Could Geoff Collins Be THE One?

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Press conferences hiring FBS head coaches are elaborate and well-attended functions with both sides toasting the other with usually a few hundred glowing words.

Unlike another elaborate and well-attended function with similar toasts, the words “until death do us part” are never uttered.

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That’s because these things usually end with that old business formula: Up or out.

For Temple recently, it’s been a lot of ups—Miami, Boston College and Baylor come to mind—and few outs (Bobby Wallace).

That’s a good thing.

The only scenario better for the Owls would be an “up and up” situation like the ones currently enjoyed by places like Ohio University and The Naval Academy at Annapolis.

Of the successful Group of Five coaches in the last decade, just about everyone other than Frank Solich (Ohio) and Ken Niumatalolo (Navy) have moved on to so-called greener pastures. So-called because the Temple coaches who left probably now are finding out that money does not buy the same type of happiness they had at 10th and Diamond.

After Al Golden, Steve Addazio and Matt Rhule did not, is head coach Geoff Collins The One to give Temple football a long-term commitment?

Temple fans have longed hoped that some coach looks into that history and figures out that $2 million-a-year is enough to live on and have a nice life without having one eye on the door.

Maybe we’re reading a little too much into this, but Geoff Collins gave an indication he’s only planning to go one place for any extended period NEXT offseason.

Rome.

Collins committed to taking a group of a dozen football Owls to Rome next season after a successful trip to Tokyo last month.

Rome, like Tokyo, hosts a satellite campus of Temple University and the Owls plan to go there next year.

If Collins can do something like winning a championship here this year and fixing the revolving door at the E-O and stay next year, he will be joining a pretty exclusive club.

For now, though, keeping that Rome trip commitment after any kind of positive success this season would be a good way to start.

Monday: Immediate Needs

Wednesday: Road Trips

Friday: Early Recruiting Rankings of Note

Monday (6/18): Birthday Wishes

Wednesday (6/20): When No News Equals Bad News

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Collins: Calling All Fans

 

 

One of the most revealing passages from the Temple position paper on reasons for building a new stadium is this:

“Overall, the trend is clear—stadiums built since 2000 have capacities that are sized to fit the institution’s market and football program’s success. The average recently built FBS stadium has a capacity of 37,561, similar to the intended 35,000 seats at Temple. Ninety-five percent of Temple football games over the past 10 years could have been accommodated in a 35,000-seat stadium.”

 

That doesn’t mean that in the last two years of its current contract with the Philadelphia Eagles to play in the cavernous Lincoln Financial Field that the Owls will not try to fill it.

Hence, the hashtag campaign of #filltheLinc and head coach Geoff Collins personally calling season-ticket holders who have not renewed and asking them to renew.

(I didn’t get a call because I renewed during the first week in February.)

A noble goal, but as has been stated here over the years and reiterated in Temple’s own new stadium reasoning somewhat misguided. Our theory is that there is a hardcore base of around 20,000 fans who will come to see the Owls, win, lose or draw. Then there is an additional “softcore” base of about 15,000 who will come out to see the Owls win, win or win.

That base gets cracked easily when the Owls lose an opener they should not have like Villanova in 2009 and Army in 2016.

Win an opener like Penn State in 2015 and the softcore crystallize into diehards the rest of the year.

There is a ceiling of Temple fan interest and it is right around the 35,000 Temple fans who attended the Tulane game for the 6-0 Owls in 2015. It is right around the 34,005 fans who saw the Owls lay an egg in the opener the next year against Army.

The attendance problem simply is not just a matter of wins and losses but of a larger economic driver, supply and demand.

Temple needs a stadium sized to fit its program.

In the American Athletic Conference, Temple currently plays in the largest-capacity stadium and draws below-average attendance, resulting in the lowest percentage of stadium seats filled for home games. Too much supply limits the ability to drive ticket sales and, as a result, gameday revenue.

If Collins calling fans personally leads to the hashtag #fillthelinc then that would be a miracle that would qualify him for Sainthood. It would also have the domino effect of causing the Power 5 to suspend its moratorium on expansion and immediately invite Temple into the conference of its choice. (Hell, if Temple averaged 70,000 fans over the 27 wins of last three years can you imagine a conference NOT inviting the Owls?)

More likely, shoot for a glass full and drink in half that and the Edberg-Olson phone calls will be well worth last month’s hefty Verizon bill.

Monday: Immediate Help

Wednesday: Mr. Softee A Welcome Addition

Friday: Ranking the 5 best Temple teams of All Time

For TU fans, Love Should Be Better Second Time Around

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A real ad paid for by Temple on the marquee in Times Square 4/26/18.

