Bill Lyon: Always A Friend Of Temple


A must read for anyone who loves sports.

In this space today was supposed to be another story on how the Power Five might view Temple football.

Those future friends can wait for another day, a time to write about Bill Lyon, whose Sunday column in the Philadelphia Inquirer might have been his best from a pure prose standpoint. Lyon is battling Alzheimer’s Disease and, if anyone deserves to win that battle, it is Bill. I sat next to Bill in the old Veterans Stadium press box many times and he picked my brain for Temple information as much as I did his for writing information. In those days, sometimes we were the only two reporters (especially for the Austin Peay game of 1990) on press row. He was always friendly and never ultra-critical of the Temple football program like current contemporaries Mike Sielski and David Murphy are.

Here is what Lyon wrote about Al Golden’s 2010 season:

By Bill Lyon

“Temple: For a long, dismal stretch, there wasn’t a sadder program anywhere. The Owls labored just to win one game a year. From time to time, impassioned voices were raised (ahem) imploring them to simply drop football. A lot of good men were sacrificed in that coaching shredder.

Finally, in 2006, after going 3 and 31 in the three preceding seasons, they brought in one Alfred James Golden, a Yankee Doodle Dandy, born on the Fourth of July, a pup out of one of those Joe Paterno litters. Al Golden had played tight end at Penn State, and then coached the linebackers. He was undeniably young, but he had the pedigree. Still, it’s a long, long way from Happy Valley to Broad Street.


Bill’s lede on Paul Palmer’s historic game.

First, there had to be a purge. First, the culture of losing that had set in like dry rot had to be scrubbed away. When all you have known is losing, it’s difficult to envision winning. In his fourth season, last year, Al Golden got the Owls to nine wins. Nine. That used to take half a decade. And he got them to a bowl besides. And now, for the second year in a row, they are bowl-eligible again – and the prospect of 10 wins, or more, lies shimmering on the horizon.

Temple’s opponents used to line up to schedule the Owls for their homecoming. So now, payback, it turns out, really is sweet.

And when you are successful, envious eyes are cast your way. Other programs in need of resuscitation circle. Names of suitors are floated. UCLA. Cincinnati. Tennessee. So far, Al Golden has spurned them. But it is well to remember that in the college coaching game, the market for saviors never closes.”

Wow. That was the one-word response I had while finishing most of Bill’s columns. Wish Sielski or Murphy were capable of that kind of writing.

Like pretty much everything he wrote, Lyon turned out to be right in the end. Two weeks after that story appeared, Golden was off to Miami. Bill probably will never write about Temple football again, but what he did was always fair and that’s really all that matters. If life is as fair to him as he was to life, he will beat this.

Wednesday: Paul Palmer’s Wait Should Be Over 

Friday: Power 5 Questions and Answers

6 thoughts on “Bill Lyon: Always A Friend Of Temple

  1. Mike, we all come to your blog to share our passion around Temple football and to pop off and prognosticate about the future of all things Owls. While I respect your journalistic chops, I respectfully put forth that most of the other postings, including article links, can be insightful but the writing is fairly pedestrian (and that’s overly kind to that hack Murphy). I also put forth that our every now and then something hits us in the face that puts our passions in context.

    During my fifty years on earth I’ve been a sports junkie and have enjoyed and suffered through a litany of sports writers. Throughout my experiences I’ve always thought Bill Lyon was at least a little better then the next best guy and worlds better then the average beat guy.

    His writing has transported me into the stories through the most eloquent prose in the sports writing genre. I’ve read some of his articles envisioning him chomping on a cigar, with a glass of scotch next to him while listening to Tom Waits…and maybe ending up at Dirty Frank’s (although he probably lives in Drexel hill or some such relatively benign place).

    The fact he’s able to pen such an eloquent piece given his circumstances is a remarkable but a gift to us. To have a person of Bill’s talent articulating the challenges of this insidious disease can be viewed as a gift to those of us aging into the stages of our lives where our parents (and soon) we will be fighting these diseases is indeed fortunate. I feel for Bill Lyon and his family but also want to recognize the tremendous gift he’s sharing with us.

    • Great response, DayOwl. Occasionally, someone comes along in Philly that makes everyone else’s writing pedestrian, and when Bill came along, he pretty much made the Inky that way. Dolson was the best columnist at the paper at the time and he put Dolson out of business. In fairness to the DN, giants like Stan Hochman, Mark Whicker, Gary Smith (who went to SI), Tom Cushman, etc., were in his league. Sielski and Murphy cannot hold Lyon’s typewriter. Maybe someone that good will come along again, but I doubt it.

  2. Nice article Mike and nice response DayOwl. My response to the alzheimer situation is that as of yet, once the disease hits it rarely gets better. The best to hope for is a quicker road to the end instead of a drawn out pitiful journey like I saw my mother go through. Lyons article above about Temple footbal was exceptional. Thank you Bill and I wish you the best.

    • Medical research is way over my head, but I’m hoping and praying that someone comes up with some cure for this like they did for smallpox and polio back in the day and helps Bill stem this.

  3. I recall Bill doing a column/article on Widener football. He got down in the weeds to do it….spending time with the position coaches leading up to the game he covered and even went to the locker room at halftime to observe and describe the how the lesser funded programs handle chalk talks for game plan adjustments.

    Really can’t conceive of the more princely writers doing something like that once they graduated from the local paper to the big city daily.

    • That’s the only way Bill knows how to do it. Love this man. I went to UPS and had to mail a package today. It had a “cure Alzheimer’s” donation box. I put $20 in there thinking about Bill and my late Mom, who suffered a long goodbye with the disease. Hope it helps.

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