Why Does Neil Theobald Think Football Will Save Temple?

Temple is red-hot. So why is new president Neil Theobald staking the university’s future on its sad-sack football program?

Photography by Clint Blowers

Photography by Clint Blowers

It was a date that would live in infamy.

The news hit the scholar-athletes gathered in Temple University’s Student Pavilion on December 6th of last year like a brick to the gut: The sports teams they’d been recruited for, trained for, worked for, played for, were being eliminated — “Chop, boom, you’re gone,” read the headline in the Temple News. Seven teams went poof: men’s crew, women’s rowing, softball, baseball, men’s gymnastics, and men’s indoor and outdoor track and field. Dozens of young hearts — along with those of their coaches — were broken as the university’s new athletic director, Kevin Clark, wielded the ax in a brief, succinct speech. And everybody knew where to lay the blame. “Make no mistake: Football drove cuts” was the headline on a student-newspaper editorial. The Inquirer’s Bob Ford chimed in: “No kidding they had to cut sports to save money. They just didn’t cut the one they should have.”

It seemed a logical conclusion. The seven eliminated teams cost about $3 million, or just seven percent of the athletic budget. One hundred fifty athletes and nine full-time coaches were affected; the football team alone has 115 roster spots — 85 of them with scholarships — plus 29 coaches and assistants. Clark, however, said the cuts were being made to bring the school into line with Title IX requirements and the other members of Temple’s new American Athletic Conference, none of which fielded more varsity teams than Temple did. The savings, he insisted, would be used to upgrade all the remaining teams, not just football, which had recently concluded a 2-and-10 season under first-year coach Matt Rhule.

Temple’s new president, Neil Theobald, was equally adamant, telling the New York Times, “I can say unequivocally, that I never considered football in this decision.” He wrote in an op-ed for the Inquirer: “Football is not the reason for this move.” And really, what school would put its eggs in football’s basket, in an era when the NFL is paying out millions to players suffering from concussions, when the NCAA is crumbling under lawsuits from ex-players, when teams are accused of being havens for rapists and abusers, when President Obama himself has said he wouldn’t let a son of his play the game?

But as contrary as it sounds, as Temple nears the end of its 130th year of existence — and the fourth straight year in which the state legislature has refused to increase its funding — football could turn out to be its savior. The future of what Theobald likes to call “Philadelphia’s Public University” might be riding on the broad, padded shoulders of the student-athletes just about everybody seems to resent.

THE FIRST THING you need to know about Neil Theobald is that he’s a numbers guy. That’s his academic specialty; his doctorate is in higher-education financing. He gets hired to figure out how schools can pay for themselves. He’s also not from around here. He grew up in Peoria, Illinois; his dad worked at the Caterpillar tractor plant, and his mom was a bank teller. When he came home from high school and announced that anonymous donors would make it possible for him to attend tiny, prestigious Trinity College in far-off Connecticut on a full scholarship, his dad was bewildered. “Why would you do that?” he asked, pointing out that Neil had already been accepted into Caterpillar’s electrician apprenticeship.

Money changes everything. Theobald knows that. “Those donors took my life in a wildly different direction,” he says, sitting in the high-ceilinged office in Sullivan Hall that’s been his since January 2013. “I just got on a totally different escalator. That’s what we’re trying to do at Temple.”

His past would seem to make the solid Midwesterner a perfect fit for the school on North Broad Street, which had the humblest of beginnings back in 1884, when a young neighborhood man asked charismatic Baptist minister Russell Conwell to tutor him. Conwell took on the job, and before long, dozens of students were attending his night classes in hopes of bettering their lives.

That’s still Temple’s mission; historically, it’s served the working class, more rough-and-tumble than Penn or Drexel, utterly without airs. So is Theobald; for a college president, he’s shockingly unpretentious. A lot of Temple people use the word “refreshing” to describe him. From his first days on campus, he asked everyone he met, with Midwestern candor: “What are the problems here? How can we deal with them?”

Unsurprisingly, his earliest initiatives have to do with cost. “The biggest problem in our society,” he says, “is the level of student debt.” Debt-burdened graduates “can’t buy houses, can’t buy cars, can’t get married, can’t start their careers, because they have to service their debt. And that’s impacting the economy.”

So Theobald is pushing his new “Fly in 4” plan. Research shows that college students who work at a job for more than 15 hours a week have lower graduation rates and increased student debt. So low-income Temple students are getting paid not to work, receiving scholarships to replace lost wages in hopes they’ll graduate in four years and debt-free.

Don’t think this came about because the school is going begging. “We had 27,000 applications for 4,500 slots this past year,” Theobald says. Temple is benefiting from a number of national trends. The Chronicle of Higher Education says urban schools are hot right now — they provide access to better internships and research projects, not to mention nightlife. And Temple is a poster child for campus diversity.

Where Temple falters is in the size of its endowment. Drexel has $586 million in invested financial assets. Penn State and Pitt, both state-supported schools like Temple, each have $3 billion; Penn has $7.7 billion. Temple has a lowly $324 million. When times get tough, as they are now, colleges can raise tuition or dip into their endowments. Temple hates doing the former, in deference to its historic mission. And it can’t afford to do the latter, with so little squirreled away.

There is one other option: A school can go after alumni donations. Penn State, despite its recent woes, just successfully hit its $2 billion target in a “For the Future” campaign to add to its nest egg. Temple’s current campaign seeks just $100 mil. What does Penn State have that Temple doesn’t? For one thing, its football team. Even with the program’s well-publicized problems, Penn State is fifth in the nation in football attendance, averaging 96,587 fans per game last season. Temple draws about 22,000 fans to home games; they rattle around in 68,532-seat Lincoln Financial Field. Penn State football generated $58.9 million in revenue in FY 2011; the athletic department kicked in another $55 million from royalties, ads, sponsorships and licensing. When’s the last time you saw a Temple car magnet?

