I know what you’re thinking.
Temple football? They’re terrible. They stink. They’re the worst team ever.
Well, if you said that three years ago, you may have been right. At that point, the Owls were in the final season of the tumultuous Bobby Wallace regime and didn’t win a single game. They were college football nomads, a team without a conference and a program without a direction.
But then, and perhaps it was the booting out of the Big East that finally woke them up, the University decided to change their ways.
They hired a coach who wanted to win.
Al Golden, previously the defensive coordinator for the University of Virginia, came to North Broad Street
late in 2005 with an actual determination to change the very facet of the program. He completely overhauled everything, basically starting from scratch and working his way up.
As an East Coast guy, born in New Jersey, playing and coaching at Penn State University before leaving for Virginia, Golden put his recruiting focus on the right side of the country. He also put a focus back in the classroom, making his players go to class and going as far as to send coaches to check up on
them to make sure they were in the correct place.
That kind of commitment to turning the program around is something fans, alumni, students and the rest of the country took notice of. Yet, for any of it to actually count, the results were going to have to be there on the field.
And at first, that didn’t quite happen.
The Owls won one game in 2006, the Homecoming game against Bowling Green. Yes, they were playing with a roster that consisted mostly of freshman, junior college transfers and holdovers from the Wallace era. Yes, not being full members of the Mid-American Conference forced them to play games they couldn’t win against the likes of Clemson, Minnesota, Louisville and Penn State. Yes, all of that hurt.
But the bottom line was: it was more of the same. Temple football won just one game. Again. So what else is new?
Yet, a season with few rewards didn’t deter Golden. With a full year to recruit the players he wanted and
complete membership in the MAC, the Owls actually felt that they had a decent chance to compete in 2007.
And compete they did. The Owls hung with Navy, Bowling Green and Army. They should have beaten Connecticut. Then, finally, all the hard work and tough losses paid off: they won a game. Then two. Then three. All in a row.
Temple football! A three-game winning streak! That literally hasn’t happened since 1990.
The Owls finished with four wins last season, their most since 2002. Four wins may seem small to most, but for a program that was kicked out of a BCS conference for failing to contend, it was a marked improvement and a giant step in the right direction.
Now, expectations are as high as they’ve been since…forever. People are legitimately saying “Temple” and “Bowl Game” in the same sentence, even though most preseason predictions still put the Owls toward the bottom of the MAC standings.
But the Owls know they still have a long way to go to change their reputation. They seem fairly committed to doing so, and this especially applies to Golden, who turned down the head coaching job at UCLA to remain at the helm of the Cherry and White.
Will they win more than six games? Will they make the MAC Championship Game? Will they give Penn State a run for their money on Sept. 20? These are questions that for the first time aren’t answered with a resounding “no.”
The Owls are no longer the laughing stock of the college football world. There is hope. There is excitement. There is interest. Finally, there is something to look forward to on Saturday afternoons.
Todd Orodenker can be reached at email@example.com.