2013 has been a year of transition for the university – one in which many of the teams are in the midst of moving into the new American Athletic Conference. As the university has branded this season with the motto, “It Begins,” for seven teams, 2013 marked the beginning of the end for their respective programs. Here are the Top 10 Temple sports moments of 2013.
The biggest sports story of 2013 was also one of the biggest sports stories in several decades. The Board of Trustees approved athletic director Kevin Clark’s plan to cut seven intercollegiate sports effective next July: men’s gymnastics, men’s indoor/outdoor track & field, softball, baseball, women’s rowing and men’s crew. The announcement drew criticism from student-athletes, as coaches were blindsided by the news. Petitions have been created, and a number of teams have not yet lost hope on somehow reversing the decision – but Clark said no sport will be given an opportunity to reinstate itself.
Temple didn’t expect to be founding members of a new collegiate athletic conference, but that’s what happened on July 1. With a few exceptions – field hockey, lacrosse, men’s and women’s gymnastics, crew and fencing – every sport at Temple became members of the American Athletic Conference, a group of schools that place a higher emphasis on athletics than most schools in the Atlantic 10 Conference – where most of Temple’s programs previously competed. While this didn’t directly affect Temple as much as our top choice, without the conference move, the athletic cuts probably would not have happened.
Bill Bradshaw, who had served as athletic director since 2002, stepped down in June in order to give more attention to personal issues. Bradshaw’s departure led to the appointment of Kevin Clark as interim athletic director. Clark was later promoted to full-time athletic director during the fall semester, when his plan to cut seven intercollegiate sports was approved. Bradshaw led the university’s recent move to a new conference.
Even though the Owls didn’t make it to the Sweet 16, the team nearly pulled off a huge upset. In the second round, Temple knocked off North Carolina State 76-72, holding off the Wolfpack despite allowing 50 points in the second half. Two days later, the Owls fell to top-seeded Indiana 58-52 after having led by four with less than three minutes remaining. Khalif Wyatt was the catalyst in the two games, scoring 31 points each time, becoming just the fourth player in the past 10 years to score 30 or more points in both the round of 64 and the round of 32 in the same tournament.
Connor Reilly’s role as the starting quarterback was relatively short lived, as the redshirt-junior was replaced by freshman P.J. Walker in a game against nationally-ranked Louisville at the Linc. The Owls lost, but Walker established himself at the position and provided a spark for the offense. Walker would go on to start every game for the rest of the season, as coach Matt Rhule seems to have found his team’s quarterback for the foreseeable future.
The Owls were picked to finish last of nine teams in The American in the preseason coaches’ poll. They ended up placing fourth in the conference, going 3-1-4 in conference play and 10-4-4 overall, earning the same amount of wins in 2013 as in 2012 despite the tougher schedule. Led by sophomore midfielder Jared Martinelli, who totaled six goals and four assists – both leading the team – Temple exceeded all expectations in 2013.
Coach Amanda Janney’s team took the program to new heights this season, after a win against Penn State was followed with the Owls receiving the No. 11 ranking – the program’s first national-ranking since 2001. The team remained ranked throughout the remainder of the season, before falling to Connecticut in the conference tournament.
In another event that foreshadowed the athletic cuts, the university withdrew a proposal to build a new boathouse for the crew and rowing teams. Temple did so in a letter addressed to Parks & Recreation Commissioner Nancy Goldberg on April 30, saying that any further planning would be done through Visualize Temple and that it would not commit to anything at that point. At the time, Temple wanted to further explore the option of renovating the East Park Canoe House.
Brandon Matthews had a dominant year on the golf course, highlighted by being selected as an alternate for the 113th United States Open. With the Owls, Matthews finished in the Top 10 in 11 of the 12 events the team competed in. As a freshman, Matthews was named to the Atlantic 10 All Conference Team and was named the A-10 Rookie of the Year.
The volleyball team finished 18-12 in 2013, finishing the careers of two of the most accomplished players in program history – Gabriella Matautia and Elyse Burkert. Matautia totaled more than 1,200 kills and nearly 900 digs in her Temple career, while Burkert had more than 1,000 kills and 900 digs. The duo leaves behind big shoes to fill next season.