Temple belongs in The American

Temple should avoid the temptation of joining a Power 5 conference.

Owen McCueOne week ago in Storrs, Connecticut, David Benedict was introduced as the new athletic director at the University of Connecticut.

During his introductory press conference, Benedict addressed why UConn belonged in one of the Power 5 conferences.

“This is a Power 5, or if you want to refer to it as an Autonomy 5, program all day, every day,” Benedict said.

The group Benedict was referring to is made up of the Atlantic Coast, Big 10, Big 12, Pacific 12 and Southeastern conferences. The schools in these conferences benefit from an increase in revenue and autonomy over legislation.

The American Athletic Conference, which both UConn and Temple belong to, signed a seven-year, $126-million television deal in February 2013. The previously mentioned conferences each have contracts worth $200 million or more per year over the next several years.

It’s easy to see why a school like UConn or Temple might want to bolt from The American and become part of this group if given the opportunity, but Temple should be wary if the opportunity presents itself.

During an Oct. 15 interview, Athletic Director Pat Kraft said he set the standard for Temple’s athletic programs by looking at the Power 5 schools.

“The only reason I compare to them is because they are winning and I want to win,” Kraft said.

Winning was a bit of a rarity for Temple’s programs in the first two years of The American. Temple and Tulane were the only two schools not to win a conference championship in any sport during that time period.

Temple’s football team went 1-7 and 4-4 in conference games during the 2013 and 2014 seasons, the first two years in the league. In 2015, the Owls didn’t claim the conference crown in football, but went 7-1 in The American and made a trip to the conference championship game.

This past year’s 10-4 season, which was tied for the most wins in school history, helped draw an average crowd of 44,159 to Temple’s football games, the Owls’ largest attendance since Temple moved to Lincoln Financial Field.

Temple’s historic campaign and the new attention it brought to the program helped draw support for a proposed $126 million, 35,000-seat football stadium for which funding for the design was approved by the Board of Trustees at a special meeting Feb. 8.

This team’s success would likely not have been possible had the Owls been playing in a Power 5 conference. Other football programs that have joined conferences like the Big 12 and the Pac-12 have not been able to duplicate the same success they had before the move.

The University of Utah, West Virginia University, Rutgers University and Texas Christian University all joined  Power 5 football conferences in the past five years.

Rutgers and West Virginia haven’t eclipsed eight wins since joining the Big 10 and Big 12, respectively. Utah went to its first Pac-12 championship game in 2015, the Utes fifth year in the league.

Only Texas Christian has won a conference championship. The Horned Frogs went to bowl games for eight straight years, winning 11-or-more games in six of those years, before leaving the Mountain West Conference for the Big 12 in 2012.

In its seven years in the Big East before joining the Big 12, West Virginia won nine-or-more games seven times and held at least a share of conference championship four times. Since joining the Big 12 in 2012, the Mountaineers haven’t finished higher than fifth.

The Owls’ success in The American isn’t even close to West Virginia’s in the Big East. If Temple were to move to a Power 5 conference, the Owls would most likely have to fight for a winning record instead of having their name in conference championship discussions.

As Temple’s plans for an on-campus football stadium continue, it will be important for the football team to win. Whether the increase in attendance is permanent is a bit of an unknown, but a winning team will keep fans in the seats.

Temple’s football program certainly has momentum going in its direction right now, however, with the way the Football Bowl Subdivision is currently set up, the Owls’ best to chance to win, whether that be a conference championship or marquee bowl game, is in The American.

Owen McCue can be reached at owen.mccue@temple.edu or on Twitter @Owen_McCue

Correction: In a print story that ran on March 8, it was reported that the Board of Trustees approved a design for a proposed football stadium at a Feb. 8 special meeting. In fact, no design was presented at the meeting, and the Board of Trustees approved funding for the design.

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