Duke-Temple: A unique storyline

When Pat Kraft went to look for a new head coach after Geoff Collins quit, he reportedly zeroed in on Texas A&M defensive coordinator Mike Elko.

Elko allowed his name to float in the new Temple head coaching conversation and days later accepted a pay raise to remain at Texas A&M.

Some say he used Temple.

Either way, the game on Sept. 2 offers probably the most unique storyline of the opening weekend.

Elko turns down Temple job, gets raise to stay put, and then Kraft turns to the other DC, Manny Diaz, who stuck around for all of 18 days.

That led to a panic hire of fellow Indiana football alum Rod Carey, who was just a bad fit here.

Good storyline but there’s more.

Since Carey took over Temple, the Owls and Duke had one decent year (2019) and two horrible seasons.

Duke and Temple both had three wins a year ago and, arguably, Duke had both a worse loss than anything Temple had (Charlotte) and probably not a win as impressive as the Owls owned (Memphis).

All that under the backdrop of probably the worst locker room atmosphere we’ve seen at Temple since the Bobby Wallace Era. There was an open rebellion of Temple players, leading to many more good ones leaving than could be replaced.

All offseason signs point to problems at Duke that do not exist at Temple. For instance, its starting quarterback transferred down (FIU) and now they have a competition for the top job between primarily a running quarterback and a passing one.

Sound familiar?

That’s the same scenario at Temple with Dwan Mathis and Quincy Patterson. The difference is that both Temple quarterbacks have started and won FBS games and the two at Duke have not.

Duke and Temple both lost their leading receivers (Jake Bobo to UCLA for Duke and Jadan Blue to Virginia Tech for Temple) so that area appears to be in Temple’s favor simply because the Owls were able to entice the guy who caught the game-winning touchdown pass against Duke (Adonicas Sanders) to come to Philadelphia.

On defense, Duke was ranked 130 among all 130 FBS teams last year. The Blue Devils allowed 40 points per game last year (and 518 yards per).

Although Duke is a 7-point favorite now, this is a very winnable game from the Temple perspective.

If the Owls pull it out, the story the next day could be Arthur Johnson’s first choice for Temple head coach was better than Pat Kraft’s first choice to replace Collins.

It would not come as a surprise, let’s put it that way.

Friday: Behind The Digits

Johnson’s biggest project yet to come?

Plenty of room to build a 10,000-seat North end zone plus getting rid of those few houses (quite a few currently boarded up) across 10th Street would give the Owls a 25,000-seat West Grandstand.

If only a Rod Carey football game plan had as many surprises as the introductory press conference of new Temple football coach Stan Drayton, the Owls might have won enough games to keep Mr. Boring in charge today.

One surprise struck me, though.

Johnson said this in front of the assembled media when asked about his involvement in picking Drayton: “I had a chance to get to know Stan while we worked together at the University of Texas. He is an outstanding football coach and an even better person. He knows what success looks like at the highest levels of football. He also knows what it takes to be successful in this city having spent six years of his career here and learned from two of the city’s legendary football coaches.”

The only way TU can convince Norris Street neighbors to build at 15th Street is to give them all new houses overlooking the new stadium like this and that might be cost prohibitive.

No more than minutes later, Johnson said this in a smaller post-conference gathering:

“I don’t think my being at Texas was a big part of Stan being hired here. I was involved in about $675 million dollars of building projects there so I only knew him superficially.”

Hmm.

We went from “get to know” to the connection “not being a big part.”

That wasn’t key thing, though, Johnson said as far as Temple football’s future.

“I was involved in about $675 million of building projects …”

Four months ago, Temple was looking for an AD and, of the four finalists, only one was involved in any significant building projects.

The Board of Trustees hired that guy.

This is the same board of trustees that voted nearly unanimously to submit a plan to the City of Philadelphia that closed a portion of 15th Street permanently to build a $250 million football stadium and only backed off when they were confronted by a small but angry group of community residents one memorable March night a few years ago.

Presumably, they still want to build it and must feel Johnson is the point guy to get this project done like he did so many in Austin, Texas.

