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    AUGUST 25, 2005
 
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Football returns with optimism, new conference

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Quarterback Mike McGann is part of a lineup that boasts 37 seniors, including walk-ons, this year. The 6-6 redshirt senior ranks third all-time at Temple in career passing yards (4,498), second in attempts (790), third in completions (390), fifth in total offense (4,639) and eighth in touchdown passes (22).

The Temple football team’s most eventful off-season in recent history is finally coming to an end.

When the Owls take the field next Thursday night against Arizona State in Tempe, Ariz., they’ll have new retro-style uniforms, a new offensive coordinator, a new starting quarterback, a tough new schedule — and after a long quest, they’ll belong to a new conference.

In May, the Temple football program accepted an offer to join the Mid-American Conference.

Although the Owls will only be an “affiliate” member in 2005 and 2006, the team is immediately eligible for one of the conference’s two automatic bowl bids. Temple will become a full member of the MAC in 2007.

Temple joins 12 teams in the conference, which is divided into two divisions: the east (Akron, Bowling Green, Buffalo, Kent State, Miami [Ohio] and Ohio) and the west (Ball State, Central Michigan, Eastern Michigan, Northern Illinois, Toledo and Western Michigan).

The Owls will play four MAC teams in 2005, then add two more conference games in 2006. In 2007, Temple will join the east division, play a full eight-game MAC schedule and compete for the conference’s championship game.

“The MAC is a perfect fit for Temple University, both on and off the field of competition,” President David Adamany said. “Besides fielding quality football teams, as evidenced by last year’s record number of [five] bowl bids, the MAC is the leader among Division I-A conferences in terms of graduating its student-athletes who play football. That combination of academic and athletic excellence is also part of Temple’s mission.”

Coach Bobby Wallace shares Adamany’s optimism about the new conference’s role in shaping the program’s long-term future.

“The significance of becoming a member of the Mid-American Conference, for our program, cannot be overstated,” Wallace said on May 17, when Temple announced it had accepted the MAC’s invitation.

“Since I have been coaching at Temple, we have always been missing a significant piece of the puzzle — whether it is a premier practice facility, desirable stadium, residential campus or conference membership — in recruitment. Now, with the MAC, we have all the pieces to field the successful team that Temple University, its fans and alumni deserve.”

Despite a brutal schedule that some have called the nation’s most difficult, Wallace is also upbeat about the team’s chances in 2005. The Owls return 28 seniors, including quarterback Mike McGann (ranked third all-time in career passing yards at Temple), defensive end Mike Mendenhall, defensive tackle Antwon Burton, and running back Umar Ferguson.

Temple’s coaching staff, which boasts a stunning 233 years of combined experience, welcomes a new offensive coordinator, former wide receivers coach Willie Slater, and a new defensive line coach, Phil Zacharias, formerly an assistant with the Baltimore Ravens.

By Hillel J. Hoffmann

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