Thursday, March 31, 2011

Addazio's first 5-star recruit: Urban Meyer

Steve Addazio and Urban Meyer: Reunited and it feels so good.

When Steve Addazio got the head coaching job at Temple, I was one of the first to post my reservations. I wanted someone who had been a head coach somewhere else before Temple, not someone who had to learn on the job.

The next day I got an email from a search committee member who shall remain nameless.

"Mike, this guy is a dynamo, you are going to love him," the person wrote. "After he spoke, we all were sitting there in the room with our mouths wide open. Mark my words. As surely as he sold us, he's going to sell 5-star recruits into coming to Temple."

Well, signing day came and went and there were no 5-stars in sight.

Yesterday, though, that all changed when Addazio announced former Florida head coach Urban Meyer was going to join Temple's staff in an as yet-to-be-determined capacity. He's Addazio's first five-star recruit.

"Urban and I are best friends," Addazio said. "I kid him. He kids me. After I hired Chuck (Heater, defensive coordinator) and Scot Loeffler (offensive coordinator), I said, 'Let's make this an all-Gator staff. Why don't you join me?'

"He just laughed. A couple of weeks ago he asked how he could help. He'll be living in New York in the fall but ESPN needs him only on Friday and Saturday. He said he'd be free to help us at least three days a week.

"I'd be nuts not to take him up on it, so he's going to come down to Philly and work with us three days a week."
"He'll be living in New York in the fall but ESPN needs him only on Friday and Saturday. He said he'd be free to help us at least three days a week."
Someone asked Addazio what Meyer's title could be.

"I don't want to call him an assistant coach," Addazio said. "That wouldn't seem quite right.

"We thought about a title like 'Quality Control Specialist' and that sounds like he's working for General Electric. We're a football team, not a company, so I rejected that. Then someone mentioned 'Czar of Football Operations' and I thought that sounded old world and I rejected that.

"Maybe we should open up a title contest for the fans. We'll figure it out. When I mentioned the idea of a contest to Scott (Walcoff) in promotions, he said sure. He also asked what I thought of changing the name of Oscar Meyer Dollar Dog Day to Urban Meyer Weiner Day. I said I'd have to think about that one."

Already, Addazio knows how a typical Urban Meyer Day at Temple will go.

"He's going to get off the train at 10th and Diamond and two Temple police officers are going to greet him there and walk him down the steps to the complex.

"He's going to stop at (secretary) Nadia Harvin's desk and she's going to give him a pen and a yellow legal pad and Urban is going to have the run of the place, making notes and suggestions. At the end of the day, he's going to leave the yellow pad on my desk and I'm going to follow through."

Addazio broke out into a broad smile.

"I had to run this idea past (athletic director) Bill (Bradshaw) and he just loved it," Addazio said. "Bill said something really profound. He said that every time Meyer said something on ESPN on Saturdays, it would say Temple such-and-such coach Urban Meyer right there on the screen.

"He said you can't buy that kind of publicity, that it opens the door for Temple to every five-star recruit in the country."

Just then I woke up and realized everything Steve Addazio just said was in a dream.

Happy April Fool's Day everybody.

Also worth reading:
Big 10 shows renewed interest in Temple

Sunday, March 27, 2011

NFL lockout would not be a bad thing for "Philadelphia State"

Do you see any families in this photo? I didn't think so.

There's not a lot of empirical evidence out there to suggest that a prolonged NFL lockout would help Temple football.
Logically, though, it could not hurt.
First of all, Temple football would be the only game in town and that's a "good thing, not a bad thing" to use an offhand reference by Bill Parcells.
The NFL had strikes in 1982 and 1987 and, while attendance seemed to increase at Temple home games in both those years, it was 3-4 thousand per home game, not a noticeable 10-15.
I thought about this NFL labor dispute while watching the Owls' hoop team play San Diego State recently.
Why San Diego State?
Because I thought one of the main reasons why Temple football never captured the imagination of the "Joe Philadelphia" fan was the name Temple.
Let's face it. Temple has been trying for years to court "families" as part of the fan base.
They haven't responded. Temple needs to get Temple people to the games and that's students and mostly adult male alumni. It would also help to convince Eagles' fans to start liking the other birds in town.
We don't need no stinkin' families (I'm not referring to the families of Temple football players who, of course, are the greatest).
In my 30 years of following Temple football, I observed no more than five families who had no connection to players attending a game. Yet Temple promotions spends more damn money going after that group than all the other groups put together.
"While we have all come to love the name Temple,
the name Philadelphia University
would be a truer reflection of 
the school." _ Dr. Peter J. Liacouras
So, as Celo Green says, forget them.
Temple needs to get the "hard-core" beer-drinking, "700-level" fan, the Joe Philadelphia Guy. That's a base that has yet to be, err, tapped. That's a rowdy base, but think of the home field advantage the Owls could have.
Even though Temple is every bit Philadelphia's school as Pitt is Pittsburgh's school, I thought Pitt always had inroads to a blue-collar fan base in Pittsburgh that identified with the town. Pitt has plenty more "Joe Pittsburghs" in the stands rooting for the university than Philly has "Joe Philadelphians."
It has a lot to do with the name.
Temple president Dr. Peter J. Liacouras alluded to such in the 1980s when he suggested the school should "consider" changing its name to Philadelphia University.
"While we all have come to love the name Temple, the name Philadelphia University would be a truer reflection of the school," Liacouras told the Rotary Club one day at the Union League.
I was there as a guest of a Rotarian and heard the speech. I walked up to Pete and told him it was a great idea.
It was never realized because a school named The Philadelphia  College of Textiles and Science adopted the name a decade later.

