Happy 4th of July To America’s Team

americasteam

“Temple is truly America’s Team. You know, give us your poor, your tired, your hungry.”

_ Wayne Hardin, December 12, 1979

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Never Forget

endlosing

This is what ending a 20-game losing streak looks like.

The phrase “Bowling Green Massacre” jolted me out of my seat a couple of weeks ago, probably not for the same reason it jolted the nation.

How could Kellyanne Conway, the President’s Media Director, know about a football massacre involving Bowling Green and Temple in the mid-2000s?

That’s the only Bowling Green massacre I knew about but it turned out that she was talking about something entirely different.

In a little over a decade, though, that’s how far Temple football has come. From not just one, but two, Bowling Green Massacres (70-7 and 70-16) in consecutive seasons to flirting with the Top 25 in the last two seasons.

For those of us who were there then and are here now, it would be wise to Never Forget.

patience

I  thought about that when I heard that Geoff Collins was heavy on the Daz-like slogans while giving a halftime pep talk to the assembled—it would be a stretch to call them a crowd—group at the UCF vs. Temple basketball game on Wednesday night.

So far, Collins has been light on the recruiting and heavy on the slogans in his two months on the job.

We won’t really know about him until after the first two games, but so far he comes up a little short in comparing him to the guy who avenged the Bowling Green Massacres.

Al Golden in a little over a month to work in his first year (December, 2005 was his hiring date), Golden signed 29 players including future NFL players like Junior Galette, Andre Neblett, Alex Joseph and Steve Manieri.  That was without the benefit of signing a single target of the former coach, Bobby Wallace, WHILE hiring a staff. There was a method to Golden’s madness, too, as he said it was his intent to recruit captains of winning high school teams so they could bring that same mindset to a poisoned well at 10th and Diamond. In that first class of 29, he signed 18 team captains and all had winning seasons in their final years. Ten of the captains won league championships.

Collins has catching up to do to get to that standard, but Golden did all this on the tail end of a 20-game losing streak and helped turn this thing around.

After two months, we really don’t know if Collins will be as good as Golden, Matt Rhule, Steve Addazio or better than all three or somewhere in between.

Right now, the start is not as good as the Golden one but maybe because the culture is in place  it does not need to be. All that matters is the finish.

We should know a lot more after the Notre Dame and Villanova games.

Sunday: Fake News

Mulligans and Aliens

americansked

Temple should have capitalized on having this to recruit a decent class this season.

A friend who is an amateur astronomer posted a photo of some far-off galaxy on Facebook and apologized for the quality of the photo due to atmospheric conditions.


A Virginia Tech model,
where you make a bowl
every year and reach
up and win a title
here and there, should
be a realistic
expectation for Temple
at the G5 level

My response was that someone from that galaxy probably posted a photo of the Milky Way with the same apology on, say, Cleon Facebook.

In other words, we’re not alone.

It’s a lesson Temple football fans would be wise to understand today, a couple of weeks after Signing Day. The prevalent feeling on the major Owl message board (Shawn Pastor’s OwlsDaily) is that we’re giving new head coach Geoff Collins a Mulligan on this class, but the next class better be good.

The lesson should have been don’t look back because the other beings in this football universe might be gaining on you.

That’s where the other guy comes in because new coach Charlie Strong did not need a Mulligan to haul in a significantly better class for USF and former Temple head coaches Al Golden, Steve Addazio and Matt Rhule did not need a Mulligan in their first transition classes. Despite working about a month, the classes that Golden, Addazio and Rhule brought in their first time were ranked significantly higher than Collins’ first class.

In between preparing for a medical procedure I should have done 10 years ago but had been putting off, I found a little bit of time to look at those classes.

The Charlie Strong class was easy to find. The other classes were much harder to quantify against this one. (You really only know four years from now but you can compare them against how they were ranked at the time.)  According to Scout.com, Strong’s USF transition class this season was ranked No. 95th with seven three stars. In roughly the same time frame to recruit, Collins had Temple was 127th with only three three-stars. In the same conference, both teams with a new head coach, a significant gap in results.

