NEW YORK, N.Y. — It may not be the long-term answer for a conference that has been as hard hit as any the past decade with defections, but for the Big East, Temple is the answer to their immediate prayers.
On Wednesday, the conference announced that Temple would be joining the conference this season in football and in 2013-14 for all other sports. The school was unanimously accepted by a vote of university presidents on Wednesday morning. Bringing the Owls to the conference is of course a football move, a decision ironically announced in the midst of Wednesday's four game slate of basketball in the Big East Tournament at Madison Square Garden.
Last month, the conference and West Virginia reached a decision to part ways at the end of this academic year, all part of a $20 million settlement as the Mountaineers leave for the Big 12 leaving the conference in a bind in terms of scheduling for eight teams. The addition of Temple ensures that conference rivals won't have to play each other twice, which was originally speculated after West Virginia departed.
"Our decision to invite Temple was based on a number of important factors, including its long standing tradition as a basketball powerhouse, its renewed commitment to competing at the highest level in football, and the great value in adding the Philadelphia television market to our football footprint."
Temple was originally in the Big East before they were kicked out in 2004 following years of dismal play on the gridiron. But now the Owls have clawed their way to respect in the Mid-American Conference, with two bowl appearances in the last three years. There's also a consistent stream of talent from Temple to the NFL, including Muhammad Wilkerson, who was a first round pick of the New York Jets in last year's NFL Draft.
Temple head coach Steve Addazio said that the move to the Big East and the automatic qualifier the conference currently holds is a sign of upward trajectory for his program.
"This is a plan that's been going on for quite some time," Addazio said. "With our non conference schedule that we've played, we've played several non Big East opponents with our facilities ongoing and our basketball facility is a brand new multimillion dollar facility, our football facility will be finished on July 1st. I mean, it's unbelievable what's happening."
"I could go on and on and on. But I know this: It's an exciting time for Temple. It's an exciting time for the Big East."
But for a conference that is saying goodbye to West Virginia this year as well as Pittsburgh and Syracuse - both schools are set to join the ACC in 2014 - Temple was more than just a hit on the field. Based in Philadelphia, the school brings another crucial television market to the Big East as they search for leverage in contract negotiations with ESPN in addition to rumors of interest from the NBC Sports Network.
"Overall, the conference right now, as I mentioned earlier, is in 31, almost 32 million television households, which is twice as much as any of the other conferences in the country, twice as much as any of the other five major conferences in the country," Marinatto said.
"We've got 14 schools in the top 50 medium, 18 in the top 50 media markets in the country. So we've got a lot of assets moving forward."
Follow Kristian R. Dyer on Twitter: @KristianRDyer