If you are a Temple fan who did not fall in love with Geoff Collins in his first year, there are indications that love is better the second time around.

OK, I’ll admit it.

I wasn’t crazy about his trust in an offensive coordinator who recruited a guy for Coastal Carolina and gave that guy about the longest rope to hang himself of any Temple quarterback in my 41-year history of following the Owls.

Seven games with six putrid and one acceptable performance was six games too much for my taste and it almost put the Owls out of bowl contention.

Forgetting that Nick Sharga was the best pure football player on the team—on both offense and defense–was another major strike against Collins.

That was then and this is now.

Mayhem might not have been coming a year ago, but there are at least inclinations that it could be here in five months.

Collins made a couple of impressive CEO moves in the offseason, promoting Andrew Thacker to DC to replace Taver Johnson was the first. We did not see the defensive Mayhem we had been promised until the 13th game of the season and Collins was not a happy camper. Presumably seeing the handwriting on the wall, Johnson went back to the Big 10 and accepted the same job he had a Purdue before taking the Temple DC job (defensive backs’ coach) at Ohio State. Collins also made Temple lifer Ed Foley the “assistant head coach in charge of offense” presumably as a check and balance on Patenaude.

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Those aren’t the only signs Year Two Can be better than Year One.

All you have to do is look around the American Athletic Conference (which probably should have kept the Big East name, but that’s a story for another day).

Look at what all of the other second-year coaches did.

Navy’s brilliant Ken Niumatalolo went 8-5 with a loss in the Eagle Bank Bowl his first year and then went 10-4 with a win in the Texas Bowl his second year.

Memphis’ Mike Norvell went 8-5 his first year, then 10-3 the second.

SMU’s Chad Morris went 2-10, 5-7 and 7-6 before he accepted a Power 5 job with Arkansas.

UCF’s Scott Frost went 6-7 his first year and then 13-0 the second.

Those are significant improvements in numbers across the board.

The numbers suggest that the bottom line for Collins will produce much better than the seven wins he was able to post while feeling his way around in the first season. If it’s Rhule and Frost good, that’s an improvement of anywhere from 4-7 wins. Even if it’s Norvell good, that’s a nine-win season.

Just split the difference between, say, Rhule and Frost and every Temple fan—even the skeptical ones—will be sending Valentines Collins’ way come Feb. 14, 2019.

The only question where be where to send the card with the Whitman’s chocolates.

Monday: Facts Of Life In AAC

Succession Plan: Never Too Early

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FIU was one of many stops for the Minister of Mayhem

There has been a lot of talk on social media, if not the real one, about this supposed succession plan Temple has with basketball coach Fran Dunphy.

It comes down to these choices:

One, Dunphy returns to complete the remaining three years on his contract;

Two, Dunphy is told he has one more year and Aaron McKie will be named coach in waiting;

Three, Dunphy is told he has one more year to get to the NCAAs or he’s out.

Following Temple athletics as closely as I have for the last 40 years, I’ll opt for No. 1 and bet a good $20 on that happening. Temple has the same kind of aversion to eating contracts as Jon Stewart has to eating at Arby’s.

What does this have to do with football?

The Owls, at least in football, have to have a succession plan for reasons probably not to their liking. This may not be the topic to talk about during spring practice, but this is the kind of thing Dr. Pat Kraft should be at least thinking about and it’s never too early.

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My five-point criteria is specific: 1) Proven winner; 2) Proven ability to win as a FBS head coach; 3) ability to recruit; 4) ability to CEO and hire a solid staff; 5) ability to win at Temple

 

Since Al Golden left in at the end of the 2010 season, Steve Addazio and Matt Rhule have left and, the way I read Geoff Collins, he would probably be gone after eight or nine wins this year. It has nothing to do with Collins himself, just that it’s a nomadic profession that lends to stops at places like Albright, Western Carolina, Georgia Tech, UCF, Mississippi State, FIU,  Florida and Temple. He’s probably used to moving and not adverse to it. Think about it: Is something so special about 10th and Diamond that would make Collins want to plant roots in the concrete and build something here like Joe Paterno did at Penn State?

I didn’t think so.

Kraft, who probably isn’t going anywhere, has to have a few names on the piece of paper in his pocket should he get that 3 a.m. call from Collins in December.

If he does, it probably means the Owls have done something special, like win another AAC championship and that would probably be an acceptable trade-off.

