Wayne Hardin made a bold proclamation last spring.Hardin spearheaded the “Mission Possible” initiative to maximize attendance for the football team’s season-opener against Navy at Lincoln Financial Field Friday.
Hardin, 81, has allegiances to both schools. He coached Navy from 1959 to 1964 before taking over at Temple in 1970. In 13 seasons, Hardin, the most successful coach in program history, guided the Owls to an 80-52-3 record.
He coached the Owls to consecutive Mirage Bowl appearances in 1977 (a loss to Grambling) and 1978, defeating Boston College. Both bowl games were played in Tokyo, Japan. In 1979, Hardin led the Owls to a 10-2 record, culminating in a Garden State Bowl win over California.
The Temple News caught up with Hardin to discuss the status of both programs.
The Temple News: How did you come up with the idea for “Mission Possible?”
Hardin: I attended the Bowling Game last year when Temple got [its] first win of the season. It was the first time I went to see a Temple football game in a while, so I thought maybe I brought a little luck with me. I looked around and saw the stadium was very sparsely attended. I thought to myself, ‘What came first – the chicken or the egg?’ So, I came up with the idea of putting 66,000 fans in the stands for the first home game in the fall. I figure with a strong fan base at every game, it would give the team more of an advantage.
After the game, I called [Director of Athletics] Bill Bradshaw and told him about [the plan]. I told him that I would try to get 66,000 out there for the season opener. I feel like we have a real chance to start a real program of supporting. At the [Naval] Academy, you can’t take one step without everybody saying, ‘Good luck’ or ‘Give it the college try,’ before a game. I want to see the student body proud that they went to Temple, proud to be a part of the total picture. And athletics is apart of that picture.
TTN: Why are you so confident about this initiative?
Hardin: I’ve long believed that it was possible to fill the stadium with 124,000 alumni living within two hours of the stadium, 10,000 students living on or near campus, and a large number of faculty and staff. Temple has to support Temple. You want to be able to say, ‘I was there and I supported the team.’
TTN: What are your thoughts on the direction of the football team?
Hardin: I want to start with President Ann Weaver Hart. I think she’s doing a wonderful job with the academics there. [Temple football coach] Al Golden?
He’s doing a heck of a job. The first year was tough because he didn’t have as much talent and he had a murderous schedule. He’s had two great recruiting classes. He’s got one more to go. I know he’s already got a commitment from a couple of guys who are doing well academically. That’s the sign of a good coach – to sign guys who are talented on and off the field … I think they’re going to do [well] this season, but I think they’re going to be great next season.
TTN: How close are you to the Navy program?
Hardin: Last March, they threw a birthday party for me in South Carolina.
Over 100 people showed up … This was priceless. Roger Staubach was there, along with some of my other former players.
Most of those guys are going to be here for the Temple/Navy game, same thing for my former Temple players. All of my players from both schools have bonded together and worked hard to get people in the stands for this first game.
TTN: What made those Temple teams you coached in the late-1970s successful?
Hardin: Good players. We had a good coaching staff and a good repertoire.
We started a reunion four years ago for kids who played with me on those teams. I wanted those teams remembered.
We made DVDs of that whole era. Most of them have those DVDs and they show them to their kids. It’s the type of thing that comes down to that word priceless again. My players were dedicated enough to come here. They could’ve gone anywhere but, like the old advertisement said, they could’ve gone anywhere but they chose Temple. It’s great to have them come back. I can’t wait to see all my players from both schools before the game. At Navy and Temple, we recruited parents first, education second and talent third. If you don’t keep kids in school, you can’t build continuity and that’s what Golden’s doing – building continuity.
TTN: Does the connection between
your Navy and Temple players come down to recruiting?
Hardin: Absolutely. They’re the same type of person. They could be [each other’s] brothers. It doesn’t make any difference where they’re from. They all came from good parents. They all came from good stock.
TTN: How does it feel to have Temple Alumni like Steve Joachim, Joe Klecko and Brian Broomell still actively involved with the program?
Hardin: We’ve had players support the program for a long time. It’s tough for them when we win four games out of four years. They don’t understand that, because they went through a winning program. They want to help. It’s not criticism, they just want to help. What they’re trying to do to help is bring 66,000 fans into the stadium and I think there is more awareness about this game then any other home game in a long time … You tell me how kids don’t go to a game where you can win a semester’s worth of tuition? If I’m daddy, my kid’s going to be there. He couldn’t tell me, ‘Well, I don’t like football.’ Well, there’s a chance for free tuition.
TTN: Which team do you show your allegiance to on game day?
Hardin: Sit on the Temple side during the first half and sit on the Navy side in the second half. I hope nobody gets hurt and the game goes into overtime.
I’m not for or against anyone. I’m for everything. I want to see two teams playing with respect for each other. I want to see Temple vs. Navy develop into a game people really want to see.
TTN: Do you ever get the coaching
itch when you’re watching the games?
Hardin: No, I retired. I did what I basically wanted to do in life. I’m very pleased, very happy and very proud of the kids I coached and I’ve never looked back on that decision.
TTN: Is there a message that you would like to get across to Temple students?
Hardin: It’s important for them to know that Temple football wasn’t always bad. It wasn’t always great, but it wasn’t always bad, either. We were once successful and we can be successful again if they come support the team. If they do that, we will dominate the Mid-American Conference. If they can get 30,000 students to attend every game, then they will dominate the MAC. Is that really asking a lot? I’m not asking every student to donate a million dollars for a building. I’m just asking them to go to a dang game. It’s not going to cost you anything if you’re a student. And if you’re not a student, it’s only going to cost you a few bucks. The best way to have a team that’s successful
is to have a large fan base that supports them at all times.
Tyson McCloud can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.