Now, with President Jason Wingard in place along with Johnson and Drayton, the Owls have three high-profile African-American point men to convince a mostly African-American community that this is in the best interest of both the university and the community.

To me, getting this done requires some thinking outside the box in addition to the personalities involved.

Closing 15th Street–even between Norris and Montgomery–seems to be a non-starter so the administration should be looking for another place to build.

They got the community to come on board for a $22 million athletic facility at Broad and Master a few years ago that is used 87 times a year, not the six times Temple will use a new football stadium. Since a trade building was part of that deal, knocking it down to build a football stadium there (and moving the Olympic sports to 15th and Norris) probably also is a non-starter.

How about using the Edberg-Olson facility as the new stadium?

There’s already a regulation 100-yard field there, plus enough room for a 10,000-seat North End zone and a 25,000-seat West Side. The current E-O offices can be used for a small (maybe 1,000-seat Owl Club super box plus press box) area.

The only concessions the university would need from the city is to close 10th Street from Susquehanna to Diamond and that would seem easier to do than 15th from Norris to Montgomery. Tenth Street is not as viable a thoroughfare as 15th Street is and nowhere near the number of residents would be impacted on the Edberg Olson side of the campus.

For the time it takes to build the stadium, the football team can move its practices and offices to Geasey Field. If needed, another $10 million practice facility can be constructed at 15th and Norris. (That’s where the Owl football team practiced from 1974-2004.)

That’s the kind of thinking outside the box that Johnson did at UT.

If he can pull that game plan off at UT, he should be able to do it at TU. Hell, considering his resume, that’s what they might have hired him to do.

Monday: Humility Personified

Lesser than (Al) Golden: The other Temple HC candidates

Even the outside world realized Rod Carey was a panic hire.

Familiarity breeds contempt is a phrase ascribed to Geoffrey Chaucer way back in the 1300s.

At Temple, familiarity has bred some bad marquee head coaching hires and contempt from Owl fans toward those who made those hiring mistakes.

Like Manny Diaz, I have a sinking feeling that this is the guy. I hope Arthur Johnson can take a step back and realize that just because you are comfortable with the guy, it doesn’t mean he is the right guy for your school. See Bill Bradshaw and Pat Kraft hiring mistakes.

Bill Bradshaw, the second base part of a LaSalle University double-play combination with shortstop Fran Dunphy, hired his old pal Dunphy to be head basketball coach at Temple.

Indiana football center Pat Kraft hired another Indiana football center of roughly the same era, Rod Carey, to take Temple football from Temple TUFF to Temple SOFT in three seasons.

Can’t be too hard on Bradshaw because he hired the two best Temple football coaches of the last two decades, Al Golden and Matt Rhule.

Now new Temple AD Arthur Johnson is faced with a dilemma: Follow the familiarity formula and hire someone like Tom Herman or Stan Drayton or conduct an open search tailored to the specific needs of his new university?

I don’t see the connection between Johnson and Herman as much as I see it between Johnson and Drayton and that’s a red flag.

As former ADs Bradshaw and Kraft demonstrated, cronyism is a powerful lure in hiring.

and so has Temple. .. ” Six days before Diaz was hired I wrote this comment. I hope that we don’t see Stan Drayton hired six days from now.

To me, there are a lot of good candidates and one great candidate and that great candidate is the same guy, Al Golden, who breathed life into Temple football when it was declared brain dead in 2005. Now all he has to do is perform CPR on the same patient who has fainted and that’s a much easier football medical procedure.

It’s a heavy lift, but about half as heavy as it was 15 or so years ago.

Now we don’t know that Golden is even interested in the job. There are plenty of reasons not to be but he was linked by some pretty good sources to the UCONN job and, if he gave out feelers for that one, even he knows the Temple job is a far better one. He might be playing three-dimensional chess while we’re all playing checkers in that he likes living in Cincinnati and might hold out for that job knowing that Luke Fickell could be moving on up. Maybe he’d prefer being an NFL coordinator for half the Temple salary but I’ve never seen him as anything other than a CEO and maybe he doesn’t either.

Who knows?

