Just a few years ago, people would have balked at the idea of Temple football on national television.
The end of the 2005 season marked an all-time low for the program. No coach, no league, no wins.
Who would bother with Owls football? Fortunately, the “Golden Era” changed all that. In 2008, people are willing to flip the channel and check out the Cherry and White. Enough eyeballs to make tonight’s showdown with Ohio worthy of ESPN2.
“They don’t just put you on to do you a favor,” Director of Athletics Bill Bradshaw said. “It’s really a terrific opportunity, not just for us, but for the league. It’s also a very good sign that the significant progress in Temple’s football program is being recognized nationally.”
The Owls have already made appearances on ESPN Classic (Army), ESPNU (Connecticut) and the Big Ten Network (Penn State), but now they get the national theater to themselves. A Tuesday night game under the lights of Lincoln Financial Field means no other football or even baseball games to compete with.
It’s something new the Owls can get used to.
“It’s a great opportunity for us to be on ESPN, and let not only the people in the conference see us play, but it’s a great opportunity for the university to be seen on a national stage,” coach Al Golden said.
Commentators Todd Harris and Ray Bentley will inevitably mention the Owls’ revived play and even slim Bowl Game aspirations. Along with that, the stadium should be rocking with pink shirts, hats and thundersticks. The Owls for the Cure initiative has declared the game a “Pink Out,” with 10 percent of the proceeds benefiting the Philadelphia affiliate of the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation.
The players themselves are ready for the atmosphere and are gearing up as if it were any other game.
“We’re just looking at it as a regular game, a chance to better our record,” sophomore linebacker Eli Joseph said.
Junior defensive end Brian Sanford added that everyone has been practicing hard, and the team is ready to showcase its talents on national television.
The players’ cool demeanor is a direct product of Golden’s approach.
“In terms of our players, I know they know about it, I know the Ohio kids know about it, but I don’t think either coach will even address it,” Golden said. “I’m not really addressing it with our guys. I think they’ll be excited though.”
Win or lose, the night will be a big step in the right direction for the Owls. The spotlight should give the casual fan an idea how far off track the team was and how they have managed to find their bearings.
Since Golden took over in 2006, the team has gone 7-24, but more importantly, the losses have been competitive. Last-second Hail Marys and overtime defeats are a far cry from the 62-0 wallops of years past.
“They wouldn’t have selected Temple unless they felt the program was making significant progress, that the game would be competitive and that there would be people who would go and watch it,” Bradshaw said.
More people continue to take an interest in Temple football, and that demand means more national attention. If winning becomes routine, expect the ESPN family of networks to host the Owls more frequently.
The Nov. 12 game at Kent State could potentially be selected to be on ESPN2 or ESPN 360, depending on its relevance. Also, the Mid-American Conference Championship game will be on ESPN2, which the Owls can possibly play in if they ride a winning streak into December.
“I believe there will not only be other opportunities this year,” Bradshaw said, “but certainly in the future as our program improves and we get better, more people come to the games.”
Anthony Stipa can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.