NCAA

Temple football stadium plans stall as opposition continues to grow

Temple football stadium plans stall as opposition continues to grow

As Temple University kicks off its football season Friday, the school's drive for a 35,000-seat stadium appears to be stalled.

Facing intense community opposition, skeptical legislators and a summer leadership crisis that forced Temple's provost and president to step down, the school has no clear timeline to bring a proposal to City Hall.

The Owls have paid rent since 2003 to play 6 miles away at Lincoln Financial Field, home of the Philadelphia Eagles. To build its own campus facility, Temple needs legislation passed by City Council -- but a spokeswoman for President Darrell Clarke, who represents the university's North Philadelphia district, says first there must be a "rigorous and respectful community engagement process."

"As of now, and as far as Council President Clarke is concerned, there is no stadium proposal for Council to consider," Clarke's spokeswoman Jane Roh said Friday.

The $126 million plan has generated controversy since February, when Temple's board of trustees approved a feasibility study, hired architects and tore down apartments on university land near campus.

Neighbors worry that traffic and parking shortages could jam streets with drunk tailgaters. Temple wants to build across the street from an elementary school, a home for the elderly, and dozens of rowhomes.

"Why do you need a stadium in the middle of a residential area?" said resident Karen Sisco. "When school is in session and they decide to have a game on Friday night, you have the rigmarole, the students who get drunk and forget that it is a community and have bad behavior."

But supporters say the stadium will make the campus -- historically a commuter school -- a tighter-knit community. The school serves more than 34,000 full-time students.

"You see every other southern school or out west -- that's everything they are, is football. That's how you grow a university," said Tyler Baldo, a junior advertising major from Delaware.

The university says rent at Lincoln Financial Field will triple from $1 million per year to $3 million starting 2018. So, by building its own facility -- financed through donations, loans and grants -- Temple won't have to pay rent. Officials say tuition will not be affected.

"It makes financial sense," university spokesman Ray Betzner said. "That $3 million can be used to support the educational mission of the university."

The Owls have seen a rebirth after decades as one of the worst programs in college football. They went 9-4 in 2009, their best record since 1979. Last season, they took off under coach Matt Rhule, including beating rival Penn State for the first time in 74 years in front of nearly 70,000 fans.

"I've been at Temple since `02 -- I can give a really good lecture, but I'm never going to get 69,000 people to come to it," said Scott Gratson, associate professor of communications. "How the campus grew together, came together, over that event, was absolutely spectacular."

Later in the season, ESPN's "College Game Day" visited ahead of Temple's sold-out contest against Notre Dame. The team finished the season 10-4 and went to its fifth-ever bowl game. Applications shot up 15 percent last year -- which some attributed to football success, though there's little hard evidence.

But when talk of a new stadium began, pushback was immediate. The Stadium Stompers, a group of student and community activists, capped off a series of protests earlier this year by presenting Temple's then-president, Neil Theobald, with an award for "Best Gentrifier."

Temple occupies a large swath of impoverished North Philadelphia, and the largely black population has long been concerned about being shoved out by rising rents and an expanding university footprint.

The student population living near campus has more than doubled in the past decade, and a May report by the Pew Charitable Trusts found that median home sale prices near the proposed stadium site have spiked tenfold in 13 years, from $11,250 to $140,000.

Temple has tried to soothe concerns by stressing the potential benefits of a stadium, including new jobs and retail outlets.

But residents remain unconvinced. The Stompers are planning more protests, with ideas ranging from blocking the homecoming parade to sculpting and stomping a mini-stadium.

For now, Temple is conducting a $1.25 million traffic study.

"The university and the board was effectively going through due diligence -- a feasibility review of the project, and that hasn't changed," said Kevin Feeley, spokesman for Temple's board of trustees. "We are still doing our due diligence."

Saint Joseph's comeback bid comes up short vs. Florida

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AP Images

Saint Joseph's comeback bid comes up short vs. Florida

CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Keyontae Johnson saw Florida’s big lead shrink to almost nothing in the final minute. He made sure his teammates didn’t let this one get away from the Gators.