All that said, I have a sinking feeling that Stan Drayton is going to be the guy when all the dust is cleared.

Why do my sinking feelings even matter?

On the day Manny Diaz got the Temple job for 18 glorious days, I wrote this:

This was our blog post on the day Temple hired Manny Diaz. We were off only about 348 days.

It wasn’t because Diaz had a prior relationship with Kraft (he didn’t), it was because Kraft was lured by getting the “hot” assistant coach.

In that piece, I said I was 100 percent against Diaz because his dad was the Mayor of Miami and he would be back at Miami in a year and Temple football would suffer because Diaz was “learning” on the job.

Well, Golden has already been in the same job and he has a graduate degree and finished first in his class.

Other candidates I’ve heard are former Golden assistant Mike Siravo, Ole Miss aide Chris Patridge, a Pitt wide receivers coach (Kenni Burns), a Minnesota running backs coach (Brennan Marion) and an Ohio State wide receivers coach (Brian Hartline). Partridge, who has had exactly one year as a head coach (Paramus High), is intriguing, as is Siravao.

Those are just a few names. There are many more.

Between Partridge and Gabe Infante, who he succeeded as Paramus head coach, I’d rather have Gabe. There’s even a good possibility that Infante, a more polished head coach than Partridge, would be able to lure Ohio State five-star quarterback Kyle McCord (with who he won three state titles) to Temple since McCord is stuck behind another freshman at OSU, C.J. Stroud.

Still, none of those guys being hired will sell 1/10th of the season tickets Al Golden will on his name recognition alone. Forget the fact that he has already proven he can perform the SAME EXACT job at the HIGHEST LEVEL possible.

Everybody else is a crapshoot. Golden is knowing you are rolling a pair of dice that only ends up in sevens and elevens.

All along I’ve maintained that Fran Brown needs to go somewhere else (FCS perhaps) and prove he can coach on the field before Temple hands the keys to a $17 million vehicle to him.

Between Marion, Burns and Hartline, though, I’d take Fran Brown any day of the week.

Hire any of those no-names from anywhere other than here and Temple fans will say: “Who?”

No thanks.

Guys like Burns, Marion and Hartline would be impossible sells to a fan base suffering from PTS after watching a two-year trainwreck. Golden would be the best sell by far and Brown would be better than these other assistant coaches.

Drayton might be the guy who Johnson is most comfortable but it would be as wrong a choice as Bradshaw picking Dunphy and Kraft picking Carey.

If Johnson can avoid that temptation, he will make a great hire for Temple.

If my sinking feeling never comes to pass, Arthur Johnson will prove that he’s able to make the best decisions for Temple and not for his comfort level and he would be a hero to all current Temple fans for that.

PICKS THIS WEEK: WESTERN KENTUCKY +2.5 vs. Utsa, APP ST. -2 vs. Louisiana Lafayette and WAKE FOREST +3.5 vs. Pitt (mainly because that game is in Charlotte).

Update: Waited until the last week of the season to suffer our first losing week and it was a doozy, going 0-3 with losses thanks to Wake, App. State and Western Kentucky. Finished the regular part of the season 28-25-1. Will pick and choose the bowls better.

Monday: Where Carey went wrong

Friday: Guardrails in place

Temple football: No promises, and now we know why

The only hope for Temple football rests in these two guys acting no later than Monday.

If Rod Carey seemed a little evasive about making predictions from the end of last season until now, we pretty much all know why.

Coaches usually don’t say how many wins they are shooting for but when asked from the spring until the start of this season what he was looking for, Carey simply said this:

“I don’t want to put a number on it. We want to be a team that plays hard and our fans can be proud of …”

WITN’s forecast for East Carolina …

Playing hard?

Hmm.

Lots of winless Temple teams played hard, but Owl fans were looking to turn around a 1-6 season, and playing hard alone was not going to get it done.

What we’ve seen so far in eight games is even a failure to deliver on that minimalistic promise.

Too many guys worked too hard to throw away the progress made for the decade before this disaster.