There are other differences between the two schools. Happy Valley is Shangri-la, 40,000 undergrads let loose in an 8,500-acre romper room of sports and sex and beer. Temple is crammed onto just over a hundred acres of asphalt, stuck between Broad Street and a public-housing clump. And for most of its existence, Temple was a commuter college, with students tucking classes around families and jobs. When Temple law professor Mark Rahdert arrived in 1984, “There were practically no resident students,” he says. Today, 12,000 of Temple’s 28,000 undergrads live on or near campus, with the number ticking upward each year.

As a result, this is much more like a classic college campus than it used to be. The newest dorm, $216 million Morgan Hall, is home to almost 1,300 kids. Visit the campus and you’ll see construction everywhere, along with sidewalk cleaners, window washers, painters, and dozens of private Temple cops and security guards. Even on a sleepy summer morning, walkways are full of life. Parents who went here return with their offspring for admissions visits and don’t recognize the place. Still to come: a vast green “campus center” where frat bros will toss Frisbees, profs will hold outdoor classes, researchers will sip lattes, co-eds will sunbathe — and the loyalty that brings in alumni dollars will be built.

NOT EVERYONE IS THRILLED with Temple’s new popularity. The school has a lengthy history of troubled relations with its neighbors. The home of immigrant industrial workers at the turn of the 20th century, North Philly fell on hard times after World War II. In the 1950s, Temple went so far as to purchase a new, suburban site in Cheltenham before president Robert L. Johnson renewed the school’s commitment to its deteriorating neighborhood. In the ’60s, with racial tensions erupting into riots along Columbia Avenue, activists demanded to know just how big Temple intended to get. Local representatives and the school couldn’t agree on a boundary, so the state stepped in. Lines were drawn: Temple wouldn’t intrude into the public housing on its east side, and it wouldn’t cross Broad Street to the west. “Temple honored that agreement for quite a few years,” says emeritus professor James Hilty, Temple’s chief historian.

Former mayor John Street represented the fifth Council district, which includes Temple, for almost 20 years. In the ’70s, he says, “It was the policy of the city not to make improvements there. It was too far gone; there was too much blight.” Redlining left residents unable to sell their properties; slum landlords moved in; there was little code enforcement. Relations between Temple and its neighbors were “very contentious”: “There had been all this mass condemnation of properties in West Philadelphia. Penn and Drexel just gobbled up neighborhoods. North Philadelphia was worried that would happen here.”

There was also, notes Street, who now teaches political science at Temple, the “natural tension” between rowdy beer-and-bong-fond students and longtime residents. He remembers neighbors complaining that Owls were urinating on them from houses at Broad and Norris; the school was “very disrespectful of the community.”

The ’70s were also when Temple football, which had been a regional power in the 1920s and ’30s, experienced a renaissance under coach Wayne Hardin. His Owls were 80-52-3 over 13 years, playing home games at Veterans Stadium in South Philly. More than 55,000 fans saw the Cherry and White beat California in the Garden State Bowl in 1979, the year the team had its winningest record at 10-and-2.

It was downhill from there. Formerly an independent, the team had joined the lofty Big East in 1991. (Temple’s other varsity sports competed in the Atlantic 10.) But in 2001, “We were asked to leave,” says Bill Bradshaw, who was hired as Temple’s athletic director the following year. With the Vet due to be razed, Temple moved its home games to Lincoln Financial Field for the 2003 season. Then, in January of 2005, based, Bradshaw says, on “the poor performance of the team and the hemorrhaging of money,” the school appointed a committee to decide whether it should drop the football program completely. Its members voted to play on.

Plenty of people still wish that vote had gone the other way — including, no doubt, most members of the sports teams that got cut last year. (The men’s and women’s crew teams were rescued by a $3 million donation from board member Gerry Lenfest and $2.5 million from the city.) Instead, Temple doubled down on football, hiring Virginia’s young defensive coordinator, Al Golden, a Penn State alum and Joe Paterno protégé, as head coach.

In four years, Golden roused the team to 9-and-4 and the 2009 EagleBank Bowl. The next year, the Owls went 8-and-4 — and Golden headed south to coach at the University of Miami, despite a contract extension reportedly worth $1.2 million a year. (Theobald’s salary is $450,000 this fiscal year, plus $200,000 in deferred compensation — in the middle of the pack for public university chiefs.)

Except for die-hard Owl football fans — and there are die-hard Owl football fans — nobody much noticed Golden’s desertion. Perhaps because of our borderline-insane Eagles love, Philly has never been a college football town. Besides, in the midst of the team’s return to respectability, the neighborhood had been undergoing a revival of its own.

IN 2007, CHEF Marc Vetri and two partners opened an Italian restaurant called Osteria in the 600 block of North Broad Street, a.k.a. the ends of the earth. This wasn’t Fairmount, or even Fishtown; it was flat-out North Philly, down the street from the shell of the Divine Lorraine Hotel. The Inquirer’s Craig LaBan, in his first review, said Osteria’s margherita pie could be “the pizza that saved North Broad Street.” Temple owes a lot to that pie.

A dozen blocks further north, the school’s Broad Street boundary had been breached in the ’90s by a dorm at Broad and Susquehanna and the opening of the Liacouras Center, a 10,000-seat venue that’s housed pro wrestling, rap concerts and the men’s basketball team. That was followed by Avenue North, a movie theater/retail/restaurant complex at the southern foot of campus. Stephen Starr and Vetri developed the old Wilkie Buick site; Eric Blumenfeld bought the Metropolitan Opera House and jump-started stalled plans for the Divine Lorraine. Bart Blatstein dreams of a European village atop the abandoned Inquirer building. Bit by bit, the vacancies in the North Broad landscape are filling in.

