Very, very few people across the United States will immediately think “Temple Owls Football” whenever the subject of college football in the state of Pennsylvania is brought up. The Keystone state only holds two programs of any kind of note–the Penn State Nittany Lions and the Pittsburgh Panthers.
In recent years however, there’s been someone knocking at the door to the house of Pa college football lore. The door has cracked open a few times, yet they just haven’t been allowed in. They’ve gotten one foot in, but the door has been slammed right back in their faces.
This program is the Temple University Owls. And, with a new, motivated coach in place in Matt Rhule, can the Owls finally kick that door in and a lay their claim to being a prominent force in the state?
Rhule was an assistant at Temple from 2006–when current Miami Hurricanes head coach Al Golden took over the broken program–until 2011. The coach spent 2012 as an Assistant Offensive Line Coach for the New York Giants, before returning to the Philadelphia-based school earlier this year.
Now, back to that whole kicking the door in scenario. The staff that Rhule was on with Golden was the regime that made that a possibility in the first place. The program had been unceremoniously booted from the Big East in 2004 and was just–well, they were just kind of there.
But, right off the bat in 2006 when they took over, you can tell there were changes in the culture on the horizon. They snapped a 20-game losing streak in their first season, which as little as that may seem, was something to build on. And build on it, they did.
Just, three years later, the Owls were 9-4 and found themselves paired up against the UCLA Bruins in the EagleBank Bowl. In the blink of an eye, people in this state were starting to whisper about whether or not this Temple program was ready to etch their names in with the other two big boys.
With an offer to become the head coach at Miami, Golden left the program he was building up for the sunshine and beaches of Coral Gables, Florida in 2010. Steve Addazio, from the Florida Gators,would take over the program in 2011.
While 2011 would see another 9-4 campaign with a trip to another bowl game, it seemed that the Owls may have some consistency in the coaching department. Ultimately, 2012 told a different story. Temple went 4-7 and Addazio would be gone to take over Boston College.
And now, in steps Matt Rhule.
At 38 years old, Rhule is young, hungry, and has a chance to finish the job that Golden started back in 2006, so to speak. From 2006 all the way up until last season with Addazio, Temple showed signs of being on the brink of becoming a formidable foe. Twice in that span, they walked into Beaver Stadium against Penn State and had them on the ropes.
They were stern reminders that there is a third major football program in the state, and they are tired of being straddled with that ranking.
With Penn State going through their current situation, and Pitt having consistency problems as well, the door is open for the coach to burst his program through that proverbial door. It’s amazing what a young, enthusiastic coach can do when it comes to recruiting. If Rhule can get even the slightest hold of some prospects from Pennsylvania, New Jersey, and other area of the Northeast region, we here in Pennsylvania could have a slight situation on our hands. And yes, there is always Rutgers to compete against as well. But with the direction they’re headed, who knows where that overall athletic administration may be in the next five years or so.
It’s been shown before that it can be done. But, is Rhule the man that can finally make it happen?