Temple football to Big East in 2012

Updated: March 7, 2012, 7:37 PM ET
ESPN.com news services

NEW YORK -- Nearly a decade after Temple's moribund football program was pushed out of the Big East, the revitalized Owls are rejoining the conference -- and bringing along their potent men's basketball team.

The school will move to the Big East for football next season and all other sports in 2013.

"We didn't deserve, truthfully, to be in the football competition in those years. But it's hard to get kicked out," Lewis Katz, chairman of Temple's athletic committee, said at a news conference during the Big East men's basketball tournament Wednesday.

"When we started to negotiate to come back in, I thought it was just a wonderful, wonderful way to remove a blemish on our football program. ... We (now) have a real football program," he added. "So we think we're going to give the Big East exactly what they deserve, and really they've given us financially the opportunity to run a stable program."

Temple football played in the Mid-American Conference last season, while all other programs, including men's basketball, are in the Atlantic 10. The Owls will pay an exit fee of $6 million to the MAC and $1 million to the A-10, with the Big East providing financial assistance in the form of future revenue distributions.

"This is arguably the greatest day in the history of Temple Athletics," athletic director Bill Bradshaw said in a statement. "We look forward to a long and mutually beneficial relationship with the Big East and its member schools."

Temple was a Big East member in football only from 1991 to 2004, but was forced out because the program was one of the worst in major college football. The Owls failed to meet minimum requirements for membership, most notably in attendance, facilities and fielding a competitive team.

Temple played as an independent and eventually landed in the MAC in 2007. While there, it turned its program around and ran off winning seasons the past three years.

"Where we are right now, we're not trying to fumble around and see if we can find our way into major college football," coach Steve Addazio said. "This is a plan that's been going on for quite some time."

In men's basketball, the Owls have long been a power in the A-10 and are the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament this week in Atlantic City, N.J.

Where we are right now, we're not trying to fumble around and see if we can find our way into major college football. This is a plan that's been going on for quite some time.

-- Temple football coach Steve Addazio

The Owls will now share Big East turf in Philadelphia with Villanova.

The Wildcats and Owls traditionally play each other every season as part of the Big 5 series with Penn, La Salle and Saint Joseph's. The Owls, under Fran Dunphy, won this season as Villanova slumped badly.

To ease any concerns from the Wildcats about the move, the Big East will offer financial assistance to Villanova as it explores moving its football program from FCS to FBS. The conference will waive the entry fee if the school meets requirements and is admitted as a football-playing member within the next three years.

"It's critical that the conference and both universities succeed in Philadelphia," said Villanova's president, the Rev. Peter M. Donohue. "Even as my loyalty and obligation is to Villanova, we recognized early on that we could achieve this win-win-win, which ultimately we did."

After Connecticut won at the Big East tournament Wednesday, coach Jim Calhoun called Temple "a great addition."

"They've got a tremendous coach," he said. "It's a great city for basketball, and I know that it will make an incredible trip there for a lot of folks."

The Big East had a vacancy next season because West Virginia was allowed to leave immediately for the Big 12. The school and the conference settled competing lawsuits, and the Big East will receive $20 million from West Virginia in return for setting aside its 27-month notification period.

A source told ESPN's Joe Schad that it is likely Temple will take over West Virginia's conference schedule this fall.

Big East presidents voted unanimously Wednesday to invite Temple.

With the Owls' departure, the MAC has adjusted its football divisional alignment. Bowling Green will compete in the East Division that will consist of seven schools. The West Division will have six members.

"It's been no secret that Temple has wanted to be in the Big East across the board for many, many years," MAC commissioner Jon Steinbrecher said.

A-10 commissioner Bernadette McGlade also wasn't surprised Temple leapt at the opportunity to put all of its teams in one league for the first time in school history.

"Given the fact that Temple is still with us for a full year is a luxury," she said of her conference, which currently has 14 members. "We're in a position of strength right now, so we can be pretty deliberate if we decide we want to expand, by how many, and what would be the best match."

The Big East has added seven schools since December, but most of them are planning to join in 2013, so the conference was hoping one new member would replace West Virginia on the 2012 schedule.

The largest impact of Temple's addition, though, may be in men's basketball the following year. The Owls give the league another perennially strong program to help make up for the eventual losses of Pittsburgh and Syracuse to the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Pitt and Syracuse have said they won't fight the Big East for an early exit, though commissioner John Marinatto reiterated that the conference would be open to discussing the Panthers and Orange leaving after the 2012-13 season. Navy is committed to become a football-only member in 2015.

The Big East will eventually have 13 football schools and 18 overall. The conference hopes to someday have 14 in football.

Marinatto and Bradshaw first met 16 months ago at a diner on the New Jersey-New York border. Their discussions intensified the past few weeks.

The MAC has had 13 football schools since Temple joined in 2007. Last year, the league added Massachusetts as a football-only member beginning in 2012. At the same time, the MAC put in place new exit provisions requiring any football-only member wishing to leave the conference to provide advance notice of two football seasons and pay a fee of $2.5 million.

Temple and the MAC negotiated a deal where the Owls would leave immediately and pay $6 million.

Steinbrecher was asked by ESPN.com if the MAC was considering finding a 14th team to replace Temple.

"It's too soon to make any determinations," Steinbrecher said. "We'll be very deliberate. There's no reason to rush into anything. We'll sit back and examine the landscape. We'll observe, we'll think strategically as a league and if there are moves that make sense that strengthen or improve us, we'll make those moves."

Information from ESPN's Joe Schad, ESPN.com's Andrea Adelson and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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