The Temple Owls will be rejoining the conference that once turned a cold shoulder to their hapless football program, but oh how the times have changed. The Big East and Temple are getting back together under a new set of circumstances. Now the hope is that this news will somehow generate some buzz for the conference, especially in the Big East’s presence in Philadelphia, the nation’s fourth largest media market.
By now you know the basics. The Big East will add Temple football in 2013, essentially taking West Virginia’s spot in the schedule, and the rest of Temple’s athletic programs will follow in 2013. According to a few reports on Wednesday, the Big East will cover the exit fees requested by the MAC (that means Villanova is helping Temple make the move in 2012, the irony!). So we can all start getting used to the idea of Temple playing in the Big East. It’s done.
There is no question that this is a great day for Temple as a school, athletic program, its fans, student athletes and alums. After being voted out of the Big East in football not all that long ago, the program rededicated itself to funding the program and making necessary improvements, perhaps for the chance that a conference may come along seeking their membership. It just so happened the Big East made the call in time. Without question, this is a fantastic move for Temple, with a step up in competition and revenue in football and basketball, why wouldn’t Temple want to be in this equation?
The challenge will be for Temple to sell the Philadelphia sports fan on this, and that could be more difficult than even Temple might want to admit.
Take a look at the photo above. That was taken last November, with Temple still making a run for a MAC East division title, during the game. As you can see, plenty of seats are still available at Lincoln Financial Field.
Look, Temple is not going to fill a 60,000 seat stadium any time soon, even with a move to the Big East, but they are improving at a gradual rate. Temple will get Penn State to help boost attendance every few seasons, and Notre Dame is scheduled for a trip in the next few years, but are fans going to pack the Linc to see Louisville, Cincinnati or Connecticut? What about Houston, Central Florida or San Diego State and Memphis? Heck, even Boise State will be a tough sell to the fans in Philadelphia.
Why is this? Because Philadelphia is a pro sports fan, and college football takes a back seat to just about anything going on with the Eagles and Phillies. Believe me. As a long time college football nut the lack of college football awareness in this region, except for a few noted exceptions, has always been a pet peeve of mine. Nobody here is breaking down the Temple starting quarterback competition when we can be bothered with the probable decline of Chase Utley and Andy Reid’s lack of clock management awareness. We have priorities, yo!
I hope that Temple finds a way to sell this area on college football, I really do. Nothing would please me more than to know that college football is something that the Philadelphia region actually cares about on Saturdays. Unless you are a Penn State, Notre Dame or Pitt fan in this area, there are few people who will bother with the sport except for the occasional Rutgers or Syracuse fan.
I’m not talking about the one-game a year to inflate the attendance numbers either. Temple needs to find a creative way to get this region excited about the new opponents the Owls are going to be facing on a regular basis. They need to find a marketable way to sell this area on the sport of college football
The good news is Temple has plenty of alums in the region, so there is a foundation to work off of. Temple is not some small school with about 15,000 students, which some people will sometimes forget. Temple has over 35,000 undergraduate students and is one of the largest schools in the Keystone State (Penn State is slightly larger, but Pitt is about half as large).
Will 60,000 show up on Saturdays? No. But will 30,000? 35,000? These are more realistic numbers to be shooting for at Temple, and that would be a great accomplishment for a program once thrown on the curb.
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