It probably wouldn’t be a good idea to sit Patrick O’Connor at the same table as Steve Addazio should they be invited to the same holiday party.
O’Connor, the chairman of the Board of Trustees at Temple, is not too happy with Addazio, and that may be putting it mildly. Listen to him talk about Addazio’s departure for Boston College, and it’s clear O’Connor considers the move a galling symptom of big-time football’s growing addiction to money and its abandonment of the core principles on which universities have been built.
“I admire what the Ivies are doing,” he says.
O’Connor isn’t about to knock Temple down a level, get rid of scholarships and start scheduling Fordham and Lafayette as non-conference opponents. He spent too much time working to help Temple join the Big East to do that.
But make no mistake about it: O’Connor is irate. He is upset that Addazio left after just two seasons, to be sure, but the thing that has him the angriest is the growing money grab that is going on at the highest levels of college sports. Watching Addazio leave for a job in the ACC, which sits above the Big East in the conference hierarchy, reminds O’Connor that no matter what the Owls do—on and off the field—they will never reach the big-bucks upper echelon of the college sporting world. O’Connor now wonders whether all of the resources Temple has devoted to building its program might have been better employed elsewhere. In fact, he believes it’s crazy for all but a few dozen schools to have big-time aspirations.
“It’s going to come down to a group of elite schools—the SEC, Big Ten and Pac-12—that will separate themselves from the pack, and the rest will all worship at the altar of TV,” he says.
O’Connor is calling for a national debate about the role of athletics on campus. He wants presidents, provosts, coaches, professors and students to decide whether college sports should be allowed to continue their money grab—networks will pay an estimated $16 billion for rights fees over the next 12 years—in an attempt to market themselves through the accomplishments of football and men’s basketball teams or be forced to take a step back.
It’s clear, first with the Big East’s emasculation (Pittsburgh, Syracuse, West Virginia, Rutgers and Louisville will all be gone from the league by 2014), and then with the conference’s downgraded national reputation that comes from replacing the departed members with Conference USA and Mountain West expats that Temple’s dream of returning to football’s toniest neighborhood has been dashed. It sounds like O’Connor isn’t too upset about it.
“As long as we can compete in an environment that makes sense, we’ll do it,” he says. “We don’t want to play against kids who are going to go pro after their third or fourth years and are only athletes and not student-athletes. We don’t want to be a part of it.”
Temple is in the midst of its search for a new football coach, and O’Connor reports the schools is down to about seven candidates, with a short list of three set to emerge by Tuesday. One of the prime contenders is former Temple assistant Matt Rhule, and he should make the final round. Others mentioned are Miami defensive coordinator Mark D’Onofrio and Temple DC Chuck Heater, although several others are in the hunt, including Mario Cristobal, who led Florida International to its only two bowl appearances and is the only candidate mentioned with college head coaching experience. Whoever gets the job had better be ready to stick around for a while, because the Owls are not looking for another social climber who will leave as soon as a more prosperous program looks his way.
More than anything, the Owls want to find someone who understands where the program is going and what its role within the school is. O’Connor was one of those who saved Temple football early last decade and wants the school to have a team that students, alumni, fans and donors can enjoy. He does not, however, want to sell out the school’s educational mission in order to pick at the feet of schools with much different agendas. The new coach had better understand that.
“I want to get a person who is true to the mission of Temple and to strong graduation rates [a recent report indicated that 66 percent of players entering school in the 2005-06 school year received diplomas],” O’Connor says.
And if anybody forgets what the goals are, O’Connor will be happy to remind them. If all goes according to his plan, the next Temple coach will retire after a long tenure at the school, and the Owls will be able to field a strong football team that doesn’t compromise the school’s standards. It may be a difficult road, but O’Connor believes it’s time to change college sports’ current path.
“On our end, we’re going to start initiating a debate and see how many people want to participate in it,” he says.
Let’s hope many do.
- Don’t even think about it. Just because the Eagles won a game, Andy Reid isn’t coming back. Yes, Nick Foles looked great in Sunday’s victory over Tampa Bay, and the Birds showed some long-lost character, but even a four-game winning streak to close the season (sound familiar?) shouldn’t prevent Reid’s removal. Beating the Bucs was fun, but let’s not get carried away.
- It’s too early to assess Phillies GM Ruben Amaro’s decisions to add slap-hitting centerfielder Ben Revere and aging infielder Michael Young, but he is taking some real chances. Revere came at a steep price (starting pitcher Vance Worley and top minor-league prospect Trevor May), while Young is clearly on the downside of his career and didn’t do much better than the crew the Phils used at third base last year. (Some Sabermetricians will argue he was worse.) There’s more to come, so don’t evaluate yet. Believe me, there will be plenty of time to do that.
- So much for the Super Fight. Juan Manuel Marquez’s stunning KO of Manny Pacquiao Saturday night all but killed the prospects of a battle between Pacquiao and Floyd Mayweather, a showdown boxing fans had been craving for years. By arguing, posturing, bobbing and weaving, both fighters’ camps missed out on a huge income opportunity. Mayweather and Pacquaio may end up in the ring together, but the demand to watch them won’t be nearly as big as it could have been. Talk about your missed opportunities.