BELIEVE IT or not, there is another college football program in the Philadelphia area worth talking about. In fact, if the Penn State scandal hadn't been monopolizing headlines over the past 9 months, the local college football spotlight might have been on Temple and its move to the Big East.
Since being booted out of the Big East after the 2004 season for non-competitiveness, Temple football has been on the rise. First, it was miracle-worker Al Golden, who brought the Owls from the Division I cellar in 2006 to their first bowl game in 30 years in 2009.
Even after Golden bolted for the Miami job, Temple's profile was restored enough to attract Steve Addazio, who, after 6 years at Florida, was able to lead the program to a bowl win in his first year last December.
With Temple officially on the national radar, the Big East came calling last spring. Now their BCS-conference schedule is all set for the fall and the Owls have already started to reap the benefits on the recruiting trail.
"People said that Temple can't stay up with the bigger schools, but they're doing it," said Tom Lemming, a recruiting analyst for CBS and MaxPreps.com.
"They got the momentum started with Al Golden and it has continued with Addazio and now the Big East thing is the biggest of all of it because it's a big-time conference and you'll be playing big-time competition on big-time television."
Heading into August, the Owls have already landed a trio of three-star recruits — linebacker Jarred Alwan (Cherry Hill, N.J.), offensive lineman Matt Barone (McKees Rocks, Pa.) and linebacker Buddy Brown (Williamstown, N.J.) — all of which they snatched away from bigger BCS programs.
Temple has had success in prior recruiting seasons but its big signings had typically come later in the process. Halfway through the Class of 2013 recruiting season, the Owls are showing an ability to strike early, leading many to conclude that their national profile has been elevated.
"Right now, they're in line to have their best recruiting class that I have seen in the last 20 years," Lemming said. "I travel the country and see everyone in person and Temple is on their way to having one of their best years."
According to Mike Farrell, a national recruiting analyst for Rivals.com, Temple beat out schools like Rutgers, Boston College, West Virginia and Syracuse on linebackers Brown and Alwan and lineman Barone.
"You've got three-star kids committed to Temple by July and that is rare," Farrell said. "I didn't expect it to be as immediate as it has been. Last year, Temple had five three-star kids total. I think they're off to a better start than they were last year and we will see how they finish. The letters BCS are extremely important. It is huge for them."
Farrell hardly gives all the credit to the conference shift, however. He calls Temple the "last BCS program in the last BCS conference" and says that the program has a long way to go to consistently thrive against bigger programs. For Farrell, Addazio and his staff deserve most of the acclaim.
"I think it's the coaches that are doing a tremendous job here," he said. "Are they doing a better job than Al Golden? I think they're doing as good of a job, and you cannot ask for anything better than that at Temple, period."
They can sell the coach and they can sell the conference. They can even sell a path to the NFL — three Owls were selected in April's draft, the most for the program since 1987.
"That is what you have to do," Lemming said. "You have to go in there and make sure that people know that you're Temple and that you're Big East now and you're going to try to get everybody."
All indications are that they're doing just that. n