The Road Less Traveled

Tommy Tuberville (left) coached is an outstanding head coach.

Tommy Tuberville (left) is an outstanding head coach and we’ll just leave it at that.

The only good news for Temple football this week is that AAC rivals Tulsa and SMU are about to hire assistant coaches. UConn did last year.

They might turn out to be great hires. They might turn out to be busts. That’s exactly the point. Since those guys have no history of making final decisions CEOs are supposed to make, like timeouts during the heat of battle, we do not know if they will turn out to be Vince Lombardi or Mike Gottfried.

We warned Matt Rhule what Tuberville would do when Temple went empty backfield. Apparently, he didn't get the memo.

We warned Matt Rhule what Tuberville would do when Temple went empty backfield. Apparently, he didn’t get the memo. Tuberville’s jailhouse blitz against an empty backfield resulted in a fumble that led to one of two Cincy touchdowns.

Cincinnati football was once where Temple football is now. In fact, it was much worse. Despite the loss on Saturday and four games prior to that, Temple STILL holds a 9-7-1 all-time lead in the series.

Now, though, Cincinnati it is in a much better place. A good exercise today would be examining just how the Bearcats got where they are now, from struggling to draw 10,000 a game in a pro football town to averaging over 30,000 and winning three of the last four titles in the history of the old Big East Conference and having enough of their own funds and fans to build their own state-of-the-art stadium.

Temple used to regularly kick Cincinnati's ass.

Temple used to regularly kick Cincinnati’s ass.

At some point, the athletic administration decided to take the guessing game out of the coaching hiring—forgive my use of this word– process. They decided to say “bleep it, we’re just going to hire the best head coach available.”

And it’s been a spectacularly successful strategy. From Brian Kelly to Butch Jones to Tommy Tuberville, all Cincinnati has done is hire guys who have won someplace else as a head coach before on a similar FBS level. It might result in a quicker turnover rate than an institution would want, but the tradeoff of wins and championships is more than worth it and kids, being as resilient as they are, have a knack of getting over the number of coaching changes if the result is more winning.

If Tommy Tuberville moves on, chances are Cincinnati will just go out and get the best FBS head coach available and, while the players might cry for five minutes, the school will be laughing all the way to the bank.

In the AAC today, it apparently is the road less traveled but the one with the promise of far fewer potholes ahead. It might be a lesson Temple has to learn in three years, if the program is still here by then.



28 thoughts on “The Road Less Traveled

  1. Look at the years when we beat Cincinnati regularly and were basically a program that was on par or better then them, Hardin and Arians. Basically the start of this 5 game losing streak was during the Wallace regime but basically at the tail end of the “black hole” of Temple football, Berndt, Dickerson and Wallace, a time period which really put this program behind the eight ball. Right now I see 3 possibilities for the regime of Rhule the 1st:

    1. Start sliding back into 2,3 and 4 win seasons. Another new “hot” assistant as HC in 3 years and the rebuilding starts all over again.
    2. Program levels off to a steady middle of the pack in the AAC finishing anywhere from 5 to 7th place and with the conference bowl tie-ins starting next seasons regularly going to bowls like The Cure Bowl, Boca Raton Bowl and Miami Beach Bowl.
    3. Moving up to competing for one of the top 2 spots in the division and competing for conference championship on a regular basis.

    From what I’ve seen the past 2 seasons I’m leaning towards possibility 2 as the ceiling for this staff. With better facilities than in the past, better money from the conference and what appears to be a staff that can recruit enough good players to stay out of the bottom of the AAC, in spite of their “coaching” that seems to be realistic.

  2. and possibility No. 2 is just not good enough …

  3. The problem with that one is it is probably 15 years too late. If the football program was at that level in the 90’s coupled with our basketball history Temple might be sitting in the ACC right now rather than the AAX

  4. Just curious, where did Dantonio coach before Cincinnati?

    • I’m sure you already know, coming to the defense of his eminence being the good little MRA. He was DC at Ohio State, a Big 10 team that was ranked 1st and 4th 2 of the 3 years he ran the defense. Let’s see where Rhule was during a equivalent time frame, ah coaching on the staff of the FCS WCU Catamounts, averaging 5 wins a season from ’02-05 when Rhule was on staff. Then he moved up to Temple, only real FBS experience. Let’s compare that with Dantonio before he took the job with Cincinnati, Kansas (B12), Michigan State (B10) and Ohio State (B10). Bit of a difference there, even so enough assistants from P5 programs fail as succeed to Mike’s point that it is crap shoot.

