Temple Universitys Board of Trustees will meet via conference call Wednesday afternoon to discuss the fate of the schools athletic program and perhaps accept an invitation to become a member of the Big East Conference in all sports.
The Board has been briefed continually by members of the schools administration about ongoing discussions with a variety of conferences, including the Owls two current homes, the Mid-American Conference, in which they compete on the football field, and the Atlantic 10 Conference, which houses everything else.
Temple has had discussions with representatives of the Big East for several weeks about joining the league for the upcoming school year and has also spoken with people from Conference USA and the Mountain West Conference, which are discussing a merger and swelling their ranks to include as many as 24 teams.
This is driven by the 2012 football schedule, said Patrick J. OConnor, Chairman of Temples Board of Trustees and principal in the Philadelphia-based law firm Cozen OConnor. Because of that, decisions have to be made. There are time considerations.
Although the Big East received a fat exit fee of 20 million from West Virginia, the Mountaineers departure following this school year left a gap in the conferences gridiron slate. The Big East is adding several teams (including Boise State) for the 2013-14 school year, but it needs a school to step into WVUs spot for the 2012 season. Temple, which had been discussed as a potential Big East member in the fall, could benefit from the leagues desperate situation.
Pittsburgh and Syracuse leave the Big East after the 2012-13 school year, and Boise State, Houston, Central Florida, Memphis, Southern Methodist and San Diego State will join the remaining five schools. Adding Temple would give the Big East 12 schools and allow the league to stage a conference football championship game and give it some more heft in discussions regarding the future of the Bowl Championship Series. Despite the fact that Temple could become a Big East member soon, OConnor hasnt been happy that his school has had to wait in line.
I think we were a natural choice to join the Big East months ago, he says. It baffles me that they let in some of the schools they did before Temple.
If Temple is invited to join the Big East and does accept the invitation, it will need to extricate itself from the MAC and A-10. That will cost some money. There are rumors about the amounts necessary to affect such a change, and its likely the school will have to pay a premium to leave immediately. That will be a serious factor in the boards decision.
Were not going to do it if it is a negative, OConnor says. If it is a net positive, well do it. Were not going to spend money to lose money.
Still, joining the Big East and bringing all of Temples athletics under one, currently BCS, roof is an enticing prospect and one the Owls will be hard-pressed to turn down, no matter what the cost. While there may be a short-term hit absorbed, the future benefits are too valuable to look past.
The Boards job is to make a decision that impacts all of Temples students, OConnor says. It will affect where we are athletically over the next five to 10 years. Its a matter of where we want to be. We have two world-class coaches in football Steve Addazio and mens basketball Fran Dunphy, and they belong on a national stage.
Michael Bradley has covered Philadelphia and national college sports for 25 years. His video segment, the Collegiate Corner, runs regularly on CSNPhilly.com. He also contributes to Blue Ribbon Yearbooks, Phillymag.com and Yahoo! Sports Radio.