“Winning cures all ills. It boosts the overall image of the institution.” … Peter J. Liacouras, Chancellor, Temple University
By Mike Gibson
A few days ago, a friend of mine turned 40.
That’s usually the kind of milestone day you immerse yourself in some deep introspection about where you’ve been and how you got to where you are.
It includes a measure of angst, even grief over the all-too-quick passage of time.
A happy birthday it’s not.
Neither is 50. Or 60. Or 70.
The introspection becomes more acute with each passing decade.
You get the idea.
On days such as those, you can only offer consolation.
“Consider the alternative,” I said.
Then the day doesn’t seem so bad after all.
So, too, it is with Temple football, which is about to turn 108 years of age in a few months. The old boy was on the death bed the last couple of years and even friends considered pulling the plug.
Other friends insisted that this was a life worth saving, especially those of us who remember the 1970s, when the Owls were consistently among the most respected programs in major college football because of what head coach Wayne Hardin was able to accomplish.
Russell Conwell, the school’s founder, was noted for his “Acres of Diamonds” speech about finding a treasure in one’s own backyard and Hardin’s Owls were the embodiment of the founder’s philosophy.
Using overlooked players mostly from within a 90-mile radius of Temple, those diamonds in the rough enabled Hardin’s Owls to go 80-52-1 from 1970 through 1982.
The high-water mark was 1979, when the 10-2 Owls drew 55,956 of almost entirely their own fans to Giants Stadium for a 28-17 beat-down on California in the Garden State Bowl.
The last 25 years have not been as kind and that’s how the old boy found himself on life support in recent years. Kicked out of the Big East, the Owls were facing an uncertain future.
A task force was formed by board of trustees chairman Howard Gittis and since that group included an anti-football president, David Adamany, there was apprehension about his influence on the proceedings.
Instead, the task force carefully and courageously considered the available data and decided to continue to play football at the Division IA level, actively seeking a new conference.
On May 17, the school accepted an invitation to join the Mid-American Conference, a solid football league with the best bowl record of any major conference since 1999. Yesterday, school officials attended the MAC kickoff press conference in Detroit.
At 108, Temple football looks as young and vigorous as it looked in the 1970s.
Maybe even better.
The school has 13 years remaining on a contract to play at Lincoln Financial Field, what many consider the best football stadium in the country. It has a relatively new $7 million on-campus practice facility and a brand new state-of-the-art all-weather $500,000 practice field. There are some coaching issues, but I’m confident those will be resolved by the end of the calendar year.
The sons of those overlooked players who put Temple on the map 30 years ago are out there, many of them overlooked jems right in the Owls’ backyard.
What happened before can happen again.
After taking a deep breath at the conclusion of the May 17 press conference, I asked a fellow supporter, a friend who calls himself Sal The Owl, if he was happy.
“Yeah,” Sal said. “Consider the alternative.”