East Bound

On Wednesday, a day many Temple fans dreamed of and thought may never come became reality. The Owls are an all-sports member of the Big East Conference.

As Temple athletic director Bill Bradshaw drove into Philadelphia this morning, the sun was shining and the song "Our day will come" played on the radio.

On Wednesday, a day many Temple fans dreamed of and thought may never come became reality. The Owls are an all-sports member of the Big East Conference.

The Big East announced the move at a press conference at Madison Square Garden, in between sessions at the conference's men's basketball tournament. Temple is joining for football in 2012 and all other sports in 2013.

The Owls will be leaving the Atlantic 10 Conference for all sports — a relationship that spans three decades — and the Mid-American Conference, where they have resided since 2007.

With West Virginia bolting for the Big 12 and not wanting to wait for the 27-month exit called for in its contract, the Big East was left with a football scheduling problem this year.

The Owls help that problem, jumping into the Mountaineers' schedule next season — which includes home games against Syracuse, Rutgers, Cincinnati and South Florida and road games at Connecticut, Pittsburgh and Louisville.

It also creates a scheduling problem as Temple is trading in an eight-game Mid-American Conference schedule for a seven-game slate in the Big East this season. The Big East will move to 12 teams and an eight-game schedule in 2013 and add a 13th team in 2015 when Navy joins the league.

Temple AD Bill Bradshaw told owlsdaily.com the Owls will need to add a game this season.

But Temple is willing to take that unfortunate circumstance to join a league it was a part of as a football member only from 1991-2004. Temple never received the all-sports invite it wanted and was dismissed from the league as the football program floundered, a setback which nearly made the University drop football altogether.

"It was dreadful several years ago," admitted trustee and athletics committee chairman Lewis Katz. "You know, we didn't deserve, truthfully, to be in the football competition those years. But it's hard to get kicked out. When we started to negotiate to come back in, I thought it was a wonderful, wonderful way to remove a blemish on our football program."

The move should also benefit the Owls' basketball programs, which have been perennial NCAA participants the last several years under Fran Dunphy and Tonya Cardoza. The Big East is considered the premier basketball league in the country, but is losing quality programs in Syracuse, West Virginia and Pittsburgh.

The men's basketball team opens play Friday in the Atlantic 10 Tournament as the No. 1 seed. The women's basketball team lost in the A-10 semis.

"Those people who get to see us up close will appreciate the overall value Temple brings to the Big East Conference," said Bradshaw. "I trust all of you know the value the Big East Conference brings to Temple.

"We're appreciative of this opportunity and excited for our future."

As Temple has pushed for membership the last few years, city and now Big East rival Villanova has reportedly fought to keep the Owls out. So in a somewhat unusual situation, Villanova president Father Peter Donahue sat at the dais along with Temple and conference representatives.

Conference commissioner John Marinatto made a point to compliment Villanova's efforts in bringing Temple into the Big East, even noting Donahue brought the motion to have Temple admitted for the vote.

Still, there are clearly issues. Answering a question by owlsdaily.com about why basketball wouldn't join the conference in 2012, Marinotto said a transition year was needed.

"We're using the current year as a transition year in order to analyze what we can by hiring a consultant to explore how we can best exploit the marketplace moving forward," said Marinatto. "To retain each school's individual identity, a brand that Villanova has worked on for over three decades with the Big East and how to incorporate and associate that with Temple.

"So for the next 12 months, what we're going to do is with the two institutions, the conference's initiative, explore how we best move forward in order to ensure that we accomplish that because it's in the best interest of the conference obviously for the two schools to coexist in a very, very positive way, and one of the things we want to do is ensure that's the case by doing this."

Marinatto said the conference made a financial commitment for Villanova to explore moving its program up to the FBS level, and Donahue said the league gave the school a vote of confidence towards continuing to explore the possibility.

Katz said he would be supportive of the move if Villanova decided to make it.

However, when asked if the league was looking to add a 14th member, Marinatto said he hoped to do so down the road, but was specifically looking for a western partner.

Regardless, the Owls are in a Big East much different from the one they left — but the Big East nonetheless, which means the possibility of a BCS bowl for its football team and coming to play a conference basketball tournament in Madison Square Garden in two years.

"It's a special, special day," said Temple football coach Steve Addazio. "It's a landmark day."

Katz said it felt like Temple had come home.

And this time they're home for good.

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