Monday, November 7, 2011

Responding to Ed Rendell, point by point

Like most of you, I have been following the crazed realignment of the conferences in college sports with a combination of amazement, laughter and a sense of wonder.'

You are truly a man of the people, Mr. Ex-Governor.

Texas Christian in the Big East? Oops, not really.

If you don't think TCU was a good addition to the conference from a money/football competitiveness standpoint, then you are an idiot.

Pitt to the ACC? Only 7 or so hours' drive from the Atlantic Ocean.

This happens a lot.. Louisana Tech is in the Western Athletic Conference along with Hawaii, St. Louis is in the Atlantic 10 and Colorado is in the Pacific 12 despite not even being in the Pacific time zone.

Missouri to the SEC? Don't Missouri's players play for the West in the East-West Shrine Game?

Arkansas and Kentucky both border Missouri, and the flagship institutions from both of those states are also in the SEC. Also, if you knew anything you'd know that the East-West Shrine Game is not significant anymore.
It's all one big joke that demonstrates how clearly money is the driving force today in college sports. But nowhere has this "it's so funny it's sad" charade played out more laughably than in the Big East.

Yes, money is the driving force, and that's exactly why Temple wants to play in the Big East.. This is a two way street, Ed.

Faced with the loss of Syracuse and Pitt and with the potential loss of Louisville and West Virginia, the conference reportedly has reacted by extending invitations to Boise State, Navy and Air Force to join for football only, and to Central Florida, Houston and Southern Methodist for all sports. Good grief, Charlie Brown.

You fail to realize that football and television markets are the driving force behind expansion, and those schools all have one or the other.

Houston and SMU in the Big East! And how about those student-athletes having to travel from Villanova or Georgetown to Texas and Florida for conference basketball games? It's a flat-out mockery, especially when you consider that the Big East had so far rejected Temple's request to join for all sports. That's right, Big East schools, that's Temple, located at Broad and Montgomery here in Philadelphia, right smack dab in the middle of the Eastern corridor of the United States.

Villanova is about the same distance from SMU as University of Washington is to University of Arizona. I've never heard of people complaining that the Pac-12 doesn't work for this reason. Again, your argument falls flat.

I was so incensed by this that earlier this week I sent a letter to Big East commissioner John Marinatto urging the conference to admit Temple.

Were you incensed, or were you enticed?

It is crystal clear that coach Steve Addazio has Temple football moving in the right direction. The Owls could right now hold their own in football with the current Big East members, and they are far superior to some of the potential new members.

How do you know from such a small sample size which direction the program is headed? Larry Coker looked like a genius when he led a Miami team full of players recruited by Butch Davis to a National Championship in 2001, and then to the National Championship game in the following season. Once he started recruiting his own players, he ran the program into the ground. Wait until Addazio isn't coaching Al Golden's players before making an assessment.

As for basketball, consider Temple's rich heritage (Guy Rodgers, Norm Lear, Pickles Kennedy, John Baum, Mark Macon) and its great history of coaching (Harry Litwack, John Chaney and Fran Dunphy). As far as the program's competitiveness, Temple has an impressive NCAA Tournament history, having been a part of the madness 29 times.

LaSalle has had players like Tom Gola, Lionel Simmons, Tim Legler and Doug Overton, and a very good history of coaches like Ken Loeffler, Paul Westhead and Speedy Morris.

A closer look at Temple's tournament track record shows that the Owls have become a mainstay over the past 30 years, making 21 appearances since 1980, with a run of 12 straight appearances from 1990 to 2001.

They have won one NCAA tournament game in the last decade.

Most important, the Owls have not simply been a one-and-done team but have gone deep into the tournament on numerous occasions. Their best finishes were in 1956 and '58, when they won the third-place game in both years. The stat that has haunted Temple fans, but also serves to legitimize the program, is their five Elite Eight appearances (1988, '91, '93, '99 and 2001), when the Chaney-coached Owls just couldn't seem to scratch their way into the Final Four.

LaSalle has made it to two final fours and has actually won a national championship. Citing events from the 1950's makes you seem out of touch.

While this tournament record might not put Temple in the upper echelon with the North Carolinas, Dukes and UCLAs, it certainly puts the school in the second tier of teams that are almost always in the mix and have the potential to make a deep run - and worthy of admission to the Big East, for sure.

They haven't made a deep run in a decade. They're in the 30-50 range consistently.

There is talk that Temple might gain admission to the Big East for football only. No one is willing to say why, but many local writers who have investigated this think it's because Villanova has turned opinion against the Owls.

Which writers? Has anybody gone on record saying this about Villanova?

If that's true, it's disgraceful and it makes me ashamed of my alma mater ('Nova Law, 1968). I am proud of my law school and the university for the great strides it has made to become one of the nation's top-flight academic institutions, but this isn't the first time Villanova has made it clear that it isn't going to be a good neighbor to the other Philadelphia colleges and to our great sports institutions.

Villanova is a great neighbor to Philadelphia institutions. They don't have to play away games at Tom Gola Arena every other year, but they do anyway.

Villanova is solely responsible for ending Big 5 basketball, as we knew it. There was a time when the Big 5 played all of its home games at the Palestra. It was an arrangement that was unique around the country and it built camaraderie and spirit that was unmatched. It established a basketball tradition second to none in America (no other city has five colleges that all reached the Final Four, with two winning the championship). The Palestra became an icon, a hallowed place.

I love the Palestra. I completely understand your point there. Please cite something that justifies your point that Villanova "is solely responsible for ending Big 5  basketball, as we knew it."

But it all changed when 'Nova decided it wanted to play games on campus (in a sterile pavilion that is a glorified high school gym) or at the Spectrum (money, money, money). The Big 5 absorbed this body blow, but all Big 5 matchups remained at the Palestra for a while. 'Nova ended that, too.

Again, examples? I'm sorry that Villanova wanted to play games on campus rather than 20 miles away.

And now there's word on the street that the Wildcats want out of the Big 5 round-robin, where each team plays the other four each year. That would truly be unconscionable - a fatal dagger to the Big 5, to all that makes college basketball so special in Philadelphia.

As a lawyer, you should know better than make assumptions based on hearsay. Frankly, if Villanova were to make this decision, I would applaud it.

No Big 5? You might as well tell us that there will be no more cheesesteaks, no more soft pretzels, no more Tastykakes. We might as well sell the Liberty Bell to New York City (my good friend Michael Bloomberg could afford to buy it).


Now is the time for action! Now is the time for all good Philadelphians to come to the aid of their city. Let's remind Villanova that it is part of us and we're part of it. I'll never forget when the telecast started for the Villanova-Georgetown NCAA championship and the announcer said, "It's the Georgetown Hoyas from Washington, D.C., vs. the Villanova Wildcats from Philadelphia, Pennsylvania."

Does the fact that you were born and raised in New York disqualify you from being one of those "good Philadelphians"?

So let's send Villanova and the Big East a clear and simple message: "LET TEMPLE IN!!!"


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