The Temple Owls were planning to close their annual Cherry-White spring game to the public this year. Due to construction for the renovation of Edberg-Olson Hall Athletic Practice Facility, the viewing area usually open to fans for the spring game is inaccessible.
Because of the limited space available, Temple athletic director Bill Bradshaw and head coach Steve Addazio sent a letter to Temple football fans informing them that the spring game will be closed to the public, except for a family and a few invited guests of the program and media.
Since sending that letter, Owl Scoop reported, via Twitter, that the spring scrimmage will be played in Lincoln Financial Field. Perhaps Temple should take a look at what their soon-to-be (again) Big East rivals are doing on the other side of the state.
On Thursday, Pittsburgh announced that they will play their annual spring scrimmage on the field at North Hills High School. The decision was the latest effort to strengthen the ties between western Pennsylvania high schools and the Pitt football program.
"I may be new to Pittsburgh, but I've respected and known about the traditions of Western Pennsylvania high school football for a long time," Pitt head coach Paul Chryst said in a statement released by Pitt's athletic department. "As a first-year coaching staff, we feel it is important to get out and engage the people and communities who have built that tradition. The spring game is a perfect opportunity to do this and we're really looking forward to visiting North Hills in April."
The Panthers, instead of playing in Heinz Field, are taking their brand and program and placing it right in front of potential high school recruits and their families. While at first this sounds like a silly idea that leaves a door wide open for criticism and mockery, it is actually a pretty savvy move.
Bringing the college football experience to the high school field allows high school players another opportunity to see what being a part of a big-time program is all about, and what kind of work goes in to being a part of it.
Bringing the college football game to the high school field showcases the university and program as one who cares about the community and illustrates that Pitt wants to be a part of it.
Having an FBS program on a high school's campus will bring attention to that particular high school, at least for one day, and give them something to be proud about.
"Pitt football is opening a new and exciting era under Coach Chryst and we're honored to be part of the program's first spring game under his leadership," North Hills High athletic director Dan Cardone said in the Pittsburgh statement. "This is another stellar example of how Pittsburgh's highest-profile football teams, the Panthers and the Steelers, are invested in the communities of Western Pennsylvania. It is a winning equation for everyone involved and we're excited about hosting Pitt next month."
Pittsburgh is not the only college program taking this kind of approach. Rich Rodriguez at Arizona is taking various practices to high school football fields. Miami and North Carolina have done or will be doing something similar as well.
This is a growing trend, it would seem, for big-name programs looking to establish a stronger relationship with their communities, and it can pay off with recruiting efforts as well.
So perhaps Temple should rethink their approach to their own spring game.
We know that Temple is not the kind of program that is going to bring in 40,000 fans for a spring game, and there is nothing wrong with that. Why not look around and find a high school that can accommodate a spring scrimmage.
If Pittsburgh can do it, Temple should have little problem doing so, right?
Give Temple credit for trying. Mike Gibson, a dedicated Temple fan and author of Temple Football Forever, wrote that Temple made an early attempt to get access to Lincoln Financial Field for their spring game, but Philadelphia Eagles owner Jeff Lurie had too high of a price tag to make it worth the cost for the Owls (how kind of Mr. Lurie).
An on-campus field was deemed unsafe for spectators despite previously playing a scrimmage there a few years back. According to Gibson, high school fields were shunned by Temple because of the "small-time" perception (Gibson's words).
After exhausting all other options, it appears that the game will move ahead and be played in Lincoln Financial Field. That brings its pros and cons with it.
Again, if Pittsburgh can make it happen, why couldn't Temple?
Former head coach Al Golden made it a mission of his to make Temple Philadelphia's college football team. What better way to accomplish that than by bringing their game to their community, rather than closing the door on their fans and prospective family?
Kevin McGuire is the host of the No 2-Minute Warning podcast and a member of the Football Writers Association of America and National Football Foundation. Follow him on Twitter, like him on Facebook and add him to your Google+ circle.
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