Upon my arrival to Temple this past fall I had extremely mixed feelings. In the first week I found myself scattering the campus to find where my classes were while being unable to stop thinking about what Temple sports would be like.
From the brisk fall to the gusty spring, a lot has happened in Temple sports, almost too much for me to absorb.
Division I sports is the real deal to me, having recently transferred from a community college with junior college athletics. But before coming to Temple this fall and prior to community college, I attended school at West Virginia University. In Morgantown I was a mere sports spectator and, being a freshman, was not allowed to write for the school newspaper.
West Virginia’s sports were the main attraction in town and reached fans across the entire mountain-clad state.
Attending a WVU football game at Mountaineer Field was an experience like none other. It seemed like everyone in the entire state, including the 20,000 students, would flock to Morgantown for each home game to cheer on the Blue and Gold. Students wake up at the wee hours of the morning to paint their faces and start tailgating in a football field sized dirt field called “The Pit,” usually between 7:30-8 a.m. Kickoff is usually at noon.
It’s definitely a sight to see. The 24,000-plus drunken students, gleeful children and die-hard alumni stand and cheer every minute of every game for a team that went 4-7 in 1999, my freshman year.
Try comparing that scenario to the present one Temple’s football team faces on North Broad Street … you really can’t, so don’t even bother.
Before I attended my first Temple football game I was expecting something big, from either the team or the crowd. The week leading up to the opening game against Navy was unbearable. All I could think about was how the team would be starting its 2001 campaign and how the Owls would be playing in front of a packed Franklin Field. I sat in the press box the entire game and from kickoff time to the final play I kept glancing at the crowd thinking more people would show and fill the empty seats.
I was wrong.
Temple sports gave me a bad first impression and from that day on I erased all expectations.
Volleyball had an interesting year. I became enthralled with the desire, work ethic and results the team posted throughout the season, all the while trying to figure out where the fans and students were, aside from the parents and boyfriends. Sure they had some crowds, but for their performances on the court, they deserved better.
When the basketball season rolled around, I stood calm. Expectations were soaring for both the men’s and women’s teams and I was eager to see where the teams would be come March. To my surprise, much as the rest of the city’s, the men’s team flopped.
Having been here only a year, it was incomprehensible to see a team I used to watch compete in the NCAA Tournament, and read about in the news, have a season go south.
Even when John Chaney’s squad staggered throughout the A-10 ranks and had its offensive no-shows, I at least thought Temple could keep the Liacouras Center packed.
Once again, I was wrong.
In my few months at Temple I’ve been preached to about how dedicated fans are to Chaney and his team. But when the Owls were at their worst it seemed like no one was there to see it, which could have been a good thing for them.
As the year and sports seasons progressed I realized how WVU and Temple are two different worlds and how unfair it was to compare and contrast both sports programs and the fanfare they receive.
But I can’t help thinking about how many times this year there was one of those “moments” in a sporting event and seemed like hardly anyone was on hand to see it.
Let’s be honest. When most people hear “Temple University” they associate it with a bad neighborhood or Bill Cosby. If not that, many link Temple to its sports programs and fans.
In the name of cheese steaks and cream cheese, Philadelphia really is not a college sports city.
Chris Silva can be reached at Cbsrican@aol.com