Temple football’s biggest issue right now isn’t on the field. It’s coach Rod Carey’s future. | Mike Jensen
If Temple’s new leadership wants to buy out Carey and his staff, where is that money coming from?
The question right now surrounding Temple’s cavernous football troubles is a financial one. It’s impossible to think a new university president and new athletic director, both with big-time football in their backgrounds, can look at the current state of the Owls and say, “Yeah, it’s all heading in the right direction, this is so perfect.”
If these new men in charge, who have zero personal investment in the current football regime, are looking at making a coaching change, there is a pressing issue: How to pay for it?
If Rod Carey still has three years on his contract, and there’s more than $6 million to pay out … Here’s a thought. Ask the trustees who thought the Carey hire was such a smart move in the first place to be personally responsible for writing the check or raising whatever is left to make it happen.
You can blame former athletic director Pat Kraft for conducting a lousy coach search in the first place — remembering that the first hire of that search stayed 18 days before Manny Diaz flew back to Miami — but Kraft has made a clean getaway himself up to Boston College.
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Let’s state this … I don’t even believe Rod Carey is a lousy football coach. He’s just not the right Temple football coach. When he was hired, I wrote, give the new guy a chance to beat expectations. He knew how to be a head coach, just didn’t know the area, which was a huge drawback, but he was retaining some folks with deep area ties.
As it turns out, Carey, while kind of a typecast football coach, is an insular type, trusting those that go back years with him. He brought in his current offensive and defensive coordinators from Northern Illinois. His special teams coordinator was once on a staff with Carey. Quarterbacks coach? From Northern Illinois. Cornerbacks coach? Guess where. Also, the coaches in charge of the defensive line, the offensive line, wide receivers, safeties, plus associate special teams coordinator, offensive analyst and some of the key support staff. Say this about Carey: He takes care of his people.
Those assistant coaches with the deep area ties? Only one remains. A good one, Gabe Infante, who joined the staff just prior to Carey’s hire after a successful run as St. Joseph’s Prep head coach.
Again, not saying all those other current assistants aren’t sharp enough football coaches. You just can’t argue they’ve brought in the quality of talent and utilized it in a way that has kept Temple’s ship afloat.
You want to say Jay Wright also tends to hire Villanova staffers who came up under him, that’s true … loyalty is common in college sports. There’s just more than two recent national championships that separate these two staffs. Villanova is local. Wright’s assistants were known quantities in every gym in the area.
Temple assistants aren’t avoiding recruiting this area. There are plenty of younger players from close by. But are they future NFL players like the kind Matt Rhule’s staff seemed to specialize in uncovering? The results are what they are. Draw a line through last season’s 1-6 season, I wrote, because of COVID. No hot seat for Carey, I wrote just before the 2021 opener.
I just couldn’t see this season actually getting worse. I deluded myself into thinking Temple could highlight some improvement by staying close to Rutgers in the season opener. They stayed within 61-14.
After a solid 8-5 first Carey season and the 1-6 2020 pandemic downturn, this season always loomed large. I also wrote before the season that it was important to look at the third seasons of previous Temple head coaches. Matt Rhule, 10-4. Al Golden, 5-7. Bobby Wallace, 4-7. Ron Dickerson, 1-10. Jerry Berndt, 2-9. Bruce Arians, 4-7 (but 6-5 the year before and the year after). Wayne Hardin, 9-1.
The coaches who succeeded were all showing it by Year 3.
This year’s Temple team is now 3-6, and 2-6 against FBS teams. (How the heck did Wagner get on the schedule? Wagner hasn’t even beaten any FCS teams, now 0-9 after its most recent losses to LIU and Merrimack. I’d made it this far in life without even knowing Wagner has a football team. If Temple was afraid to play legit FCS rivals such as Villanova or Delaware, that’s a tell.)
Obviously, things have gotten worse for Temple lately, dropping four straight American Athletic Conference games by an average score of 45-7. When you are six touchdowns worse than East Carolina, which hasn’t had a winning season since 2014, it’s kind of a barometer of which program is heading in which direction. Unfair or not to include the pandemic results, Temple has won just two of its last 12 AAC games.
If the new folks in charge are currently checking the deeper pockets of invested Owls boosters, I’d argue that money needs to be used for other matters, including attracting the next coach. Let the people who actually approved all this write those checks.
None of this is fair to Carey himself? He got that sweet long-term deal. Such deals, mind-boggling presumably to every professor on campus, come with expectations Carey hasn’t come close to approaching.
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Also, if anyone thinks Temple can fix all this with one savvy hire, good luck to that. The landscape has changed. Instant transfer eligibility means Temple players can parlay one good season into a Power 5 offer. That’s a huge part of what has done Carey in. If his stars hadn’t decamped the last couple of years for Miami, Mississippi, Penn State, Rutgers, Boston College, the bottom line might be different. Replacing those players with transfers in who couldn’t get on the field in the Power 5 just isn’t an even trade. (Not being able to convince those transfers out that their NFL future is just as bright at Temple is an issue.)
If the buyout money is collected and a change is made, where should Temple turn next? We’ll have some ideas, probably soon enough.