Neil Theobald

Temple president says stadium is next logical step for Owls football

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Temple is having one of the best seasons in program history, and that has helped spark conversations (and debates) about a stadium plan that has lingered for years. In a column in The Philadelphia Inquirer, Temple president Neil Theobald says a stadium is the next logical step for the Temple program and university.

“While we are proud of our team’s success and the national spotlight it provides, discussions about bringing football home to Main Campus suggest that we are further along in this process than we are,” Theobald said in his column. “We are at the beginning of this process — fund-raising to date suggests the idea is financially feasible, but Temple’s Board of Trustees has not even authorized the hiring of an architect. Central to our decision-making will be conversations with the North Philadelphia community. Those conversations are just beginning.”

“We have a dynamic young coach [Matt Rhule] who wants to stay at Temple and build a national program,” Theobald goes on to explain. “A new on-campus football stadium is a logical next step not only for football, but — in my view — for one of the nation’s leading urban research universities, located in one the nation’s great cities.”

With regard to Rhule, the Temple coach is one of the trendy upcoming names in college football coaching. Rhule has done well in continuing the work done by his predecessors on the staff and says all the right things about building the Temple program. However, he will likely receive plenty of phone calls if things continue to go well and you just never know when an opportunity too good to pass up will come along. This is a reality for anumber of Group of Five programs, and Temple knows that after losing its last two coaches to power conference coaching opportunities in the ACC. Theobald’s comments about Rhule aside, the overall point is Temple has commited itself to funding the football program over the past decade more so than ever before, and the work has been evident in facility upgrades around the program. The stadium is a long-time nemesis though.

Temple has taken up residence in Lincoln Financial Field, home to the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles, since the stadium opened its doors in 2003. There was a time when the Eagles wanted to keep Temple out of the stadium and jack the rental fees for the university, but cooler heads have prevailed enough for Temple to feel at home in The Linc. Temple has played the role of extra resident in the Philadelphia sports complex since 1978, when the Owls moved from Temple Stadium to Veterans Stadium, a cookie-cutter multi-purpose stadium that was primarily known as the home of the Eagles and baseball’s Philadelphia Phillies (and the USFL’s Philadelphia Stars) until each major league franchise built brand new sport-specific stadiums. At times, Temple would play home games in historic Franklin Field at the University of Pennsylvania. Temple Stadium was torn down in the mid-1990s to make way for a church.

Playing games at Lincoln Financial Field has led to attendance concerns whenever Penn State or Notre Dame are not in town. The Owls sold out both home games against the Nittany Lions and Irish this season, but capacity issues are noticeable for other games. Playing in a stadium closer to Temple’s campus without the travel hassle of riding the Broad Street line down to the sports complex and playing in a reduced capacity stadium could work well for Temple, if the financial commitment to the program remains in place as it has been in recent years, since the hiring of Al Golden.

As with any new stadium conversations, Temple faces a number of concerns before an on-campus facility can be constructed. Finances are always a concern, as Theobald acknowledges. Where to put it is another.