Temple to be full football members in '07

Updated: May 19, 2005, 10:42 AM ET
Associated Press

PHILADELPHIA -- Temple found a taker for its woeful football program in the Mid-American Conference, a league school officials maintain will be a far more accommodating place for the Owls to play.

The exiled Owls ended four years of uncertainty by officially joining the MAC on Tuesday after 13 miserable seasons in the Big East. The Owls will be affiliate members in 2005 and 2006, slowly adding conference teams to the schedule until they are full football members in 2007. The Owls also will be eligible for one of the MAC's two bowl affiliations in 2005 and 2006.

"MAC affiliation offers the most realistic opportunity for success in the program's history," athletic director Bill Bradshaw said.

Temple joins 12 existing members of the Mid-American Conference and will be part of the conference's East Division. The Owls will be in the same division as Akron, Bowling Green, Buffalo, Kent State, Miami of Ohio and Ohio.

The Owls were kicked out of the Big East after 13 years for failing to meet minimum requirements for membership, most notably in attendance, facilities and fielding a competitive team.

Still, that didn't deter the MAC.

"We hope this conference relationship can be the missing piece for Temple football," MAC commissioner Rick Chryst said.

Temple is to play MAC teams Toledo, Bowling Green, Miami of Ohio and Western Michigan as part of a largely independent schedule this year. The Owls will play a six-game conference schedule in 2006 and a full eight-game schedule, with eligibility to compete for the MAC championship, in 2007.

The rest of Temple's athletic teams will remain in the Atlantic 10, where the school has been since 1982. No other A-10 school plays Division I-A football. But Chryst would like to add more MAC teams to Temple's schedule in the rest of its sports -- including men's basketball.

"We hope to really find the way to introduce our basketball on a non-conference basis here," Chryst said.

The Owls were overmatched in the Big East and haven't had a winning record since going 7-4 under Jerry Berndt in 1990. They went 2-9 last season and are 19-60 in seven seasons under coach Bobby Wallace.

Big East teams decided in 2001 that it was no longer worth the automatic win to keep Temple around. The conference gave the Owls a shove out of the nest and told them to look elsewhere.

Even when the Big East was fighting high-profile defections, they never gave Temple another look. So Bradshaw reached out to the MAC late in 2003 and had numerous discussions with Chryst.

Wallace said getting booted from the Big East was a blow to Temple's recruiting and self-esteem. Wallace never had a definitive answer about Temple's future to prospective players on recruiting trips.

"For the first time, there's not a cloud over our heads," Wallace said.

Though the Owls feel they are a perfect fit for the MAC, Temple lost to two of those so-called mid-major teams in 2004: 45-17 at Toledo and 70-16 against Bowling Green.

Temple hasn't been to a bowl game since 1979 and has had five one-win seasons since 1992. The Owls spent most of the last two decades without a permanent home and crowds were as sparse as the victories.

Bradshaw called Temple's record over the last two decades "pathetic."

Temple created a task force last summer that studied the viability of keeping the football program around and decided in January that the program would remain at the Division I-A level.

The MAC was impressed by Temple's attempts to spruce up the program. The Owls built a state-of-the-art practice facility at their north campus that opened in 2001 and reached a deal before the 2003 season with the Philadelphia Eagles to play all home games at Lincoln Financial Field.

"Our excuses for losing football games were as numerous as the losses," Bradshaw said. "Things have changed dramatically."

Copyright 2005 by The Associated Press