Change For The Better?
The Big East that exists today is not the Big East Temple athletic director Bill Bradshaw thought his program was going to join back in March. But if you think the latest defection of seven non-football schools that is seen by many as a fatal blow to what was once uniformly considered the best basketball league in the country has Bradshaw concerned, think again. He thinks they should have left sooner. "I think the Catholic guys should have done what they did and they should have done it 20 years ago," said Bradshaw, once the AD at DePaul, one of the schools preparing to leave the Big East. "We'll live without them. They should be with schools that are lot more common in terms of institutions, size of arenas, size of budgets in basketball. To be involved with a powerful football conference that spends five or six times the money in athletics they do is probably a difficult thing to do. "They'll be in a different place, maybe a little more mid-major. They'll be a very good basketball league just like the Atlantic 10, just like the Missouri Valley, they'll probably be the best three (non-football leagues) and maybe that's what the way life should be." The loss of St. John's, Georgetown, Villanova, Marquette, DePaul, Providence and Seton Hall is just the latest blow to a conference which saw all-sports schools Rutgers and Louisville announce their intention to depart since Temple signed on. Tulane and East Carolina (football-only) were added, but both are considered downgrades to what the league is losing, and commissioner Mike Aresco might have work to do convincing the Western schools, most notable Boise State, to join the football league this season as they are expected to do. "We've been through more difficult things, like the board of trustees voting whether to keep football," said Bradshaw. "Like a conference saying you're out, like having to wait two weeks before the first game to get a deal with the Eagles in Lincoln Financial Field. I have a Hall of Fame of difficult things to say this isn't so bad. So forgive me if I'm not keeling over and crying and whining about it." Temple men's basketball coach Fran Dunphy didn't express any remorse at a basketball league that has lost nine schools in the last few months – at least three or four which could be considered a traditional basketball power. "I think we're in a state of flux at this point," conceded Dunphy. "No one knows exactly what is going to happen, but I feel very good about where Temple is positioned no matter what happens. It's a wonderful University with a great history, a basketball program with great history and tradition. "I couldn't venture a guess how everything is all going to come together, nor when. This is not new stuff, it's been happening over the last six months, teams jockeying over position. As a basketball coach I don't have any control over that. There's not much you can do. The only thing you can control is where we are this year, but I think something positive will happen for Temple University because of how good a place this is." From a football program standpoint, the losses of Rutgers and Louisville hurts, but the common thought at Temple is it is in a better spot regardless than it was as a football-playing member of the Mid-American Conference. "We're in a conference that plays a national schedule and will get exposure across the United States," said new football coach Matt Rhule. "We play on a national stage and in a championship game every year. We have access to a BCS bowl. What was denied before was access and we have access. Is it the way other people have it? I don't know, but we have it. "It's nice to say you can go to a (major) bowl game, but how many teams in a conference are actually going to that bowl game? Two or three? Where are you going to be in four or five years if you come here or if you go there? Who's going to develop you academically, socially? If you're a business major, or are in our medical school you have access to internships, marketing, networking. We have a track record of putting people in the NFL, and we're going to win the way we've won and will continue to win." The sands of realignment could continue to shift, and that might open up opportunities for Temple the way it has for other schools – even if it seems Bradshaw and the Owls' programs have often wondered why they haven't been considered for upgrades in conference affiliation in the past. "You have to keep your poise," said Bradshaw. "You have to break it down for what it really means for Temple. You think back to seven years ago, where we are in every facet of the program, discipline-wise, facility-wise, performance on the field, academically and where we are today I would have taken that in a heartbeat. It's night and day. Five straight NCAA tournaments for men's basketball, women nine straight postseason opponents and football bowls. It's a very attractive longer picture, Philadelphia will have a place. "Our market will be difficult to ignore in the scheme of anything that will happen. You can't look at Temple in Philadelphia and say anything except ‘Wow, that's a lot of households in Jersey, Delaware, Pennsylvania. …' It's going to be difficult to not say that. Hopefully we'll have stability in the Big East, but whatever happens we're going to be in a great position."