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Is Temple Moving to the Big East?

Recently, the New York Times broke a story that Temple University officials were discussing a conference move to the Big East.  In the midst of the conference realignment landscape, Temple’s name has been thrown about as a potential incoming member of a variety of conferences, including the upcoming Mountain West-Conference USA merger.

Currently the member of three conferences–the Atlantic Ten Conference, the Mid-American Conference (football only) and the Eastern College Athletics Conference (gymnastics)–Temple was previously a Big East football member for thirteen seasons.  However, in 2004, Big East members voted Temple out of the conference due to what was described as the football program’s inability to compete and the athletic department’s unwillingness to spend the amount of funds necessary to bring the program up to competitive levels.

Given Temple’s history with the Big East, it is clear as to why the school is not rushing to join the conference.  However, should the Big East be quick to jump at the bait?

Recent Success

Since being ousted from the Big East in 2004, the Owls’ football program has achieved a steady level of success.  The football team has experienced winning seasons since 2009 and has participated in two bowl games since 2004.

Undoubtedly, the Big East is known largely for its basketball prowess.  Temple will fit into the conference’s basketball landscape.  In the history of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Tournament, Temple has reached the tournament 29 times and has made the Final Four twice.  In the Associated Press’s most recent basketball rankings, Temple ranked 23rd.  Thus, the Owls are on their way to their 30th NCAA Tournament appearance.

Football Expenditures

As noted above, part of Temple’s ouster from the Big East in 2004 came as a result of the conference finding that the school was not spending enough to develop its football program.  Arguably, in the years since 2004, Temple has devoted greater resources to its teams in order to advance their success on the field.

In 2010-11, Temple’s football team had expenses of $10,099,156.00 and revenues of $10,099,156.00.  Thus, although Temple’s football program did not turn a profit in 2010-11, it appears that the university is investing a large amount of money into the football program.

However, it is to be seen whether this amount of expenditures is enough to compete in the Big East.  In 2010-11, the top-three ranked Big East football programs incurred the following expenses:

WVU:  $13,230,226.00

Cincinnati:  $11,148,347.00

Louisville:  $15,582,161.00

While Temple’s football expenses are clearly less than the top-three ranked 2011 Big East football programs, what should be noted, is that Temple’s expenditures are within the range of these programs’.  If Temple can expend at least $1 million more on its football programs in the coming years, it should remain competitive in the Big East.

Recruiting Expenses

If Temple joins the Big East, one area in which the Owls will need to expand their budget in is recruiting.  In 2010-11, Temple spent $289,671.00 on recruiting for its men’s sports teams.  It spent $100,877.00 on recruiting for its women’s sports teams.

Temple’s total recruiting expenses of $390,548.00 do not even break into the top-100 recruiting spenders.  In terms of recruiting expenses for Big East teams, Temple’s expenditures are not so dire when it comes to men’s sports.  While big recruiting spenders Marquette ($1,289,560.00) and Notre Dame ($1,612,608.00) blow Temple’s recruiting expenses out of the water, Temple still falls short of other Big East Members.  Consider the top-three ranked Big East football teams from the 2011 season and winner of the NCAA Division I Men’s Basketball Championship:

WVU:  Spent $462,785.00 on recruiting for its men’s teams

Cincinnati:  Spent $392,288.00 on recruiting for its men’s teams

Louisville:  Spent $786,574.00 on recruiting for its men’s teams

Connecticut:  Spent $515,666.00 on recruiting for its men’s teams

Thus, given these numbers, it would be in Temple’s best interest to increase its recruiting budget should it join the Big East.

4.  Media Market

Arguably, the biggest draw for the Big East in inviting Temple to join as an all-sports member, is the school’s location in Philadelphia.  In 2010-11, Philadelphia’s television market was ranked fourth in the nation.  This ranking only fell behind New York, Los Angeles and Chicago.

The Big East is set to renegotiate its television rights contract with ABC and ESPN after the 2013 season.  Given that Pittsburgh is leaving the conference for the ACC, adding Temple and tapping into another school with a presence in the Philadelphia television market would benefit the conference in negotiations.  Having both Villanova and Temple as members, would arguably allow the Big East to raise the price it’s willing to agree to for terms of a television contract.  As such, the television contract payout to Big East members would subsequently increase.

While there are clear benefits to Temple joining the Big East, if the school is fully committed to becoming a conference member, it must further bolster its team and recruiting expenditures.  Given the Owls’ previous attempt at Big East membership, should Temple not fully demonstrate its commitment to spending a significant dollars to gain on-the-field success, the school can plan on waiting a bit longer for the Big East to come fully calling.

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