Outgoing Temple athletic director Bill Bradshaw admits this is not the way he envisioned going out. He had a few good years left in him, a few good plans that would have grown the Owls program even stronger.
But you cannot always plan for life. Bradshaw is needed at home. His sterling credentials as an athletic director will have to rest, while he steps aside to tend to his family.
He feels good about this decision, yes. But a part of him longs to keep going, too, because this is all he has known over the past 36 years. The past 11 at Temple have provided him some of the biggest challenges of his career. Yet Bradshaw met every challenge head on, never shying away from difficult decisions or difficult hires.
It was, in fact, the difficulty of the job that appealed to him. He turned down the opportunity to interview once, then accepted when he was asked a second time.
"In my mind, Temple had a lot of problems," Bradshaw recalled in a phone interview. "I finally said I would interview, and I got home and my wife said, 'How did that go?' and I said, 'You know maybe those problems are challenges. Maybe they’re not problems.' And then I looked at Temple differently."
When he arrived in July of 2002, the football program had no home. It bore no resemblance to a bona fide football program, either, the constant losing, off-the-field problems and character and academics issues taking their toll year after year. Bradshaw had never been the athletic director at a school with a football program, serving at LaSalle and DePaul previously. Most believed he would come in and axe the football team.
Bradshaw did nothing of the sort. He stood up for the football program, lobbied for the football program, understood the importance of the football program. In 2004, a vote was held to determine the fate of said football program. Bradshaw begged the blue ribbon panel to vote in favor of football.
By one vote.
Bradshaw then went about finding the football program a conference home, and then a head coach he believed would bring the program back to respectability. He recognized something in Al Golden the first time they met. Golden ended up turning the worst program in America into a bowl team.
During this time, Bradshaw was confronted with another tough decision to make regarding a coach, though on the opposite end of the spectrum. Hall of Famer John Chaney decided to retire in 2006. That retirement press conference is one Bradshaw will not soon forget. He stayed up all night coming up with the right words to explain what Chaney meant to Temple. What Chaney meant to him.
Bradshaw eventually hired Fran Dunphy, who remains head coach today. Golden left for Miami. His successor, Steve Addazio, just left after two seasons but delivered the second bowl win in school history.
Addazio also happened to be the head coach when Bradshaw delivered another seminal moment -- a move back into the Big East last year. Though the league looks vastly different today than it did when the move was made, there are no regrets. None at all. Bradshaw did what he believed best for Temple. Then, now, always.
Thanks to that move, Bradshaw was one of five finalists for the Sports Business Journal's athletic director of the year award. But he did more than that. In that 2011-12 year, Temple set department records for academic success (15 teams earned above a 3.0 cumulative grade point average) and in revenues with $11.4 million generated through tickets sales, corporate sponsorship and fund-raising.
He made change happen. It was not easy. But he did it, and for that, Temple fans should be forever grateful.
"It’s the people I would mention more than the accomplishments, the teams, the wins," Bradshaw said. "The people made that all happen. I’m honored and blessed and lucky to get those people to Temple."