Strong did not have a championship trophy to carry around on a helicopter, either. It’s fair to compare the two classes. Because we have evidence to work with given roughly the same circumstances, Collins should have done better. You can talk all you want about how it is the “Temple Way” to recruit two stars and coach them up to four stars but if you get three stars, your mathematical chances of coaching them up to four- and five-stars improve. Temple should be OK next year, but the impact of this class won’t be felt until three or four years down the road and that is how a foundation is laid for sustainable success, not just one “up” season followed by a “down” season. At Temple, the goal should not be “up and down” seasons like so many other schools seem to have. A Virginia Tech model, where you make a bowl every year and reach up and win a title here and there, should be a realistic expectation for Temple at the G5 level.

An AAC trophy should have meant a better haul than the 2017 class Collins was able to bring to 10th and Diamond and long-term is where the impact will be felt. Without helicopters or AAC trophies, Temple coaches have done better with roughly a month to recruit.

transition

 

While it might have been tough to expect Collins to do a whole lot with this class, the evidence is there in black and white that he should have done better. In college football, getting to the top is tough but staying there is tougher so capitalizing on a championship season when you can with recruiting should have been prioritized.

There are a lot of football teams in this universe and, if you slip up one year, they could be passing you in two or three. There are no Mulligans when you are not alone.

Saturday: Fun With Graphics

The Curse of Russell Conwell

curse

Forget about the famous baseball curses cast on the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago Cubs, which were only recently overcome.

There is one curse that is still alive in sports and that is the Curse of Russell Conwell.

Somewhere up there, Conwell has cast a curse on the last three coaches to leave his beloved Temple University and its football program.

russell

Al Golden left for Miami and was greeted with sanctions that made it impossible to win there. Steve Addazio has taken his three-yards-and-a-cloud of dust offense to Boston College and went winless in the ACC two years ago. The jury is still out on Addazio, but it is leaning toward a unanimous conviction. Matt Rhule left Temple no more than two months ago and could hit with sanctions that would make the ones Golden received looked like a slap on the wrist.

Whatever happens going forward, you could win a lot of money in Vegas betting against any of the three having a long winning career as a college football head coach.

These are the facts that we know to this date and it is not a pretty picture. New Temple head coach Geoff Collins would be wise to stare at this portrait and get some deep meaning out of it.

All three of those coaches could have had a job at Temple for life—or at least a very long rope with to work with—but all three thought the grass was greener on the other side of the Chodoff Field fence.  In fact, there has been no grass on the other side of that fence, only dust. The only value in the move was monetary and money will not last forever.

Conwell, in some type of afterlife, must be working some serious Voodoo pins with Golden, Daz and Rhule bobble heads.

About the time Conwell founded Temple University, he was the best-known lecturer in the United States, playing to sellout crowds who wanted to hear his story of the man who traveled the world in search of riches only to find “Acres of Diamonds” in his own backyard.

Most of the Temple coaches who found substance in Conwell’s story went on to finish with better careers at Temple than they would have leaving on their own for far-off places. Harry Litwack went to a pair of Final Fours. Skip Wilson won over 1,000 baseball games without the benefit of warm-weather recruits. Under Wilson, the Owls went to a pair of College World Series. John Chaney made five Elite Eights. Wayne Hardin went 80-52-2 and made the College Football Hall of Fame. All made Temple their final stop on the coaching highway.

Those, by any standards, are success stories. Leave Temple or attempt to use this great institution as a stepping stone and the story will not have a happy ending. Compare and contrast those success stories to the ones facing the last three Temple football coaches who left on their own.

Maybe when Collins comes to that inevitable fork in the road, he will take a good look at the map and head down the road less (recently) traveled.  Russell Conwell may be watching from above.