Theobald, who frequently walks to Temple from his Center City home, says the school considers its environs part of what makes it unique: “We’re a public research university in a large urban area. New York doesn’t have that. Boston doesn’t have that. D.C. doesn’t have that.” The school has educated Philly’s middle-class backbone — dentists, nurses, teachers — for generations; one in seven area college grads is a Temple alum. Temple’s hospital system is the city’s de facto charity ward, providing $68 million in gratis and under-reimbursed care in FY 2013. The university had $230 million in research expenditures that fiscal year. “There’s potential here that people aren’t aware of,” Theobald says.

“We’re in the shadow of Penn,” Rahdert agrees. “The collective vision of the faculty is that the further you get from Philadelphia, the better Temple’s reputation gets.” Exhibit A: In July, Temple researchers announced they’d become the first in the world to successfully eliminate the HIV virus from cultured human cells.

To get that sort of good news out, Theobald created a new position — vice president for strategic marketing and communications — and brought in Karen Clarke from a similar role at the University of Houston. She sees her job as “telling Temple’s story in new and important ways.” Houston and Temple share some of the same issues, she notes: “I think of it as a kind of adolescent mentality. It’s as though they’re saying, ‘We’re not sure what we’re good at.’ They’re self-deprecating.” Having Penn as your neighbor will do that.

But as Clarke’s new marketing campaigns point out, kids today are proud to be Temple Made. Freshman GPAs are at an all-time high. Undergrads from other states and overseas made up 20 percent of last year’s student body, up from 12 percent in 1983. Over the summer, the school’s Twitter account reveled in delirious newbies:

@KyleJMc37: Moving into my dorm @ Temple in exactly 2 wks. So excited to spend the next 4 yrs there

@_tweedle_de: I love you @TempleUniv I can’t wait I’m too excited :) :)

Where the hell do these kids think they’re going — Happy Valley? They’re having so much fun on campus these days that Theobald had to cancel the annual Spring Fling due to drinking and rowdiness. The only thing North Broad needs now is a line of underclassmen in letter sweaters kicking through autumn leaves to the homecoming game.

WHICH BRINGS UP the touchy subject of an on-campus football stadium. Temple’s contract to use the Linc for home games expires after 2017. In an April interview in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Theobald said Eagles management was nearly doubling the rent, to $3 million a year, and demanding an additional $12 million for renovations. “We’re not about to give them that kind of money,” he said. The Eagles retorted that they hadn’t held any talks with Temple about the contract in more than a year. “We do not consider statements in the press to be negotiations with us,” Eagles president Don Smolenski snipped.

Temple’s total athletic budget has already swelled from $25 million in 2010 to $44 million in 2014. Joel Maxcy, a professor in the school of tourism and hospitality management, told the Philadelphia Business Journal that a new North Philly stadium would cost some $200 million. That makes even the hiked-up Linc rent look cheap.

“You don’t have to build a $200 million stadium,” Kevin Clark counters. “You can build a nice, intimate 30,000-to-40,000-seat stadium for $80 million or $100 million. That’s what they did at Central Florida and Tulane” — two other American Athletic Conference schools.

“Look,” says Theobald. “We have a good relationship with the Eagles. We’ll be at the Linc for four more years. But the rent will be getting higher. This is student money, public money. The only responsible thing is to look for alternatives. One possibility is that we would build our own stadium on campus. Every college would want to have that.”

“We’d love a stadium on campus,” says John Campolongo, ’92, a managing director at asset management firm SEI and past president of Temple’s alumni association. “It’s a great way to bring alumni back and keep students involved.” But if you’ve just spent a year insisting it wasn’t football’s fault that baseball and softball got cut, how do you build football a new home?

Even thornier than that problem, where the hell would you put it? “A stadium isn’t just 100 yards long,” Hilty points out. “You have to figure in infrastructure, parking … you’d need four whole city blocks.” When Temple bought William Penn High in June, stadium rumors swirled. Temple insists it has no such plans for that site, but it’s wary of accusations of neighborhood-gobbling. Residents who once couldn’t give their homes away complain they can’t afford to live here now; the median price of a house near campus has shot from $17,000 in 2000 to more than $100,000 last year. In September, the school announced a 25-square-block expansion of the area patrolled by campus police. The irony isn’t lost on anyone at the school; the citizens it’s displacing are those it was founded to serve.

Temple tries to keep peace with its neighbors. In June, HUD announced a real plum for the area: a $30 million grant to replace 147 units of public housing on the east side of campus with 297 new mixed-income homes, a workforce training center, a community center, retail space, underground parking and a one-acre park. Temple pledged $1.2 million to the project. City Council President Darrell Clarke, who now represents what was John Street’s district, worked hard to bring all the parties to the table and develop the grant proposal. Was there finally a tentative peace between town and gown?

Um, no. Before the month was out, a coalition of neighborhood activists and residents sought an injunction to block the William Penn High sale, accusing Clarke of pulling strings to push the deal through. Clarke’s office called the allegations “baseless and false.” So much for détente.

The sale now seems poised to go through. But there was another, worse blow to Temple over the summer. Just weeks after he’d delivered the spring commencement speech, Lewis Katz, the university’s biggest donor and supporter, member of the board of directors and longtime chair of its athletic committee, died in a plane crash. “He’s irreplaceable,” Theobald says. “It’s a huge loss.”

