Less than a month ago, the status of where the Owls were going to host the Villanova Wildcats was finally settled between Temple University officials and the Philadelphia Eagles brass.
And after much haranguing by both sides, an agreement was made. The Owls would rent out Lincoln Financial Field at $15 million for 15 years.
Temple is now the fifth school in Division I-A football to have a partnership with an NFL stadium.
The stadium deal is all part of a grandiose plan by Temple athletic director Bill Bradshaw, who is desperately trying to dress up the team’s image as a program on the rise.
The Owls were voted out of the Big East Conference two years ago after failing to reach certain conference requirements. Among them, having a permanent home field and reaching minimum attendance numbers.
Now all Bradshaw has to do is hope coach Bobby Wallace can will his squad into some success on the field in order to generate bigger attendance numbers.
The Owls christened the stadium last Saturday with an ignominious loss to Villanova, 23-20, in double overtime. Temple continued to show a lack of killer instinct and the ability to put teams away.
‘Nova coach Andy Talley said, “A lot of I-A teams don’t want to play us, and frankly, I don’t want to play any I-A teams.”
Losing to a Division I-AA team is unacceptable and deplorable, especially if the Owls want to be viewed as a legitimate program. If the Owls want respect, they have to earn it.
Temple loyalists can’t deny the Owls are constantly coming up short.
“Playing in this stadium is a big step forward,” Wallace said. True, but Saturday’s loss was also a huge step back.
Wallace asked rhetorically, “Will this hurt us as an overall program? No.”
Well, it doesn’t necessarily help it either.
That’s why these next two years are a watershed to the football program. Ousted by the Big East, they’re bereft of a conference in 2005.
Considering the circumstances, Wallace has done an admirable job, churning out three straight four-win seasons.
However, getting to a bowl game is the real goal and Wallace continues to stress this, but is it palpable in the next two years?
Last time the Owls were in a bowl game was 1979, and their last winning season was 1990.
Still, if Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese can’t supplant both schools and the conference shakeup continues, Temple might actually find itself in a better conference and a better situation once the dust settles.
Nevertheless, winning can change everything for the Owls and Wallace knows it.
It’s obvious kids want to play for Wallace, now they must win for him.
The future of the program depends on it. Knowing Temple has but two years left in the Big East, Wallace did well recruiting at the junior college level.
He was lauded in the off-season for having one of the top JUCO classes, nabbing 18 signatures.
During the loss to Villanova, Owl fans were raucous and supportive, proving that people will support the football team.
With just under six minutes left in the third quarter the Wildcats were inside the Owls’ five-yard line, threatening to take the lead.
The Owls made a goal line stand, stopping the Cats as the crowd roared at the inexorable effort.
If the Owls and Bradshaw wanted to see fan support, they got it last Saturday. They just failed to capitalize off it.
If they can prove themselves as a team worthy of seeing -which they still are capable of-then the fan support will continue. And with that, possibly, a new conference could come with it.
But if this trend continues, the Owls may never see the end of their lease.
Whether it’s the cavernous confines of the Vet or the brand new Linc, the Owls showed nothing has changed, at least for now.
Jason Haslam can be reached at Jasonhaslam@yahoo.com.