To me, the next head coach at Temple is a no-brainer. My five-point criteria is specific: 1) Proven winner; 2) ability to win as a FBS head coach; 3) ability to recruit; 4) ability to CEO and hire a solid staff; 5) ability to win at Temple.

Since someone is out there who has proven all of those qualities (Al Golden) and is probably not going to get a better offer than head coach at Temple over the next couple of years, it would be wise for Kraft to keep that name and phone number on a scrap of paper in his pocket.

Otherwise, work on a guy who has at least four of those qualities.

Churning the coordinator pile is like walking through a mine field. If you get through three or four mines, there is always that fifth one up ahead. That’s the one that could blow up this program.

With a $17 million practice facility and a (possible, not probable), $130 million stadium to gamble, you do not want to roll the dice on another unproven coordinator.

Friday: Spring Practice Position Flexibility

Sunday: Done Deal II

Eye on Atlanta: Root for Georgia Tech

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Hopefully, Temple’s stadium will be closer to this than the crude drawing released recently

Hard to believe, Harry (Donahue), that one of the websites that list such things has placed Georgia Tech’s Paul Johnson on the hot seat.

A few years ago, Johnson was one of the hottest coaches in the country at The Naval Academy, now he’s sitting on a hot seat. That’s life in the Power 5.

If you are a Temple football fan, you’ve got to root for him and his Georgia Tech team this season because when Owls’ head coach Geoff Collins called Temple “a developmental program” a month ago tomorrow, he probably meant it with his coaching staff, too. Three of four of Collins recent hires are from the state of Georgia and his current defensive coordinator, Andrew Thacker, was a position coach at Kennesaw State (also known as the Owls). Kennesaw is in Cobb County, which is in the Greater Atlanta metropolitan area.

Collins himself as a history at Georgia Tech, being the recruiting coordinator there for the Yellowjackets. If you don’t think this staff is being developed for a place like Georgia Tech, you probably don’t believe that General Billy Sherman burned the town to the ground 168 or so years ago. If Collins does well here this fall, he certainly would move to the top of the Georgia Tech wish list.

So that’s probably what Collins means by a developmental program. Ask him if he considers Georgia Tech a developmental program.

Still, rooting for a solid year from our friend Paul Johnson is almost as good as rooting for the Owls themselves.

That’s the lay of the land, though, in the “developmental” AAC.

In January, Navy head football coach Ken Niumatalolo interviewed for the Arizona opening. While he  decided to remain in Annapolis, had he left the Midshipmen it would have left Tulsa’s Philip Montgomery as the longest-tenured head coach in the American Athletic Conference, after only three seasons with the Golden Hurricane.

Coaching turnover has become a fact of life in the American with six head coaches leaving the AAC for jobs at “power five” schools. Next year, Memphis’ Mike Norvell and USF’s Charlie Strong are sure to attract suitors.

A good year for Paul Johnson probably won’t mean Collins will be here for life, but it would certainly close at least one very attractive door and limit the damage to Temple’s program for at least another year.

How’s that Georgia Tech fight song go again?

Friday: Thoughts on The Mitten Hall Fiasco

Monday: Spring (Practice) is in the Air

Wednesday: Our New Scheduling Buddies

 

What a Revolting Development ….

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With only a few seconds in an eminently winnable game NBA at Miami, something stood out like a 6-foot-11 sore thumb.

The Philadelphia 76ers were winning and this decade’s version of “Hack-A-Shack” was in the game. Of course, instead of two 90 percent free throw shooters Mario Bellinelli and J.J. Redick being in there to catch the ball and get fouled and win the game, Ben Simmons was spotted and fouled immediately and the Sixers lost at the buzzer mostly because he missed two free throws.

What does this have to do with Temple football?

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Because after the game, Sixers head coach Brett Brown said it was “more important for Simmons’ development” to be in there than it was to win the game.

The word “development” caught my ear because I heard, by my count, Temple football head coach Geoff Collins a derivative of it not one, not two but four times at the recent recruiting celebration. Collins said “we’re a developmental program”  while reviewing some recruiting film and saying a lot of these players are in the developmental stage and are coming here to be developed. It wasn’t the first time he used it. This is what he said in an interview on SI.com last May:  “I think this place is a developmental program, so I take pride in that.”

I guess Florida wasn’t a developmental program.

Hmmm. I’m sure Collins means well, but I don’t like the term.

Developmental program is a term I’ve never associated with Temple football before Collins came to town. AAC championship program, yes. Top 25 program, yes. Developmental program, no. While players certainly have been developed and nurtured (the most recent example is Haason Reddick), the primary purpose of Temple football has been to win as many games as possible. If someone got developed along the way, fine, but development was always secondary to playing in championship games.

