November 20, 2004 was the last time a Temple University athlete took to a field with a Big East Conference logo on his uniform. At the conclusion of the 2004 season, Temple was no longer a member of the Big East. They were briefly independent following their expulsion from the conference, but eventually found a home in the MAC.
Now, with a couple of successful seasons in the books and Big East expansion on the horizon, Temple may be looking to step back into the BCS spotlight.
In fact, according to multiple sources, some Temple football recruits have been talking about the school's Big East future. Saying things like:
"It is close to home and he will be a part of the Big East in 2012."
"I got to meet their coach and like him. I know they play in Eagle Stadium (Lincoln Financial Field) and plan on moving to the Big East soon."
"The program is probably going to be in the Big East and I know he's gonna get the job done there."
"Temple will hopefully be moving back to the Big East by the time I get there in 2012."
That belief among recruits might explain how the Owls have managed to land a whopping 21 oral commitments by Thursday evening. The question, of course, is where are these recruits hearing this from?
It is possible that they heard a rumor or heard about this from some other source. More likely, however, it means that Temple head coach Steve Addazio and his staff have been talking to recruits about the Big East.
The blog, Temple Football Forever, speculated that this means that Temple may have a plan to move to the Big East, or at least that Addazio has some knowledge of ongoing discussions to that effect. The author of that blog is correct in noting that it is unlikely that so many recruits happened upon a rumor of Temple joining the Big East — as he said, "something has got to be up."
It certainly sounds like the coaching staff has been selling recruits on their program by telling them that Temple will join the Big East conference in 2012, or at least that there is a strong possibility that will occur.
Does Temple know something that we don't?
Probably not; recruits that have recently committed to Villanova have been under a similar impression. Stacey Bedell, a 2012 tailback, told Scout.com after giving Nova his verbal commitment, that he chose the school because, "[t]he coaching staff was great with me while I was down there, they’re going into the Big East next year which is exciting and it’s a great academic school."
UCF basketball commit, Shawn Smith, also cited that school's alleged move to the Big East as a reason for his decision. "Oh yeah, we're taking the program to another level because they're moving to the Big East," he told the Orlando Sentinel in January. Other UCF commits in both basketball and football have also made mention of the Big East when explaining their decisions.
Recruits are going to ask questions about a school's program, and Coaches will always have an answer ready. As long as the coach doesn't make promises they can't keep, there is nothing unethical about telling recruits about your program's aspirations.
With that out of the way, it should be noted that it is highly unlikely that, like those recruits said, Temple University is in a position to join the Big East or any other conference in 2012.
As associate members of the MAC conference, both Temple and now UMass are held to the terms of a Membership Agreement — a legally binding contract that outlines the relationship between the conference and the football schools. Temple's original agreement with the MAC was set to expire at the end of the 2011 school year.
Though the exact terms of Temple's deal with the MAC are unknown, the agreement signed by UMass has been made publicly available. It contains a couple of provisions that may shed some light on Temple's relationship with the conference.
First, UMass would owe the MAC a $2.5million dollar fee should they withdraw from the conference to join another FBS conference (the fee is waived if they return to FCS or cancel football). Second, they must provide the conference with notice of withdrawal at least two football seasons prior to doing so. Third, they would not be entitled to any conference revenue distribution in the season immediately prior to withdrawal.
Any or all of that may be waived if granted by a petition to the Conference Council of Presidents if extraordinary circumstances demand it. Such waiver would be at the sole discretion of those conference officials, however.
More interesting, however, is that the agreement contains a "conditions precedent" clause — which makes the contract unenforceable until after the condition has been met. That condition was that the conference had to sign Temple University to a new football-only affiliate contract, "on terms and conditions comparable in all material respects to those provided for in this Agreement." That condition had to be met on the same day that UMass signed it's agreement, March 15, 2010, and presumably it was met.
It is then safe to assume that Temple must provide the MAC with two year's notice before withdrawing and pay a $2.5 million fee at that time. The soonest they could then join another conference would be in the 2013 football season.
We can therefore assume that these Temple football recruits have either been given bad information about the Owls program switching conferences in 2012, or they have made some very bad assumptions.
In any regard this smoke may not be coming from a fire at all.
Update (7/7): It's never too good of an idea to believe the words of a recently-committed recruit as gospel truth, especially in this regard, but Stacey Bedell apparently expanded on his earlier statement.