The last time anybody really gave a hoot about Temple's football schedule was in 1972. That was the year that the Owls' long-sighted coach, Wayne Hardin, hatched a short-lived rally screech. After a decade of toying with the Gettysburgs, Kings Points and Wayne States of the world, Temple had gone big-time, lining up traditional Eastern powers Syracuse and Boston College for the '72 season. "I didn't want my players to look at the schedule and feel sorry for themselves," recalls the 79-year-old Hardin, who retired after the '82 season. So he invented the Hoot.
During agility drillsplayers were told to raise their hands in front of their eyes, join their fingers in goggle-shaped O.K. signs and shout, "Hoot!" While doing rapid-fire calisthenics, they'd yell, "Hoot, hoot, hoot-hoot-hoot!" The Owls hooted on the practice field, in the locker room shower, on the streets of North Philadelphia. But they waited to hoot it up against an opponent until the third game of the season, at Boston College. As the Owls funneled out of the tunnel in Chestnut Hill, Mass., past hooting Temple coaches and the hooting Temple mascot, their captain led them in rhythmic hoots. They hooted while dashing through the goalposts and between two rows of their hooting cheerleaders. But Boston College had the last hoot: The Eagles plucked the Owls clean, 49--27.
No amount of hooting and hollering is likely to save Temple this year, either. With only two winning seasons in 25 years, and none since 1990, the perennial patsy (2--9 in '04) plays a schedule that's arguably the most brutal in the country. Of the 11 teams they face, eight were in bowl games last season and five-- Arizona State, Wisconsin, Miami ( Fla.), Virginia and Navy--finished in the AP's Top 25. "Our schedule is like the perfect storm," athletic director Bill Bradshaw says with a sigh. "What we're heading into is either idiotic or quixotic."
"I'd be Don Quixote to say Temple will win more games than it loses," he says.
The only program ever to be booted out of the Big East, Temple is now an affiliate member of the Mid-American Conference. (The school will become a full-fledged football member, eligible to compete for the conference title, in 2007. The rest of Temple's varsity teams will remain in the Atlantic 10.) But even a downgrade in league affiliation won't help the Owls. They're playing the MAC's top three teams: Bowling Green, Miami ( Ohio) and Toledo.
"It's not like we picked every tough team we could!" coach Bobby Wallace protests. He's right. Where's USC?
"The schedule is tough, but when I was coach our opponents were tougher," says Hardin. "We butted heads with Georgia, Pittsburgh and Penn State--all when they were Number 1."
Did you beat any of them?