Liacouras was the one guy who could have pushed through a name change and he never followed up on his own terrific idea.
A lost opportunity.
Maybe not.
"San Diego State?" I said out loud while watching the Owls play. "San Diego isn't a state."
"Doesn't matter," the guy next to me said. "San Diego University was taken. They took the next name available."
Philadelphia State University.
I like it.
Even though you might not now, you would get used to it, too, and it couldn't hurt attendance.
They could even keep the nickname of Owls.
Changing the name of this blog to "Philadelphia State University Football Forever" might take some getting used to, though.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Practice? Yeah, we're talking about practice

There's a saying in the deep south about the three biggest sports seasons being college football No. 1, NASCAR No. 2 and college football spring practice No. 3.
I have no doubt that's true in places like Alabama and Georgia and, maybe, Florida.
Baseball and basketball have yet to make inroads into that Holy Trinity.
Up here, not so much.
I doubt very many people in Philadelphia realize Temple football spring practice officially begins today.
I do.
Now you do, too.

Somebody please find that sheet and burn it once and for all.
I say officially because being a big-time college football player in today's world is really a 365-day-a-year job.
Steve Addazio, the new Temple football coach, will talk to the media after practice today.
Expect him to talk intangibles, rather than X's and O's.
He'll talk about developing a toughness, a work ethic, a pride, all of those things that Al Golden pretty much took care of in his four years.
Truth be told, he's got no choice.
His starting quarterback (Clinton Granger, maybe) is not here yet, nor are we totally 100 percent sure he will be. (For the record, I think he will.)
So is the quarterback "competition" really that much of a story now?
I don't think so.
My storyline this spring revolves not around the quarterback position so much as the running back position.
I've said this until I'm blue in the face and, trust me, I'm blue in the face:
This was true last year.

Temple fans know this sequence all too well (thanks, Owlified)
It is even more true this year.
Look, the preferable route is to pray to God that Bernard stays healthy for 13 games and puts up the kinds of numbers I know deep down in my heart he can: 2,000 yards, 20 touchdowns, more importantly, leading to a 12-1 (or better) record.
I know he can do it.
I also know that it's never smart to put all your eggs in one basket, especially this close to Easter.
Quite frankly, if the last two games proved anything last season, Matt Brown wasn't a viable backup to Bernard Pierce. His tank ran on fumes the final two games and the Temple offense sputtered and grinded to a halt as result. Hopefully, Addazio will utilize Brown for what he is: The Best Third Down Back in the MAC, not Pierce's backup. That way, he'll be fresh for the final two games and can do some damage teamed with Pierce on third-down situations.
I'm more interested in developing a backup to Pierce  with what Addazio calls "explosives" than a quarterback. Note Addazio uses the word "explosives" and not explosiveness. Pierce has what I would call H-Bomb type explosives. We have no A-Bomb to back him up.
I don't think there's a talent in the program even close right now.
Does Myron Ross have explosives? Does Ahkeem Smith have explosives? Does incoming recruit Spencer Reid have explosives?
Based on what they've done so far (high school and limited college), I have serious doubts about all three.
I know incoming recruit Nate Smith has explosives, but they have him listed as a linebacker. I hope they think outside the box and make him a running back again. At least for this year.
So the challenge this spring is finding that "other" Bernard Pierce  egg and, in the process, destroying that playbook or whatever Matt Rhule called it.
My good friend, Dave Gerson, wrote appropriately that Temple, post-BP, had five plays in its offensive arsenal and kept calling the five plays in sequence over and over again. He said it with a hint of tongue-in-cheek but, to Temple fans, there was a lot of a sad truth to the critique.
I have a lot of confidence that new offensive coordinator Scot Loeffler is going to bring a different approach to moving the football and I'm excited to see what it will be.
Addazio said his offensive philosophy will be tailored to Temple's personnel so, if that's true, this is what I want to see:
Hand the ball left, right and up the middle to Pierce behind a 320-pound offensive line. Create so much fear in the running game that play-action off it results in receivers running free through opposing secondaries and the Lincoln Financial Field scoreboard being turned into an adding machine.
It's a simple but time-tested philosophy but you have to have a great running back to execute it.
Temple's got at least one of those.
The trick this spring is to find some more of that dynamite.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Temple: The power of the 'stache

Hopefully, some of coach Dunphy's lucky 'stache will rub off on coach Addazio.

