Lewis Katz wants you to support Temple athletics. He wants you to support Temple athletics so much, he is willing to put $10,000 on it.
Katz, a member of Temple’s Board of Trustees since 1998, has fronted the money for a competition soliciting suggestions on how to increase student, community and alumni attendance at the university’s athletics events. You have to like his intentions, even as you sit at home on game night.
Katz himself has a story that is compelling enough. He was born in Camden before the city traded its blue collar for a reputation as Philadelphia’s troubled, drug-addicted little brother. He lost his father before he knew enough to know it wasn’t the way it was supposed to be. He got into Temple in the late 1950s, back when Temple was more a regional correctional facility than a top-flight research institution. In the version told by the university, it was after Temple that things straightened out for Katz.
He was a local boy made good. He graduated from Temple, if not with the best grades, then with a better understanding of the world. He went to law school. He started a law practice. He opened a business and then a bank. He made money. He made lots of money.
The same year he became a trustee, Katz, with college buddy Bill Cosby and other investors, bought the New Jersey Nets and then the New Jersey Devils. He bailed on the Nets in recent years, selling most of his ownership to the group that is bringing the team to Brooklyn, and then perhaps got bored.
He has now set his sights on Temple sports. If he can’t get you to go, at least you can tell him why you won’t.
If you send 500 words on how to increase attendance at Temple games to firstname.lastname@example.org by Feb. 13 and your idea is the best, you’ll become $5,000 richer. Moreover, $3,000 goes to second place, $1,000 to third place and $500 to two other finalists.
Katz might be coming at the right time. Aside from an increase in 2003-2004, attendance at men’s basketball home games is on an eight-year decline, down to a 4,300-person average last year. On Saturday, in a last-second loss to St. Joe’s, the men played in front of a packed Liacouras Center, and halfway through their home schedule this year attendance is up, but turnout often declines as the season wears on and chances of postseason play diminishes.
Elsewhere, despite winning four Atlantic Ten Championships in the past six years, women’s basketball attendance has never been of note, our football program has challenged the notion of theirs being a revenue sport and, otherwise, there aren’t any other Temple fan bases sizeable enough to merit mentioning. Katz wants to change that.
If you have ideas, send them to Katz and get paid. Or watch the turnstiles rust.