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



There’s one job it’s impossible to imagine him turning down, though: head coach at Penn State. Joe Paterno can’t hold on forever. And with each Temple win, chatter heats up: Could Golden be the Second Coming of Joe? He claims to be unaware of the groundswell. He doesn’t ever go online, doesn’t read newspapers, doesn’t watch much sports on TV. Temple sports P.R. rep Cathy Bongiovi, though, who also went to Penn State, says, “I’ve always had it in the back of my mind that he’d replace Coach Paterno.” Reminded that the odds seem to favor Rutgers coach Greg Schiano, she sniffs: “He’s good, but he’s not an alum. I know how Penn State people think.”
Alumni ties bind, wrap even those of us who may not have loved our schools while we were there in the soft, fuzzy gauze of nostalgia. And football taught Al Golden that relationships are what count. They’re what he loves about the game: the wooing of recruits, the high-fives, the locker-room laughter, the conjunctive ecstasy and grief. That all-for-one-and-one-for-all — “There’s nothing like it in the rest of life,” he says. With every high  –  school prospect, every potential transfer, every walk-on ­wannabe, when he talks up Temple football, it’s a relationship he’s selling, weaving a mesh as durable as a practice jersey as he promises: I’ll be here for you.
That’s the paradox of Al Golden. Sooner or later he won’t be, precisely because he’s so good at getting young men to buy what he has to sell.