LAST WINTER, very uncharacteristically, Temple’s men’s basketball team tanked, going 9-and-22 in its eighth season under Fran Dunphy (who left Penn to coach here). Historically, the team has been very good; it has the sixth winningest record in the NCAA.

Basketball programs are much less expensive than football, and the college hoops scene is a lot more fluid; every NCAA tourney features some upstart like Wichita State. Temple already has the Liacouras Center, and a luxe basketball practice facility that’s been renovated to the tune of $58 million. What with the Big Five’s intense cross-town rivalries and the hallowed Palestra, “We say Philadelphia is the capital of college basketball,” says Bradshaw. Which raises the question: Why would Temple bank on football instead? “Whenever there’s a mystery in college sports,” says Bradshaw, “go to the green.”

Critics of big-time college sports say only a handful of schools turn a profit from them. But money isn’t all that’s at stake. In its first season in the American, Temple football had a record number of televised games. “There’s a national appetite for football,” says Karen Clarke. “It offers the opportunity for national exposure that no other sport affords.” Clarke’s previous work history includes the University of South Florida as well as Houston. “I’m from the South,” she says. “Football is big. You don’t question anything about it. I don’t understand why it would seem odd to anyone to look at football as a positive.”

Theobald brought A.D. Kevin Clark along with him from Indiana, a school in the Big Ten — Penn State’s conference — where football might be even bigger than it is down South. “You look at Big Ten schools like Michigan and Penn State,” the A.D. says, “and you get a good sense of what it takes to have a successful program. You see the excitement and visibility football brings to campus. You can learn from them.”

Besides, there’s a template for how to turn a D-1 football program around. In 2008, driven by fear it would get kicked out of its conference, the mighty ACC, Duke set out to revamp its perennially putrid football team. The university seduced legendary SEC coach David Cutcliffe — mentor to Eli and Peyton Manning — away from Tennessee with a salary of $1.5 million, then overhauled the team’s practice facility and stadium. Cutcliffe changed the team culture (at their first practice, he told players they were “the fattest, softest football team I’ve ever seen in my life”) and ramped up recruiting. Three years later, Duke football pulled in $21.9 million in revenue. It made $1.7 million in a 2012 trip to the Belk Bowl, and almost $4 million from the 2013 Chick-fil-A Bowl, a thrilling throw-fest in which Johnny Manziel’s Texas A&M Aggies just barely eked out a 52-48 win.

The potential for Temple football to generate serious income is there. The American Athletic Conference has a seven-year, $126 million TV deal with ESPN to air football and basketball. (Temple’s old conference, the Big East, turned down a 2011 TV deal for $1.17 billion before seven Catholic schools departed, taking the name with them and leaving the husk to form the American.) This may only be Coach Rhule’s second year, but he was here for all five years of Golden’s tenure, plus one season under successor Steve Addazio, so he’s a familiar face. Like Golden, he’s a Penn State alum (a walk-on linebacker!) schooled at Joe Pa’s knee. He’s continued the emphasis on classroom performance that Golden began. In July, Temple sophomore quarterback P.J. Walker was named to the watch list for the Maxwell Award — presented annually to the best college player in the country. Rhule’s 2015 recruiting class is the finest the school has had in decades. In its season opener, Temple thumped Vanderbilt — an SEC school — 37-to-7.

Ask about a stadium on campus, though, and the boyishly handsome Rhule steps right into central casting: “Wherever they tell us to play, I’ll play. All we need is two acres and a ball.” Rudy! Rudy! Rudy!

IT MAY SEEM CRAZY to keep talking about football when Temple has so much more going for it right now. But as Theobald says, sports are the “front porch” of a university; they build the brand and attract new students and alumni dollars the way nothing else can. He says cutting those teams was “the hardest decision I’ve ever made in higher education. It was the right thing to do. But explaining that to the kids … ”

Historian James Hilty says Temple “has never had enough money to deal with all its ambition.” In making the cuts, “Neil was saying: I’ve been around the Big Ten. If you’re going to compete, you better put up the money. It was a hard-hearted decision that was made in a hard-hearted way.”

But Theobald isn’t a visionary; he’s a numbers guy. In the larger sense, he told the truth: The cuts weren’t because of football. They were because of the harsh new reality of college finances.

You know who would appreciate him? Temple founder Russell Conwell, who made his name as an orator delivering his “Acres of Diamonds” speech up and down the East Coast. It’s a windy, winding lecture exhorting listeners to strive for wealth:

You and I know there are some things more valuable than money; of course, we do. … Nevertheless, the man of common sense also knows that there is not any one of those things that is not greatly enhanced by the use of money. Money is power.

If Temple builds a stadium, will they come to North Broad — the new students, the ace recruits, the deep-pocketed alumni, and the hotels and restaurants and bars to house and feed and amuse them? Football profits could help Theobald achieve his goal of hiring more tenure-track faculty. They could improve facilities for non-revenue sports like fencing and crew. They could build the endowment, fund scholarships, underwrite neighborhood public schools and ease community relations. This could be Temple’s moment, its cue to step out of the shadows and into the sun.

“No final decision has been made,” John Campolongo says coyly.

Bradshaw, less cautious, expects that stadium to rise, and soon: “There will be an announcement before the end of the year,” he predicts. Kevin Clark insists there’s no such announcement in the works. Still …

“They’ve got to do something,” says Street, who as mayor put together the deal for the Linc’s financing. “I’m outraged that the Eagles are treating Temple like that.” He’d plunk a new stadium down at 15th and Montgomery: “It’s like my mother used to say — God bless the child that’s got his own.”

Originally published as “This Is Temple’s Savior?” in the October 2014 issue of Philadelphia magazine.

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  • supertaco

    I like this! Go Temple!

