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Temple returning to Big East Conference
The Owls football program played in the Mid-American Conference last season, while all other Temple programs, including men’s basketball, are in the Atlantic 10.
The MAC confirmed the move Wednesday and said the Owls will pay an exit fee of $6 million.
“Temple University requested to be released from its obligation, as a football-only member of providing two season’s prior notice before departing the Mid-American Conference,” MAC Commissioner Jon Steinbrecher said. “As a result the conference and its member institutions engaged in a dialogue with Temple regarding an appropriate resolution. We have come to an agreement that is fair to the parties involved.”
The Big East will hold a news conference at 5:30 p.m. at Madison Square Garden, site of the league’s basketball tournament. Temple athletic director Bill Bradshaw and football coach Steve Addazio are expected to attend.
Temple played in the Big East in football only from 1991-2004, but was forced out of the league because the program was one of the worst in major college football. The Owls failed to meet minimum requirements for membership, most notably in attendance, facilities and fielding a competitive team.
The school played as an independent and eventually landed in the MAC in 2007. While there, Temple turned its program around and ran off winning seasons the past three years.
Temple coach Fran Dunphy declined to discuss the pending move, saying his focus was on this weekend’s Atlantic 10 tournament.
“We’re worried about our team and our team playing Friday at noon,” Dunphy said Wednesday. “I’m thinking about UMass and that’s all I’m thinking about.”
With Temple’s departure, the MAC has adjusted its football divisional alignment. Bowling Green will compete in the East Division that will consist of seven schools. The West Division will have six members. Steinbrecher said the eight-game conference schedule should be released within several weeks.
In men’s basketball, the Owls have long been a power in the A-10, and are the No. 1 seed in the conference tournament this week in Atlantic City, N.J. The Owls will now share Big East turf in Philadelphia with Villanova. The Wildcats and Owls traditionally play each other every season as part of the Big 5 series that also involves Penn, La Salle and Saint Joseph’s. The Owls won this season as Villanova slumped badly under coach Jay Wright.
After his team won the day’s first game in the Big East tournament, Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun called Temple “a great addition.”
“They’ve got a tremendous coach,” he said. “It’s a great city for basketball, and I know that it will make an incredible trip there for a lot of folks.”
The Big East has a vacancy next season because West Virginia is being allowed to leave immediately for the Big 12. The school and the conference settled competing lawsuits, and the conference will receive $20 million from West Virginia in return for setting aside its 27-month notification period.
The MAC has had 13 football schools since adding Temple in 2007. Last year, the league added Massachusetts as a football-only member, beginning in 2012. At the same time, the MAC put in place new exit provisions which state that any football-only member wishing to leave the conference would need to provide notice two football seasons before departure and pay a fee of $2.5 million.
The Big East has added seven schools since December, but most of them are planning to join in 2013. Navy is committed to become a football-only member of the Big East in 2015. The league was hoping to get one of its future members to join a year early to replace West Virginia. Boise State was the most likely candidate to move up its arrival, but the school announced that it will stay in the Mountain West for one more year.
Adding Temple football next season obviously allows Big East members to fill West Virginia’s spot on the schedule. But its largest impact may be in men’s basketball the following season. Adding the Owls gives the conference another perennially strong program to help make up for the eventual losses of Pittsburgh and Syracuse to the Atlantic Coast Conference, and solidifies the Philadelphia market as a Big East town, with Temple and Villanova in the fold.
Pitt and Syracuse have said they won’t fight the Big East for an early exit, though Commissioner John Marinatto said after the West Virginia case was settled that the Big East would be open to discussing the Panthers and Orange leaving after the 2012-13 season.
AP Sports Writer Rachel Cohen in New York contributed to this report.
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