Right about now, new Temple athletic director Arthur Johnson is just starting his “listen and learn” tour talking to Temple staff members, fans and other supporters.
Listening and learning is a good start and Johnson’s willingness to do that is a good sign.
My only reservation about giving the job to an “outsider” (i.e, non-Philadelphian or Temple guy) is that Johnson would not know people like Gabe Infante, the national high school coach of the year in the 2018 season for perennial Pennsylvania large school state champion St. Joseph’s Prep. That high school is located two blocks West and five blocks South of Temple at 17th and Thompson.
Talk about finding Acres of Diamonds in your own back yard…
I’ve never met Gabe, but, having covered Pennsylvania high school football since 1975 for both the Doylestown Intelligencer and Philadelphia Inquirer, I’ve gotten to know people I respect in the high school football world on both sides of the river and they all rave about him. Not a single one has said a negative word about his ability as both a head coach and a CEO of a program. The reviews about him as a person are even more glowing.
Not only that, in his two years as an assistant coach at Temple, all of the players speak highly of him and whatever success Temple has in recruiting is attributed to him.
I have seen plenty of his games when he was head coach at the Prep and his teams never jumped offsides, never had false starts and always made dynamic plays on special teams. Their offensive line sprinted to the line of scrimmage for every play. (No lie. Check the film.) They were more well-drilled than most college and NFL teams. Do you think if Gabe rather than Rod was calling the shots in Cincy that Dwan Mathis would be pressured as much as he was? No way. Not a single time did Temple give Mathis max protect and that’s just football 101 when pass protection is struggling. Max protect isn’t in Carey’s playbook.
It is in Infante’s.
He’s a future superstar as a college head coach and the school who gets him will be lucky to have him and, right now, Temple has him. He knows what he’s doing.
In other words, the opposite of Temple under Rod Carey.
When you lose as many games as Carey has in three years by 25 points or more (and he’s done that more than any Temple coach in recent memory), it’s the little things like that adding up to a lopsided scoreboard.
Throw in Temple leading the nation in portal transfers and his players are not happy. Players are going out the door at twice the rate as they are coming in and the program is bleeding to death.
It’s time to stop the bleeding with a coach the players love and respect and who will keep them here and bring better ones into Philadelphia. If I’m Johnson, I’d fire Carey right now, hire Gabe, keep Preston Brown and Walter Stewart and get rid of all of the carpetbaggers from Northern Illinois but that’s probably even above his pay grade.
That’s what this listen and learn tour should be all about.
Learning involves history. Those who don’t learn from it are condemned to repeat it and, so far in the modern era, Temple has had success with two head coaching types:
One, a nationally accomplished head coach in Wayne Hardin who took Navy to No. 2 in the country and Temple to a No. 17 finish;
Two, driven assistant coaches with local connections like Al Golden and Matt Rhule.
Even with Hardin, he knew Philadelphia because he was a pro head coach who won the CFL title with the Philadelphia Bulldogs (playing at Temple Stadium) in 1966. Bringing in people from “there” who don’t understand “here” has never worked with Temple football in the past and likely won’t in the future.
Golden probably would be a safe pick (if he wants Chapter Two at Temple), a guy who could probably provide stability and win eight games a year. His good friend Infante probably has a higher ceiling and will flirt with multiple double-digit win seasons and challenge for league championships.
Listening and learning involves finding out all about Gabe Infante and knowing he’s a sooner-than-later fail safe option. It’s time to stop the bleeding and the mass exodus of players that invariably are the result of embarrassing losses and restore the Temple TUFF culture.
Friday: Fans react