  • Tom w

    Fantastic article. As an alum, i think a 30000-40000 person on campus stadium is exactly what the university, program, and city needs …. Alums will be able to take train w ease right to campus or drive, and students will walk over in force. Really a nobrainer rather than giving money to the eagles. Keep the coach and build something special in the american conference until the acc comes calling during the next future realignment.

    • Phillysportsfan

      Well said.

  • Alumnus

    There is a much cheaper solution: play at Franklin Field. Temple already spends way too much money on sports. They are a school first and foremost, not a minor league football team.

    • papreps
    • Tom w

      Very silly idea

    • Temple Made

      Also the American Athletic conference like all division 1 conference have stadium requirements that I am not sure if Franklin Field would meet. Plus think of the basic operations nightmare of having 2 college teams who both play on Saturdays trying to play games.

    • sdsdsd

      Your lack of vision is shocking. Glad you aren’t in charge of anything important.

      • Alumnus

        What’s shocking is people like you who would waste hundreds of millions of dollars on building and maintaining a stadium that would only be used a few times a year. My vision is clear: I see that Temple is a school and academics must come first.

        • Go Temple U

          I wouldn’t say your lack of vision is shocking. Rather, it’s quite typically idiotic.

        • James Badley

          Your ignorance is astounding. First of all if a stadium is to be built, it will be a multipurpose facility which will have classrooms attached to it so it can be used year round by students. See U. of Cin. facility. Secondly, the cost of the stadium can be reduced by licensing the naming rights (you ever heard of Lincoln FInancial Field or PNC Park?) In addition, Temple would keep all revenue for events to include parking, concessions etc. and it would also drive people including Alumni back to the campus. There are 12k students living out or around Temple town. I envison that growing to 15k-18k in 3-5 years. Temple is in a growth mode and is attracting students. Having healthy athletic events like NCAA Football and Basketball builds a connection to the school and also helps out with marketing. In 1988 when Temple Basektball was rated number 1 in the college basketball polls durign the season, the University recieved a record amount of students applying. Don’t tell me Athletics is a marketing tool.

    • Phillysportsfan

      Franklin Field is simply not a viable option or a longterm solution for Temple. And unless a university is a member of the Ivy League or simply has an outstanding reputation for academics, athletics often are considered a leading window into a university. Successful sports can be considered invaluable advertisements for schools. As Temple’s president put it, athletics are like the “front porch” of a state-related university. I think it could be argued that athletics matter greatly, particularly for large state universities like Temple. Alumni dollars are built through loyalty, fans in the seats are built through loyalty. Give Temple people something to cheer about, connect with, be proud of, and they will support their alma-mater. Almost 150,000 of them in the Philly/Tri-State Area…almost 300,000 globally (292,000+ total alums)

  • simpson_was_here

    I love the last quote by John Street….who extorted Temple to tune of several million dollars for a “community development fund” or he wouldn’t approve the permits needed to build the Liacouras Center….what a hypocrite.

  • Phillysportsfan

    Great article. Very thorough. As an alum, I think that Temple should definitely consider building a 35,000-40,000 seat multipurpose football stadium located directly on or right off of the Main Campus. Such a facility could prove to be very beneficial with many uses for Temple University as well as the City of Philadelphia. It would provide a permanent home for the Temple Football program and would further display Temple’s longtime institutional commitment to fielding a FBS D I-A college football program. A football stadium would allow Temple to hold more outdoors events and ceremonies (welcome events/outdoors graduation ceremonies, concerts, etc..) Could likely also further contribute to the redevelopment/renewal of Lower North Philadelphia, would likely provide a financial boost to local businesses and the community economy.

    If Temple does decide to build a new football stadium, I hope that they build a monument of real value that lasts. A nice stadium with multiple uses as opposed to something shoddy and mediocre.

    A potential football stadium could incorporate academic and/or residential student uses as well. Consolidating the presence of both major athletics programs to the increasingly residential Main Campus would probably also go a long way in further transforming Temple’s student/alumni/main campus culture. A new on-campus football venue may increase student fan support and also act as a catalyst for bringing back some older alums to the Main Campus. It may also encourage more non-affiliated Temple people to visit and see Temple’s campus for themselves. Temple’s campus has beneficially improved and radically transformed for the better over the years. Temple has preserved the traditional campus, complimenting the old with many new developments and facilities. Temple should indeed showcase what is actually a quite beautiful Main Campus, particularly for an urban Northeastern university located in the heart of one of the largest cities in the U.S. As Temple continually expands its footprint, Temple will need to accommodate more residential student needs and likely need even more campus facilities than currently exist.

    • Kate

      We need some alumni to come together to financially support a great project like this stadium

      • Phillysportsfan

        That would definitely help.

  • Andrew

    Great Article! Temple football IS on the rise, but this does an a good job of showing that TU is rising in many other areas as well! Hopefully it all comes together. No doubt Temple is waiting to come alive and realize its full potential. Here’s to hoping the right people are in charge to tap that potential.

  • Go Temple U

    Great article. Theobald is the right leader at the right time for TU. An on-campus stadium would be a tipping point for Templetown. Personally, my checkbook is open based on the mere discussion of such a monumental concept.

  • TforTU

    President Theobald needs to go back to the Midwest. He’s a terrible President. The faculty, students, and community hate

    • Tom w

      Disagree completely. Temple hasnt seem this much success and growth in years. New ad and president are making smart tough decisions and looking to the future.

      • TforTU

        Are you kidding???? Temple experienced the most growth in its history from 2000 to 2012. Theobald has done absolutely nothing in his two year except cut some teams. HE hasn’t even managed to get the board to agree upon the Campus Vision yet. He’s a loser and a bust. HE should be fired along with all his hires. Temple should go back and ask their 1st and 2nd candidates to take his position — because he was 3rd choice for a reason.

