When the Big East cast off Temple in 2004, the conference was looking to maintain its status at the proverbial popular kids’ table in the BCS High lunchroom.
Temple was the automatic W for the rest of the league from 1991 through its mass restructuring in 2004. When Miami and Virginia Tech left for the ACC, Temple was dispatched. The Big East needed a facelift, losing its two most successful programs of the BCS era. In came a fledgling USF, Cincinnati, and Louisville fresh off an 11-win season. The conference needed to prove it was still worthy of a BCS automatic bid, and perpetual whipping post Temple did not fit into the image.
Nearly a decade later, the Owls have three straight seasons of 8-plus wins. Temple has played in two bowl games, and coaches Al Golden and now Steve Addazio have established impressive recruiting pipelines in the East Coast. Suddenly, Temple isn’t looking so unappealing for a conference wanting to maintain its BCS status.
Indeed, the tables have turned. Its metropolitan location and growing football resume have made Temple an attractive option. Meanwhile, with Syracuse, West Virginia and Pittsburgh on their way out, the Big East has seen its look fade. En tow are C-USA rugrats like East Carolina, UCF, and Memphis. The league desperately trying to justify its spot at the cool kids’ table is in an even less desirable place than it was eight years ago.
By joining the Big East for the 2012 season, Temple is doing the same conference that relegated it elsewhere a favor; a BIG favor. The Owls give the conference eight teams, thus avoiding a WAC-like season with seven and the ensuing headache that creates.
However the MAC, which welcomed Temple with open arms when the Big East spurned it, is back to an uneven 13. The addition of UMass had finally evened the conference’s numbers — that didn’t last long.
Is Temple returning to a better situation? The Big East it left had West Virginia on a decided upswing, and UL coming off a historic campaign. Houston now is comparable to UL then, Boise State has established itself as the standard bearer for non-AQ and SMU has become a consistent program under June Jones. Navy enters in 2015, and under Paul Johnson and Ken Niumatalolo, the Mids are about as reliable an outfit as their is in the FBS.
But the MAC has produced consistent double digit-game winners. More importantly, the MAC helped facilitate Temple’s growth. Could Golden have established the same vital, area recruiting base had the Owls remained the weak link in the Big East? Possibly. But the Big East didn’t want Temple around to find out.
Loyalty in college football is only as strong as the available options. The latest shifts reinforces that.