Bill Bradshaw once labeled it as Temple Athletics’ finest hour.
Then a freshman in Temple’s journalism program, I remember it differently.
Then-Big East commissioner John Marinatto announced Temple’s impending conference leap at Madison Square Garden on March 7, 2012. Exactly two months after Marinatto delivered that message inside the walls of America’s most hallowed venue, the three-year Big East boss resigned amid the turmoil that led to Temple’s invite in the first place.
As I remember thinking then, Marinatto’s exit was a red flag; a warning that this jump back to the Big East – after the conference kicked Temple out in 2004 – in place of West Virginia, which jumped ship in favor of the Big 12 Conference, wouldn’t shake out like it was supposed to.
Headed by Athletic Director Kevin Clark, Bradshaw’s successor, Temple’s varsity programs won a combined 147 games in the 2014-15 athletic year. Of Temple’s 10 sports that record wins and losses, eight of them posted improved records from last year, en route to a nearly 50-win improvement compared to the teams’ 98 combined victories in the American Athletic Conference’s inaugural season.
That total does not include Temple’s baseball and softball teams, though, which each won 15 games last spring before they, along with men’s gymnastics and men’s indoor and outdoor track, were axed from Temple’s athletic program in the summer.
While senior members of the athletic administration told The Temple News in October that winning national titles across the board is the department’s desired benchmark, some of its actions have not been conducive to a winning culture.
In the year and a half that has elapsed since the athletic cuts, two Temple coaches exited the university under precarious circumstances with minimal public explanation from Clark and his staff.
A three-sentence-long press release informed the Temple community that sixth-year Temple track & field coach Eric Mobley handed in his resignation, which took effect June 30 of last year, and thanked him for his service to the track program.
In late August, The Temple News published a seven-month investigative report uncovering years of mistreatment that included accusations spanning from verbal abuse and overall neglect to one case of sexual harassment within the track program under Mobley’s watch. Former standout thrower Ebony Moore filed a $10 million civil lawsuit against Mobley, Senior Associate Athletic Director Kristen Foley and the university following the neglect she said she experienced in her time with Mobley’s program. Her story was featured on HBO’s “Real Sports with Bryant Gumbel” in March as part of an episode tackling the negative aspects of collegiate sports.
Less than a week before Moore’s story aired on national television, former women’s gymnastics coach Aaron Murphy was fired along with his entire coaching staff after his nine years in charge of the program.
Prior to his firing, Murphy was suspended in February for “violations of athletic department policy,” but athletes on his team said that before Murphy was eventually let go, he was told he could resume recruiting and would be back.
“He was told by administration that he was allowed to contact recruits,” former team manager Lauren Smith said. “He was also allowed to announce to the team that he was coming back. I don’t know why they would tell us that.”
Other athletes who wished to remain anonymous told The Temple News in March of the confusion surrounding Murphy’s dismissal, and said several team members are planning to transfer in correlation with the coaching turnover.
Through my four years at Temple, I’ve witnessed this department shift from a mid-major athletic program in the Middle Atlantic Conference for football, and the Atlantic 10 Conference for most of its sports, to one that claims to have conference- and national-championship aspirations as a member of The American.
It’s also one that has failed to publicly acknowledge its interdepartmental issues.
If Clark and company achieve what they want to achieve, Temple has a sizeable alumni base that could hop aboard the bandwagon and support a successful program.
But as a student journalist who has seen department failures firsthand that should be remembered with any potential success, I’m not sure I’ll be among them.
Andrew Parent can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, 215.204.9537 or on Twitter @Andrew_Parent23.