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Report: Temple ”Wants In” the Big East

Oct 5, 2011, 11:44 AM EDT

Temple University has made clear its interest to Big East officials in potentially joining the in-flux conference.

As reported by the Daily News’ Mike Kern earlier this morning, Temple University has made clear to conference officials its interest in potentially joining the Big East. Kern’s report indicates that Temple’s No. 1 preference would be to join as an all-sports member, but that the university might well be willing to settle for a football-only invitation.

And so, rather than sitting back and playing the waiting game, it seems Temple has gone out made its own intentions known. While the story has a “big feel” about it based on the barrage of media coverage surrounding the move over the past few weeks, it’s nothing to get radically excited about just yet.

When it comes to Temple football possibly rejoining its former conference, clearly the Big East is a step up from the MAC, but its hard to say just how much of a step it really is, or will be. After all, the renewed interest between Temple and the Big East is largely motivated by the fact that the conference is hemorrhaging programs and needs new schools to hopefully stop further bleeding.

Though it is a BCS conference, its generally considered a step below the Big 10, SEC, PAC(whatever it is now, I don’t know)-74, what for the time-being is still the Big-12 and now perhaps even the new ACC. On top of everything else, there’s been rumors of the Big East potentially partnering up with remnants of the Big-12, assuming Texas and Oklahoma are on their way out, to possibly create a pseduo-super-conference of its own.

So, yeah, it is a step up from the MAC, but it remains to see just far of a step. In this case, there is an equal fear of becoming the next TCU and being the school burnt by inaction.

As for basketball, assuming the school could be admitted as full-member, its hard not to love the move for the Owls—assuming the conference can stay together for round ball. Let’s approach this from the perspective of a best case scenario, since the worst case is evidently a wholesale dissolution of the current programs.

A program that has quickly regained some of the national traction lost under the final years of John Chaney, Temple would figure to inherit the “Big East” recruiting bump that Villanova has so enjoyed these past few years. Though the loss of Syracuse and Pitt have shifted the balance of power to the ACC, the Big East remains one of the premiere basketball conferences in the country.

For a Temple team that is “very good” and looking to become “great,” the move could do wonders. One need look most recently to the Daniel Ochefu snafu to see evidence of what Temple has lost and could gain. Ochefu, a 6-9 center from Westtown, PA, was recruited heavily by Temple, but ultimately chose Villanova and a college career in Big East basketball. Leveling the playing field would make a great judge of talent like Fran Dunphy even more effective in landing desired recruits. Add to that membership in the Big East, home games in the Liacouras Center and a brand new multi-million dollar practice facility, and Temple starts looking like a real good destination for a kid to play his college ball—and just as good as, say, Villanova.

If you’re a fan of Temple or ‘Nova or just particularly interested in the future viability of the Big East, then keep an eye on the UCONN Huskies. UCONN has stayed relatively quiet nationally when it comes to its prospective future in the Big East, and its president has repeatedly indicated a desire toward protecting the stature of the school’s current conference. The quality of that conference over the next few years could lie in whether the Huskies stay the course and remain loyal to their current commitment, or jump ship like near-identical athletic institutions Pitt and Syracuse.

Still, as was said up front, there is nothing to get excited about just yet. Temple is the one indicating its interest in the Big East; it is not the other way around…for now.

The Big East could use a school like Temple add some new blood and hopefully reassure its existing programs—specifically, UCONN—that times will be good after all. Because, right now, for all but a few top schools in the Big East and Big-12, it’s hard not to get that “we were dead before the ship even sank” kind of feeling.