Thursdayâ€™s news that the Big East is splintering apartâ€”something we have known for a while nowâ€”left a lot of Temple fans reeling. If the Owls are stuck in a conference with the likes of East Carolina, Tulane, Central Florida and Memphis, why even bother? Seriously, dual membership in the Mid-American and Atlantic 10 Conferences was better than this.
No, it wasnâ€™t.
Thatâ€™s the first thing everybody needs to know. Playing football against the likes of Buffalo and Akron stinks. And the A-10 doesnâ€™t look so inviting, now that it appears Butler, Xavier, Dayton and St. Louis are bolting the league to join up with the Big East splinter sect.
The second thing to remember is that this isnâ€™t over. Although these recent moves have rocked the area, they donâ€™t register on the national conference realignment Richter scale. Temple and plenty of other schools around the country must wait to see what the Big Ten, SEC and Big 12 Conferences do, before they can learn what their ultimate fates are. And thatâ€™s good news for the Owls.
The three Big Boys all have their eyes on the ACC, in some form. Rumors have surfaced that the Big Ten is interested in Georgia Tech (and the Atlanta TV market), Virginia and even North Carolina in an attempt to bring their ranks to 16 and concludeâ€”one would imagineâ€”expansion. The SEC has flirted with the idea of poaching Florida State and Clemson from the ACC, although Florida and South Carolina might block that move. If so, the Big 12 could look in those schoolsâ€™ direction. A lot will depend on whether Maryland, which is leaving after the next school year for the Big Ten, has to pay $50 million to gain its freedom. If not, an exodus could be close at hand.
Should the ACC lose two teams, itâ€™s likely that Connecticut and Cincinnati would be the next in line for conference membership. Both would drink battery acid to escape the Big East. Or, the ACC could look to Central Florida and South Florida, a pair of schools with attractive markets (Orlando and Tampa) and fast-growing enrollments. (Both could be at 65,000 students by the end of the decade.) If four or more teams leave the ACC, then Temple becomes a replacement candidate.
Thatâ€™s great news for the Owls, because their new cohorts are not the types of teams with which they want to cavort. It made sense to join up with Syracuse, Pitt, Louisville and Rutgers, when they were part of the Big East. This new crop of teams doesnâ€™t match Templeâ€™s academic mission and has a decided minor-league scent to it. Thatâ€™s not good for Temple. The Owls need to get out. Right now, thatâ€™s not happening. A year or so down the road, things could be different.
Despite the fact that Temple is hardly ideal, it still brings with it the Philadelphia market, and thatâ€™s big, particularly since the ACC doesnâ€™t exactly have a lot of Top Tier ADIs, especially if Georgia Tech bolts. The Owls have an excellent on-campus basketball facility, and they play in a big-time football stadium. For now. There are rumors Temple may have some stadium issues going forward, and that would be too bad. Letâ€™s hope the Eagles donâ€™t do anything horribly selfish and make the Owlsâ€™ situation at the Linc untenable.
So, Temple can market itself as an attractive candidate, but the Owls and their fans and alumni have some work to do. First up, TU needs to win games. A lot of them. New football coach Matt Rhule must get his team bowl eligible, every year. He must give fans a reason to come out and attract top recruits from the region. Temple football must be a thriving concern, if the school is going to entice the ACC to take a close look.
And itâ€™s time for alums, students and fans to go to games. For all of its complaining about how the media favors Villanova, the Temple community has done a bad job of supporting its team. Temple never would have been kicked out of the Big East in the first place, if fans filled the Vet, even halfway. If it wants to have any hope of getting into the ACC, Temple must show that it has strong support and look like a school that will represent the ACC well. So, fans had better not just blame the administration if things donâ€™t go the way they want them to go. Temple has more alumni than other schools in the area. If they went out to games, the school would be far more attractive to suitors. In other words, stop complaining about your lot, Owls fans, and get your butts to games. Itâ€™s ridiculous that Temple canâ€™t sell out the Liacouras Center for nearly every game, when the team has played in five straight NCAA tournaments and is on track for a sixth. And spending a football Saturday tailgating and watching an Owls game is a fun time. Believe me, I know. And I didnâ€™t even go to Temple.
The present doesnâ€™t look great for the Owls, but that doesnâ€™t mean the future is bleak. Temple wants to be part of the ACC, and itâ€™s likely the opportunity will present itself. The question is whether the Owls will be ready. Their teams must be successful, their fans must be invested, and their administration must look and work like a BCS conference school. The time for complaining is over.
Itâ€™s time to take a step forward. Are you ready, Temple?
â€¢ So, LeSean McCoy is a staunch Michael Vick supporter, is he? Good for you, Shady. Letâ€™s see how happy you are when Vick is completing 58 percent of his passes, turning the ball over way too much, freelancing at a furious rate and displaying little of the durability necessary to play QB in the NFL. In other words, playing like he did last year.
â€¢ Doug Collins is a grind. I wrote that in this space when he was hired. But he is absolutely right that the Sixers have quit. They quit last year before the Bucks folded and handed the 76ers a playoff spot. Blame that on Collins if you want, but it says more about the caliber of player on the roster. This year is a debacle, and itâ€™s up to the teamâ€™s execs to fix it by bringing in quality players who are tough and want to play.
â€¢ Villanovaâ€™s NCAA tourney chances need a significant boost, thanks to a pair of tough losses. One can forgive the overtime defeat at Pittsburgh Sunday, but giving one to Seton Hall last Monday was not good at all. Now, the Wildcats must dump Georgetown Wednesday or face the unenviable prospect of having to win at least two games in the Big East tourney next week. (Even with a win, the â€˜Cats may still have to win two in New York.) Inconsistency and an inability to close games out have been crippling for the â€˜Cats, who confront a tough test in the league-leading Hoyas.