Failing to achieve a winning season in eight years weighed on coach Bobby Wallace. Serving the team through its expulsion from the Big East Conference was a strain. Enduring an 0-6 season so far this year while watching his team get outscored, 297-63, has been tough.
But after announcing Monday that he would not seek to renew his contract at the end of the season, Wallace said, he didn’t drive home with that heavy feeling in his stomach as if the Owls had just suffered another defeat.
“This decision’s been kind of ongoing for a while,” Wallace said. “I mean, it’s not like it came out of the blue. It probably was more of a relief than anything.”
At the weekly media luncheon Tuesday, Wallace spoke openly about his decision to step down and of the sources of the program’s struggles. He spoke to the players in a team meeting Monday, he said, but did not receive much feedback except for a few individuals who came by his office seeking reassurance that their futures at Temple would be safe with a new coach.
The coach said he promised any new regime would look out for them, and the new man in charge would have every opportunity to succeed.
“I do believe the future of this program’s good,” Wallace said. “I can say that from the bottom of my heart, I believe it with all my soul, that everything is finally in place for somebody to have a chance to be successful.”
“That’s a big word, a ‘chance,'” he went on. “They’ve got to hire the right guy, he’s got to come in and hire the right coaches, they’ve got to do the right job. The things are in place for that the happen. And I want to see it happen.”
Until the evening of Nov. 19, after the Owls play their season finale at Navy, Wallace remains Temple’s football coach. Whatever pressure was eased by Monday’s announcement was offset by the realization that No. 7 Miami awaits Saturday.
The Hurricanes and Owls were once yearly acquaintances. In twelve meetings as Big East foes, the Hurricanes claimed victory every time. The last was a 52-14 Miami win at the Orange Bowl in 2003.
“When I say relief, it’s hard to feel relief when you’ve got the Miami Hurricanes in front of you,” Wallace said. “Maybe I shouldn’t have said that, because I’m nervous about this game.”
The beginning of Miami coach Larry Coker’s career couldn’t have been more different than Wallace’s. The Owls lost the first six games under Wallace’s watch before beating Virginia Tech in 1998, but the Hurricanes registered 24 straight wins to begin Coker’s tenure.
The first loss under Coker’s watch was a thrilling 31-24 defeat to Ohio State in the National Championship Game in the 2002 Fiesta Bowl.
“Temple’s played us tough a lot,” Coker said. “We’ve won the games, but they’ve played us tough. We have a lot of respect for the program Bobby put together. … We’re just going to prepare for a tough football game.”
Under Coker, the Hurricances have outscored the Owls, 134-35.