After decades of wandering aimlessly in the wilderness of college football, Temple University has finally found its niche.
It is a “stepping stone” program – a place where coaches go to enhance their reputations to move on to bigger and more lucrative opportunities.
Now, at first glance, that might look like an insult to the Owls. I mean, no respectable athletic department wants to be viewed as one where coaches go simply to move on to better things.
Everyone wants to dream of national championships and New Year’s Day bowl games.
Reality, however, says there are only a limited number of the 128 FBS programs that will ever reach that status on a consistent basis.
Temple will never be Alabama, Ohio State or Florida State in football but at least 85 percent of FBS programs will never be, either.
Since the national poll (Associated Press and Coaches') era began in 1936, only 30 of the current FBS programs have won at least a share of the national title, with only 19 having won multiple titles.
That means that in 158 combined polls only 19 percent of the eligible programs have ever finished ranked No. 1.
The point is that there is no shame in Temple being a stepping stone. It means that the program has reached a point where it is respected enough that bigger programs will look for a head coach from North Broad Street as a guy who can lift their program.
It started with Al Golden going to Miami of Florida and then Steve Addazio left for Boston College of the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Within the next few seasons, current Owls coach Matt Rhule is going to be lured away from the nest. He’s had too much success for it to not happen.
This pattern is not all bad for Temple football because it means that Golden put the program on legitimate ground and Addazio kept building before moving on.
Now that Rhule has taken the program to a higher level, he’s become one of the hottest young coaching prospects in college football.
These guys became desired because they did what just about everyone said could not be done and made Temple a legitimate program.
This is the second straight year that Temple has a strong shot at qualifying for a New Year’s Six Bowl through the College Football Playoff system.
Every domino would have to fall correctly – starting with the Owls winning at Navy on Saturday to claim the AAC title.
The American is a member of the “Group of Five” conferences along with Conference-USA, Mid-American, Mountain West and Sun Belt.
The highest ranked champion from the group gets a guaranteed bid in an NY6. This season it is the Cotton Bowl.
Undefeated and 13th-ranked Western Michigan (12-0) currently has the inside track but if the Broncos lose the MAC Championship Game to Ohio (8-4) they would be eliminated from consideration because they will not be a champion.
Temple hammered 24th ranked South Florida (10-2,) whose other loss was to Florida State, and if the Owls win at 20th ranked Navy (9-2), their resume would be as good as any Group of Five champion except Western Michigan (assuming it grabs the MAC crown).
Things are different with Temple football. The ugly past has passed on.
Over the last two seasons the program has gone 19-7 and been nationally ranked. Eight former Owls are in the NFL.
Temple has liked having success in football and is committed to having a sustainable program.
The coach who follows Rhule, whenever he moves on, will be someone who sees the program as a place where he can win and, yes, move on to bigger things.
But that’s okay because Temple football will still benefit from those efforts just like with Golden, Addazio and now Rhule.
Last season, Temple lost the AAC Championship Game to the University of Houston, which went on to beat Florida State in the NY6 Peach Bowl.
Cougars coach Tom Herman was just hired by the University of Texas.
Houston is searching for its fifth coach since 2003. It has been the ultimate stepping stone program as three coaches moved to the Big 12.
Still, over that time, the Cougars have gone 113-67 and played in 10 bowl games.
Houston is not Alabama, but it is a program Temple would be happy to emulate.​