Monday: Looking Ahead to Spring Ball

Wednesday: Press Conference Translations

Quintessential Acres of Diamonds’ Story

russell

When Dr. Pat Kraft approaches the podium to introduce the next Temple University football coach in a week or two, he could have a terrific Russell Conwell-type story to tell.

Conwell, the founder of Temple University, wrote the book “Acres of Diamonds” about a man who searched the world for riches only to find them in his own backyard. It has become the backbone of the Temple mission with the moral of the story being that education is the key to finding your own personal wealth.

Kraft already has a list and he is checking it twice and only one man checks all the boxes and his return to Temple would be the quintessential Acres of Diamonds story. Like any good shopping list, it is always helpful to know what you are looking for and not wander around the store aimlessly and, to that end, Kraft has already noted some boxes he wants to check off. In that presser, Kraft said the next Temple coach will have to in no particular order, understand Temple’s mission; value academics; be the right fit, be a great person and be able to win here.

Some candidates have emerged in the media, while others have been mentioned to have sent out feelers behind the scenes. Of those two groups, only one—former Temple head coach Al Golden—checks off all of those boxes. Golden searched the world for riches after Temple, and just might find his Acres of Diamonds were in his old backyard all along.

Unless God called Nick Saban and told him to take a $5 million pay cut to take the Temple challenge, these are the top candidates:


When it comes to the most important
criteria “being able to win at
Temple” every other coach is a
crapshoot. Golden has proven
he can win at Temple

AL GOLDEN (A+, exemplarily)–Golden is really the only guy who fits all of Kraft’s stated criteria. He took Temple out of NCAA academic sanctions caused by Bobby Wallace and had the football team among the nation’s leaders in APR. He also checks off some important boxes Kraft did not mention, like keeping the continuity of the program. Temple plays with a certain Temple TUFFness and that was a style Golden, not Matt Rhule, implemented. The Temple team fans see under Golden will be much like the one they see now, with a heavy emphasis on defense, running the football, and play-action passing. Plus, he knows the landscape and will be able to keep coaches he brought here, like George DeLeone, Adam DiMichele and Ed Foley, among others. When it comes to the most important criteria “being able to win at Temple” every other coach is a crapshoot. Golden has proven he can win at Temple. He also went 32-25 under brutal sanctions at Miami, sanctions that do not exist at Temple. We hear he is interested and could get out of his contract as TE coach with the Detroit Lions to take the job right away. He is an extremely competitive guy, eager to prove that he can do better with Temple talent than Matt Rhule did. He, above all other candidates, realizes that the grass is not always greener on the other side of the 10th and Diamond fence. He would have to assure Temple fans on the day he is hired that he is here to stay this time. If he’s willing to make that commitment, hire him.

boxes

The Rest, ranked A (excellent), B (good), C (average), D (unsatisfactory) and F (don’t even think about it):

JOE MOORHEAD, P.J. FLECK  and BOBBY WILDER (A, excellent).– If you ignore Kraft’s other criteria and cut to the chase on these three, they fit the mold of being proven winners. Kraft can sell Moorhead to Temple fans as someone who was able to beat Matt Rhule with FCS talent. Wilder is 66-30 as a head coach at Old Dominion, a truly remarkable record in that ODU is a start-up FBS program. ODU has also offered some of the Owls’ current recruits and Wilder has won several recruiting battles with Rhule already.  Fleck, the Western Michigan coach, is headed to bigger and better things, but P5 openings are running out and he could be attracted to Temple. If the Owls can grab him for a year or two, he will fit Kraft’s “best coach available” checkmark. Despite being in negotiations with WMU on an extension, he certainly deserves a phone call.

