EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is Dave “Fizzy” Weinraub’s take on the current Temple football situation. (Aside: I could not disagree more with almost all of this but will hold off on my reasoning until after other posters react.) Since Fizzy is a loyal Owl and former player, I will defend his right to say this.
By: Dave (Fizzy) Weinraub
At the beginning of the football season, Mike Jensen of the Inquirer did a comprehensive analysis of the Temple sports program. It was a very accurate picture of current problems. Once more, the football program is in crisis.
I say, once more, because I’ve seen all the ups and downs since I finished playing Temple football in 1961. (I arrived on the varsity in 1959 to experience the tail-end of a long losing streak.) Over the past sixty years, I’ve witnessed the school almost dropping football and then rising to beat Penn State (my biggest sports thrill) and a woulda, coulda, shoulda, against Notre Dame. In basketball, there was a time when no one wanted to play us in the first round of the NCAA or NIT tournaments. Now basketball is mediocre, and football is in the toilet.
My comments are not meant to disparage any player on the football team. I know how hard you’re trying because I’ve been in the same situation. So my advice to the players is to play as hard as possible, have fun and enjoy each other’s friendship. Hopefully, those friendships will last a lifetime.
Before we continue, I’d like to remind you that when Temple decided to enter the American Athletic Conference (AAC), they dropped some sports, including baseball, because of the high costs of playing in the south and southwest. On the flip side, Temple received a share of significant conference television money for football and basketball (approximately $7 million), which helped pay those bills. But now, the AAC is losing Houston, Cincinnati, and Central Florida and adding six more southern schools with historically less successful football programs. I don’t know if the television money will stay the same.
I’ll come back to the league situation later. Let’s now analyze the coaching situation.
The most crucial factor in a successful college sports program is coaching. Great coaches attract great players and assistant coaches, and they usually make good on-the-field decisions. Aaron McKie may prove to be a great coach; the jury is still out. But, unfortunately, Rod Carey has been a failure. After his first two seasons, 14 players transferred to other schools, a probable NCAA record that will live in infamy. Eleven of those transfers were starters, including the starting quarterback and the star kicker. I want to point out that when players transfer, most of the time, it’s because they’re not getting playing time, and they’re seeking greener pastures. I don’t know why all those starters transferred, but I don’t believe they would leave a great coach and a winning program. It tortures me to watch former Temple guys playing for Penn State and Boston College. The Temple football team now has no depth.
Maybe, the search committee hired Carey as a knee-jerk reaction to having Manny Diaz quit after just two weeks in Philadelphia, but Carey made major mistakes almost as soon as he got to Temple. The AAC was a step-up in level for him. Instead of looking at some of Temple’s successful assistant coaches or others who knew the AAC competition, or some bright coaches who could bring in new ideas, he brought over most of his staff from Northern Illinois. Being a loyal boss is great, but Carey’s first responsibility was to Temple. Carey only kept two Temple coaches because they were already under contract. Ed Foley, the special teams’ coach, and Gabe Infante, the running-backs coach. Subsequently, he fired Foley from the field to bring over one last guy from Northern Illinois.
Infante had been a wildly successful high school coach but had only one year of college experience at Temple. Foley, however, was an accomplished college special teams coach and a significant cog in Temple’s recruiting program. Losing Foley left Temple with no one who had firm, long-term connections with local high school coaches, and Temple’s recruiting suffered immediately. As a result, some recruits from this area who might have come to Temple are now at Rutgers and other nearby schools.
But that wasn’t the only significant effect of firing Foley. In the last two and a half seasons, poor play by Temple’s special teams has been a crucial factor in many losses.
Many Temple fans thought Rod Carey’s first year was good, resulting in an 8-5 record. But I thought they should have lost only two games (at the most) with their outstanding talent. Six players from that team went on to sign NFL contracts. Last year, the COVID affected season resulted in a 1-6 record. To be fair, Coach Carey said two of those games shouldn’t have been played because COVID sidelined too many guys. Okay, so let’s say they won one of those games. Their record would still be two wins and five losses.
This season, Temple has already lost to Rutgers by 47 points, lost by 25 points to Boston College, who didn’t have their starting quarterback, or it would have been more, and lowly South Florida by 20 points. (This was South Florida’s first conference win in two years.) However, they beat lower football level Wagner and Akron, who lost their starting quarterback in the first half. UCF beat Temple by 42 points, and Cincinnati won 52-3. Temple did play a good game against Memphis, winning 34-31,
Temple Football during Fizzy’s playing days.
During Carey’s tenure (and before), I’ve analyzed Temple coaching decisions after each game and posted the write-up on the web. About Carey, I’ve had three consistent complaints. Most importantly, Carey’s teams don’t significantly adjust in the second half. Next, they don’t show enough different defense formations to confuse the offense. The last and a minor one is they run out the clock when trailing near the end of the first half in good field position. (Who does this?) Finally, I got so tired of writing the same things; I stopped. Admittedly, however, I don’t know anything about Carey’s relationships with the players. Perhaps that’s more important than all of the above.
Jensen, in his earlier article, went back and analyzed the records of many previous Temple coaches. His primary conclusion was that the third year of a coach’s tenure was the fairest time to measure their competence. This season is Rod Carey’s third year, and Temple’s already been destroyed by five teams who play at the AAC Conference level. So not only is the handwriting on the wall, the paint is dry. The time to fire Rod Carey is immediately after the last game. Letting him have a fourth season might put Temple beyond recovery.
