Sports: Golden Boy

Temple’s football coach isn’t just turning his historically awful team around — he’s got a vision for North Philly, too

This year, Temple came out with all guns blazing, whomping Army at West Point, 35 to 7, in its first game. Its home opener was against … Connecticut. Beneath the torrents of Hurricane Hanna, Temple lost to the Huskies again, 12-9, in overtime. Late in the last quarter, Temple went for a fourth-and-short instead of kicking it away. After the game, Golden said, “There is going to be a day when we make that yard.”

LOU CAPUTO NEVER played football. He didn’t go to college. He went “from third grade to the mushroom houses” of Kennett Square. But his son Steven, a six-foot-four, 290-pound lineman at Unionville High, was a recruiting magnet. Coaches from big-time programs came after him — Penn State, West Virginia, Pitt, Northwestern, Rutgers, Syracuse.
Lou was hoping, frankly, for Penn State. But after Steven tore his ACL and needed surgery, the bigger schools dropped out. In the end, he was offered scholarships by Buffalo, Delaware, Syracuse and Temple. Lou and Steven made an official visit to Temple. The following week, they headed to Syracuse. “The Big East,” Lou says, a little dreamily. “I was swaying that way.” Steven says, “We had an argument about that.”
They got home on a Sunday night. On Monday, three Temple coaches showed up and sat at the kitchen table with Lou, discussing his boy’s future. “Around four o’clock,” Lou recalls, “Steven comes home from school. And he asks, ‘Do I have to make a decision today?’ I could sense I was the only reason he was holding back. I said, ‘Deep down, you know what you want to do.’ And he said, ‘I want to commit to Temple.’”
Lou had warned him: “You can’t pick a program on the coach.” Steven couldn’t help it, though. “You can tell when coaches are messing with you,” he says. “Coach Golden was always truthful with me.”
Lou couldn’t be more pleased with how things turned out. “He’s happy,” he says of his son. “He has his own locker at Lincoln Field! And he’s with people I respect and believe in. They’ll work in his best interests. Not every Division 1 coach would do that.”
Golden understands the pull of personality. He had a powerful mentor himself. As Philly Mag went to press, he was prepping his team for its annual drubbing by Penn State. (Temple hasn’t beaten the Nittany Lions since 1941.) Luckily, there’s no one Al Golden would rather lose to than JoePa. He sees in him the same values he was brought up with back in Colts Neck, New Jersey, by his dad, a financial industry executive who went to night school at St. Peter’s College, and mom, who emigrated from Italy at age 15. “My parents are the American success story,” he says.