It’s easy to see the face lift that Temple’s Main Campus is undergoing. Construction zones are scattered throughout. From the Avenue North housing project at the corner of Cecil B. Moore Avenue and Broad Street to the construction of the new Tyler School of Art at the north end of campus, these things are everywhere.
But up in the northeast corner of campus, new football coach Al Golden has led some major reconstruction on both Edberg-Olson Hall and the football program itself.
Golden laid the foundation for his reconstruction of Temple’s football program when he announced the Owls’ recruitment class last week, his first as head coach of the struggling program. The new coach brought more National Signing Day excitement to Temple than it had experienced in years.
In just two months on the job, Golden has brought a complete change in attitude to the program. He has also remodeled the interior of the team’s practice facility at Edberg-Olson Hall, overseeing the addition of Temple football-themed murals displaying the Philadelphia skyline and Lincoln Financial Field.
A sign asking his players ‘What have you done to win the MAC today?’ adorns a nearby wall, begging more of his players to achieve success in the Mid-American Conference.
It’s obvious that Golden is excited to be in Philadelphia and wants his players to feel the same way. He loves Lincoln Financial Field, and craves the city’s passion for its sports teams. Golden said Philadelphia gives him a major advantage in building a team comprised mostly of local talent, his ultimate vision for the team’s geographical demographics.
Golden won’t accept failure. He scoffed at recruits who worried about the Owls’ poor win-loss history, saying he and his staff weren’t around during those troubled seasons. Golden said he’s never been associated with a losing team. He won’t allow such a perception to begin (and persist) while he is on Temple’s sidelines.
But Golden’s most glaring trait is his confidence. No, make that his overconfidence.
It’s almost needless to say that overconfidence has not been a problem with this football team for a long, long time. It’s difficult to be overconfident when the Owls finished their 2005 season winless for the first time in 46 years, all while suffering their 15th consecutive losing season.
However, Golden brings with him the high level of confidence this team has lacked. On National Signing Day last week, members of the media were handed a booklet of Golden’s committed recruits. Right on the cover was a phrase that punctuated the new coach’s ambition for Temple football’s future. It read: ‘Hunting a MAC Championship.’
The words ‘championship’ and ‘Temple football’ in the same sentence? Wouldn’t just a few wins be nice? Or maybe even a .500 season?
Golden isn’t interested in simply improving upon the Owls’ dismal past. He has his eyes set on the bigger prize, even if the Owls aren’t technically eligible to win the MAC Championship until they become full members of the conference before the start of their 2007 season.
But it’s more than that. Golden absolutely believes the Owls can win a MAC crown in the near future. He boldly proclaimed that his new recruits have the chance to take part in “a program that’s going to have the greatest turnaround in the history of college football.”
As outlandish as his claims sound, this is exactly what the Owls need.
Bold statements like this were few and far between during former coach Bobby Wallace’s eight-year tenure. By the end of last season, it seemed like Wallace was just coaching to coach, waiting for the season to come to its eventual conclusion. Golden has changed the Owls’ attitude, taking it from trying to win, to expecting a win.
Golden gives the Owls someone to rally behind. When a coach displays confidence, it tends to rub off on the players. And confidence is desperately needed on this team.
Right now, talk is exactly that: talk. A coach can jabber all he wants, but ultimately, Golden’s program will attain value by what product takes the field on Saturdays.
Golden’s first recruiting class is impressive considering the little time he had to establish a recruiting system and actually make serious runs at student-athletes. The class is not typical of Temple’s recent recruiting classes.
But the value of this class cannot be fully evaluated until the end of next season. By then, it will be apparent whether the Owls bought into Golden’s attitude adjustment or just played to play.
John Kopp can be reached at email@example.com.