Army's eighth consecutive loss to Navy means that Temple is playing UCLA in the second EagleBank Bowl, Dec. 29 at Washington's RFK Stadium.
It's Temple's first bowl since 1979. And like the last one, the Owls will take a bus to play a team from the Left Coast.
"Honestly, we're just happy to be in a bowl game," coach Al Golden said yesterday. "When you have a marquee matchup like UCLA, that obviously adds something to it. It's the second-largest media market in the country, a national brand. We get to go to the nation's capital to play a game like that on national TV. We'll be the only game on that day, in that time slot [4:30, ESPN]. It's great for the program and the university.
"We've been so busy recruiting, just trying to take care of finals and all that. Now we'll start getting into it, and focus on that. Friday will be our first practice against UCLA. They're talented. The league [Pac-10] they play in, their losses were to some really good people. So it's going to be a challenge."
The Bruins, under second-year coach Rick Neuheisel, finished 6-6. They closed with a 28-7 loss to Southern Cal, after beating Washington, Washington State and Arizona State. They opened with wins over San Diego State, Tennessee and Kansas State. Then they lost five in a row, to Stanford, Oregon, California, Arizona and Oregon State. All but Cal finished in the Top 25. The Bruins were 2-4 on the road.
On many levels, though, it's not as much about UCLA as it is about Temple.
"A lot of our kids, because it's not the same structure, or the same schedule we've had all year, we're finding we're having some distractions," Golden said. "You've got to get that under control. If you can't do it here, you can't expect to do it in Washington. We have to have some guys that have to trust [us]. For the most part, this group has. But they've never been here. With success, you have kids who start thinking [it's about them]. We can't have that. This team is really good enough to put a beating on us, if we're not ready to go."
Golden, of course, interviwed for the UCLA job when Neuheisel, a former Bruins quarterback, got it. Now Golden's name is coming up with the Cincinnati vacancy, as it did with the Virginia opening (which has been filled). Or even Notre Dame, which interviewed Golden (in New York) before going with Cincy coach Brian Kelly.
"I just haven't had any contact with anybody [from Cincy]," Golden said. "Right now I'm just going about my business. I don't know what the future brings, but I'm just trying to get ready to play UCLA."
Several sources have indicated that Cincinnati has asked for permission to talk with Golden. Understandably, neither Golden nor athletic director Bill Bradshaw, the man who hired him, will talk about ongoing searches. But Bradshaw in the past usually has given Golden permission to at least explore the interest level.
So, would Golden talk to Cincy?
"I don't know," he said. "I don't know."
Other names that have been tossed around as possible candidates are East Carolina coach Skip Holtz, Boise State's Chris Petersen, Central Michigan's Butch Jones (Kelly came to Cincy from CMU) and Cincy offensive coordinator Jeff Quinn.
Houston coach Kevin Sumlin said he declined an interview.
"What I say to Temple people, and I've had a lot say to me, 'What are you going to do about all this interest in our coach,' I ask them a question," Bradshaw said. "I have yet to get an answer. When has this ever happened [to us] before? And I've yet to get an answer.
"When a West Virginia, who fills their stadium every week and wins BCS bowls, is vulnerable to losing their coach, you ask, 'Who's not vulnerable to losing their coach?' West Virginia lost their basketball coach. Anyone who follows college [sports] sees everyone is vulnerable to that. So I think people are confused and are hurt by something that's happening all over the country."
Golden is believed to have 2 years remaining on a contract that pays him $550,000 annually, more than any football coach in the Mid-American Conference. Neither Golden nor Bradshaw, who said he'll do his best to keep Golden, would comment on a potential extension or raise.
"It's allowed me to sleep at night," Bradshaw said. "What is unique for us now is, we've got a game to go. When other opportunities came up before, our season was usually over. This is different.
"One of the great qualities of Al is his maturity. For Al Golden, these decisions are much more than about the bottom line for him. He's one who looks at situations, and figures them out. That's what he's always done. And I think he's made terrific decisions. So . . . "