        • chips4TU

          Okay TforTU: I was with some of your thought process until you came up with your emotional tripe about the new president. I work at Temple and can count 8 different ways he has fundamentally changed Temple in his short stay here. Including a change in the campus vision.

          • TforTU

            Please list them out.
            I’m interested to hear. As of
            right now, all I hear are terrible things from people inside Temple’s walls
            (including some very senior people).

  • TforTU

    I see the Temple’s 10 football fans are posting like crazy
    on here. If they want a stadium then the
    football fans should figure out a way to pay for it without student tuition or
    state funds paying off bonds.

    • Phillysportsfan

      Temple Football draws the most students and fans out of any Temple team. Averages 25,000-28,000 a season in home attendance, the football following dwarfs men’s basketball and any other team following. Temple finally has a president and AD with vision. And as a former student who recently graduated with Theobald as the president, I totally disagree with that post. Most of the people who dislike Temple’s current administrative leadership are the ones upset about the olympic sports cuts, and I can understand their frustration. I do believe the cuts were the right decision, while also being a very tough and controversial decision.

      • TforTU

        25,000 fans is nothing by college football standards. And TUFB is operating at over an $8m/year loss – which means $80m per decade. Plus, the cost of $15m for the practice field expansion, $500k for indoor facility, $3m for new turf, and all the money needed to support the players who are academically below the standards of the university. And now they want tax payers and students to pay an additional $100m to $300m for a stadium???? Give me a break, man. This program is a joke and taking funds away from education, student scholarships, new academic facilities, etc.

        If you think most people are angry about the cuts then you
        obviously don’t know the history of the program. People HATE Temple football and the program was nearly cut a decade about due to its unpopularity. Theobald is terrible and doesn’t understand that people attending college in Philadelphia don’t have the same interests as being in the middle of the country. He needs to go. He’s terrible and has the worst yellow teeth I’ve ever seen.

        • Phillysportsfan

          The overwhelming majority of college football teams operate at a financial loss. But is it really a loss for the amount of media exposure that state universities receive from football? Essentially, Temple is paying $8 million annually to field a football program, and everything that goes along with it, media exposure, advertising, publicity from ESPN, etc… Only a minority of uni’s turn any profit from football. Temple has been fielding a football team since the end of the 19th century (1890s). Temple has a long tradition of fielding a football program. Temple can do better with fan attendance, sure, many schools can, that comes with sustained investment and on-field success.

          Temple is on an upwards trend in regards to football, currently 3-1 on the 2014 the season, looking like they’ll likely be going to another bowl game. Temple Football won 26 games in three consecutive seasons, bowl eligible three times from 2009-2011, appeared in two nationally televised bowl games vs. UCLA and Wyoming, won a bowl in a rout and lost one close. That was invaluable publicity for Temple. Temple has notable wins over Maryland, Vanderbilt, UConn, etc in football in recent years. Some absolutely great coaches throughout the years too some in the College FB HOF: Pop Warner, Wayne Hardin, Bruce Arians, Al Golden, and hopefully Matt Rhule also.

          A stadium will incorporate a variety of uses and could meet many other needs for Temple going beyond athletics. Residential and academic needs. It would be an entertainment venue also. It would just be a positive venue for the university to own. Funding could feasibly be done with private and public interest, corporate sponsorships, etc.

          And who hates Temple Football? It still draws crowds more than half the size of Temple’s total student body, even after the dark ages of the 90s and early 00s. Temple Football currently recruits and draws better than what has been a successful Temple Men’s basketball program.

          For the first time in Temple’s history, the athletics programs are all consolidated into one athletic conference, the AAC. However, a truly consolidated sports presence of both of Temple’s major programs (men’s basketball and football) has still never happened on Temple’s Main Campus before. It could beneficially improve Temple’s Main Campus culture and further bolster desperately needed alumni and student relations. I think bringing football to the Main Campus would be great, a new multipurpose football venue would compliment Temple’s already great basketball home venue and their new state-of-the-art basketball practice facilities.

          • TforTU

            It draws more crowds than more than half the size of Temple’s student body, huh? That’s comparing apples and oranges. The average student attendance last year was under 1000/game. Additionally, Temple inflates the attendance numbers by a number of different ways (like counting all the box seats as sold though they are less than 1/3 filled many of the time). Also — most of the people who come to the game are families of 4 of people bringing friends — which means the actual alumni attendance is more like 5000-7000 per game plus their family and friends (assuming 2.1 child per household like the stat).

            Regarding exposure, nothing beats nearly 35 straight years of negative press from how terrible the football team is. Temple cannot buy that kind of coverage.

            Dude, your loyalty is awesome — I’ll give you a clap for that. But the reality is most people could care less about Temple football. I went to Temple for a city experience with arts and culture — not terrible football teams that bring students who like to rape and beat women (yes, Temple Football has had those complaints against them to). It’s a terrible program that isn’t worth the investment it would take to make a winning program. I’d rather Temple cut the football team and spend the $17m it pours into it’s budget each year into marketing itself academically or providing better scholarships — and with you take your rose-colored glasses off, you’ll realize that the fact that Temple has over 300k in its alumni base with only around 5000-7000 showing up fora game is ridic to spend $17m/year on a program, plus ask tax payers to spend hundreds of millions more in simple welfare payments so these 5000 alumni can enjoy a game that we lose or play against terrible teams. What a joke and awful way to spend money.

            Time to send Theobald back to the middle of nowhere.

          • Phillysportsfan

            Temple is not NYU though. Temple is Temple, a large urban public state-related research university that throughout almost the entirety of its history has always had a football team.