TODD BOWLES (B, good)—This only works if the New York Jets fire Bowles in the next week or so and that is doubtful. Bowles is really the only “Temple guy” with winning head coaching experience—he was 10-6 with the Jets last year with a journeyman quarterback–but will be able to pack his staff with extremely qualified Temple guys who understand the Owls’ mission, including Nick Rapone (defensive coordinator), Todd McNair (offensive coordinator), Keith Armstrong (special teams) and Kevin Ross (defensive backs). He would be a solid choice if things break right. McNair and Rapone are already proven recruiters. I understand Temple fans wanting Temple coaches like WMU assistant Kirk Ciarrocca to come to the Owls, but Temple should by now have reached a point where it does not have to hire a MAC assistant coach to be its head coach. If Temple is going to hire a MAC coach, it better be a MAC head coach. Really, of all the coaches with Temple connections, only Bowles has shown he is qualified to be a head coach. Aside to Temple fans thinking a “Temple guy” is more likely to stay. Willie Taggart is a Western Kentucky grad and he quit there to go to USF and now Oregon.

PHIL SNOW (C, satisfactory)—If Kraft has to listen to the players, he could do worse than Snow as a placeholder until the next proven head coaching winner comes along. Snow could stop the bleeding of staff members to Waco, Texas, a God-forsaken place we cannot imagine a whole lot of Temple coaches want to put down roots. He would at least keep the defense in good shape. He, for instance, will know Jacob Martin and Sharif Finch are next year’s starting DEs with Karamo Dioubate, Greg Webb and Freddy Booth-Lloyd holding down the middle. He might even make Nick Sharga’s next year’s Bednarik winner as college football’s next 60-minute man (starting fullback, starting linebacker). At first, I hated the idea. Now, if he keeps Foley from being the face of Temple football, that might not be a bad thing. Snow is great with the media, but I would only go with Snow if the A and B candidates fell through.

GREG SCHIANO AND CHARLIE STRONG (D, not passing the eye test)—Two guys who got it done elsewhere, but Strong has never recruited this area and Schiano strikes me as a snake oil salesman. Temple people can sniff out those types right away. Strong might be a good fit at Louisville, but it doesn’t mean he’s a good fit at Texas or Temple. Plus, he’s probably headed to USF anyway.

ED FOLEY , JOHN DONOVAN (F, no thanks)—Some guys have muckers and career assistants written on their foreheads and Foley is one of the best of them. He’s a good detail guy who is popular with the players. Can he be the face of the program? Err, no, but we hope he joins the staff of Al Golden, Joe Moorhead, Todd Bowles or Phil Snow to ease the transition and keep singing “High Hopes” after wins. Donovan is the “quality control” coach with the Jacksonville Jaguars. His major claim to fame is being the OC who fell victim to 10 Temple sacks on 9/5/15, a day that will live in Penn State infamy. You’ve got to be kidding me with that name.

Monday: Can Temple Screw This Up?

Departures And Arrivals

There have been two visceral reactions to my learning of the departure of the last two Temple head football coaches and both occurred while listening to the radio and driving in my car.

The first came when Steve Addazio left and Harry Donahue broke in with the news on the 5:45 p.m. sportscast at KYW with these words: “There has been a coaching change at Temple … “ That perked me up a little because there is never a coaching change at Temple. I thought it might be Tonya Cardoza or some other minor sports coach moving on but instead Harry followed that slight pause with “Steve Addazio is headed to Boston College.”

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Hiring an assistant can go one of two ways.

As I made the left turn on Susquehanna Road near the Rydal train station, reaction was pure joy, pounding on the steering wheel and yelling, “Yes, yes, yes!!!”  That also had something to do with Temple never firing head coaches and I felt that Addazio would have to have many 4-7 seasons, not just the one he was coming off of, to be let go at Temple.

I did not want to live through that misery again, and Addazio’s future at Temple had a Ron Dickerson, Jerry Berndt and Bobby Wallace type quality written all over it.

