For now, Temple’s Big East dreams yield to immediate MAC mission

Part of Mid-Major Week.

When the Big East added TCU last November, many thought another team would be joining them to give the conference 10 football schools.

Eight months later, Big East expansion remains in limbo.

While schools such as Villanova and Central Florida have been bandied about as possible selections, Temple has quietly emerged as a possibility to rejoin the conference from which it was exiled after the 2004 season.

Earlier this month, three Temple recruits and a father of one of the recruits, all independently linked Temple and the Big East, stating they were hopeful the school would rejoin the conference in 2012.

New head coach Steve Addazio, who begins his first season this fall, didn't want to address the rumors specifically, but said he thinks Temple has put itself in a better position football-wise to be an attractive prospect.

"Obviously, with the landscape of college football right now, we're all over the lot," Addazio said. "No one knows what's going to happen in six months, a year. I think the goal is you want to be the best you can be, you want to put yourself in the best position you can put yourself in and that's all you can control. Obviously, we're the fourth-largest media market in the country here in Philadelphia and we're a big time glorified Division I-A football team. We beat the Big East champion last year and that's where we sit. What other people think or say, I can't control that."

But if Temple wants to be taken seriously as a potential member for the Big East, it's going to have to put together a better season than it ever did under former coach Al Golden. Sure, Golden brought the Owls back from football oblivion, but in each of the past two seasons they've squandered opportunities to win the MAC East and in 2009, they stumbled in their first bowl game in 30 years.

"Al did a great job here and I think this program is a real program, but our goal is to keep going up," Addazio said. "We haven't won the East, we haven't won the MAC, we haven't won a bowl game -- at least in recent time. What does it take to do that? How do you take that next step?"
Addazio said his goal is to make Temple a tougher team than it was under Golden. He said some of the early wins, such as bouts against Villanova and Connecticut last season, were great, but the team failed to finish when it needed a victory at the end of the year. That's where change has to come. Temple, he said, has to be just as impressive in November as it is in September.

"Can you finish?" Addazio said. "Can you finish a practice? Can you finish a play? Can you finish a season? If you can't finish a season, then you're not very mentally tough. And that's where we need to improve. We need to be a good football team in November. That's the mark of a tough football team and that's the mark of a well-conditioned football team. So, that's kind of where my mind is. How do we do that?"

Addazio has pulled all the catchy football phrases off the wall and he's gotten rid of sayings on the back of T-shirts. He's not going to lure his team in with gimmicks. He said he didn't want his players wearing T-shirts claiming they were something they weren't.

But if everything goes according to plan, what Temple could be is back in the Big East after a tumultuous journey of independence, near program extinction and now becoming one of the MAC's better squads.

"What I'm dealing with right now, I'm moving forward, I don't really look back," Addazio said. "I wasn't there. I know what was done here was great. I know that Al did a great job and I respect the heck out of what he did. But I'm me.

"We're going to put ourselves in the best position that we can possibly put ourselves in. There's a lot of bright future here. We're a program on the rise and there's a lot of promise and a lot of excitement right now. And that's what it should be."

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