OWLS SUCCESS ON THE FIELD ENABLES THEM TO CAPITALIZE IN RECRUITING WARS.
The initial rating on Temple’s recruiting season was not good. Some ratings services had them as sixth in the AAC. Sixth! I’m not sure which ratings service gave them the grade but my initial reaction to it was disappointment. Deep disappointment.
I had been so looking forward to seeing Temple sustain the success they had on the field in 2015.
After years of watching Temple put a wretched product on the field I saw this season as a springboard to recruiting success. I distinctly remember thinking after the Notre Dame game how far it was going to go towards recruiting success. I was pumped for signing day this year. This was going to be exactly what the Owls needed to do. Sustain all the hard work they put in on the field under Matt Rhule and cash in.
My fear going into recruiting season was that somehow, someway, the Owls would blow it. It wouldn’t be surprising given the Owls past.
In 2010 Al Golden led the Owls to an 8-4 record a year after leading them to a nine win season and a berth in the Eagle Bank Bowl where they lost to UCLA 30-21. Golden used that success to land the head job at Miami. Temple then had to start over with a new head coach in Steve Addazio. Addazio kept the ball rolling leading the Owls to a 9-4 record and a win in the New Mexico Bowl where they beat Wyoming 37-15.
It had appeared that Temple had turned the corner and was on their way to consistent respectability.
Golden had built his success while mostly in the MAC and it looked like Temple had found a great fit for what it was trying to achieve on the football field. I had thought it was a great fit too. Since 1991 when Temple joined the Big East the Owls had been banging heads with the likes of Miami, West Virginia, Pitt, Boston College, Syracuse and Rutgers. The Owls could not compete with those schools on the field and more importantly, in the recruiting wars. So when the Owls joined the MAC it was more in tune with their recruiting level.
As much as the Big East was known as a basketball conference, since 1991 when Temple joined the Big East for football only it was more of a football conference. At least that was how it was aligned for football. Sure the Big East was still primarily know for it’s hoops but the alignments were different for football and basketball and the sad fact was that Temple probably accepted the invite with the hopes of one day being accepted for basketball for which they were a better fit.
Temple recorded thirty wins from 1991 until they were unceremoniously kicked out of the conference after the 2004 season. Miami had thirty two wins in the first three years in the conference. It was just not feasible to ask Temple to compete with those teams on or off the field.
Temple competed as an Independent in 2005 but their fortunes turned around in 2006. It wasn’t on the field that the transformation occurred but rather in the hiring of Golden. It was also when they were accepted into the MAC for football starting in the 2007 season. Instead of the Hurricanes of Miami, Fl it was the RedHawks of Miami, Oh the Owls were taking on both on the field and in recruiting. This didn’t automatically make Temple a winner. There was still a lot of work to do to even get up to the level of the likes of Central Michigan and Northern Illinois but at least the field was getting a bit more level.
By 2009 the Owls had made it to the MAC Championship game and although they were beaten by Central Michigan it looked as though they had found their niche in every way possible. Golden had turned the culture around on the field, in the classroom and in recruiting. Now the Owls were getting more consideration from kids who normally would have laughed when the Owls came calling.
Then Al Golden made what would turn out to be the worst career move possible going to a Miami Hurricanes program that was on the cusp of destruction. All you have to do is watch ESPN’s 30 for 30 presentation of “The U Part 2” to understand how that played out.
It remained to be seen if Addazio could keep up the momentum that Golden started and there was another variable that Temple’s administrators threw into the mix.
Temple had decided to leave the MAC and rejoin a reconstituted Big East. This was a different Big East though. Gone were Miami, West Virginia, Boston College and Virginia Tech. In were Louisville, Cincinnati and South Florida. The only schools remaining were Rutgers, Pittsburgh, Syracuse and UConn and that would only last a year before Pitt and Syracuse would leave for the ACC and a year after that Rutgers would bolt for the Big Ten.