I'll be the first to admit that my favorite sport is football followed by baseball.
Basketball has always been a distant third.
Not these last couple of weeks, though.
I'll also admit that I've been caught up in this run by the Temple men's basketball Owls because of the prestige this brings our great university and because I got to know a few of the kids on the basketball team and met coach Fran Dunphy, who I've always admired.
I admire him not just because he's a winner but you know he loves Temple. You know there's no question he's here to stay. I could never say the same about the football coach who preceded Addazio.
Heck, I don't know if I can say that about Addazio yet.
Meet coach Dunphy just once and he will make you feel like the most important person in the room.
I often see coach Dunphy in the hallways at Lincoln Financial Field and always say "Hi Fran."
He doesn't know me from Adam but he always stops and says, "How 'ya feelin'? All right?"
I talked to other Temple fans and they tell me they've had a similar experience.
I don't know if coach Addazio is the football version of coach Dunphy but, geez, I hope he is.
If coach Addazio can do what coach Dunphy has done, three league championships in his first three years, then he will match what coach Dunphy has done from a regular-season perspective.
If coach Addazio can win three league championships in his first three years and then win the bowl game in the fourth, then his postseason will have matched what coach Dunphy did on Thursday.
Winning a first-round NCAA game is very much the equivalent of winning a bowl game, especially the kinds of bowls MAC teams are sent to.
I love the way the two interact in the above video, which has a corny premise but both took in good humor.
Whatever happens now for the hoops' squad is gravy, but I like gravy.
Hopefully, Addazio will serve up delicious mashed MAC potatoes with the same kind of gravy on top.
Good luck, Fran.
Good luck, Steve.
Hopefully, Temple basketball will still be playing on a national stage when the football team opens up spring practice in four days.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Boardwalk Bowl: Site of some great Owl wins

An actual photo from the 1984 Temple football win in A.C.

Today and tomorrow, some 10,550 fans are going to be packed into Boardwalk Hall, otherwise known as the Atlantic City Convention Center, to watch (hopefully) a couple of great Owl wins.
There's no secret to Temple's success there.
Mix in about 9,000 rabid Temple fans with some great coaching and you have three straight A-10 basketball titles.
Hopefully, that will be a fourth by Sunday.
Yet Temple football once held the spotlight there, too.
I was last there in the Orwellian Year of 1984 to watch Temple play an out-of-this-world football game.
That year, the Owls posted a great football win before a big and enthusiastic Temple following. It beat MAC champion Toledo (8-1-1 at the time) like a drum, 35-6.
Toledo went off to the California Bowl after that and Temple went home with a 6-5 record against the 10th toughest schedule in the country.
Atlantic City: Temple's home away from home.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Hardin belongs in the Hall of Fame

If it were not for Wayne Hardin, I probably would not have been a Temple football fan today.
If it were not for Wayne Hardin, I would not believe winning football was possible at Temple University.
Hardin was around, still is, and for that I am a fan and I am a believer.
The ballots were released yesterday for College Football's Hall of Fame and there are nine coaches on it.
I don't see a more deserving coach than coach Hardin.
Consider just these three facts, if you will:
1) Navy rose to No. 2 in the country with Wayne Hardin as head coach;
2) Temple rose to No. 17 in the country (both polls) with Wayne Hardin as a head coach.
3) Neither school has been anywhere near those rankings since.

