Bill Cosby is a legendary comedian, but he’s serious in his support of Temple football.
When the Owls take on UCLA at RFK Stadium for the EagleBank Bowl on Dec. 29, it will mark the first bowl appearance for the team in 30 years and a highlight for Cosby, who is not just a fan of the Temple squad - he won a varsity letter as a halfback during a lackluster 2-5-2 season in 1961.
“Even though the Potomac is not the correct river, we’re going to re-enact George Washington crossing the Delaware,” he said. “We’re going to put the whole UCLA team in an open boat. … By the time they’re finished, they’ll have just enough time to go over to RFK and run around a little bit, and we’ll start the game and we will win.”
Cosby said he would consider it revenge for all the times that teams from the east traveled to Pasadena to face teams like UCLA in the Rose Bowl, only to be seduced into poor performances by the warm weather and trips to Disneyland.
“Now UCLA has not come this far on this side of the Mississippi,” Cosby said. “We’ve got them now. Because in Washington, D.C., there are enough politicians we’ve [asked] to drop the temperature to 16 degrees Fahrenheit. RFK Stadium is going to be 16 degrees, and these California kids are not used to this.”
Cosby has said he will not travel to the EagleBank Bowl, but over the years he sat through many Temple home games in Philadelphia, most of them losses. Things got so bad that he campaigned for the team to drop out of Division I and play smaller schools. But the team’s 9-3 record this season - which included a nine-game winning streak in the middle of the season - is the best since 1973 and a remarkable turnaround under coach Al Golden.
“He has really and truly turned it around,” Cosby said. “Given the challenges, we are not yet up to the great schools known for football. … We want to go to a bowl this year and next year and win championships, and it will be great.”
Golden said Cosby has been a great motivator for the team, frequently speaking with it before games, though he joked that footage of Cosby’s playing days is probably lost among reels produced in the silent film era.
“He’s been around a lot,” Owls defensive back and D.C. native Dominique Harris said. “I love to see him. He’s a very funny individual and a very good man.”
It seems fitting that Cosby’s favorite team will travel to the District for the game. His support of Temple and Philadelphia is well-known, but his ties to the nation’s capital also run deep. He recalled attending spirited Howard-Lincoln football games at Griffith Stadium in the 1950s. As a young comedian, he frequently performed in many of the city’s theaters and clubs and eventually met his wife in the city. And he is one of the most famous patrons of Ben’s Chili Bowl, the landmark restaurant on U Street known for its plump half-smokes and 2 a.m. crowds. For years, the late Ben Ali and his family granted Cosby the right to eat there for free, and it was a distinction the comedian held exclusively until they recently extended the privilege to first lady Michelle Obama and her two daughters. According to a sign in the restaurant, President Obama must still pay “because Bill Cosby said so.”
“For the California people, I say go by there early,” he said. “Get some chili in there and make a little heat. That’s the only good advice I’m going to give them.”