SI Vault
When playing Temple, pray
Ray Kennedy
October 28, 1974
Persuading local heroes to stay home, the Owls' Wayne Hardin built a power that has dropped opponents to their knees 13 straight times
Decrease font Decrease font
Enlarge font Enlarge font
October 28, 1974

When Playing Temple, Pray

Persuading local heroes to stay home, the Owls' Wayne Hardin built a power that has dropped opponents to their knees 13 straight times

View CoverRead All Articles View This Issue

Forget all that old business about desire, dedication and do or die. Temple's Wayne Hardin has hit on a new formula that seems as simple as it is surefire. Take one heavy dose of loneliness. Mix well with a dash of rejection and disillusionment. Stir in a few assorted longings—for a clean pair of socks, say, a cold beer or a faraway girl friend—and presto! You've got a 13-game winning streak.

That more or less is the concoction that has brought sudden acclaim—and, not coincidentally, an influx of talented transfers—to Temple. The fact that the once-powerless Owls won their last eight games in 1973 and are 5-0 this season, rank among the nation's top five teams in scoring, passing and total offense, lead in the Lambert Trophy standings as the best team in the East and last week put a 56-0 whammy on Holy Cross has prompted some rivals to suggest that Hardin, the Wizard of Broad Street, is practicing something akin to witchcraft.

Nonsense, he says. The conjuring that caused a dozen refugee players to come to Temple's aid this season involves nothing so tangible as eye of newt or wing of bat. "It's just plain homesickness," says Hardin. "Yes, if I had to point to one reason why we are having such success with transfers, I would have to say homesickness."

Hardin got into the jock foundling home business by accident as well as necessity. Two hours after he arrived at the north Philadelphia campus on Jan. 12, 1970 he sped off to Havertown, Pa. to court Quarterback Steve Joachim (pronounced "Jo-ak-im"), a high school All-America. Joachim, already committed to Penn State, responded with the kind of polite indifference that Hardin soon came to expect. The problem is not just that Temple's recruiting grounds are also raked over by many of the glamorous football powers. Because they live so close to the school, prospects tend to have the kind of preconceived notions about Temple that indicate Go West—or somewhere, anywhere else—young man.

Temple is known as the college that deemphasized football so effectively after World War II that by the late 1950s, when it sometimes was unable to suit up more than 28 players against such teams as Drexel, Scranton and Gettysburg, it lost 21 straight games. In many minds it is the "city school," an architectural mishmash bounded by tenements, interlaced with congested streets and patrolled by neighborhood winos. And its student body is regarded as a busy rush of commuters whose enthusiasm for Temple teams was expressed one year when they elected a shaggy-maned male student as homecoming queen and a mongrel dog as his escort.

Hardin has gone a long way toward changing that image by the power of suggestion. "What ghetto?" he says. "That's way off there somewhere. That's not here. This is a university."

When a prospect seems reluctant, Hardin will recall the days when, as a high-school tailback in Stockton, Calif., he decided at the last moment to stay home and attend the College of the Pacific instead of going to USC.

"And I'm glad I did," he will tell the young man. "You don't have to go far away to grow up. You can live on campus like I did. There won't be any parents here bugging you. And whenever you want to you can shoot home for a good meal, hit dad for a couple of bucks and, what was very important for me, drop off a bag of laundry. Your parents have raised you for 18 years and they love you, and they deserve to see you play. You run off somewhere where nobody knows you, and that won't be possible." Then, eyes narrowing and voice lowering, he will plant the seed. "You'll get homesick, too. And believe me that's a baaad sickness."

Few of the most widely prized prospects take heed. Not even when Assistant Coach Vince Hoch conducts a tour to prove that there is indeed a big, vital university of 30,000 students concealed somewhere behind all those concrete walls. "Sure, grass and trees are nice," goes Hoch's pitch, "but after awhile they get boring. The city is where it's happening."

Something rubs off for, sure enough, on several occasions Hoch and other coaches have returned home late of a night to find a former high school all-everything parked on their doorsteps asking to be transferred to Temple. The reasons vary. Halfback Bob Harris, for example, went to Florida A&M hoping to gain the kind of fame won by his hero, Bob Hayes, but found that he was lost in the scuffle of "105 guys trying out for a 55-man roster. I couldn't adjust to it."

Continue Story
1 2