Owls hope to fill the Linc this year

Routinely playing in front of a sea of empty seats, the football team looks to boost attendance numbers in its NFL home.

The Philadelphia Eagles haven’t averaged less than 67,000 fans per game since they opened the 68,532-seat capacity Lincoln Financial Field in 2003.

Their co-tenants, the Temple Owls football team?

The Owls drew a record 28,858 people per game last season, an increase of 82.5 percent, to lead the Mid-American Conference in overall attendance.

That still left the Linc less than half full and left the Owls in fifth place in average attendance among the six college football teams (Pittsburgh, Tulane, Minnesota, South Florida, San Diego State and Temple) that played at NFL stadiums last year. (A seventh team, Miami (Fla.), joined this season.)

“We’re not in a position where we can fill a stadium or even come close to filling a stadium,” Director of Athletics Bill Bradshaw said. “But I believe as our teams get more competitive and are more successful, that students will want to come out more.”

The Owls did finish the 2007 season with an overall 4-8 record and a 4-4 record in the MAC, a definite upgrade from a 2006 campaign that ended with a 1-11 finish. Until the Owls annually compete for a MAC title or even a BCS game, it seems that giveaways will have to entice the students to come out.

“We will have a pregame tailgate in lot K with music and food for all games,” Scott Walcoff, assistant athletic director for marketing and promotions, said. “There will be special giveaways for the home opener versus the University of Connecticut [Sept. 6] and the game on Oct. 21.”

Temple’s athletic department will once again give away free tuition for a semester to one lucky student who attends the UConn game. The first 20,000 fans at the nationally-televised game versus Ohio in October will receive a pink thunderstick as part of “Pink out the Nation,” with ticket proceeds benefiting Susan G. Komen for the Cure.

On top of the giveaways, Temple also offers students transportation to and from the campus beginning two and a half hours before the start of every home football game. Buses stop at 1300 residence hall, Johnson and Hardwick halls and the Student Center. Riders are dropped off on the 11th Street side of the Linc. Buses pick up students at the same location immediately following the game.

Of course, if Temple’s football team played in an on-campus facility, giveaways and transportation might not be as much of a necessity.

“My opinion is that we should always consider anything that’s in our best interests, and in a perfect world, having your own football stadium close to where your students are is ideal,” Bradshaw said. “That’s certainly an issue for the president and the Board of Trustees. We have several years to go in our agreement with Lincoln Financial, so we’re looking forward to that.”

Ten more years, in fact. Temple signed a 15-year agreement in 2003 for an amount that Bradshaw said was “not insignificant.” Prior to that, the Owls played their football games at Veterans Stadium for 26 years, along with periodic stops at the University of Pennsylvania’s Franklin Field when dates conflicted with the Philadelphia Phillies schedule.

“Certainly, playing at Franklin Field would’ve been an option for Temple,” Bradshaw said. “It would’ve been a challenge, and maybe wouldn’t have been as attractive an opportunity for Temple football at the brand-new, state-of-the-art Lincoln Financial.

“But it would’ve been a fallback, and we did have discussions with Penn about it because the agreement with Lincoln Financial was solidified only two weeks before the opening game in 2003.”
The Linc, as it’s called by fans, provides the Owls with their own cherry-carpeted locker room, separate from that of the Eagles, giving it “a real Temple Owls’ presence,” Bradshaw said.

“[The players] love it,” he added. “That’s part of our recruiting trip. When student-athletes come in, one of the first places we take them is Lincoln Financial Field. It’s an important part of the recruiting process. No matter who they line up against, they can say that our building is the nicest that there is.”
It may be one of the nicest, but it’s not yet one of the fullest.

Jennifer Reardon can be reached at jennifer.reardon@temple.edu.

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