Temple football coach Rod Carey was simply answering a question. He didn’t initiate the conversation, but he wanted to give his honest opinion.

During his Monday news conference, Carey was asked if it was correct that he took only 45 scholarship players to Orlando for Saturday’s 38-13 loss at Central Florida.

He said there were 45 scholarship players and about 16 walk-ons. Then came the kicker. Carey was asked if with such few numbers, the game was ever close to not being played.

“My opinion has been the last three weeks that we’ve been at that critical mass,” Carey said. “People that make those decisions have not been in agreement with me.”

This shows how frustrated Carey has been because nobody appreciates the chance to compete more.

The other games that he felt shouldn’t have been played were Temple’s 38-3 loss at Tulane on Oct. 31 and the Owls’ 47-23 home defeat to SMU on Nov. 7. (That game was originally scheduled for two days earlier on Nov. 5, but the AAC granted the two-day extension.)

When he won his first game at Temple in a 56-12 rout of Bucknell last season, Carey mentioned that he doesn’t take any game for granted and said that wins are hard to get, regardless of the opponent.

That has been the case this year for sure, with Temple now 1-5 overall and in the American Athletic Conference heading into Saturday’s game at Lincoln Financial Field against East Carolina (1-6, 1-5).

The Owls have had a large number of injuries and players placed in COVID-19 protocol.

The AAC has a medical advisory group, that consists of a medical professional from each of the member schools. When determining this year whether to play a game, the group only considers COVID-related issues and does not get involved with other injuries, suspensions, players opting out, etc.

According to the AAC rules concerning cancellations in these COVID times, “The decision to play or not play rests with the presidents of the participating teams. The conference oversight has more to do with how such a situation would be rescheduled and/or counted for standings purposes.”

So technically Temple could have still overridden the recommendation to play, especially for the Tulane game when the Owls were without 15 players who were on the COVID protocol list.

It must be noted that none of the 11 AAC football schools has overridden any recommendation this season by the medical advisory group.

Temple president Richard M. Englert sent this statement on the situation to The Inquirer.

“The health and safety of our student athletes are always vital considerations and especially during these difficult COVID-related times.

“When it comes to playing games, the reasoning is clear: The number of student athletes who were not able to play because of COVID protocols have not yet met the conference standards for postponement or cancellation. The decision to play ultimately falls on the president, after consultation with first and foremost the medical professionals, the football coach, athletic director, our conference, and in some cases with the university of the opposing team.

“Finally, I want to thank our outstanding student athletes, doctors, coaches and support staff who have persevered through a difficult time. Our football program, under Coach Carey’s leadership, has done a terrific job of minimizing COVID’s impact on our program. Temple’s student athletes and the entire intercollegiate athletics program always make me proud.”

Temple football coach Rod Carey has been dealing with a roster heavy on injuries and COVID-related absence.
HEATHER KHALIFA / Staff Photographer
Temple football coach Rod Carey has been dealing with a roster heavy on injuries and COVID-related absence.

Like all conferences, the AAC has dealt with postponing games. An AAC official told The Inquirer that there have been six conference games postponed since the season started, one that has been rescheduled and five that are pending.

Even though he didn’t get his wish, Carey had a good point in wanting to postpone games because of a depleted roster. Carey had said that while he wouldn’t have played the last three games, he also would have made them up. He’s not trying to get out of games because his team isn’t playing well.

It’s a tough situation because he doesn’t know more about COVID than the doctors, but then again, they don’t know more about his team than he does. Maybe there should be more interaction between the coaches and doctors on the committee.

The AAC hasn’t turned a blind eye to Temple. Remember, the AAC postponed Temple’s opener with Navy, originally scheduled for Sept. 26, to Oct. 10 because under Philadelphia city restrictions at the time, the Owls were unable to practice fully for much of their preseason.

Temple was able to get by that situation. Yet, other than the first half against SMU when the Owls led 13-10, Temple has played like a worn-out team that could have used some time off over the last three weeks.