Did you say Temple can’t afford to buy out his contract? Nuts! Remember the giddy, unrealistic school administrators and fans who wanted Temple to build a football stadium on campus for $160,000,000? Just take a few of those bucks and spread out the loss. But only do that if you want to keep football and find a great coach. If so, Temple has to make a decision and a statement.
Okay, if Temple fires Rod Carey, where do they find the next head coach? That guy is already here. The man who has the most potential to be a great college football coach is current running-backs coach Gabe Infante. Infante has four Pennsylvania State Championships under his belt as a high school head coach at St. Joe’s Prep and won the Don Shula – NFL Award for the High School Coach of the Year. Wow! I don’t know of any football coach, ever, who won four state championships in nine years. Infante was a great high school coach. In addition, he’s now had three years of college coaching experience, worked in recruiting, and now knows the area coaches well. He deserves a shot. And just think, he’s a local guy; if he became a successful coach, he might even stay at Temple.
Before we move on, let’s consider attendance. Temple provides an excellent education for a reasonable price. It helps drive the heartbeat of Philadelphia. But is the athletic program an integral part of the undergraduate experience? Compared to the Power Five conferences, where some schools get 70,000 fans to go to each game, probably not for some Temple students. After all, Temple is a city school where about half the full-time students live at home and work. So even during successful football years, it’s challenging to get on-campus students to take the free transportation down to the stadium or walk across the street for home basketball games. I estimate that even with an outstanding football team and a top Power Five opponent, the most Temple can draw to the LINC is approximately 27,000 to 32,000 fans. When Temple filled the stadium, the other 25,000 were Penn State or Notre Dame fans or came to see those teams play.
And even though football and basketball are not crucial to many students, I believe sports add to the college experience, attract applications, and keep alumni active and donating.
So it is what it is, and what should Temple do? Jensen listed some options; drop football, step down to a weaker conference, stay in the AAC as they will probably add new schools, or play independently. On Sunday, October 24, 2021, Jensen did a follow-up article recommending Temple get out of the AAC. It will be almost a total south/southwest conference that doesn’t care about Temple. He also said there isn’t any place to go in the Football Bowl Series (FBS) right now as geographically closer conferences don’t fit. Finally, Jensen pointed out the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) was always Temple’s goal, but the ACC doesn’t want Temple. All his statements are factual. But without an alternative, Jensen recommends Temple get out of the AAC. Is Mike Jensen insinuating only a few of us would notice if Temple dropped football?
We could get into a long discussion about whether any college should play football and its corresponding value to the educational program. Actually, though, it comes down to making money. Most schools playing football in the power-five conferences attract many fans and make lots of money. But then, there’s everyone else. When the AAC and many other conferences outside the power-five are on television, the cameras hardly ever pan the entire stadium. That’s because there aren’t many people there. So these schools are playing for the TV money and hoping their program can eventually migrate to one of the big conferences.
Because the football program is in failure, Temple has a big decision to make. Right now, Temple is ranked 119 out of 130 schools in the FBS. First, does Temple want to rebuild the FBS football program? If so, they shouldn’t play as an independent right now, as there will be little or no television money to offset the expense of the sports program and only a few teams to play. Playing in a weaker conference also drastically reduces TV money.
So if Temple wanted to stay on track, it would make no sense to become independent or step the program down. Temple can compete for recruits because it has a super practice field with first-class locker rooms, weight training, study, and medical rehab facilities to attract athletes. However, after getting a new coach, I predict that Temple would take at least three years of outstanding recruiting to return to its previous highest level. If it did, the next big problem would come to the forefront once more. Would that successful coach stay or be lured away by big money? That’s always a risk, no matter what.
As I’ve been around the program for more than 60 years, here are my conclusions:
- Yes, it was terrific to play football at the highest level and be ranked.
- It was quite an experience to tail-gate at the LINC and see thousands of students, alumni, and fans wearing school colors.
- I loved seeing teammates and classmates attend some games, become active, and contribute money.
But over the last 100 years, Temple has never been able to sustain the top level in either football or basketball. Perhaps it can’t afford all the costs that accompany such programs, such as the large staff and excessive coaching salaries, because it can’t get the return on investment the power-five schools get. Also, so much depends on finding a great coach and assistant coaches and keeping them. And maybe, being a city school in North Philly with all that implies, magnifies the problems.
Therefore, common sense tells me Temple should step back to the Patriot League or the Colonial Athletic Conference. The alternative is to stay in the AAC and get your butt kicked for the next three years while trying to rebuild.
There are many competitive teams in those leagues (look up the schools), and most are only a bus ride away. So then, Temple could give up the $6,000,000 per year lease at the LINC, cut the coaching and support staffs, play football games at Franklin Field, and be highly competitive versus nearby rivals. Further, Temple could restore the baseball team and other teams it cut when it entered the AAC. If the basketball team won the league championship, it would go to the NCAA tournament. If the football team improved, it could schedule one or two games a year with a power-five opponent.
Temple needs to get a new football coach, join the Patriot League or Colonial conference, and play football games at Franklin Field. College sports should be for Temple students, not administrators and alumni.
Friday: ECU Preview
Sunday: Game Analysis
Tuesday: Counterpoint (unless Temple holds a Monday presser to fire Rod Carey)