    • who cares (responding to the dantonio comment)? the story was about all those after dantonio who put cincy on the map. dantonio’s name appears nowhere in the body of the story (although it is in the graphic). cincy’s real football success (and championships) came AFTER Dantonio.

      • So three straight bowls and 4 bowls in 8 years, including one conference co-championship and 2 2nds by the guy BEFORE Dantonio, and 2 bowls in 3 years by Dantonio, wasn’t real success? You all would take that in a heartbeat.

  5. Mike, what’s so sad is that you’ve been right so many times this season. That’s the biggest indictment of the coaching staff because they clearly didn’t anticipate what you did and took no steps to counter the obvious strategies employed by TU’s opponents. If you are going to run an empty backfield, there must be safety valves or at least the possibility of screens, draws, and shovel passes. One of Cincy’s better plays Saturday occurred when the blitzers tipped their hand and Kiel audibled to a screen play in the area vacated by the blitzers. Clearly, Cincy coaches anticipated that blitz and tutored Kiel on how to counter it. Our coaches appear to do none of that and instead stick to a plan even when its clear that it’s not working. I almost don’t care whether we win Saturday because this is the second disappointing season we have had to endure on account of coaching incompetence and I don’t see things getting better. Personally, it’s time to find a new team to root for because the possibility that the administration will pull a UAB increase with every loss.

    • John, I don’t know what would be worse, having the TU administration pull a UAB, in which case don’t know where our basketball program would end up because I don’t see the AAC having a basketball only member. Or as I said earlier a basically 4 to 6 win team with the occasional 7 win season, playing in the AAC bowls that stack up against Sun Belt and MAC opponents and calling Franklin Field home. While I always renew my season tickets and Owl Club membership it is starting to get to a point where Gresham’s Law is going to start kicking in, both from a fan perspective and from the university.

    • I don’t think beating Tulane is a given but, even with a win, what does it prove? Western Kentucky beat Navy and we can’t beat Navy? USTA beat Houston and we can’t beat Houston. Northwestern won by 23 at Penn State by rushing Hackenberg relentlessly and we play what essentially amounted to a prevent defense against a guy who hears footsteps in his sleep. Our only win in the last six game was wind-, rain- and cold-aided. If it came at the Penn Relays, it would have been thrown out. Young teams are supposed to get better as the season rolls along, not worse. We’ve gotten worse. All on the coaches, no matter how much they want to push it on the kids (or, in this case, one kid).

    • I see light ahead, but with this ridiculously bad gameday coaching (and make no mistake, it IS ridiculously bad) that light is a proverbial oncoming train. I’ve given up on the fullback, halfback, tight end (not playing wide), play-action attack and am ready to sit down with my popcorn on Saturday night to watch 4 wides try to attack a 9-man Tulane front. To paraphrase T.O. (with a twist), it’s not going to be a show.

  6. when cincy went to hire head coaches and not assistants, it won big east conference championships. aac championships should be temple’s goal or it should just get out of the football game altogether. If Memphis can win a title after being beaten by Robbie Anderson, 41-21, Temple should do whatever it takes to win titles, whether it is having nice guy coaches who lose or real bleepholes who win.

    • I just don’t see that being the end result with what I’ve seen out of this HC in 2 seasons. Sure we’re beating teams we are favored against but it had taken one more season than it should have to get to that point. Beating Vanderbilt and ECU are certainly something positive, we’ll see how much next year in Greenville. On the other hand I still see a team that either hasn’t learned how to win close games against better conference teams with any consistency or is still getting blown out by them. Still have bad clock management, a very predictable, not very successful offensive scheme and a defense while much improved still let Memphis walk right down the field to win what was probably the key game of the final 4 of 2014. As I said previously depending on what this team does next season it seems more like a team where Rhule will recruit well enough that they can finish between 5 to 7th place in the AAC and qualify for the bottom tier bowls the AAC has affiliations with. I don’t know, aside from better weather I don’t see where playing a Sun Belt team in the Miami Beach bowl is a real move up from playing an MWC team in the Potato Bowl. Maybe NEPhillOwl can go into some detail as to what in Rhule’s coaching resume and performance these past 2 years leads him to believe that competing for an AAC championship over the next couple of seasons is on the horizon?