Two Hall of Fame Coaches

Hardin worked a miracle in Annapolis when it was nearly impossible to get numbers of great players to commit to Navy when the military demanded a five-year commitment.
He beat Army in four of the five years he faced the Cadets.
When Army's defensive secondary was widely considered the No. 1 backfield in the nation, they were given the nickname "Chinese Bandits."
For the game that year, Hardin had "Beat Army" written on the sides of the Navy helmets.
In Chinese.
Brilliant stuff.
Navy destroyed Army that day.
If one miracle wasn't enough, he worked one in Philadelphia the next decade as head coach at Temple University, becoming the winningest coach in its history.
Before Temple played California in the Garden State Bowl, the Cal coaches wanted a film exchange with the Temple coaches. Hardin asked which coaches wanted the film.
He tailored the Temple game plan to what the Cal coaches saw in the film and did the opposite in the bowl game.
Temple led, 21-0, before Cal knew what Hardin was doing.
By then, it was too late.
Temple won, 28-17.
I never knew a man who was right about everything but the closest man who fit that description was Wayne Hardin.
"We'll work toward getting Wayne Hardin into the College Football Hall of Fame because that's where he deserves to be," ex-Temple coach Al Golden said one month before his departure.
I hope Al hasn't forgotten that promise and can take time out from his busy schedule to beat the drum for coach whenever he gets a chance.
I hope Steve Addazio does whatever he can do as well.
I've waited close to 30 years for another Wayne Hardin to arrive at Temple and I hope Steve Addazio is that guy and, while Bruce Arians and Al Golden did nice work, no one has come close to Hardin since.
Frankly, I don't think anyone ever will.
Today's coaches could learn a lot from the way Hardin prepared for a game.
Hardin could break down game film and attack a team's weakness better than any coach I ever saw.
They say you need three certifiable miracles for Sainthood.
Well, Hardin has two documented ones and that's all you should really need for the College Football Hall of Fame.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Temple schedule 2011: A return to normalcy

Team exhales after holding their breaths for 60 minutes. This year, they should breathe easier.

Last year when the Temple football schedule was announced, I said I thought I never saw a physically and more psychologically challenging schedule.
The reason was that, right off the bat, the Owls faced a potentially season-ruining game in the first outing, the Mayor's Cup against Villanova. Then they had to establish credibility in the MAC with a win over Central Michigan, then they had a revenge game against UConn and then the Holy Grail game (potentially program-defining win) against Penn State.

Temple 2011 Schedule
Date Opponent

Thur., Sept. 1 VILLANOVA, 7 p.m.
Sat., Sept. 10 *at Akron
Sat., Sept. 17 PENN STATE
Sat., Sept. 24 at Maryland
Sat., Oct. 1 *TOLEDO
Sat., Oct. 8 *at Ball State
Sat., Oct. 15 *BUFFALO [HC]
Sat., Oct. 22 *at Bowling Green
Sat., Oct. 29 BYE
Wed., Nov. 2 *at Ohio
Wed., Nov. 9 *MIAMI (Ohio)
Sat., Nov. 19 ARMY
Fri., Nov. 25 *KENT STATE
Fri., Dec. 2: MAC Championship Detroit, Mich

What a gauntlet 2010 was, starting with the pressure-cooker game with Villanova.
Lose that, like in 2009, and you lose the fan base for the entire season.
I must have had 200 Temple fans come up to me in the parking lot after that last-second loss to Villanova saying essentially the same thing:
"I'm not coming back. .. Al Golden is a fraud... ...talks a big game but doesn't deliver ... same old Temple ..."
Well, Al Golden wasn't a fraud but about 199 of those Temple fans kept their word.
The only guy who came back was my friend, Tom, who kicked a car so hard cursing at Golden that he nearly broke his foot.
The others I never saw again.
I wrote at the time that I couldn't blame them because to lose to Villanova, no matter how good the Wildcats were in 2009, was losing credibility in your hometown.
I've always said that Temple has a "hardcore" fan base of about 20K, who will be there through thick and thin. I've always said that Temple has a "soft core" fan base of about 20K more waiting for a reason to believe. So many of them lost that reason to believe that night.
They gained a measure of it back in the win last season, but I had a sense that the team and their fans were biting their fingernails the whole night fretting about the outcome.
Instead of punching Villanova silly and enjoying their physical superiority, the team played like it was walking on eggshells.
I want to see the Temple swagger back against Villanova this year.
That's what it will take to get the Temple fan base back.
Beat the crap out of Villanova, then beat the crap out of Akron and then have a confident swagger going into Maryland and Penn State games.
It will take a lot to get the softcore fans back, like a win over both Villanova and Penn State.
That's why I like this schedule.
There's a return to normalcy.
That's why the opener meant everything last year.
Don't get me wrong. The opener means a lot this year, too but I don't see the same kind of pressure.
Last year, Villanova had 16 starters returning from a national championship team and, unlike Temple, a championship quarterback.
Villanova loses that quarterback, plus its greatest playmaker since Brian Westbrook. Villanova also loses 16 starters.
Temple returns 13 starters and a lot of the replacements look more talented than some of the losses (Big Mo notwithstanding).
I see the Villanova game this year not as a pressure-cooker, but as a jumping off point to a great season.
I see a big win, a confidence builder, that could lead to bigger wins down the line.
At least that is the way it should play out..