Ron Costello

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Former Temple head football coach Al Golden went 27-34 in five years but had two spectacular seasons: 9-4 in '09 and 8-4 in '10. It bought him a ticket out of purgatory and a plush job at Miami.

Spectacular seasons? We're talking Temple, here.

Steve Addazio followed Golden and couldn't get out of town fast enough. In '11 Addazio went 9-4 with a trip to the New Mexico Bowl — a bowl appearance for Temple is like a foot of snow in June. The following year Addazio's Owls went 4-7, and he punched his ticket for Boston College.

'I'm gettin' the hell out of here.'

Before Golden and Addazio, Temple football was spotty. I like spotty, sounds better than disastrous. Spotty means Temple had some good years in the Wayne Hardin era, 1970-82, but started back downhill in Bruce Arians' six-year reign, 1983-88. 

Between Arians, the current head coach of the Arizona Cardinals, and Golden, Miami's head coach and former Penn State tight end, Temple football was a joke. It played in the Big East Conference against better teams like Syracuse, Miami and Virginia Tech. Then Temple added  Penn State to help an empty athletic till — empty because almost no one attended the Temple home games at Veterans Stadium.

Penn State - Temple was a match made in heaven: Paterno fattened up on easy wins, and Temple cashed in enough to help fray the costs of a bleeding football program.

In the nineties, head coaches Jerry Berndt, Ron Dickerson, and Bobby Wallace got hammered. That, and Peter J. Liacouras, embarrassed playing ball in an empty stadium, gave marching orders to athletics and marketing: Get some fannies in the seats.

So Temple did what only Temple can do best, it improvised. Unable to sell tickets, it designed a scheme to bus inner-city public school children to the Vet and gave them free admission. The rational was that on television, who could tell the difference?

It backfired because the kids didn't stay in the seats and ran through the Vet's concession tunnels raising hell. Temple quickly and quietly dropped the free busing program. I know this because I worked at Temple then and sat in meetings where the busing scheme was hatched.

Which brings us to the modern era of Matt Rhule.

The youthful looking 40-year-old coach is in his third season at Temple. His first, 2013, ended at 2-10 but consider this —  Addazio, on his way out, left Rhule with little or nothing. If Rhule had had a kicker, the 2-10 first season might have been 5-7.

In his second season, the Owls were a respectable 6-6. As a Temple football season ticket holder, I saw big improvements in just one year. And Rhule didn't waste time screaming at the kids the way Addazio did. 

In mid-season, I said to my son Matt, my Temple football game partner, "Matt, this guy can flat-out coach."

I'm happy for Temple's football future.

Now, Rhule is rhuling the Temple roost — with a stunning win over Penn State, 27-10, the first Temple win over the Nittany Lions since Pearl Harbor.

It could have been 30-10. Temple had the ball inside Penn State's 20, with a minute left. Rhule could have kicked a field goal, but he chose to take two delays of game penalties and run out the clock.

The following week on the road, proving the Penn State win was no fluke, Temple beat a highly regarded Cincinnati team, 34-26.

Obviously, Matt Rhule is a good coach. But considering its past, how long can Temple keep him? Schools will soon be lining up with their check books. Could Rhule turn down, say, for example, his alma mater Penn State in two years?

Would you?

Note: Temple hosts Notre Dame at Lincoln Financial Field on October 31. If Rhule can keep the Owls winning, the ND game could be his biggest victory.

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