By Theodore N. Beitchman
You needn’t have been a Temple alum to have felt the rush during last week’s run-up to the Owls’ game with Notre Dame last Saturday night.
And, even though Notre Dame won that great game, 24-20, on a late pass to a Philly native, Roman Catholic’s Will Fuller, the glow is still radiating over the entire region for the terrific effort Matt Rhule’s kids made, for the sold-out crowd of almost 70,000 at the Linc, and for the positive effect the game and ESPN’s “College GameDay” coming to town had for all of us!
And that game took place during the Eagles’ bye week, so we were able to concentrate our attention, but not our angst, on the great year Temple has had.
No matter how they do the rest of the way, Temple’s football team is easily the best sports story in this sports-crazy town in 2015. And it is wonderful that all the excitement has spurred very real talk of construction of a campus football stadium on North Broad Street.
In a year when the Phillies were the worst team in MLB, the Sixers were the worst team in the NBA, the Flyers failed to make the playoffs in the NHL and the Eagles are transitioning to God know what:
Temple football is the story of the year in Philly sports!
Temple has not always been so cherry-red-and-white hot.
For, as Harry Truman once said:
“The only thing new in the world is the history you don’t know.”
Temple football, which dates to 1930 and includes coaches like Pop Warner, who took the Owls to the Sugar Bowl in 1935, had only a decade ago fallen Far from the Bowling Crowd.
So far, in fact, that in 2005 Temple’s board of trustees took a vote on whether to continue football at the 1A level. The result was 7-6 in favor with three abstentions, one of which was David Adamany the school president!
That fall, after the Owls were waxed 70-7 at Bowling Green, AD Bill Bradshaw fired coach Bobby Wallace, and after the season set out to find a great replacement.
Bradshaw and Temple had started to turn things around even before Wallace was fired. In 2003, with decrepit Veterans Stadium finally closing, Bradshaw and general counsel George Moore struck a deal to play that fall’s home games at brand new Lincoln Financial Field. The deal was signed two weeks before Temple’s opener with Villanova, a 23-20 double overtime loss before 30,000 fans, and the new venue would be an inducement for the next coach.
Then, in 2005 with an 0-11 record sticking in his craw, Bradshaw struck gold, literally, when he hired a hot rock defensive coordinator from Virginia to be the Owls next head coach.
“There’s no question,” Bradshaw says, “that what Al Golden did in the five years he was at Temple was monumental for the university and its image.”
Golden’s first three years were under water, starting with an 1-11 in 2006, but a 9-3 in 2009, including a loss to UCLA in the EagleBank Bowl, was followed by an 8-4 in 2010. As often happens with young successful coaches, the big boys starting calling, and Golden left for Miami.
“Al had done a fabulous job for us, but we all knew he wouldn’t stick around,” Bradshaw admits. “He had been interviewed by UCLA for the head job in 2007, but turned it down. And later he was a top candidate at Cincinnati and Tennessee. So when the Miami job opened he was a natural fit.”
And Golden offered to help find a replacement.
“We were convinced that we would get a nice bunch of replacement candidates,” Bradshaw says, “and when Al asked me who was on the list, I mentioned Steve Addazio, who had been defensive coordinator at Florida.
“Al said, ‘Steve Addazio wants to come to Temple? Wow!’ ”
Bradshaw did have a list of prospective coaches, “but Addazio stuck out,” Bradshaw says. “He was a cultural fit. He is a roll-up-your-sleeves gut with a lot of passion. He has a great work ethic, and he had been an assistant at Notre Dame, Indiana, Syracuse and Florida!”
Addazio — whom Michael and Maurkice Pouncey, stud linemen at Florida who are now in the NFL, used to call Addazio Vitamin A, as in, “We need some Vitamin A!” because he had so much energy — had a stellar 9-4 first season with a New Mexico Bowl win over Wyoming. Graduations decimated the Owls and 2012 was a disappointing 4-7.
And at 5 p.m. on Dec. 4, Addazio announced he was going to try to energize the woeful Boston College program.
Enter Matt Rhule, who has been the perfect replacement and one that Temple and all of us hope to keep in Philly!