Former Temple athletic director Bill Bradshaw said he used to see the Notre Dame athletic director or another administrator from the school at a game or an NCAA convention - or maybe he'd call them, just to bring up the subject of a football game.
"Not really about Philadelphia, just about an away game - get the foot in the door," Bradshaw said over the phone Monday. "It meant a big guarantee, a national TV game, the prestige, just playing there is coveted."
"They really didn't return calls," Bradshaw said. "I understood it, because I didn't believe we gave any value. We weren't a good win or a good loss."
He also knew that the Irish, who last played in Philadelphia against Navy in 1993 and had never played Temple, had their choice of opponents, the full menu.
So how did things get from there to Notre Dame showing up Saturday night at Lincoln Financial Field? First, Al Golden came in as Temple coach and began to chip away. The Owls got to a bowl game in 2009. Around that time, Bradshaw ran into a Notre Dame administrator he knew. A different conversation started.
"The brand started to get a little bit better," Bradshaw said. "They said they could be interested."
That eventually turned into talks about a single game in South Bend, Ind. (One source had Temple getting $900,000 guaranteed for the game.) Soon the conversation evolved into adding a home-and-home, with each side keeping the revenue from those two dates separate from the one guaranteed game in South Bend.
"It was really like a magic moment," Bradshaw said of the announcement in 2011, "to say Notre Dame would come in."
Originally, the first game was to be in Philadelphia in 2014, with a return date to South Bend this year and a third game at a date to be determined - but that changed. There also was concern when Notre Dame entered into a new agreement with the Atlantic Coast Conference that put the Irish into the ACC for basketball and other sports. They weren't in for football but had a scheduling agreement to include five ACC games. That meant some finagling in Notre Dame's schedule.
"I was as concerned as anybody could possibly be about that," Bradshaw said of losing the game. "We had meetings about that, talked about what we could do. There was a moment in the contract, if they canceled before a certain day, the language - it might have been more than a year before the game, it was just a $100,000 buyout, after that it would become much larger."
That was if either school canceled, but Temple obviously wasn't going anywhere. And Bradshaw said a call never came from South Bend. The Irish stayed in. The schedule was later moved a bit, resulting in Temple's going to South Bend in 2013 and the Philadelphia game this year instead of last.
The original thought, Bradshaw said, was to have the Penn State and Notre Dame home games in separate seasons, so Temple's average attendance wouldn't be sky high one year and lower another. But Temple wasn't calling those shots. That chain of happenstance puts the Irish here when Temple is 7-0 for the first time in its history. Last year, ESPN's College GameDay surely wouldn't have shown up for the weekend. Who knows if ABC would have wanted the game for prime time? (Getting Notre Dame is always a good deal since NBC has its home games. Temple's magical start is the bonus.)
"Nobody could have foreseen all of this," Bradshaw said.
He joked of the Penn State and Irish games: "I would like a cut of those two games in retirement."
He's pretty proud of how it all played out and has the stories inside the story, like the news conference announcing the deal. Naturally, the Temple Owl was there and Bradshaw thought it was pretty cool the Notre Dame official who flew in brought along the Leprechaun, the school's famed student mascot.
He thanked the administrator for that and the man said, "I don't know him."
Bradshaw said he went over to the Leprechaun and asked if he was from Notre Dame.
"No, I'm Joe Something from Fishtown," Bradshaw remembers the guy saying. "It was some guy who dressed up as the Leprechaun."
It's not exactly the luck of the Irish, but at least there's been some craziness involved with this game from the start.