Hell, the 2-10 team of Matt Rhule’s first year played a lot harder than Carey’s current 3-5 squad. Like this year, Rhule beat a favored Memphis team but it was 41-21 on the road and not 34-31 at home. Rhule also beat Army at home, lost on the final play at Rutgers, 20-14 (not by 61-14) and did not have a single loss as embarrassing as Carey’s last three–52-3 to Cincinnati, 34-14 to USF and 49-7 to UCF.

Rhule’s home performance against UCF–a much better version of UCF than this current one–saw the Owls lose a heartbreaker, 39-36, on one of the greatest end zone catches ever seen at Lincoln Financial Field (pro or college).

Rhule then, like Carey now, had a young quarterback but the difference was Rhule’s quarterback showed improvement every week and Carey’s quarterback has not.

Not once did Owl fans run down behind the bench and chant “FIRE RHULE!” like they did “FIRE CAR-EY!!” last week (although one loud guy was often heard yelling FIRE PHIL SNOW! in the back row of Section 121 and even he stopped doing that by Year Three).

The players supported Rhule then. They did not support Carey last Saturday when the chanting happened. In fact, they seemed to encourage it with their smiles and nods to the fans. That old adage about losing the locker room? Hell, Carey has lost the bench.

Even in Rhule’s 2-10 season, the players behind the coaches interlocked their arms and swayed from side to side cheering their teammates on the field. That was the Temple tradition under Al Golden and restarted by Rhule.

Then, there was hope for the future and that hope turned out to be realized the next three seasons (six, 10 and 10 wins).

Now there is none. Even if the Owls pull out a miracle and manage a win, that should only buy Carey one more week. He often says his injured players are “week-to-week” but now he should be “week-to-week” as well. The players’ confidence seems to be shot.

That’s the vibe the Owls take on the plane ride to East Carolina today for a 3 p.m. game tomorrow (ESPN+).

This game has 35-7 written all over it and it would be a shock if the game was more competitive than, say, the 29-14 score ECU beat USF by last week.

When this thing comes to a merciful close in a month, Carey will say “COVID, COVID, blah, blah, blah” and say the kids played hard but just made too many mistakes. He will remind you that he never promised anything but playing hard and he will lie and tell you they did that.

You will know the real reason why Carey lowered expectations is that he didn’t bring in the required number of great transfer portal players needed to turn a 1-6 season around and too many good players from even that team left.

You knew it then. Deep down he did, too.

Now we know why he never promised anything of substance. There have to be consequences for losing and waiting until the end of the season will make a bad situation much worse. Before the transfer portal, it was perfectly acceptable to wait until the end of the season to evaluate coaches. The transfer portal has changed everything. Schools like Texas Tech, TCU, and even Akron are realizing the urgency of acting in mid-season. Temple must get with the times.

Dr. Wingard and Mr. Johnson, you are on a clock that starts around 6 p.m. Saturday. Owl Nation turns its lonely eyes to you.

Picks This Week: AIR FORCE -2 at Army; MARSHALL -1 at FAU, SAN JOSE ST. -10.5 at Nevada and WAKE FOREST +2.5 at UNC.

Last week: Went 2-2 bringing our record against the spread to 20-16-1 for the season.

Sunday: Game Analysis

Tuesday: Counterpoint

Carey: The Big Announcement?

This piece could rival Tolstoy’s War and Peace in number of pages. Good luck, Mike.

As far as splashes on the first day of the job go, Arthur Johnson’s as Temple University’s new athletic director could be epic today.

If he does what he SHOULD do, it will be.

So far this season, six college football coaches have already been fired. TCU’s Gary Patterson is No. 6.

Does Temple make Rod Carey Lucky Number Seven today?

Temple sports history says no, but Johnson is from Texas where they do things on a big scale and don’t tolerate fools, so there is a chance.

Put it this way: New President Jason Wingard read the riot act to the entire athletic department, including Carey, prior to the Akron game and the message was simply that Temple won’t tolerate anything but excellence.

Since then, except for what now looks like an outlier against Memphis, the football program has been a national embarrassment.

Maybe Wingard was waiting to get his guy in place to prove that he was serious and Johnson certainly is his guy.