          • TforTU

            Temple’s identity is not tied to football. They’ve cut baseball, softball, track, gymnastics, etc — many of them had rich histories. Heck, they were going to cut crew even though the school’s reputation is more closely tied to that than football.

            Temple is not a Big10/ACC school and never will be. It’s financially not strong enough and doesn’t have the endowment to support itself. Cut programs like football which are dragging down the budget and use those funds and the hundreds of millions of facilities upgrades to benefit the academic foundation of the university. Build some more dorms so students aren’t forced to live in the community — there are tons of better ways to spend that money than on a worthless football program that will never amount to anything.

          • Tom w

            Acc is gonna come calling during next realizgnment. A successful football and basketball program drives admissions and marketing and exposure … Very narrow minded if you dont believe that a good football program would be bad for the university in any form … Ask rutgers and cincy and louisville how their football programs properly invested in ultimately aided the school in admissions and revenue.

          • TforTU

            “What does Philadelphia need?” “Temple football,” says no one, especially the ACC. They aren’t interested, bud. Move on from pipe dreams and win some real games. Until then no one will ever take this program seriously. Temple football would be bottom of the ACC and attendance would reverse back to what it was a decade ago. LIke I said, waste of money.

          • Phillysportsfan

            Temple needs to follow the model Rutgers did at the beginning of the 00’s and that model says get serious about football. The model that Louisville and Cincinnati are following and even schools like Houston and Tulane are now emulating. Temple would be a great fit for the ACC down the line, bringing in the 4th largest media market. It’s all about media market exposure, not even necessarily about the product anymore.

          • TforTU

            Temple doesn’t have the endowment nor government support compared to Rutgers or most of the ACC schools. And the school has nothing to financially offer the ACC — that’s why many of the former BE schools who voted Temple out of the BE aren’t going to vote to bring Temple into the ACC. TU burned a lot of bridges, has no money, and has low alumni support. Provide facts that prove otherwise or end the debate.

          • Phillysportsfan

            Temple could potentially offer the ACC a contiguous footprint on the East Coast from Boston to Florida. And this isn’t a genuine debate it sounds like someone has a personal beef/vendetta with a decision that the new president, AD, and BOT made.

            I’m sure that some olympic sports athletes from Temple are still upset about the cuts, they have every right to be, but they should also move on and accept the fact that football happens to be the most popular sport in our nation.

            I doubt that Temple will ever cut football. They already established a commission that studied the effects of the program. Temple Football already tried to die once and it did not, it just came back stronger. And now we’re having discussions about potential stadiums because of it…

          • TforTU

            It’s a popular sport in America — but it’s not a popular sport at Temple. Temple doesn’t have the resources to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on a dumb football program.

            I’m not someone with a vendetta. But I’m not going to let people destroy TU or donate money to be wasted on a football stadium for a program that hasn’t earned it, especially in a city that could use the funds to do many other valuable things.

            As for the olympic sports that you mentioned, they have every right to be angry. You just said football has been part of the university forever and so were many of those programs. They were cut in an unfair way that hurt the students and alumni. And you have no right to elevate football over any of them — especially for a program that is historically terrible, lacks support, and wasted hundreds of millions more than any of those teams did.

          • Phillysportsfan

            Football is still the most popular sport at Temple. Temple Football has had 3 former head coaches enshrined in the College Football Hall of Fame. Men’s Basketball also has a strong following. Football still has the broadest appeal though and can be considered integral for alumni relations. When I applied to Temple as a prospective college student, I honestly didn’t really consider rooting for the crew or gymnastics teams. However, I did consider rooting for Temple’s football and men’s basketball team. I do agree with you though that football program needs to continue improving and keep proving its worth and merit. However, Temple needs to actually commit and invest in its football program. Money will be spent on it either way. An investment in Temple Football, is an investment in Temple University. Football is often the face/front door of a university.

          • Phillysportsfan

            To be honest, Temple’s identity has been tied to football for a quite a long time. I mean I know Temple is nowhere near Penn State in football in many regards but football has dictated the situation at Temple for years. Big time college football runs the show and even for schools like Temple. Temple’s athletics situation and direction for the past three decades has been dictated by football.

          • TforTU

            Get real. There are more PSU and Villanova shirts and bummer stickers running around Philly that Temple. No one cares about Temple football. You sound pathetic trying to even defend it.

          • TforTU

            Get real. There are more PSU and Villanova shirts and bumper stickers running around Philly that Temple. No one cares about Temple football. You sound pathetic trying to even defend it.

          • TforTU

            Get real. There are more PSU and Villanova shirts and bumper stickers running around Philly than Temple. No one cares about Temple football. You sound pathetic trying to even defend it.

          • Phillysportsfan

            Villanova football doesn’t draw a fraction of what Temple Football draws. LOL. And 25,000+ Temple folks care about Temple Football. There is more care for football than any other sport at Temple. Temple Football is the reason Temple rejoined the Big East and subsequently the AAC as an all-sports member.

          • TforTU

            Your point? Butts in seats mean nothing when alumni aren’t donating and Temple football is losing millions a year at tax payer and student expense. Last time I checked, Villanova funds its own football program without all the handouts.

            I don’t like Temple football — I”ve made my point and spoke up for the millions of others who think it’s a waste of money and should be cut. You and the 5000 other alumni who support it, please keep up the good work. Hopefully, you guys can figure out how to build a stadium without using state funds because this is the last thing PA taxpayers want to fund.

          • Phillysportsfan

            Pennsylvania taxpayers should realize that what is good for one of Pennsylvania’s largest state universities is good for the economy of the City of Philadelphia and the broader Commonwealth. Sometimes you have to spend money to make money. Investment is a part of business. It’s good to attract more in-state and out-of-state money through investment. Temple has continually been trying to rebuild a long neglected slum/community, North Philadelphia.