Johnson had a career-high 22 points to lead the Gators to a 70-62 victory over Saint Joseph’s at the Charleston Classic, playing without ejected leading scorer Kerry Blackshear Jr. on Thursday. Not that it came easily as Florida (3-2) saw its 18-point lead cut to 64-62 in the final minute.

“We just communicated, told everyone to stay together,” Johnson said. “We stayed locked in.”

The focus proved the difference as Florida hit six foul shots down the stretch while Saint Joseph’s missed two shots and committed a pair of turnovers.

“Down the stretch, I thought we showed a tremendous toughness,” Florida coach Mike White said.

The Gators needed it with Blackshear missing almost all of the game. He played three minutes in the first half after picking up two fouls. Then he was thrown out when he was battling underneath and his elbow looked like it hit Saint Joseph’s guard Taylor Funk. Blackshear, who came in averaging 14 points and 12 boards, was called for a flagrant two foul and sent off the court.

Blackshear’s departure seemed to energize the Hawks (2-3), who trailed 43-27 when the Florida star left the court. That’s when St. Joseph’s went on a 29-16 spurt to cut it to three points on Funk’s basket with six minutes left.

But Johnson followed with a basket and Andrew Nembhard made another to extend the lead.

St. Joseph’s had one last charge, slicing things to 64-62 on Ryan Daly’s layup in the final minute. The Hawks had several chances to tighten things, but could not. “We’re not going to go down easy,” Daly said.

Florida will take on Miami here Friday for a spot in the Charleston Classic finals.

The Hawks face Missouri State on Friday.

Johnson also had a game-high 12 rebounds. Nembhard added 16 points.

Florida took control quickly and appeared to make this a runaway as Noah Locke had two 3-pointers and Nembhard also hit one from behind the arc as the Gators went ahead 11-2 less than two minutes in and steadily built its lead.

St. Joseph’s had hit 34 first-half 3s combined its first four games. It made just one of its 14 long-range attempts this time as it fell behind.

Daly led the Hawks with 25 points.

Swider scores 26, No. 17 Villanova routs MTSU 98-69

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USA Today Images

Swider scores 26, No. 17 Villanova routs MTSU 98-69

CONWAY, S.C. -- It’s been awhile since No. 17 Villanova shot this well from long range. Cole Swider has never scored like this.

Swider scored a career-high 26 points with six 3-pointers, and the Wildcats routed Middle Tennessee 98-69 on Thursday in the quarterfinals of the Myrtle Beach Invitational.

Collin Gillespie added 16 points and hit four 3s, Justin Moore finished with 15 points and Jeremiah Robinson-Earl had 11 rebounds to help Villanova (3-1) - which never trailed, led by 35 and shot 57% while winning its second straight following a 25-point loss at No. 10 Ohio State.

And yet, another number in the box score caught coach Jay Wright’s eye - Swider’s seven rebounds.

“He’s more than just a shooter,” Wright said.

And the Wildcats have plenty of those. They made 18 3s - one shy of the school record, and their most since they also had 18 in a victory over Kansas at the 2018 Final Four.

“They have elite size with great shooters,” Middle Tennessee coach Nick McDevitt said, “and any short close-out or decent close-out results in three points.”

Eleven of them came during a first-half barrage that pushed the lead well into the 20s. Swider hit his fifth 3 from the corner shortly before the buzzer to put the Wildcats up 53-28 at halftime.

Saddiq Bey then took the lead to 30 with a 3-pointer two minutes into the second half.

Donovan Sims scored 18 points and C.J. Jones had 16 for the Blue Raiders (3-2). Leading scorer Antonio Green, averaging 23.5 points going into the game, finished with four points on 1-of-7 shooting while dealing with foul trouble.

“They’ve got a lot of interchangeable parts, so they were switching just to never let him see space,” McDevitt said.