Addazio sustained the momentum Golden started for one year in the MAC but when the Owls joined the Big East they fell back to 4-7 and at that point Addazio himself bolted for his hometown Boston College Eagles.
In came Matt Rhule but out was the Big East and in was the newly formed American Athletic Conference. The most important thing to know about that was that it wasn’t a part of the “Power Five”. The Power Five were the five conferences who would ultimately decide college football’s national champion.
Anyway, Rhule started out 2-10 but that may have been as much a reflection on Addazio’s recruiting ability as much as it was a reflection on Rhule’s coaching ability.
Matt Rhule had been with Golden when Golden came to Temple. He had seen what Golden was up against when he came to Temple and although the job he had wasn’t nearly as daunting as the one Golden faced the fact of the matter is that Temple was again sliding backward and his job was to stop the bleeding.
Rhule got the program back to even in 2014 but more importantly he had turned around the mindset of losing. That season may have been even more important than last year in terms of Temple getting the program back on track. If Temple had posted another losing season in 2014 then the attitude going into Spring practice last year would have been totally different. I seriously doubt if the Owls would have had the confidence to beat Penn State and if they lose another one to the Nits the whole season would have turned out different. I don’t think the Owls would have thought they should be on the same field as Notre Dame let alone be winning the game in the fourth quarter before ultimately losing on Roman Catholic product Will Fuller’s TD catch in the waning minutes of the game.
So now we flash forward to National Signing Day 2016. This is the payoff and I see the report rating the Owls sixth in the AAC. Sixth! How could this be? How could they blow everything they did on the field the last two years and especially last year. All that good will gone. This cannot be right! Thankfully it wasn’t.
The Owls ultimately ended up with the second ranked recruiting season in the AAC. Houston coming off a spectacular season in winning the AAC and getting the opportunity to play in one of the New Years Six Bowls was ranked first in the conference. It ended up playing out the way it was probably supposed to all along.
The Owls recruiting class ended up ranked 57th by 247Sports, 59th by Rivals and Scout had them ranked 76 somehow. Houston was ranked about 15 spots higher by all the services. Scout had Houston ranked lower in their ratings so I’m not quite sure how they do their ratings.
The crown jewel in Temple’s class was Karamo Dioubate from Prep Charter. He was recruited by all the big boys in the country and I had stood next to him at last year’s City Championship game against Neumann-Goretti and he is a mountain of a man.
Temple also did well in the state grabbing 10 of the top 50 recruits in Pennsylvania.
Would I have liked to have gotten Naseir Upshur and Johncarlo Valentin of Imhotep Charter who went to Florida State and Oklahoma respectively. Sure, but I can safely say that at least in Valentin’s case he looked hard and long at Temple. Anthony Russo had LSU Head Coach Les Miles at his house a couple of days after Russo de-committed from Rutgers and although he didn’t offer Russo at the time he did want him to visit the campus. Who knows what happens if he goes down to Baton Rouge? Ultimately Russo chose the Owls.
So what is the next step for Temple? Sustain the success. Temple doesn’t have a Notre Dame on the schedule next year but they do have Penn State again at the Nits place this time. Two straight against Penn State will go a long way in securing at least some of those guys like Imhoteps’s Shaka Toney who chose Penn St this year. If Toney was a senior next year instead of this year and he sees the Owls win two straight against the school he’s looking hard at then he has to wonder if maybe Temple isn’t the place to be.
Other than that Temple would serve itself well by winning their division in the AAC again. Back to back sounds nice and even better to go along with the conference championship and a NewYears Six invitation.
As for an on campus stadium, I don’t know how much of an advantage that would give them. Sure, it would look nice if the place you call home is more than a quarter full but whether the cost is worth it that remains to be seen. If you build it will they come? I wonder if a half filled smaller stadium is better than a quarter filled Lincoln Financial Field. That is another thing that remains to be seen.
In the meantime if the Owls just take care of what they have to take care of on the field that will lead to success off the field in recruiting and then the ball just keeps on rolling. Success breeds success.