After avoiding Division I-A extinction, the Temple Owls found themselves without a conference to call home and a lot to prove heading into the 2005 season. Two games into the season, new uniforms and a new conference affiliation can’t cover the faults that have plagued the Owls since their last .500 season in 1990.
Experts took this past weekend as an opportunity to voice their opinions on the performances of the Owls. Gene Menez, a writer for Sports Illustrated, sees the Owls as a team caught in a very binding situation.
“Temple has an extremely grueling schedule and lacks the support that most college football teams depend on,” Menez said. “They’re a college team playing in a pro city [Philadelphia], a city already known as a difficult place to play in.”
Sports heavyweights ESPN.com and Sports Illustrated recently weighed in on the plight of the Owls. In August articles, writers from both publications considered the upcoming schedule virtual suicide. SI even dubbed this upcoming year as “The Cruelest Season.”
Other experts did not phrase their opinions so kindly. Ralph Bednarczyk, head of research at College Sports Television, questioned the foundation of the program and its attitude toward winning.
“Temple may be a Division I-A school, but they clearly lack I-A heart,” Bednarczyk said in a telephone interview yesterday. “Not enough people care about the fabric of these young men being put in this situation every week. A change needs to be made to alter the attitudes of the players because once losing becomes prevalent, the players are defeated before the game starts.”
Coach Bobby Wallace is currently in the last year of his eight-year contract. Bednarczyk was surprised Wallace was brought back to finish his deal, seeing as he had amassed a record of 19-60 during the first seven years of his tenure.
“The firing of a coach is a very difficult process,” Menez said. “In a world where wins and losses reflect the achievements of a program, Wallace’s time would have been cut short at many other programs.”
This past January, Temple decided to keep the football program at the I-A level after forming a task force that studied the feasibility of keeping the program.
After 13 mediocre seasons in the Big East, the Owls were booted and became partly affiliated with the Mid-American Conference, a move that also raised a few eyebrows.
“Why would the MAC invite them to their conference?” Bednarczyk said. “The MAC is on the rise and is one of the better mid-major conferences in the country. Teams like Bowling Green and Kent State play their opponents tough every week. At certain points during the past two games it looked like Temple just flat-out stopped trying.”
Last year, Temple gave up 70 points to Bowling Green. It was one of the five highest point totals allowed in team history. The most points given up by an Owls’ team was 96, in 1899 to the Franklin and Marshall Diplomats. The Diplomats are now a member of the NCAA Division III Centennial Conference.
The school’s worst loss in modern college football history is a 76-0 loss to Pittsburgh in 1976. The Owls posted a record of 4-6 that season, then the first time in six years they failed to achieve more wins than losses.
Nowadays, four victories would be a significant achievement for Wallace and the Owls.
Jeremy Drummond can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.