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

Golden has coached with and been coached by masters of the sport: Al Groh at Virginia, Tom O’Brien at Boston College, Bill Parcells when Golden played for a year for the Patriots. Paterno, he says, is the best: “The impact he’s had on my life is the type I want to have on our student athletes. He’s magnificent with people. Right through the program, from the uniforms to the discipline and toughness, it’s not about glitz and glamour. That’s why he’s been able to endure.” Paterno’s house has had its troubles of late, but for Golden, it’s still the shining city on the hill.
Temple chose its squeaky-clean new football coach (born on the Fourth of July!) for the same reason it picked Penn’s Fran Dunphy to succeed John Chaney and Connecticut’s Tonya Cardoza to replace Dawn Staley. The school isn’t just out to have winning teams. It’s out to have a particular sort of winning teams, the kind that don’t come with recruiting violations, that graduate players, that do it the right way.
But even that’s not enough for Al Golden. He sees beyond a MAC championship to the day when Temple football carries all of North Philly atop its shoulder pads to new heights of glory. “When I come to work,” he says, “I see residential housing and commercial real estate going up everywhere between here and Center City. In the next decade, it’s not ridiculous to think we could be part of Center City. Who would have believed your magazine’s best new restaurant this year, Osteria, would be five blocks from campus?”


IN FOOTBALL, AS in business, it’s not just how you play the game. “Intercollegiate athletics affect the perception of a college,” alum Peter Chodoff says. “A winning team makes people feel loyalty. I care about football because I care about the school.”
Last December, Temple’s newly energized football fans drew in a collective breath when Golden flew out to UCLA to interview for its head-coaching position. “We panicked,” Lou Caputo admits. Golden was accused on Temple sports blogs of being two-faced, of talking a loyalty he didn’t walk. He spun the visit to his team as proof of their new worth: “Coach said those kinds of things put Temple’s name out there,” Steven Caputo says. “And when he turned UCLA down for Temple — that said a lot about him believing in us.” Golden said he hadn’t yet accomplished at Temple what he’s set out to do.