into effect this season.

Get used to seeing just all of the teams from the Power 5 conferences on TV even more and get used to rarely seeing the other teams. Athletes who previously were open in their recruitment to all the schools now will limit their focus to Power 5 teams and that is terrible news for any fan of fair play. It was exciting to see Utah, once a non-P5 team, win the Sugar Bowl or even Hawaii appear in one. As recently as 1998 Tulane went unbeaten but forget that ever happening again.

Temple now is in the same boat as the Tulanes and Hawaiis of the world in terms of competing, without a built-in weather advantage. The BOT hasn’t released a COA for Temple athletes, but for the Owls to compete, it must be in line with at least their fellow American Athletic Conference foes. ECU announced in April that its COA will be $4,025. Memphis will be $4,467. Figures were not released on other AAC schools, but Temple fans have reason to be concerned because BOT Chairman Patrick J. O’Connor–a Villanova grad–has said repeatedly in the past that Temple would not get caught up in a college football arm’s race. COAs are to college football what ICBMs were once to the Cold War.

The big five conferences collected a combined $311 million last year just from bowl games and NCAA tournament payouts and now have used that muscle to obtain a separate set of rules that has allowed them to pay players a so-called full cost of attendance.

The SEC is leading the way with three of the top four COAs. Penn State leads the Big 10 by giving its athletes $4,788 to play while a similar in-state institution, Pitt, can afford only $3,300. Forget a player ever picking Pitt over Penn State in that scenario or even a fellow Big 10 institution like Rutgers, which has set its COA at $2,921.

The schools that feel the larger pinch will be those at even lower levels, like the Kent States of the MAC or the Marshalls of CUSA. Marshall was a feel-good story of a year ago, challenging for a BCS bowl game until an upset loss to Western Kentucky at the end of last year.

College football needs those kind of stories more than it needs these COAs and that’s why college presidents who value education over football should put their foot down and end this unhealthy play-to-play trend. Only the presidents can change this and getting rid of this unequal system would be a statement that they are more serious about education than sports.