Temple expects better results in Big East sequel

The Big East preseason poll was released, and there were the

Temple Owls, picked to finish in last place.

It was like 2004 all over again. Or 2003. Or 1995 and 1996.

Heck, pick any season the Owls played in the Big East their

first time around and the odds are strong that one of the worst

programs in college football history would be buried at the bottom

of the conference standings.

The Big East had plenty of strong reasons to shove Temple out

the door almost a decade ago. But there are just as many factors

why the conference reversed course and put out the welcome mat in


The Owls return to the Big East for the first time since 2004,

not, as the media poll would suggest, as the same pushovers that

put the program on the brink of extinction.

Under second-year coach Steve Addazio, these Owls are for real.

These Owls are proven winners.

”I always felt this would happen for us,” Addazio said. ”It

was a natural fit. The program was in the right direction for it to

happen. It was really, honestly, the right thing to do. It should

have happened, and it did.”

Bring on Pittsburgh and Syracuse and Louisville. Just forget

about those 62-0 losses.

There’s a heavy dose of optimism around the team thanks to a

string of three straight winning seasons, two bowls over that span,

and unanimous support of the program from the top of the

administration on down to the deep-pocketed boosters.

Oh, and don’t forget Addazio, a high-energy motivator, rallying

the team with his ”Vitamin Addazio” speeches.

He vowed the dark days at Temple are over.

”We had a run that wasn’t very productive for a while,”

Addazio said. ”It just all come together negatively at one point

in time.”

Talk about an understatement. The Owls had 10 seasons of one or

two victories spanning their Big East years of 1991-2004. The Owls

were evicted from the Big East after 13 years for failing to meet

minimum requirements for membership, most notably in attendance,

facilities and fielding a competitive team.

Forget getting voted out of the Big East, the Owls were almost

voted out of Temple.

The team received a second life in 2004 when a panel decided by

one vote to keep the program alive. Temple Athletic Director Bill

Bradshaw worked an arrangement to get the Owls in the Mid-American

Conference, but not before suffering more lean seasons.

The Owls found misery in two seasons as an independent – a 1-22

record, that included a 1-11 mark in former coach Al Golden’s first

season in 2006.

But Golden rallied the Owls in the MAC to four wins, then five.

Golden led them to a 9-4 record in 2009 for the first winning

record since 1990 and their first bowl game since 1979. Golden left

for Miami a year later and Addazio, plucked from Urban Meyer’s

staff at Florida, kept the transformation alive with a 9-4 season

and a win in the New Mexico Bowl.

With the Big East on life support, as members defected, and with

no long-term TV deal in place, the conference needed new members in

a hurry.

Enter a revitalized Temple.

The school bolted the MAC for a fresh start in the Big East for

football this season and all other sports in 2013. Temple’s other

programs, including men’s basketball, will remain in the Atlantic

10 this year.

”We’ve had a buzz since I got here and it hasn’t slowed down,”

Addazio said.

The university is putting the finishing touches on a $10

million, 15,000-square-foot expansion and refurbishment of the

football complex.

Up next, it’s time to decorate.

Addazio is putting his national championship rings from Florida

in a trophy case to wow recruits and Temple’s bowl trophy will find

a new home. Bradshaw said solid plans are in place for an indoor

practice facility and the Owls remain locked in to playing at the

home of the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles.

The Owls originally hoped home games at Lincoln Financial Field

would help attract top recruits. With the rare exception of Penn

State helping to pack the place, crowds are thin, and the dreary

atmosphere can sap the fun out of what the Owls envision as a

lively, 30,000-fan, home-field advantage.

”There’s absolutely no doubt in my mind that if we continue to

play well and win,” Addazio said, ”the fan base will keep rising

and rising.”

The coach also said, in three years, he’d, ”be surprised if

this isn’t a 35- to 40,000-a-game deal.”

This season will be tough, though. There are no expected

victories like in the MAC days and there’s a concerning lack of

depth. The Owls only return nine starters. Quarterback Chris Coyer

was selected the New Mexico Bowl’s offensive MVP, and Matt Brown

and Montel Harris form a talented backfield, but there’s not much

after them.

Before the Big East kicks off, the Owls open the season Aug. 31

against Villanova in the annual Mayor’s Cup game. Then it’s Sept. 8

vs. Maryland and a Sept. 22 game at Penn State, before the Owls

play South Florida in their first Big East game since a 34-17 loss

to Boston College on Nov. 20, 2004.

”I’m not delusional, I know it’s going to be tough,” Addazio

said. ”But I know we’ve got a group of guys that, if we’re

healthy, we’ll compete.”