American Made

The American. The new league — the American Athletic Conference — which the Temple University athletic programs will become a member of officially on Monday has adopted a short two-word abbreviation as its moniker. But whatever they call themselves, what kind of league will this be for Temple?

The American.

The new league — the American Athletic Conference — which the Temple University athletic programs will become a member of officially on Monday has adopted a short two-word abbreviation as its moniker.

"We Are The American" is even boldly eblazoned on the conference's not-yet-fully-launched site.

But whatever they call themselves, what kind of league will this be for Temple, which has spent decades in the Atlantic 10 for most of its sports and a few good years in the Mid-American Conference for football?

The Owls will still play their Big Five basketball rivals but not in league games anymore. And gone are friendly foes Massachusetts and George Washington.

But the American provides a few tasty possibilities for basketball rivalries with Memphis, Cincinnati and Connecticut and the prospect of Larry Brown coming back to town with SMU — at least as long as he stays the coach there. And for one year only, it will be nice to be able to host national champion Louisville in the Liacouras Center.

Six of the Owls' nine conference opponents — they will play a home-and-home with everybody — won 20 games or more last year. Overall, they posted an impressive 190-108 record, with Louisville and Memphis going a combined 66-11.

The incoming teams for 2014 - East Carolina, Tulsa and Tulane - went 60-53 last year.

"It's a league that has a lot of really good components to it," said Temple coach Fran Dunphy. "In the next few years, there is more change to be had, but I think this is a conference with great, great teams and we're going to be challenged every night."

Once Rutgers leaves for the Big Ten in a year, there won't be a neighborhood football rival — UConn is probably the closest based on a recent history of competitive games between the teams, at least until Navy comes aboard in 2015.

The nine football teams joining the Owls in the American in 2013 were a combined 64-50 last year in the Big East and Conference USA. One of Temple's biggest games could be the Week 2 home opener against Houston, which finished 5-7 with an explosive offense and porous defense.

Add a new coaching staff to a new league and it makes it extremely difficult to determine how the Owls should fare on the gridiron this year.

"All that is really hard," admitted first-year head football coach Matt Rhule. "All I can do is go back and look at last year and the common opponents and see how they played. I don't know if it matters, to be honest. I know what our strengths are and our weaknesses are, and we're working to fix the weaknesses."

It will be a new experience for everybody.

First-year defensive coordinator Phil Snow, who most recently was at Eastern Michigan in the Mid-American Conference for three years after a stint in the NFL, said most of the teams and coaches are new to him, but it isn't a reason for concern.

"Very few of the teams have I coached against or even the head coaches have I coached against," admitted Snow. "But I've coached against every philosophy imaginable in my 37 years. The biggest thing is knowing what they're going run, which means the trickiest games will be the early ones."

When Louisville and Rutgers leave after next season, they will be replaced by ostensibly easier competition with the three 2014 newcomers and Navy (2015) — though those four teams were 29-23 even with the Green Wave's 2-10 record in 2012.

Rhule said the league is making a difference in the most important area it can — recruiting.

"(Recruits) seem really excited about it, and I'm excited about it," said Rhule. "Just the teams we don't know too well. ...Playing Houston and their offense, SMU, Central Florida, South Florida, I think there's going to be a dynamic capablity to it and I don't think you can look at one team and say that's the team in the league. That's what makes it a good league.

"Sometimes recruits will tell me they want to go play in a conference, but they want to go play in a league that will never win that conference. There's nothing worse than going to a place you can't win. We feel we have a chance to be a good team in this conference. Recruits will respect that, see it and see what's happening here."


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