Coaching has always been a strength for the men’s basketball team at Temple, and a problem for the football team.
The jump from basketball legends like Hall of Famers Harry Litwack and John Chaney to former football coaches Ron Dickerson (eight wins in five years) and Peter Stevens (four wins in four years), is bigger than the axe ready to come down on the football program from the Big East. The conference voted earlier this year to kick Temple out at the end of this season.
Chaney will make his long overdue entrance into the Hall the first weekend of October. The football team, led by Bobby Wallace, will also be in Boston that weekend for a game against Boston College.
A trip into the Hall of Fame is a long way off for Wallace. His closest chance of making it into the Hall, it seems, is attending Chaney’s inauguration. But the fourth-year coach has proven in his past three seasons that he is more Pop Warner than Ron Dickerson.
Wallace has high expectations for the Owls this season, coming off of last year’s 4-7 record. With the Big East’s looming death sentence on the program, those expectations need to be about as high as Chaney’s status around the country.
If Wallace, who has improved the team steadily over his past three seasons, doesn’t see an improvement in record this season, he won’t be satisfied.
You can be assured the Big East won’t be satisfied, they may not be even if Wallace takes Temple to its first bowl game since the days of coach Wayne Hardin (80 wins in 13 seasons in the ’70s and a 1979 Garden State Bowl victory).
But Temple University has shown it has as much faith in Wallace as basketball players know they better be at practice by 5 a.m., play basketball and shut up.
Temple gave Wallace a three-year contract extension last November that will keep the Division-II champion coach (three national titles from 95-97 at North Alabama), at Temple through 2005.
Wallace is one of the top D-II coaches of all time, winning a record 13 post-season games and was named the D-II Coach of the Quarter Century in 1997.
Chaney had the same success in D-II at Cheyney State. He won 225 games with them in 10 years and won the national title in 1978.
Temple finally has a pair of top-flight coaches at the helm of their top two programs, even if Wallace’s D-I record isn’t ready to be compared to Chaney’s.
They’ll both be in Massachusetts the first weekend of October. Wallace will have to watch a Hall of Fame induction that weekend before playing a football game.
If you ask Wallace, the only thing he’s thinking about this season is getting out of the Big East’s doldrums and going to a bowl.
If you ask Chaney, he’ll tell you he never thought about the Hall and only about having a winning season this season, or that season, or any of his other 20+ winning seasons.
If you ask anybody else, they’ll tell you Temple has a legend in basketball and a rising talent on the football field.
Josh Cornfield is the Sports Editor of the Temple News. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org