Silver Linings (Stadium) Playbook

badurban

Color me totally underwhelmed by this projected stadium design.

Sometimes the worst decisions are the impulsive ones.

General Robert E. Lee, holding the advantage pretty much everywhere on the Gettysburg Battlefield on the first day, ordered a charge of General Pickett’s 30,000 troops right into a heavily defended Union position. They pretty much got wiped out.

Had he waited a day and covered both the left and right Union flanks instead of going up the middle, we might all be speaking with a Southern accent right now.

Pretty much that’s the way I feel about the Temple Stadium situation.

martin

Temple fans would tire fast of a glorified high school stadium like this one at Northeast.

Even the most ardent “shovel-in-the-ground-by-August” guys are believing that this is more a dead deal than a done one.

It’s been what I’ve been writing in this space since the March 6 Mitten Hall meeting fiasco. Nothing has changed since then except the goal posts have been moved from, say, 2018 until 2030 or even later.

The neighbors don’t want this, never have, never will, and Temple is dead set on getting the neighbors’ support before proceeding on this project. Since that’s the case, we might have to wait until the neighborhood becomes fully gentrified before proceeding. That probably won’t be before 2030. That’s a more likely scenario than trying to convince Social Justice Warriors to abandon their platform of the moment.

Russell Conwell, the Temple founder, was on the other side of that Pickett’s charge as a Union captain. He survived and so will his beloved Temple.

There is a Silver Lining in the way this play ended.

Building a 30-35K stadium that looks only a little nicer than Northeast High’s Charlie Martin Memorial Stadium would only make those 200 or so fans who think that having “TEMPLE” and “OWLS” spelled out in the end zones every week would more than make up for the bare-bones cheap stadium they would be forced to sit in six times a year.

Building an Akron or a FAU stadium does Temple no good and probably commits Temple to a life sentence of being as irrelevant on the college football landscape as, err, Akron or FAU are now.

Wait and build something like Houston has now is the perspective Temple should have. Swallowing hard and extending the Linc deal is the only way to go. After all, as Bill Bradshaw once said, Temple plays in the nicest football stadium in America. It’s a pro one, but it’s still the nicest.

Otherwise, the 2018 version of  the 1863 Pickett’s charge is an impulsive decision Temple doesn’t need to or even can make right now.

That’s the only silver lining in this otherwise dark cloud.

Monday: He Said What?

Wednesday: Here’s What Villanova is going to (try to) do …

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Commitment Issues: The New Norm

 

A very familiar headline appeared in the papers the other day.

“Matt Rhule Turns Down Colts to Remain at Baylor.”

Familiar, because I’ve seen that headline somewhere before:

“Matt Rhule Turns Down Missouri to Remain at Temple.”

Now, the chances are that Matt Rhule was offered either job are about as good as I being offered the job of replacing Mike Francesa on his highly successful radio show.

None.

yeahright

Yeah, right after I turned down WFAN’s offer to replace Mike Francesa.

It was just floated out there, maybe not by Rhule, but by his agent to make him look better returning to his other positions.

dyingbreed

These two unfortunately are a dying breed

This is the new norm in college football these days and that’s one of the two reasons that college football is harder to get into for me with each passing year.

Commitment Issues.

Gone are the days when a great coach like Wayne Hardin can stay at Temple for 13 years or the days when Joe Paterno plants his flag down in State College and turns down being a millionaire as head coach of the New England Patriots for lesser pay and a chance to build something at Penn State.

Money talks and bullbleep walks, as the late-night TV commercial used to say.

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Wayne Hardin, talking about Temple in 1976

The other reason—lack of a true all-inclusive national championship—has been covered in this space in the past and I don’t see that as changing any time soon, either.

Today, though, is about Rhule.

My issue with him was these proclamations of lifelong fidelity to Temple and then to turn around and leave the team that made him millions for Baylor and not even coach the bowl game. That was his decision and, while I didn’t agree with it, I have to respect it.

The bottom line for Rhule is that he gave Temple a great 10 years and if he felt that he had to leave before the bowl game, that should be his decision. God bless him and I hope he has a great career, but the latest dalliance with the NFL makes me think he’s got second thoughts about the mess he’s gotten into at Baylor. It’s a similar situation to Al Golden at Miami, who gave Temple a great five years.

