August 15, 2016
Temple University is among 18 universities that are expected to make a pitch to move their football program into the Big 12 athletic conference, according to a report from ESPN.
The coveted move, though a long shot, would place the Owls in one of the Power Five conferences whose teams command greater revenue and are heavily favored to produce top contenders in the College Football Playoff.
Temple has been a member of the American Athletic Conference (AAC) since the reconfiguration and renaming of the Big East in 2013. Under head coach Matt Rhule, the Owls have emerged as a consistently competitive squad that last year claimed an AAC East Division title before falling to Toledo in the Boca Raton Bowl.
The Big 12, currently comprised of 10 teams, is weighing an expansion to either 14 teams or 12 teams with two six-team divisions. Sources told ESPN that the most likely scenario will be either to remain at 10 teams or grow to 12. In the near future, Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby plans to conduct video conferences with each of the 18 teams to review their candidacy for expansion.
From Temple's standpoint, the timing of the interviews carries high stakes. Still in transition after the removal of President Neil Theobald last month, the university has indicated it plans to move forward with its feasibility study to construct a stadium at its main campus in North Philadelphia. Even as the university publicly rebounded from the fallout of a mismanaged financial aid budget, the board of trustees approved an additional $250,000 on top of the $1.25 million already dedicated to studying the proposal.
The Owls' alternative after the 2017 season is to spend twice the $1 million in annual rent it pays the Eagles to play at Lincoln Financial Field on a new 30-year-lease. Both Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and outspoken Temple sociology professor Sara Goldrick-Rab have criticized the Eagles for doubling the rent and leaving Temple with a choice to build a stadium that many community members strongly oppose and others consider flat-out ill-advised.
In the meantime, the university says it is performing a transportation analysis and evaluating the environmental impact of the proposed stadium, which would seat as many as 35,000 people at a complex between 15th and 16th streets.
Entry into the Big 12 would provide Temple with a boost in television dollars and a significantly higher revenue distribution. The AAC, by contrast, appears to be moving in the opposite direction since the CFP format replaced the Bowl Championship Series. The Big 12 is aiming to make a decision on a potential expansion by October, but recent statements from Oklahoma President David Boren, who chairs the league's board of directors, suggest that the likelihood of adding teams has become more remote.
Temple will make its presentation along with Cincinnati, Houston, BYU, South Florida, UCF, UConn, Memphis, Colorado State, Boise State, Tulane, East Carolina, SMU, New Mexico, Northern Illinois, San Diego State, Arkansas State and Air Force.
The Owls kick off their 2016 season against Army on Friday, Sept. 2, at Lincoln Financial Field.