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."

Sports Uncovered Podcast: How to listen to episode on Oregon football's uniform revolution

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NBC Sports

Sports Uncovered Podcast: How to listen to episode on Oregon football's uniform revolution

Forget about Chip Kelly for a second: When you think of the University of Oregon, you probably think of their uniforms.

Each season, the Ducks push jersey and helmet designs to new heights, and their trailblazing influence has trickled down throughout college athletics. It all started in the 1990s, when Oregon decided to get crazy - and it worked.

In the second episode of NBC Sports' "Sports Uncovered" podcast series, NBC Sports Northwest takes a deep dive into how Oregon sparked a fashion transformation across college football with a mascot change, and with unique Nike uniforms that helped push the program into the national college football coversation.

The episode features in-depth interviews with former Oregon football head coach Mike Bellotti, former Oregon quarterback Joey Harrington, and more.

The episode releases Thursday, June 11. You can listen to this episode and the entire "Sports Uncovered" series by subscribing for free wherever you listen to podcasts.

To catch every episode, be sure to subscribe to "Sports Uncovered" and have every episode automatically downloaded to your phone. Sports Uncovered is available on the MyTeams app and on every major podcasting platform: Apple, Google Podcast, iHeart, Stitcher, Spotify, and TuneIn

Listen and subscribe to the "Sports Uncovered" podcast:

Jay Wright talks Saddiq Bey, missing March Madness, Phillies

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USA Today Images

Jay Wright talks Saddiq Bey, missing March Madness, Phillies

It's been 12 days since Villanova's season ended abruptly due to the coronavirus crisis. Jay Wright held a video conference on Wednesday to discuss a number of topics. 

Here are the major takeaways from Wright's session with the media.  

This March is different

Villanova missed out on opportunities to win a fourth straight Big East Tournament and participate in the NCAA Tournament for the 15th time in the last 16 years. The Wildcats won eight of their final nine games to clinch a share of the Big East regular season title. Not having a chance to shine in the postseason stings. 

"Missing the NCAA Tournament is obviously tough for our guys," Wright said. "We felt like we were playing great basketball, coming on strong. I always say we want to play our best basketball at the end of the year, and I think we were doing that. It is what it is, our guys get it. 

"It's a great example of our mantra 'attitude'. We try to teach our guys that you don't have control over what happens in life. What you do have control of is your response to what happens to you. 

"I don't know if there's even been a March where I wasn't either in (the NCAA Tournament), watching it or recruiting during it. I'm testing myself on what else is there in me? Being a better father, being a better husband. Spending more time with the kids, watching more movies, reading more, trying to be more worldly. I'm not very good at it but I'm trying."

Will Saddiq Bey leave for the NBA? 

Arguably the biggest question concerning Wright's team heading into the offseason is will Saddiq Bey leave for the NBA or will he return for his junior season at Villanova? Wright mentioned that Bey was especially disappointed when this season was cut short. He realizes that he has a big decision to make on his future. Wright discussed Bey's future plans as well as freshman Jeremiah Robinson-Earl, who is also considered an NBA prospect. 

"The NBA is still on hold," Wright said. "They don't have a plan yet for what they're going to do with the pre-draft process or the draft yet. Saddiq and Jeremiah probably both will go through that process when we find out what it is. They're waiting on us for information, should they start working out? We're trying to get them as much information as possible. 

"If we were in a normal timeline, they would both go through the process. As we learn what the NBA is going to do there are so many possibilities. Just to take it to an extreme, there's a possibility they might not have a pre-draft process and just have the draft with no workouts, using the evaluations they had during the season. 

"We're communicating with both of them daily. Saddiq is having a tough time trying to find a place to work out in [his hometown] Washington D.C. He just got a gym to get into so he can shoot, he can't find a gym to get into to lift. Jeremiah is trying to find a place around here to get into to shoot."

2020 Summer Olympics postponed

Wright was supposed to spend a portion of his summer as an assistant coach for the U.S. Olympic men's basketball team in Tokyo. But with this week's announcement that the Olympics are postponed, his plans have changed. 

"It's the right decision," Wright said. "I feel bad for all of those athletes that it's once in a lifetime experience. I really feel bad for them. For basketball guys it's not as difficult. I talked with [U.S. head coach Greg Popovich] yesterday. It's postponed, obviously not cancelled, postponed until some time next spring or summer. There's a lot of questions there. They could do it late spring, when you might not have NBA players. If they did it in the summer maybe you do have NBA players. We have to wait for the IOC to make those decisions. 

"For us personally (at Villanova), it's kind of crazy because we thought we came up with this great plan. I was going to have to leave our offseason program for the Olympics. We had a plan to work around that, and now it doesn't matter. We'll be here in June and July. Now we don't even know if the players will be here. We worked so hard to put this plan in place for me being away and now it doesn't even matter."

Phillies season on hold

A Bucks County native, Wright is a huge Philadelphia sports fan. He had Phillies season tickets as a kid and is a regular at Citizens Bank Park during the summer months. Like all Phillies fans, he's disappointed the baseball season isn't starting this week.

"The end of the basketball season was always sobering," Wright said. "But what always saved us was the start of the Phillies. Opening Day and the start of baseball season in our family is a big deal. 

"We watch the spring training games, we'll even joke, 'Who do the Phillies play tonight?' It's really surreal. Spring time without baseball, especially the Phillies, is bizarre. It's really the way myself and my family get ourselves out of basketball mode. We go to Opening Day, we go to the Phillies games, we love 'Bark in the Park', we always bring the dogs. We're really going to miss it."

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