Hopefully, both will straighten things out and have solid careers. Funny thing is they could have had good-paying jobs at Temple for life with a fraction of the headaches.

Maybe it’s something for Geoff Collins to think about.

Friday: Five Unanswered Questions

Monday: The Coaching Shuffle

 

The Lost Letter

helmet

Dear Geoff,

Despite having used some of the extra money in my new contract for a canopy bed and a nice new My Pillow that I ordered online, I’m having some bouts with insomnia.

Oh-and-three will do that to any coach who gives a damn and, from being my friend for over 25 years, you know I do.

So to combat the insomnia and before I get back to that My Pillow, I thought I’d jot just a few notes down because I’ve been able to DVD all three Temple games. Here are a few suggestions. You can take this letter and crumple it up in the circular file if you don’t like them and it won’t affect our friendship. Getting this off my chest might help me catch a few zzzz’s. Even though they are your players, I consider them my kids, too, and I’d like to see them succeed.

 

Keep Nick Sharga In the Game

Watching the Notre Dame game, I thought the first series was promising. Nick Sharga was in the game, the offense was moving and you made the right call on 3d and 2 with the handoff up the middle to him for the first down. Then I went, “Oh no” when Nick was pulled for three wide receivers on the next play. Things went rapidly downhill after that. I , too, was talked into the trendy multiple wide receiver sets by my first offensive coordinator. You are only going to have Sharga this year. You can let Patenaude try all his fancy stuff next year.   It took me two years to figure that out and I’m giving you the benefit of hindsight. Having Nick is like having an extra OL blocker. This is not a bad offensive line. Three of the guys who were starters return and a fourth, Matt Hennessey, who did not start, is a Rimington Award candidate. It should be performing better and using Sharga as a full-time blocker will help.  Once that happens, the linebackers and the safeties inch up toward the line of scrimmage, fake it into the RB’s belly and you’ll have these great receivers running so open through the secondary Logan won’t know which one to pick out. Hell, you might consider playing Sharga on defense, too. He was my best linebacker in a 34-12 win over Memphis two years ago. Position flexibility is something you should know a little about.

Stop the underneath crossing patterns

When Villanova gained about 8,000 yards on a crossing patterns underneath and throws to the tight end, I knew that wouldn’t happen the next week because I had faith in you. Still do. Then UMass gained what seemed like 8,001 yards off the same patterns. My only guess is that you allow Taver to make the defensive calls and he’s a little stubborn. Maybe you should take over as DC until things are cleaned up. I asked Phil what he would have done and he said put Sharga and Folks at linebacker, put Freddy Booth-Lloyd over the nose and Julian and Dogbe at tackles. Don’t forget Karamo Dioubate is also on the team. Please dust off his recruiting film. Nick Saban loved it. He’s a one-man Mayhem Machine. Anyway, Snow said that the best pass defense is putting the quarterback on his ass—err, backside, my faith won’t allow me to say that word this year—and having those three in the A gaps and over the center should cause the requisite Mayhem you desire. You’ll be surprised how that much traffic around the quarterback frees up guys like Quincy Roche and Sharrif Finch. Even if the quarterback isn’t sacked, hitting him might result in a hurried throw that Champ or Delvon can take to the house.

sharga

Make Isaiah Wright The Tailback

Love Ryquell, but he looks a little slow this year. Is he hurt? If he is, don’t hesitate to use Isaiah Wright at tailback. We practiced Wright as both a tailback and a quarterback and I thought he had a chance to be our most dynamic offensive player last year. We had Jahad so we couldn’t use him at tailback a lot, but we still found a way to put IW in as a Wildcat Quarterback. Putting him at tailback even for 10 carries makes the team that much harder to defend and he can do a lot of damage with that swing pass out of the backfield. I think he needs more touches and don’t forget reverses AND he can throw the halfback pass as well. Ryquell is a one-cut runner. This guy is a five-cut runner who, to use a basketball term, can create his own shot.

Good luck against South Florida and I will be watching.

Thanks for letting me get this off my chest. I have to get back to My Pillow now.

Regards,

Matt

p.s. Please ditch the black uniforms. They are VERY unlucky. Stick with the Cherry helmets with the white ‘][‘.

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

God And The Power 5

baylor

Amazing how $7 million can make someone (not me) a fan of another team so quickly.