To me, like the Sixers’ game above, winning is not the most important thing, it’s the only thing. I could not give a rat’s ass about Simmons being in there to learn a lesson, nor could I give a similar derriere for Logan Marchi’s “development” as a quarterback meant keeping him in there for seven games, looking awful against a bad Villanova team and stinking up Lincoln Financial Field in winnable games against Houston and UConn. A seven-game career as a starter was way too long for Marchi, who failed an eye test two games into his starting career and should have earned a permanent spot on the bench.

Big-time college football is a business and, in business, it’s either up or out. Marchi wasn’t treading upward after a brutal Game Two performance against Villanova and should have been out.

One of William Bendix’s catch phrases in the old TV show “Life of Riley” was “What a Revolting Development” and that applies to the word “developmental” and Temple football. A year ago, Collins was touting Temple as a “Top 25 program” and now it’s “developmental program.”

I prefer Top 25, thank you.

Let’s hope Temple never becomes the Sixers and sacrifices a precious game for the development of any single player. The football Owls don’t get to play 82 games a year. They can’t afford to trade wins for development.

Monday: 5 Questions for The Stadium Meeting

Wednesday: Eye On Atlanta

Friday: Reflections on The Town Meeting

3/12: Spring Practice Begins

 

Current Staff? Meh ….

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This is the resume Nick Rapone could have brought to Temple.

Everything in life is a trade-off and, so it is with Temple football coaching staffs as this story illustrates.

“My son said, ‘Dad, it’s like Night and Day between this staff and Al Golden’s staff,’ “ John Palumbo’s father told me during Steve Addazio’s first Cherry and White Day. “He said, Dad, these guys are all National Championship coaches. They know what they are doing.”

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Palumbo knew what he was talking about. He started at center for both Golden’s last team and Addazio’s first team. Daz took Golden’s talent and made it a bowl-winning team.

Golden was the great CEO-type, someone with a binder full of recruiting contacts up and down the East Coast and nobody was more well-equipped to stock the Temple roster with the talent it needed to succeed—if not win—the MAC.

Addazio was the ambitious successor, a guy who supposedly loved the macaroni and South Philly Italian food so much that he would stay here 10 years. We later found out what he was, a bull-bleeper who could sell snowballs to the Eskimos. In that sense, Daz bought an all-star staff with him to Philadelphia—the defensive coordinator at Florida, Chuck Heater, and Scot Loeffler, a damn good offensive coordinator.

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They were a good sight better than Mark D’Onofrio and Matt Rhule, Golden’s last coordinators but part of the price of bringing that kind of talent to Philadelphia was that Daz probably promised that he would take them along to a P5 stop in a year or two.

When the Owls hired Geoff Collins from Florida, I had a feeling it would be more like a Daz hire than a Golden or Rhule hire in that he’d poach the Florida staff of a couple of top position coaches with a promise of making them coordinators here. No such luck. The only person he poached from the Gators was the equipment manager.

It wasn’t what I expected.

You get what you pay for. Two days after he was hired, Steve Addazio wooed his buddy, then Florida national championship co-defensive coordinator (really, THE guy according to Urban Meyer), Chuck Heater. Temple paid Mark D’Onofrio $200,000 to be DC in the 2010 season. Daz convinced Lewis Katz, his guy, to kick in an extra $200K to secure the services of Heater. Katz is gone and probably so are the days of Temple outbidding P5 teams for any assistant football coach’s services. Heater loved it here, biked every day from Center City to 10th and Diamond and had a good relationship with many Temple fans, big donors and small.

Now, we have an offensive coordinator from Coastal Carolina, a defensive coordinator from Kennesaw State and position coaches from West Alabama and Georgia State. It’s particularly sad in that Nick Rapone, a former FCS defensive coordinator of the year who spent the last few years with Bruce Arians with the Arizona Cardinals, expressed an interest in the DC job after Taver Johnson left. So did Temple legend Kevin Ross, who was the DB coach with the NFL team.

Instead of NFL guys, we have Kennesaw State and West Alabama guys. Not the kind of resumes that will make sons of the current Owls tell their fathers that the Rhule and Phil Snow did not know what they were doing.

Maybe the trade-off is a little more loyalty for fewer wins. Give me consistent wins on Saturday or any day of the week against mediocre 7-6 records and loyalty every year of the decade. I know I would have them with guys like Scot Loeffler, Chuck Heater, Nick Rapone and Kevin Ross.

These small school guys?

Not so much.

Friday: Developmental Program?