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Temple Can, In Fact, Go Home Again

The Big East expansion continues, and has taken the league into unpredictably uncharted waters: Temple, eight years after being voted out of the league, is in talks to rejoin the Big East as soon as this coming season, which would help the conference alleviate the scheduling nightmares that have accompanied West Virginia’s impending departure for the Big 12. The Owls would become the Big East’s eighth team in 2012, helping the league maintain its current seven-game conference schedule, and would be joined over the following three years by Memphis, S.M.U., U.C.F., Houston, Boise State, San Diego State and Navy, the latter in 2015.

It was in 2004 that the Big East, citing the university’s lack of competitiveness and institutional and fan support, voted to jettison Temple out of the conference altogether. The Owls won only 29 games over its 14-year tenure as part of the Big East, from 1991-2004, never winning more than four games in a single season and losing 10 or more games five times.

Less than a decade later, due to Temple’s recent resurgence and the Big East’s dwindling number of replacement options, the Owls are in talks to move back into the fold. The moral of the story: There are second acts in college sports, to slightly paraphrase F. Scott Fitzgerald. And you can, in fact, go home again. But what kind of home are the Owls going back to?

The only original members of the Big East still in the fold, as of today, are Pittsburgh, Rutgers and Syracuse. By 2014 at the latest, Pittsburgh and Syracuse will be part of the A.C.C., joining past Big East members Miami (Fla.) and Virginia Tech. Another original member, West Virginia, is already out the door.

If Temple doesn’t join the Big East until 2013, and the Panthers and Orange succeed in landing an early invite to the A.C.C., the only league member that will seem familiar to the Owls will be Rutgers, which has been mentioned in the past as a possible expansion target for the Big Ten.

So this won’t be the Big East that pushed Temple around for 14 years; it’ll be the new Big East, one that will be far kinder to a program that is currently experiencing its finest stretch play in three decades. Unlike its first run through the league, Temple should expect — and should be able to achieve — a modicum of success.

It’s a logical premise: Temple’s better, the Big East is worse. But there’s an issue with proclaiming the Owls as a bona fide conference contender: Temple, despite its recent climb, was unable to achieve several noteworthy achievements as a member of the MAC. That includes never winning any conference hardware of any kind, whether on a conference-wide or divisional level. In addition, the Owls never beat a MAC opponent with a record greater than .500.

Now, Temple is not Memphis; the Tigers are horrible with little hope of being much better, while the Owls are clearly a program on the rise. In fact, Temple, based on ability and geographic proximity, makes more sense as a future Big East member than any of the other non-B.C.S. conference programs added over the last six months.

The fact that the Big East is pushing Temple to join the league for this coming season seems to put to rest the idea that Boise State will become a member this fall, not in 2013, when the league goes through a major round of expansion. The Big East only has room for one addition in 2012; adding two teams would force each team to drop one game off its non-conference schedule, which can be a pricy proposition.

In addition, a move to the Big East would force Temple to adjust its future non-conference schedules. Temple is slated to face off against Connecticut in non-conference play in 2013. Two years later, the Owls are scheduled to play both Rutgers and Navy; come that fall, the Midshipmen will be part of the Big East.

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  1. jjncaa says:

    I don’t wanna be rude, but:

    South Florida
    Central Florida
    Boise State
    SD State
    (+ Navy)

    This is a BCS conference? Really?

  2. Evan says:

    I’m thinking more along the lines of “this is a conference? Really?” The Big East seems to be giving a big finger to geography.

  3. Matt R says:

    You forgot to point out that there isn’t a single MAC fan ANYWHERE in this great nation that is going to miss Temple. Well, thats not entirely fair: we’re not going to miss their D-Baggy Philly area fans (all 15 of them)

  4. Total Eclipse of the Smart says:

    God. Philly is just the worst, isn’t it?

  5. Dave says:

    The Big East is only as stable as the bigger conferences allow it to be. The ACC may be finishing up its poaching, but the Big 12 is only just getting started. At least 4 of those current/future members could be next.

    The whole idea of BCS/AQ conferences needs to be reconsidered.

  6. Parker says:

    Temple to the Big East does several things:

    1. It fills the scheduling hole created by West Virginia for 2012;

    2. It allows the conference to play a football title game in 2013-14 before Navy joins in 2015;

    3. It shores up BE basketball (along with Memphis) after the loss of Syracuse, Pitt & WVa;

    4. It adds the huge Philedelphia TV market (home of NBC/Comcast) to the football side of the upcoming negotiations;

    5. As the 10th all-sport school, it provides a buffer in case there are more defections to the Big 12 or ACC (you must have 8 all-sport schools to be a football conference).

    Temple football is 26-12 the last 3 years. They have struggled with attendance for years, but last year averaged 28K per game (a 40% increase). They beat 10-4 Navy in 2009, 8-5 UConn in 2010, and 8-5 Wyoming in 2011.

    As to jjncaa’s question, over the last 3 years only Memphis and Louisville have losing records. As a group, those 13 teams have won 293 games the last 3 years vs. 202 losses for a 59% winning percentage. They have produced 3 Top 25 teams per year the last 3 seasons.

    Compare the ACC at a combined 3-year record of 288-250 (53.5%) with Pitt and Syracuse.

    Then look at the ACC’s record in BCS bowl games the last 15 years and ask yourself who we should be talking about losing their BCS status????

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