Usually the middle of July is a dead period in sports as baseball is in the middle of an all-star break, NFL training camp has not started and the NBA, NHL and college football are a couple months away.
For Temple University, though, July 14th might be the most important day in its sports history. That’s because the school’s Board of Trustees will hold a rare meeting amid rumors that there could be talk of an on-campus stadium on the agenda.
Even if a stadium is not on the docket that could be more telling than if it is because the school’s BOT let a May meeting, a March meeting and a December meeting come and go with no discussion of a stadium. If it is not on this agenda, there likely will be no stadium because the next meeting after this one is in October and the school’s 15-year lease with the Philadelphia Eagles to rent Lincoln Financial Field expires at the end of the 2017 season.
Temple fans on sports message boards seem obsessed with the topic as seemingly innocuous discussion threads get turned into stadium ones at the drop of a hat. When it comes to the people who really matter, the BOT, the topic hasn’t even moved the needle. There were meetings on December 9th, March 11th and May 12th and not a word on the stadium at any of them. That could all change on Tuesday. Or not.
Since the last meeting on May 12, former Indiana University chief bean counter (CFO), Neil Theobald, the current Temple president, kicked a former Indiana U. aide, Kevin Clark, upstairs from AD to No. 2 in command (COO). Then he hired a former Indiana football player, Dr. Pat Kraft, as AD. Yet another former Indiana guy was brought in to raise money for athletics.
If that means a stadium that looks like Indiana’s is about to go up at Broad and Norris, we should know soon.
The next meeting after this one does not come until Oct. 13th. By then, any reasonable person could see that there will not be enough time to get shovels into the ground and a stadium completed by the opening day of the 2018 season. Even if it is discussed on Tuesday and approved (highly doubtful), there will be a mad dash to get the stadium done. So if a stadium at Temple is just an unfounded rumor, fans should know by Wednesday. No discussion probably means no stadium, at least not for a decade down the road.
The question of where Temple will play in 2018 is an urgent one. The logical answer is to extend the Lincoln Financial Field lease. That could be costly because the Eagles are asking for a 300 percent increase in Temple’s $1 million-per-year rent, but it is a price Temple must pay to remain a viable program and about 10 times less costly than building its own stadium.
The AAC, like the Big East before it, will demand that Temple have exclusive rights on Saturdays to a stadium and the only other stadium with a size that fits its needs would be 57,000-seat Franklin Field at the University of Pennsylvania. Penn has those rights so Franklin Field is not an option nor is the 18,000-seat PPL Park.
Temple’s only means toward keeping those rights is to stay where it is right now and build its own stadium and, if the Board is silent again like it has been in the past that means a stadium is a long, long ways away if ever.
Then the next most-important date becomes Sept. 5 and that will not have anything to do with a new stadium.