Auriemma Impressed by Temple Football
BRISTOL, Conn. – Although Hall of Fame women’s basketball coach Geno Auriemma, who grew up in Norristown, is at Connecticut, a rival of Temple in the American Athletic Conference, he is quite impressed over the recent growth of the Owls’ football program.
A week agoi Auriemma was among several notable coaches and players from across the country who attended a national media day here at ESPN headquarters co-hosted by the NCAA to focus on the 2015-16 season.
Notre Dame’s Muffet McGraw and South Carolina’s Dawn Staley, both Philadelphia natives whose teams like Auriemma’s advanced to last season’s Women’s Final Four, were also among the participants, as was Maryland's Brenda Frese whose Terrapins were also in Tampa, Fla.
By the way, Auriemma's former longtime assistant Tonya Cardoza begins her eighth season coaching the Temple women when the Owls open up Friday night hosting Florida.
With the excitement over the attention off the football matchup with the recent sellout of the Notre Dame game at Lincoln Financial Field still in the air, Auriemma was asked his impressions of the events that included a near-upset by the nationally-ranked Owls.
Temple, incidentally, bounced back last Friday night with a 60-40 win at SMU in Dallas to run its record to 8-1 staying on top of the East Division of the AAC and in the polls heading into Saturday's game at South Florida.
“ I watched the game and I was educating somebody on Temple University,” Auriemma related.
“A Connecticut native, we’re watching the game. And he’s like, `What’s Temple? Who are these guys?’
I said, `First of all, what you don’t understand is Temple is one of the best academic institutions in the country.
‘And their graduate programs are unbelievable.
‘And their location can sometimes hinder their ability to get certain kinds of players over the years but they’ve done a lot to fix that.’ Obviously, they’ve enhanced their campus.
“But in the Philadelphia area, and growing up, Philadelphia is a basketball town when it comes to college,” Auriemma said now doing the explaining to media seated around him here.
“College football is not the thing that’s going to separate you from anybody in Philadelphia.
“If you’re a college football fan in Philadelphia, you’re probably a Penn State fan or something to that effect. And certainly the Eagles.
“So for Temple to get that kind of recognition, Game Day, and 65,000, and having 50,000 of them, or certainly 40,000 of them, being Temple fans, that’s a statement I think that those kinds of things, they’re not the property of any particular region in the country, type of school, or conference – so for me to see that – I was just like …
“I remember going to see Temple play at Franklin Field against Penn State. And it was 60,000 and it was 45,000 Penn State fans coming to watch Penn State win against Temple and having guys that I knew playing on those Temple teams.
“And now to see them have a chance to win against a team like Notre Dame, with the history that Notre Dame has, if they win that game, if Temple wins that game, you’d be looking at something that could be, because the city’s big enough to handle the situation, it could become, but they don’t have the history, like Los Angeles.
Out there you have have UCLA, USC and they’re going to have a NFL football team again. But you could make Philadelphia into a Temple town, football-wise. You could. The people already love football.
Auriemma agreed that conditions for the Owls gaining a spotlight locally are similar to when the Immaculata women’s team in the suburbs drew a lot of coverage after the Mighty Macs won their first national title.
Back in 1972-73 none of the city’s four pro teams were having much success similar to the current struggles of the Phillies, Flyers, 76ers and Eagles.
But with Immaculata, at least some team in the area was dominating the opposition and as such the local media jumped on the bandwagon as the Mighty Macs went on two win two more consecutive titles after the first one.
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