Philadelphia is an Eagles town first, and a Flyers town second. Football on Saturdays was a very distant afterthought.
Even when Temple football was at it's height in the 1970s, Philly was still unsure of how to take a game that was so popular in the South. Sure, there were games here and there that warranted attention, but not to the point of that attention grabbing the national spotlight.
It all started with some guy named Glenn "Pop" Warner in 1938. If that name sounds familiar, it darn well should. Warner was one of the forefathers of college football and after which youth football across the country is named after.This is the same guy that invented the spiral method of the forward pass, the screen pass, and using shoulder pads. This was the 1930s version of a "Big Splash Hire". Warner created buzz around a program that was very much in it's infancy, must like most of college football.
Unfortunately, Coach Warner had already coached for almost 40 years amassing a spectacular 4 National Championships and over 300 wins. His time at Temple was mixed between 7-1-2 his second year and 3-6-1 his final year at Temple. When he finally called it quits, he was almost 70-years-old. He did manage to take Temple to the Sugar Bowl where they lost 20-14 to Tulane, on what would be the largest stage for Temple football for the next 70 years.
After Warner's retirement in 1938 until 1963 (a period of 25 years) the Owls had only 4 winning seasons under various coaches. They would flirt with success by winning the Middle Atlantic Conference title in 1967, but they were still stagnant and finding it tough for consistent success until Wayne Hardin was hired as the new head coach.
Hardin would compile the best stretch of Temple football to date, going 80-52-3 over his 12 years at the university. More importantly Hardin was finding consistent success against east coast rivals West Virginia, Rutgers, and Syracuse. In the 1970s, Temple looked to be on the upswing winning 14 games in a row at one point and finishing the decade with a Garden State Bowl victory over the California Bears in 1979, 28-17.
Hardin would then retire in 1983 and Bruce Arians (now head coach of the Arizona Cardinals) would take the reigns and keep the team afloat amid an NCAA violation that cause the team to voluntarily forfeit 6 victories in 1986. This would be the beginning of dark, dark days for Temple football.
From 1991, which was their first year in the Big East Conference, to 2005 the Owls would have a record of 14-80 against Big East opponents. Almost 25 years of nothing. At the end of the 2004 season Temple would be expelled out of the Big East conference.
This would however, mark the end of the dark ages.
Which brings us to, finally, the Matt Rhule era. The era in which Philadelphia is willing to open their arms to college football in the city. The gravity of the 2015 Temple Owls season cannot be overstated. Ten years ago, College Gameday scoffs at the idea of coming to Philly. The fans won't show up, heck even the students would be lukewarm compared to the reception that Corso and Co. receive due west in Happy Valley, or Columbus.
But this was a different team. With a hungry coach. With talent, REAL college football talent to put on a good show against the big bad Notre Dame Fighting Irish. Temple didn't need to beat bulldog-faced Brian Kelly and the gold domed 5-star athletes. Temple didn't even need to keep the game close. Many thought they wouldn't anyway.
Temple had to be a worthy ambassador for the Underdog; to show that college football can take over Eagles territory, if only for a night.
Temple not only represented their program and how far they've come, but also struggling programs across the country. With the right coach, the right backing from the university, and a little luck you too can be on prime time TV on ABC with millions watching.
I would argue that the 2015 Temple Owls football season has been the most significant in the program's history. As they fight for an AAC title and another shot at an even brighter stage, make sure to keep in mind how far they've come, and the potential of where they might be going. I think Philly, finally, might be ready.