  7. I sympathize with nearly all the points made in this forum about the sub-par coaching staff, lack of institutional support, lack of consistent fan base etc. At the same time, as a relatively young alumni who became a fan during my time at Temple during the “Golden Years”, I’ve noticed that the nay-saying culture of Philly sports fans also contributes to Temple’s seemingly endless mediocrity. I mean, think of it as a player, when you come off a tough loss and you visit or this forum or any other Philly sports outlet and your entire team, coach and program is constantly on a barrage of negativity. Again, while I think Temple definitely needs to mix up their strategy (staffing changes, on campus stadium, incentives for attendance), as fans I think we often contribute to the very problem we are trying to solve by always being so overly critical….it is a game after all.

    • there are serious, serious problems with the offensive strategy this team employs that even Stevie Wonder can see. I think the kids know this. They are big boys. The fans know. I hope the administration knows. I think the coaching staff is in a state of serious denial if they do not know. It needs to be addressed in a public forum.

  8. UAB should be a cautionary tale. Spending in college athletics is out of control and affects far more students than attend football games. We’re at a crisis stage when it comes to student debt, and hiring high-profile football games coaches at exorbitant salaries is not the answer to the problem. UAB will not be the only program to drop football in the next five years.

    • what is the answer?

      • I was talking with one of my college buddies about this situation last night. Both of Temple’s marquis D1 athletic programs (basketball and football) are stuck in quicksand right now. I take the opposite position as Morris. I think Temple had skimped far too long on appropriately funding these programs but had been able to achieve reasonable success in smaller conferences like the MAC and A-10. Now that they made the risky decision to jump up a notch conference-wise, you gotta either put up the dough to compete with established programs or go back to mid-major. Matt Rhule seems like a nice guy but nice guys without significant head coaching experience aren’t usually going to be able to compete against big time opponents. Unfortunately, although our focus is football, Temple’s historic basketball program is also headings for another abysmal season, as evidenced by our loss to a terrible St. Joe’s team last night on national TV. Someone has to right the ship before we steer to far off course and lose what little fan base we current have.

    • Wonder if these two guys attend any games? The low number of former players who attend games is appallingly low. Good article about Arians. I was good friends with two of his assistants, who said he was a disaster on game day. This article gives somewhat of an explanation for that by showing how intense he was.

  9. Rhule should reach out to Bob Stitt to replace Satterfield. Stitt is currently the head coach for the Colorado School of Mines and an offense genius

    • Love that feature on Stitt on espn.

    • Bob Stitt is better suited to coach at the D-II level. I’m not going to take anything away from him as a coach, but he’s NOT our answer. I remember to harshly the move of Bobby Wallace from D-II to Temple, and how terrible those days were for Temple. Stitt did become the OC at Harvard if my memory serves me right. And frankly, Harvard didn’t start to rule the Ivy League until after his departure. They went a mediocre 5-5 both seasons. He’s another pass-happy coach that MAY strive in C-USA, not in the AAC or a program like Temple, who’s identity is a ground game. I think if you feel Stitt is the answer, you’re showing too much desperation.

  10. what is the difference between Rhule and the Memphis Head Coach? The Memphis Head Coach is a former QB who has turned his program around by playing great defense and fundamentally sound offense.

    Rhule is a former linebacker who has not turned his team around by playing unsound fundamentally on offense while playing great on defense…,

    College football is not rocket science

    • Eh, we’ll see. Golden and Daz got tapped to leave for other HC gigs. With Florida on the hunt it’s only a matter of time until Rhule gets a call. Maybe we’ll be lucky and they’ll only want Satterield. (Sarcasm)

      I said this before after Daz left and everyone complained about coaching turnover: there is nothing wrong with high quality turnover if you hire correctly. There are bigger differences between Fuentes and Rhule than position.

      • I think you, Ben, will get a call before Rhule does. Here’s the real deal: A lot of the MRAs will be more than satisfied (Satterfield-fied?) is Temple perpetually goes 6-6 and this guy remains here long-term than strive for greatness with someone else. No thanks. I want the same kind of greatness I had under Hardin (80-52-2).

    • Unfortunately, if Temple ran a fundamentally sound offense there is a good chance the team is sitting here going into the Tulane game at 7-4. I think that article on Arians posted by NEPhillyOwl really highlights what I think are some of the core issues with this staff, it doesn’t seem to play to the strength of the players on the roster but rather tries to force everyone into the “process” and they haven’t to quote the article “put in systems and angles where we were able to succeed.” against teams that are more talented.

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