EVERY PROGRAM should have an Ed Foley.
The Cherry Hill native has been part of Temple football since 2008. North Broad happens to be the eighth stop on a resume that includes two stints at Penn in the 1990s. He survived when Al Golden left for Miami in 2010, and when Steve Addazio headed to Boston College two years later.
Now he's working on his third transition as an Owl, serving as the interim head coach while the university brings in Florida defensive coordinator Geoff Collins to succeed Matt Rhule, who last week moved on to Baylor.
Foley, 49, is a lifer, a glue guy, a caretaker. And, if you've been paying attention to the special teams, a pretty decent coach himself.
You want/need him on that wall, standing his post like a dedicated soldier.
"I'm like Rasputin," he joked on Tuesday, the first time he has spoke since Rhule has been gone. "Another day at the office, right?"
On Dec. 27 the Owls (10-3) will be trying to set a school season record for wins at the Military Bowl in Annapolis, Md., where they just beat host Navy in the American Athletic Conference final to get their first title in 49 years. The opponent is Wake Forest (6-6), coached by Foley's good friend Dave Clawson, the former Villanova offensive coordinator who worked with him as graduate assistants at SUNY-Albany (Foley's first job) and was his boss at Fordham. Tiny universe.
"We're both competitors," Foley said. "It should be fun."
Foley, whose brother Glenn is a former NFL quarterback, doesn't know if he's going to be part of the new staff. Logic suggests he should be retained, if simply for continuity's sake. But if he's not, he'll figure things out. There's always room somewhere for somebody like him.
But right now that's not his concern. Because he's never made any of it about him.
"When we found out (about Rhule), my wife said, 'What are you going to do? What do you think's going to happen?' " Foley said. "I told her, 'Well, we've been through this before. We've got to get to the kids.' To me that's the most important thing. It's not what I'm feeling or what I want to do. How do you make them go, 'OK, this is not the end of the world.' How do you get them over this and moving on to the next thing, as quickly as possible? That's part of the healing process.
"I really sense we're better off today than we were yesterday. Watching it happen three times, it's literally day by day. There's a shock. But what's next? That's how we do it, really. I'm not sure there's any other way to do it. They're just trying to get each other through it. They're coming off an emotional win, and now they have a chance to do something no other Temple football team has ever done."
Under Rhule, these Owls just won 10 games in back-to-back seasons. Temple had one 10-win season before that, and that was 37 years ago. This group of seniors went 2-10 in Rhule's first season. It's some story. And it's not going away, just because Rhule has. But some things will change. That's how it is with transitions. Foley knows as well as anyone.
"The guy that takes over is taking over a program that's in phenomenal shape," emphasized Foley, who followed Clawson as the Fordham head coach for two seasons after the Rams won a Patriot League title in 2002. "All three (previous) coaches left the program in much better shape than they found it. (The next coach) will have players who are better than the players we have on the field now. I love (senior linebacker) Avery Williams. But if he was standing next to me now, I'd say the same thing. He's the toughest player in our conference, but he's that tall (5-10). We're recruiting a guy at his position that's that tall (holding his hands higher). We're recruiting at a way higher level than we did five or six years ago.
"I don't think there's going to be rebuilding of any sort. The players are in place, the culture's in place, to be really successful for the foreseeable future."
A future that he hopes to still be very much involved with, trying to make what's already evolved even better. For the time being, it's his team to lead as it goes about the business of maybe becoming the winningest in Temple history.
"Everything's going to happen here for a reason," Foley said. "I respect the fact that (players) are hurting. It's different for me, obviously. There's always stuff we have to deal with. Sometimes you get distracted by that. It's a little bit of a mind game. But Temple football in general is about a bunch of guys who love each other and love to compete. That's at the core of it . . .
"For me, this place is just perfect. You know when you have a job that fits what you do. We take people that maybe nobody else wants, or have some kind of wart on them, or they didn't get recruited where they wanted to go or maybe they loved Temple from the very beginning. We get them here, and they just come together. And when they leave they're different people. To watch that growth, it's done better here than anywhere I've been. The mission is perfectly aligned, from the administration to the athletic department to the football part of it. It's the reason I coach. For some it's not really about the financial part, or the fame part or whatever else goes into it. It's serving the kids. When they come here, they're kind of children. When they leave, they're men. It's really great to watch.
"I don't intend on going anywhere else. But times change, people change and situations change. So that might happen. There's a lot of other great jobs out there, but I'm not sure which one is great and which one isn't. So it's going to be a leap of faith. So I'd love to stay for as long as they'll have me."
Sounds like a commodity worth hanging on to. There's a lot to be said for simply being there. Once again.