Hard to believe it was more than 15 years ago, after attending a press conference that featured a Joe Klecko introduction, I dashed off a congratulatory email to a new Temple head coach.
It took only a couple of hours for Al Golden to respond.
“Thanks, Mike,” he said. “I’m going up to St. Peter’s today to recruit a guy who could be a game-changer. Wish me luck.”
One of Golden’s first recruits, the late Kee-Ayre Griffin, wasn’t a game-changer but he was a more than solid contributor to Temple’s turnaround. Griffin was holding offers from BC and Pitt, but something Golden said to him that day convinced him to attend Temple.
When I asked Al what he said a couple of weeks later at the signing day ceremony, Golden smiled and said, “that’s a professional secret” before telling me what his recruiting philosophy was. “We’ve got 46 percent of the nation’s population a five-hour drive from Temple. Not many schools can say that. We can’t get them all but we should be able to get enough really good players to turn this thing around.”
The rest was college football history.
In that first class, Golden recruited 18 team captains from either state or league championship high school teams.
“They weren’t necessarily the most recruited guys in those teams,” he said, “but they were leaders of championship teams and I wanted to bring that mentality here. You bring five guys Power 5 schools want, mix in a bunch of leaders and guys you can develop and you can win.”
Drayton has put together the X’s and O’s part of the job. Now it’s time to get the Jimmies and Joes.
That’s pretty much the challenge Drayton faces now.
He’s not going to out-recruit Penn State or Maryland but, in the new AAC, he doesn’t have to. Get five guys holding P5 offers and 20 guys in the leader/development area and Temple can win that league. Really, all he has to do is out-recruit Memphis, UAB and USF and the Owls can challenge for the title every year.
Drayton might have the personality to do it.
Like Golden (and unlike Rod Carey), he’s already connected with Temple football alumni. Instead of sending a representative to former Owl coach Spencer Prescott’s funeral last week, Drayton showed up himself. Carey was pretty standoffish with Temple football alums by comparison. It was a super classy move by Drayton. Golden was also good at networking with Temple football alums, as was Matt Rhule. Golden brought back TEMPLE on the helmets, because it reminded him of the Temple TUFF teams he faced while at Penn State. Maybe Drayton will put his own imprint on the program by bringing back TEMPLE on one side of the helmet and keeping the T on the other side. Getting rid of the number (which is already on the jersey and was a Carey move) makes the most sense.
That’s cosmetic, though. The substantive change is getting back to the Temple TUFF culture re-established under Golden.
The template for Temple football success has been established. All Drayton has to do is follow it and success will follow.
Wish him luck.
Friday: Navigating the new paradigm
Monday: The Tie That Binds