Mulligans and Aliens

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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.

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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

 

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

The Wrong 6-6 ACC Team

This is the ceremony we stayed for despite being told to leave for the bus right after the game. Me and a fellow great Temple fan made alternate plans of Ubering it home if the bus left without us.

Obviously, the people who make the matchups on NCAA basketball Selection Sunday with an eye for storylines do not work on the NCAA football bowl side.

For years, the NCAA hoops people have been accused of pairing foes based on what would make a better story over legitimate seeding bracketing.

“I absolutely think that’s the case,” Temple head basketball coach Fran Dunphy said after the Owls were slotted down a couple of notches from what they should have been (2010 season) in order to play No. 12-seeded Cornell, coached by his old assistant, Steve Donahue.

That wasn’t the only instance on the basketball side, all you have to do is look at this year when Shaka Smart’s Texas team was paired against his old team, VCU, and Sean Miller’s Arizona team was placed in the same bracket as Dayton, coached by his younger brother.

Boy, they could have used that formula on the football side this year because they got the wrong 6-6 ACC team to face Temple in the Military Bowl in Wake Forest. They swung and missed on this one.

bowlgamephoto

It was a no-brainer to invite Boston College and old Temple coach Steve Addazio to the Military Bowl party. First of all, there is no love lost among the current Temple players for Addazio. Haason Reddick was not even allowed to take reps in practice under the Addazio regime. He will now be a first-round NFL draft pick or at worst a second-round selection.

The sight of that bald head on the other side of the Temple sideline probably would be enough to motivate even more Temple fans to go because there is also no love lost for a guy who was full of baloney the two years he was here. Addazio said Temple was his “dream job” and talked about how he wanted to stay in Philadelphia forever because he was an Italian guy who loved the South Philly macaroni. He never saw his third year and did the Owls a favor by leaving and taking his three-yards-and-a-cloud of dust offense with him. As soon as he got to the podium in Boston, he talked about BC being his dream job. A Delaware County Daily Times’ writer then came up with this clever line: “A football coach calling Boston College his dream job is a little like a chef calling  Boston Market his dream job.”

Instead of being sent to Annapolis on Dec. 27, Boston College was banished to Detroit to face Maryland the day earlier.

That’s too bad because the more compelling storyline is with a BC-Temple game and not a Temple-Wake Forest one. The ratings would have been off the charts because two large TV markets (Philadelphia and Boston) would be involved and not just Philadelphia and the small Raleigh-Durham market. Plus, there is a history between BC and Temple that dates even before the Big East. There is no history between Wake and Temple, other than one game played in 1930 that probably no one remembers. There also is a history between Wake and former ACC partner Maryland, so that’s a trade that benefits all four ball clubs.

It’s probably too late to send Wake Forest to Detroit to face Maryland, but it is a nice thought. While we’re at it, here is another one: Football should adopt the basketball version of the “eye test” because, if that were used, Temple’s wins over Navy and USF plus the championship of the sixth-best conference would have vaulted the Owls into the Cotton Bowl over a Western Michigan team that has no such credentials.

As far as Selection Sundays go, in at least a couple of important areas, football has a lot to learn from basketball.

Thursday: Elephant Hunting

Saturday: It Could Have Been Worse

Monday: The Clawson Cutoff

 

ECU: Throttle The Known

This was Zay Jones versus Temple last season.

A couple of great Temple coaches have shown at least there are two ways to build a respected program.

John Chaney did it in basketball by playing the best non-conference opposition and paying particular attention to stopping the player or thing that makes the opponent formidable. Matt Rhule has done it with a slightly less challenging schedule and not so much of a focus on the foe but on the “process” and not worry all that much about what the bad guys are doing.

attitude

Both have worked pretty much, but the Owls would be wise to take a page from old Doylestown Intelligencer colleague Steve Wattenberg’s terrific “Winning Is an Attitude” book about Chaney in preparation for an all-important game on Saturday night (7:30, don’t worry about TV, just be there) with visiting East Carolina. In that book, Chaney said the key to the Owls’ success was defensive preparation and “stopping the known over the unknown.” By that, Chaney meant studying what the opponent does well by taking that away and mixing in accentuating what you do well. Chaney would concentrate on taking away the opponent’s top threat and challenge lesser threats to beat him. On his side, he would yell at players who took shots when people like Eddie Jones, Rick Brunson and Aaron McKie (among others) could have had better ones.

That was a formula that took Temple to the top of the basketball world.

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It is a philosophy Rhule would be wise to adopt against ECU on Saturday. East Carolina wide receiver Zay Jones is good enough to hurt the Owls, but he won’t do it if the Owls’ can cover him with a corner and rotate safety Sean Chandler to his side of the field for help coverage.  That’s the known. If the Owls are going to get hurt, they should take away the known and challenge the unknown to beat them. If the unknown was any good, that guy would be talked about as a future NFL staple. Other than Jones, no such player exists on the Pirates’ squad.

If Temple football has had an Achilles’ heel over the last three or four years, it has been the occasional lapse in preparation as shown in this year’s loss to Army and other losses in the past.

The Owls had eight months to prepare for the triple option and came up with a defensive game plan that defied common sense, let alone football sense.

Sometime common sense in the best currency and that will be the case on Saturday night. Jones is the all-time Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) leader in receptions with 392. The old mark of 387 was set by former ECU standout Justin Hardy, now with the Atlanta Falcons. This season he has 151 receptions for 1,685 yards and eight touchdowns. With four more catches, he will tie the FBS single-season mark set by Freddie Barnes. You do not have to be Sherlock Holmes to figure out that the Pirates will try to get Jones going early. By rotating Chandler—who himself has terrific ball skills—over to help, the Owls might be able to come up with a pick six or two.

Sometimes, the “process” includes being able to borrow from other successful processes and the one the Owls should pilfer this week is from a guy who is a part of their own Acres of Diamonds.

Sunday: Game Analysis