Temple head coach Al Golden sat Sunday with his team at their end-of-season banquet. They patiently awaited a phone call that would never come. Temple was one of 72 teams that were bowl eligible, but were just one of two teams that will not be playing another game this season.
The 8-4 Owls were snubbed by the bowl committee on Sunday in a move that was a surprise to many fans. Temple didn’t finish the 2010 season strong, dropping their last two games of the season to Ohio University (who will play in the New Orleans Bowl) and eventual MAC champions Miami of Ohio.
It was even more of a shock that the Owls aren't bowl bound when you look at their 30-16 victory against UConn.The Owls handled the eventual Big East champions that Sunday and won by fourteen points. The UConn Huskies are not only bowl bound, but headed to a BCS bowl.
This snub really hurts the Temple program. 2010 was the season that most expected the Owls to take the next step and crack the top 25. They made it as high as 36 and received top 25 votes, but the back-to-back losses to end the season made sure they would not be ranked, would not go to the MAC championship, and would not receive a bowl bid.
So now starts the usual “will he stay or will he go” talk regarding Al Golden. Golden has turned the Temple football program around, helping the phoenix rise from the ashes. He inherited a terrible program in 2006. A program that had been kicked out of the Big East, and hadn’t had a winning season since 1990. But with good local recruiting, Golden was able to turn the Owls into a solid football program that fans could be proud of.
Golden has been receiving interest from more prestigious programs since 2007, when he interviewed for the UCLA head coach position. He was rumored to be in consideration for the Cincinnati head coaching job last season when Brian Kelly left for Notre Dame. But every offseason it seems like Golden’s name is rumored to be leaving, and every September he's on the Temple sidelines.
One of the reasons Golden probably won’t be leaving Temple this off-season is because he has yet to get that big win. The Owls have never beaten a ranked team, and have never won a bowl game (0-1 in the Golden era). The Owls put up a great fight against Penn State this season and were winning for most of the first half before eventually falling to the 23rd-ranked Nittany Lions. But good losses are still a loss and Golden has yet to get that career-defining win. The win that would really show what an amazing turnaround he has done.
Many are speculating that Golden is waiting for the Penn State coaching position. Golden played four years at Penn State under legendary head coach Joe Paterno. His entire coaching staff is Penn State alumni, and with Joe Paterno turning 84 this month you have to wonder how long he will be patrolling the sidelines. It would make sense for Golden to wait out Paterno and then bolt for Happy Valley.
No matter the case, the 2010 season was a disappointing one. Not because the team didn’t play up to par, but because the bowl committee left an eight-win team out of the dance. The other team that was bowl-eligible who won’t be bowl-bound in December was the 6-6 Western Michigan Broncos.
With UConn earning a BCS bid, and the seven-win Notre Dame Fighting Irish going to the Sun Bowl against a seven-win Miami team, it doesn’t seem right to leave off the eight-win Owls. It seems like bowl committees bid on past success (look at Notre Dame's last four years).
Temple coach Al Golden has led an amazing turnaround. But he hasn’t finished the job. Look for the Owls to rebound next season, led by the running back duo of Bernard Pierce (first-team All-MAC) and Matt Brown (second-team All-MAC). They start off the 2011 season with the Mayor's Cup against Villanova on September 3 at Lincoln Financial Field.
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