If you’ve been to a women’s basketball game at the Liacouras Center lately, it’s hard not to notice one of the newest fans in the crowd.
Maybe it’s because he doesn’t quite fit in. He’s covered in golden hair. Sometimes, he drools. He really can’t stay in his seat and needs constant attention.
And make sure you don’t sit in the chair he sat in. You might smell a little. Well, actually, a lot.
Maybe it’s because he’s a 3-month-old golden retriever.
His name is Papi, and he has been supporting the team at home games since Jan. 30 when the team defeated Saint Joseph’s, 70-67.
Last month, the Temple University Owl Club held an auction after the men’s game against the Hawks. Those in attendance had the chance to bid on a barbecue with former men’s basketball coach John Chaney, tickets to Eagles and Sixers games, a weekend in Cape May – you know, the usual.
Fans were surprised to see “adorable puppy” listed in the auction brochure.
Surprise, surprise! The high bidder was women’s basketball coach Dawn Staley. She paid $700 for the pooch.
Temple may face some citations because under state law, only licensed kennels can put a dog up for bidding.
Regardless of the implications of bidding on a puppy, this dog has brought nothing but good luck and enthusiasm to the team.
On the night of his big debut, the Owls captured their 17th-straight Big 5 win. That game came down to the final seconds. Staley had been issued a technical foul. But the team was able to undo that mistake as senior center Lady Comfort hit a couple of free throws to seal the deal.
Papi presence: 1-0.
Two days later, the Owls played La Salle. I don’t think the pup made the trip up to the Tom Gola Arena, but he was certainly there in spirit. The Owls clinched their 18th-consecutive Big 5 win over the Explorers, 60-55. With that win, the Owls had won four straight city series crowns, becoming the first team in Big 5 history to do so.
On Feb. 6, the Owls returned home to take on Charlotte. In front of a crowd of thousands of local children and Papi, the Owls beat the 49ers, 66-53 on Dawn Staley Day. Senior guard Ashley Morris scored a career-high 32 points.
After Staley adopted Papi, the Owls went 4-0. Their first loss came against Xavier on Feb. 9 in Cincinnati. Papi wasn’t in attendance, though, so he’s not in the doghouse for that one.
It may take some more time and a scientific study to determine if Papi has some kind of mystical winning powers.
The Owls won their first home game sans pooch on Sunday against Duquesne, 74-66.
I’m not sure what this says about the pup and his sideline presence. Maybe his charm rubbed off on the team, and he knew they could win without him there.
Or maybe the team was just this good all along and never needed a charismatic pup. The Owls do sit comfortably at 15-11 and 8-2 in the Atlantic Ten, good enough for a first place tie with Xavier in the conference.
This may be the end of Papi at the Liacouras Center. But look on the bright side – you won’t have to check your seat before you sit down.
Melissa DiPento can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.