Temple athletic director credits Pitt AD for helping save Owls' program
When Bill Bradshaw of Temple and Steve Pederson of Pitt meet Saturday morning at Heinz Field, they will exchange smiles, handshakes and the typical pregame small talk between athletic directors.
But Bradshaw's relationship with his cross-state colleague is more than just professionally cordial. He believes Pederson helped save the Temple football program.
“I'm afraid to say what might have happened (without Pederson's help), but he certainly played a significant role in our behalf,” Bradshaw said.
Temple (3-3, 2-1) will bring a competitive Big East team to town to play Pitt (3-4, 0-3) on Saturday. But Bradshaw isn't shy about admitting that Temple was once “the worst program in college football” whose board of trustees contemplated ending it after the 2004 season.
That was when Bradshaw asked Pederson, who was Nebraska's athletic director after his first Pitt tenure, to make a pitch to trustees.
“I thought Pitt was actually closer to sharing some of the same challenges,” Bradshaw said, “being in an NFL city, having to use an NFL stadium and lease it from a pro team.
“I couldn't bring in someone from Auburn or LSU. Those guys sit behind cash registers. When Steve and I hire (coaches), they have to roll up their sleeves and go to work.”
Pederson spoke for an hour and fielded several questions. “He had all the answers to the test,” Bradshaw said.
In the end, trustees decided to save the program, but it was a close vote. Three years earlier, the Big East kicked out Temple — for good reason.
In 14 seasons, the Owls had won 16 conference games. Attendance at Philadelphia's Veterans Stadium, a facility they shared with the Eagles, sometimes didn't reach 5,000.
“Talk about being flat on your back,” said Bradshaw, who inherited the mess when he was hired in 2002. “Talk about looking up at the stars.”
One time, a year after Temple lost to Bowling Green, 70-16, Bradshaw told the trustees, “I'll tell you one thing, they are not scoring 70 again this year.”
He was right: Bowling Green won, 69-7.
But after Pederson's appearance, the administration made a commitment that allowed Temple to hire Al Golden, the defensive coordinator at Virginia.
Golden lost back-to-back 62-0 decisions to Louisville and Minnesota in '06, but he rebuilt the program, which eventually moved to the Mid-American Conference. Before Golden left for Miami last year, Temple finished 9-4 and 8-4 in '09 and '10.
Still armed with the necessary resources, Temple replaced Golden with Florida offensive coordinator Steve Addazio, who continued the revival. Temple was 9-4 in its final MAC season before joining the Big East this year.
Temple even poached two Western Pennsylvania recruits, Montour's Tyler Haddock and Matt Barone, who said they flipped from Kent State and Connecticut partially because they wanted to play for the energetic Addazio.
“The irrepressible air that he has is contagious,” Bradshaw said.
Addazio, whose team was beating 15th-ranked Rutgers, 10-0, at halftime last week before losing, 35-10, believes Temple has a bright future.
“There are really no limits,” he said. “We have a new $10 million facility that is drop-dead gorgeous. We have plans for a brand-new indoor facility going in.
“The growth is real. The support is real. The future, what we are striving for, is there and we can all feel it, smell it, taste it. It will just take a little time.”