On Tuesday, though, turning into the parking lot at work, the guy on one of the sports talk radio stations said at 11:40 this morning: “This just in:  Philly.com is reporting that Matt Rhule is leaving for Baylor.” The reaction had nothing to do with joy or sorrow and was just a knowing sigh.

waco

I knew this was going to happen last year with the Missouri dalliance when Rhule said he will always listen. I knew it was going to happen when he told a reporter who goes by the name “New Jersey Mike” in June that he cannot make promises, ostensibly to stay at Temple, and I really came to grips with it on Saturday when he told a press conference this telegraphed sentence: “It was a pleasure to have coached these kids.”

Notice the “have coached” part of that statement, which meant, at least to me, that he was not coaching the bowl game.  That’s OK, too, because the sanctions under which he will have to work with are crippling enough. He needs to recruit for Baylor and someone else needs to keep the current Temple recruiting class together (maybe Francis Brown).

I wrote Matt an old-fashioned handwritten letter upon returning home from work and placed it in the neighborhood mailbox after working out at the gym. I hope he gets it:

Dear Matt,

Thank you for giving me last Saturday, the very best of many great days I have spent as a Temple football fan over the last 40 or so years. Thank you for the way you and your wonderful players represented this terrific university and I wish you and your family many similar joyous days like Saturday in the not-too-distant future.

Good Luck,

Mike Gibson

That deals with the departure part of it, and now we get to the arrival area. To me, the university needs to no longer roll the dice with the hiring of an assistant coach. Being an assistant is not the same as being a head coach. It is a totally different job. You can be a great assistant and a terrible head coach. The world is littered with such examples. UConn found that out the hard way by hiring the “hottest” assistant coach available in Bob Diaco and that hiring turned out to be a train wreck.

NO MORE ASSISTANT COACHES. I don’t care if they are hot assistants, cold assistants, lukewarm assistants. Temple University should hire a proven winning head coach who has done it for multiple years at the FBS level, preferably at Temple University.

Al Golden, who has won here as a HEAD COACH, knows how to win and recruit here, is available and the current tight ends coach with the Detroit Lions. Ask yourself if you would rather coach the tight ends at the Lions or be head coach at Temple. He was 32-25 as a head coach under brutal sanctions at Miami and got fired for not achieving unrealistic expectations. He, above all other people, knows the grass is not always greener on the other side of the 10th and Diamond fence. If Golden can make written assurances with an astronomical buyout that guarantees a longer second stay, he is, as Bill Bradshaw wrote on that yellow legal pad in 2005: “Our guy.”

Thursday: Finished Business

Owls: Recharging The Batteries

recharging

The team that toasts marshmallows together wins championships together. 

One of the fathers of the players mentioned to me a few years ago that being a Division I football player was a 365-day-a-week job.

As someone who took the Fox Chase Regional rail into Center City for many years past the 10th and Diamond complex, I nodded affirmatively. All of those years, mostly Al Golden ones, I marveled how the players worked out in the elements, be it snow in January, driving rain in April or 90-plus degree heat of July. In none of those months did the Temple Owls have a scheduled game.

I believe grind is the word we’re looking for here.

That same grind did not exist with Bobby Wallace, who lived in Gulph Shores, Alabama for two-plus months in his time at Temple coach. Not coincidentally, with Wallace gone and Golden here, the grind turned into winning and it was all worth it.

Even with a tough taskmaster like Golden, though, he understood that the grind needed to be interrupted by recharging the batteries from time to time. Golden did it on site with things like Youtube singing videos and having the team go over to the Student Pavilion for some full-court basketball. Golden had a Masters in Sports Psychology at Penn State, so he was applying what he learned.

Recently, though, Matt Rhule took it to another level when the Owls went upstate for some camping. How does this help the Owls beat, say, Penn State? Simple. The team that bonds together off the field sticks together on it.  From all reports, the Owls bonded nicely on the camping trip and extended the bonding to the numerous Community Service duties they have done since.

The grind is real, but mix in a little bonding with the grind, and that cannot hurt. As always, we will be able to tell for sure by December.

Friday: Temple Wins Internet