Naming Gabe Infante the interim head coach, making Preston Brown the assistant head coach and keeping the position coaches seems to be a perfect temporary solution. Fire the head coach, and the offensive and defensive coordinators. Hold a press conference and tell the entire Temple community that the school will leave no stone unturned to find the best head coach available. Tell the players and the recruits to hold off on the portal and decommitting for a while, the cavalry is coming to rescue them.

At least one former Temple player talks about the current state of the program here.

Maybe Johnson feels comfortable in bringing in someone from Texas like Patterson. He could do a whole lot worse. The guy was unbeaten (13-0) in 2010 and would not face unreasonable expectations in Philadelphia. They would build a statue for him if he can win 10.

There is, though, a not-so-secret formula to win at Temple and it eschews the big-name type for the hungry younger guy.

Infante fits that profile. He is extremely popular with the players and was National High School Coach of the Year in 2018. He reminds fans of qualities of past Temple successful head coaches. One, a local guy wired into Mid-Atlantic recruiting. Two, an accomplished head coach who has been the CEO of a championship program. Three, a hungry go-getter type. The same players who probably will be going through the motions against East Carolina this week under Carey will be flying around and trying to make plays for Infante.

For a sure thing, though, Johnson could place a phone call to Cincinnati and gauge Al Golden’s interest in Chapter Two at Temple. Golden has already won here and has the formula for Temple TUFF secret sauce. Even if AG says no, Johnson can ask him about candidates who he feels certain could succeed here. It would be a productive phone call either way.

Or Johnson can do nothing on his first day on the job here. Push a few papers, make a few phone calls, shake a few hands.

We’re kinda used to that around here.

Doing what TCU and Texas Tech just did would be a most welcome and pleasant surprise.

Wednesday: Fizzy

Friday: ECU Preview

Rod Carey: Excuses, not reasons

Not now, but maybe tomorrow or Monday. We can only hope.

Another blowout Temple loss, and more excuses from head coach Rod Carey.

Just to be clear: Excuses are not reasons.

Not valid ones anyway.

The latest Carey excuse after a 49-7 loss to UCF was this:

“Obviously when you beat yourselves against a good football team like that, the score is going to reflect what it did today,” Carey said.

Thanks, Rod.

Temple fans chanted for Rod Carey to be fired and Temple players agreed with them. What is the Temple administration waiting for?

After the USF game, he said this:

“So obviously we just got beat bad, that’s the only way to put it.  They took it to us tonight and we’ve got to do better as coaches, we’ve got to do better as players, and we’ve got to get back to work at it.”

After the Cincy game, he said this:

“So obviously I’m upset with the outcome. I’m upset with the second half especially. We did not play well. And they’re a really good team on top of it. So when you do not play well against good teams, that happens. So really disappointing. I thought that first half we gave ourselves a shot after giving them a free touchdown there. So it’s just what it is. We’ve got to get back to work. We’ve got to keep improving. And the bye week comes at a good time for us and we’ll go from there.”

Thanks to OwlsDaily.com for those quotes.

Sense a pattern here?

I do.

The same pattern and the same excuses will continue until the Owls finish 3-9 and close out the season.

The post-season press conference probably will be an amalgamation of all of those quotes contained in one disgusting paragraph.

My overwhelming thought today is why bother?

Arthur Johnson sitting with his son. He needs to teach the kid a life lesson that dad doesn’t accept bullbleep.

New Temple athletic director Arthur Johnson was spotted sitting on a folding chair and listening to those same quotes we outlined here now.

If Johnson was paying any attention, they sounded remarkably similar to the excuses Carey gave after earlier games.

A good CEO doesn’t accept excuses from a bad employee. He just thanks the employee for his services, asks for the key to the office and finds someone who doesn’t make excuses.

In the five years Al Golden spent here, he made zero excuses and solved many problems. If I’m Johnson, I’d place a phone call to Golden either Sunday or Monday and gauge his interest. If he says no, I’d pick his brain and get suggestions on the next guy.

What I won’t do?

Sit in the back on a folding chair and listen to Carey’s bullshit one more week.

Monday: A Big Announcement