When Matt Rhule took over the head coaching job at Baylor, one of the reasons he gave was that he was called to accept the position because of his faith.

That kind of stunned the people who knew him at Temple over nearly the last 10 years because no one had ever heard him mention his “faith” or “God” in a public statement in any of his press conferences at the Edberg-Olson Football Complex.

Many had just written off the comment as “playing to the audience.” That said, in his first press conference at Temple University, was his statement of “wanting Bill (Bradshaw) to allow me to sign a 15-year contract” also playing to the crowd?

Probably.

Still, I could see God listening to all of this and giving the Dikembe Motoembo “no” waving finger to Rhule on both counts.

That begs the question. How come God has never called for one of these big-time coaches to come help a lesser school than a Power 5 one?

You know, the same God who might agree with the Pope on this:

impossible

To me, God is the Being who says to go help the weaker become stronger.

In college football, that means telling the big-time coach to go help the G5 team, not the P5 team.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t think so.

The photo of Matt Rhule cheering for the Baylor basketball team does not sit well with me, not because I wish him ill but because it represents the perfect illustration of power and money over weakness and poverty.

It is amazing how $7 million dollars makes one a fan of another team so quickly.

I would like to think that if I was offered $7 million tomorrow to be a fan of, say, Alabama and reject my fandom of Temple that I would say no and I am fairly confident no amount of money could make me reject  the team I love.

God must love the Power 5 over the Group of 5. I’m still waiting (hell, praying) for the first photo of Nick Saban or Dabo Sweeney saying at a press conference that they have been called to a school like Temple or Navy because God called  them to go there.

Because God gave me common sense, I will not hold my breath but I would love to, err, God-willing live long enough to see that day.

Sunday: Recruiting Thoughts

The Clawson Cutoff

clawsoncutoff.png

Dave Clawson was a very good hire for Wake Forest.

The very entertaining Johnny Carson Show used to have a regular feature back in the day called “Carnac the Magnificent” where it gave the answer to the question first.

On another bit, the Art Fern one, he would give directions to a fake store, he would say, “Go to the Slauson Cutoff.”

Temple’s “Slauson Cutoff” is really a Clawson Cutoff, because the one advantage Wake Forest will have over Temple (3:30, Tuesday) is the continuity of coaching and that begins and ends with Dave Clawson, the head coach of the Demon Deacons.

On paper, that is not a good matchup for the Owls.

Mike Jensen of the Philadelphia Inquirer called for the Owls to hire Clawson over Matt Rhule in 2012 and, while it looks like he was wrong, that’s only to people who think Rhule was the only person in the world who could have steered Temple football in the right direction.

mikejensen

A tweet from Mike Jensen four years ago.

I also think Clawson could have done the same thing and, in reality, he has done a terrific job at Wake Forest. I’m in the minority of Temple fans who think there are a handful of really great coaches out there who Temple  could have hired who would have done the same thing for the school Matt Rhule did.

Maybe better. Certainly better than starting 2-10 and 6-6.

That’s OK, because we will never really know.

All we do know now is that Clawson, really, is the only thing standing between Temple and a school-record 11 wins.

Most objective college football observers know that Temple has significantly better on-field talent than Wake Forest. If you take the coaches away and have the kids play a pickup game, Temple probably wins this one something like 41-13.

Putting the coaches that we know of in there and this becomes a significantly closer game.

All we know about Foley is that he is a good guy who followed a highly successful Clawson Era by going 7-15 at Fordham as a head coach and getting fired. So far, in the lead up to this game, Foley has been saying all of the right things about being a “competitive guy” and concentrating on the game, but we cannot know for sure until the final gun sounds on Tuesday. Clawson, unlike Foley, is a proven head coach.

This is one game where we will find how much coaching impacts a college football game. The formula for a Temple win equals the better kids plus a Foley who learned something a year ago against Toledo is superior to a Clawson who has worse kids but a better head on his shoulders.

That’s the thought here and the hope.

Unfortunately, it won’t be anywhere near 41-13 but a helluva lot closer to 21-13 and that is my call for the Owls because coaching means about 20 points in a college football game. This is not baseball, where a manager only impacts about 10 of 162 games a season.

Football is the most important sport when it comes to coaching.  We will find out how important, oh, about 6:30 on Tuesday.

Monday: Game Preview