            I like Temple Football and Temple Basketball. No other teams represent the university as visibly as football or basketball do. That’s a fact. And none of the other sports teams draw nearly as well attendance wise as football and men’s basketball.

          • TforTU

            Let’s put this in perspective — the new Boardwalk in Philly cost $20m and will draw more visitors per year than Temple football.

            Taxpayers will realize that Temple football is a bad investment. No on cares about that program. Yet again — start supplying some stats to backup your claims or stop cheerleading. I don’t care if temple football is the biggest drawing sport at Temple — they are spending $17m/year just to draw an extremely low number of supporters — it’s bad business.

            As for the large “slum” community next to Temple (as you so politely called it), they don’t want the stadium either. They are part of Philadelphia and Theobald has called Temple “Philadelphia’s University.” Well, Philadelphians don’t want Temple football. And they definitely don’t want the state giving Temple $100ms when the public school system needs it more.

          • Phillysportsfan

            The Philadelphia Public School system has been a massive failure. And North Philadelphia is not really much of a community, the area could indeed be described as a slum. North Philadelphia would just be another one of the poorest and most crime ridden urban areas in the U.S. if it weren’t for Temple University (who acts charitably in the community and tries to clean up the neighborhood). What would North Philadelphia be without Temple? Temple is the legitimate economic backbone of North Philadelphia. Industry moved out a long time ago…and football costs 8 million not 17 million.

          • TforTU

            Failure or not — it’s a priority over funding a football team.

          • TforTU

            Just because more Temple people support Temple football than any other sport doesn’t mean it’s a good business decision. Sorry man. Get over it.

            25000 people support it — most of them families which includes an alumni, husband/wife, and 2 kids. Add that in there, it means only 5k to 7k alumni support the team over the 300k. That’s less than 2% of alumni supporting the team. Meanwhile, the Athletic Department spends $17m/year of the $45m budget on football — that’s 30% of the budget. If they weren’t pouring money into the program to beg people to come to the games, the support would jump back down to 15k range, just like it did for Del State game which was coming off a “big win” against the SEC (eye roll).

            The bottomline line is that Temple football isn’t worth the money. The Athletic Department is spending millions that taxpayers and students are subsidizing to the program, and it’s wrong. Cut the team and then use the $17m towards making Temple a better academic university.

  • mtm

    Great article! While It is true, Temple is the school for the neighborhood city kid, I do disagree with the statement that there is irony in the school displacing the neighborhood and the very people it was meant to serve. Having been around awhile and being a member of Cronwell’s Grace Baptist Temple, that huge beautifully domed building wasting away on Broad Street, the neighborhood was not what it became in the 1960s, when the church and later Temple University were built. In the end moving forward with the plans for expansion is a win-win.
    The other question I have, is why it’s not common knowledge that the Eagles DO NOT OWN LINCOLN FIELD. They lease the facility from the City. I’m sure it’s much more complicated, but this I know. So the real winer is the City. That being said, Philly needs to step up to the plate and do everything possible to facilitate and expedite Temple’s expansion.
    What a treasure is lying waste on Broad Street, Cronwell’s church. That was bought by Temple in 1971, I believe with talk of many uses… In the 1980’s it was rumored they would raise it, from what I understood, it is uninhabitable – has that changed? If that is true, save the facade to incorporate into the new stadium. Build it there. Raise that block and area and Cronwell’s vision comes full circle. He built the church, which built the university, and because football is the horse that colleges ride to stay viable, the church’s land will save the university.

    • Phillysportsfan

      Conwell’s church has been totally renovated and has been in use for quite some time. The Baptist Temple is still great and is now known as the Temple Performing Arts Center. It holds graduation events, speeches, etc..That building would most likely would not be the location of a new Temple Football stadium. Plus that building is historic.

    • DK

      I believe you are talking about the Baptist Temple? This facility HAS been rennovated and reopened in 2010 as Temple Performing Arts Center. Mainly used for performances by Temple’s Boyer College of Music, it is home to many university and community events. So this location is not an option (nor would there be enough space considering TPAC is locked in by Broad Street and other surrounding buildings.

  • Philly Boy

    OK .. here we go. First of all the Eagles are tripling the rent come 2018 for Temple. It will jump from $1 mil per year to $3 mil per year with a 30 year lease. Temple also is being asked to pay $12 million as their share of the recent stadium upgrades. So Temple is in debt to the Eagles for $42 million going into the new lease. Tulane just got a brand new stadium for $80 million. Franklin Field would technically be another schools football field and does nothing for the Temple campus.
    A campus stadium for Temple would do wonders for the campus. It would be the final piece to the recent construction. There are only about 5 college teams playing in NFL stadiums. Come 2018 perhaps only Pitt and SDSU will be the only teams remaining doing that.
    Playing on campus will bring a college football atmosphere to Temple games. Temple will still have access to the Eagles stadium for big games such as the occasional Penn State or Notre Dame game. I can see football rallying the alumni and staff at Temple. The stadium will also give Temple a home field advantage. It can also be used for graduations, concerts and high school games. The stadium will also right-size Temple football. 30K seats is about right.
    I support football at Temple but I want to see it done the right way. It’s wrong to play in a 2/3’s empty NFL stadium far from campus for 90% of Temple’s games.
    I can only imagine how much nicer it would be this weekend for Temple to play homecoming on campus against Tulsa U.
    It was my hope that Pres Theobald would make some significant changes at Temple. If Temple gets their own stadium and becomes a Top 25 and bowl team on a regular basis, the 30k campus stadium will be packed and the good times will roll for the Owls!