There are many reasons Peter J. Liacouras’ name hangs on the big sports building at Broad and Montgomery. Liacouras was president at Temple for 18 years. He tried to recognize as many students as possible and always greeted you with a handshake and a smile.
For all of his shortcomings with dealing with TUGSA (Temple’s Graduate Student Teacher Union), Liacouras was a people person. The University’s hire of Dave O’Brien as Athletic Director in 1996 followed suit.
O’Brien was a people person like Liacouras. He greeted you with a firm handshake and his Irish eyes smiling. O’Brien, who offered his resignation last week, led the program to success.
Under his watch Temple opened a 10,000-seat arena, designed a more attractive logo to boost merchandise sales, hired Olympian Dawn Staley to coach the women’s basketball team, and boosted football attendance from 4,000 to 20,000. O’Brien also strengthened community outreach with summer camps for local kids, bussing them here to attend basketball and football games.
O’Brien leaves on Feb. 15, but will stay on as an adviser for non-revenue sports.
Temple now has to find a person to lead the sports department, one to deal with a struggling football program facing its deportation from the Big East conference come 2004. And one to deal with finding a new place for Temple’s men’s and women’s soccer teams and baseball and softball teams to play (Temple sold the Temple Stadium site in Mt. Airy).
But this time around, it won’t be Liacouras’ friendly demeanor rubbing off on the new AD.
Comparing Liacouras’ smile and nature to that of President David Adamany is difficult, if not impossible. Sure, Adamany smiles, but his pearly whites look more forced when they come out of hiding. His dealings with sports at Temple, until recently, haven’t been much better.
I don’t take Adamany as much of a sports fan. When I see him at the end of the VIP seats at men’s basketball games he always seems to cheer at the wrong times, like he’s not sure what’s going on. Compared to Liacouras, who still attends many basketball games, Adamany doesn’t look like he cares to be there.
Adamany is a man that attempted to dump the Wayne State football program when he was president at the Michigan university. He’s a man that obviously doesn’t like a football program, or anything for that matter, that isn’t making money for his school.
But that’s not to say Adamany is a total bad sport. At his press conference to announce O’Brien’s resignation, he insisted Temple is interested in remaining at Division I-A in football and boosting attendance. He also said that Temple should build up non-revenue sports like soccer, lacrosse, field hockey and gymnastics.
Adamany has said that non-revenue sports, which get large subsidies from Temple, are important to student life here.
But the person that is hired for the position is sure to resemble Adamany more than Liacouras. They are sure to be someone more interested in money than anything else. Then again, that is what college sports have become. So a person with Adamany’s financial background isn’t a bad thing completely.
We’ll just hope that it’s someone with a handshake like Liacouras and the caring Irish eyes of O’Brien. A smile wouldn’t be bad either.