Temple University is reportedly on the cusp of moving to the Big East for football and basketball. This speaks to the incredible resurrection of the football program by former and current coaches Al Golden and Steve Addazio. It was only 11 years ago that the Big East voted to boot Temple from the conference for being a financial drain.
But Temple football may return to the Big East with the basketball program, currently a member of the Atlantic 10, in tow. So what does that mean for the six Philadelphia area schools that play Division I hoops?
Temple stands to reap the most benefit. The school’s national profile would jump dramatically with several more televised games. Suddenly it’d be on ESPN or ESPN2 with regularity. It’d play its conference tournament at Madison Square Garden instead of Atlantic City or Brooklyn. People would realize its coach is no longer John Chaney.
Temple’s Big 5 rivalry with Villanova would be heightened, which could help both schools recruit. And if Temple was to continue its football rebirth, and perhaps earn a ticket to a high-profile bowl game or two, it could create a halo effect to help land hoops recruits to North Broad Street.
When it comes to Big East basketball, Villanova has had the fourth largest TV market to itself for more than three decades. Not being able to tell recruits that it’s the only Big East school in the market can’t be good. But Villanova has a great legacy, scoring arguably the biggest upset in NCAA Tournament history in 1985 and going to the Final Four as recently as 2009 (Temple hasn’t been to the final Four since 1958).
Villanova also has a beautiful campus in the leafy, Main Line suburbs. While the football team won the FCS national championship in 2009, there’s still plenty of room for the basketball recruit who wants to be the BMOC.
The trickle down effect means that St. Joe’s would become the biggest Philadelphia school in the Atlantic 10 Conference. Coach Phil Martelli could be content to let the big boys knock themselves out for exposure and recruits while he continues to find success in his little corner of the college basketball world. St. Joe’s could be the Tampa Bay Rays to Villanova and Temple’s Yankees and Red Sox. In this analogy, La Salle, having a nice year at 18-9, is the Toronto Blue Jays.
Elsewhere, coach Bruiser Flint has Drexel playing well (23-5). The school’s profile has been helped by playing in a conference that has sent two schools to recent Final Fours (George Mason in 2006, VCU in 2011). Temple's move to the Big East would likely have no effect on the Dragons, nor Penn, who has long been a force in the non-scholarship Ivy League.
Of course, the possibility remains that Temple could use the Big East as pit stop on the way to the ACC. After all, the ACC has gobbled up Syracuse and Pittsburgh. Temple is attractive since it’s located in the second largest TV market on the East Coast. Such a move would return Villanova to its status as the only Big East school in the Philadelphia area.
But that is a story for another day. For now, it’s about Temple basketball possibly joining the Big East Conference. One hopes that if Temple does go big time, the school stays true to its roots at the head coach position. The last two men to run the program, John Chaney and Fran Dunphy, came from, respectively, Cheyney State and Penn. It is difficult to imagine a Big East school in the 21st Century affording a Division II or an Ivy League coach the opportunity to head its program.