The sound of the referee's whistle at Lincoln Financial Field at 7 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 31 will signal more than just the kickoff of the Mayor's Cup game between Temple and Villanova. It will herald Temple's first on-the-field action as a member of the BIG EAST Conference in football since 2004 and a new era for the program, the Athletic Department and the university.
"Today's Temple is defined by momentum," said Acting President Richard M. Englert. "From the football program's recent successes to the university's growing reputation for academic excellence, research and creative activity, state-of-the-art facilities and vibrant urban campus life, Temple is on the rise. The BIG EAST, a 'big cities' conference whose members include some of the nation's leading research universities, is a perfect fit for our entire institution, including our athletics programs."
To prepare for the Owls' BIG EAST debut, the Temple Times has prepared a list of frequently asked questions and a primer introducing Temple's new conference peer institutions in football.
Who belongs to the BIG EAST in football?
Temple's new football conference partners for 2012 are the University of Cincinnati, the University of Connecticut, the University of Louisville, the University of Pittsburgh, Rutgers University, the University of South Florida and Syracuse University. Starting in 2013, BIG EAST football will be joined by Boise State University, the University of Central Florida, the University of Houston, the University of Memphis, San Diego State University and Southern Methodist University (Pittsburgh and Syracuse are scheduled to depart that year). In 2015, BIG EAST football will add the United States Naval Academy.
How will the new BIG EAST raise the conference's (and Temple's) profile?
Expansion will make BIG EAST football the first truly national conference, with member institutions in four time zones. All 16 teams will be among the nation's top 35 media markets; six will be in the top 10. BIG EAST football's television reach — already one of the nation's largest — will be more than 31 million homes, nearly 28 percent of all U.S. households.
Will Temple football games be televised more often?
Yes. For the first time, all Temple football games will be televised nationally (in some cases via free webcasts at www.espn3.com). TV outlets and kickoff times for games may not be determined until 12 days before the scheduled date.
The BIG EAST is an automatic qualifying conference in the Division I Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS), or what's sometimes called a "BCS conference." What does that mean?
FBS is college football's top division. Only six FBS conferences, a group that includes the BIG EAST, currently have automatic qualifying (AQ) status. The annual champions of AQ conferences automatically qualify for the Bowl Championship Series (BCS), a high-profile, five-game college football event comprising the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl, the Discover Orange Bowl, the Rose Bowl presented by VISIO, the Allstate Sugar Bowl and the Allstate BCS National Championship Game.
Starting next year, who will be Temple's BIG EAST partners in other sports?
When the university becomes a full member of the BIG EAST in 2013-14, it will be the first time in school history that all Temple student-athletes will compete in the same conference. Temple's conference partners in the so-called Olympic sports are expected to include other full members (Central Florida, Cincinnati, Connecticut, Houston, Louisville, Memphis, Rutgers, Southern Methodist and South Florida) as well as non-football members DePaul, Georgetown, Marquette, Notre Dame, Providence, St. John's, Seton Hall and Villanova.
Is the BIG EAST a good conference?
Yes, by any measure the BIG EAST is one of the nation's elite athletic conferences. BIG EAST teams have won national championships in six different sports. In football, the 42-37 record of BIG EAST teams in BCS-era bowl games is the best of any conference. BIG EAST teams have won seven national championships in both men's and women's basketball. Six different BIG EAST men's basketball teams have reached the Final Four in the last six years; seven different women's teams have reached the Final Four in the last four years.
When is Temple's first BIG EAST home football game?
After taking on three non-conference foes — Villanova and Maryland (Sept. 8) at home and Penn State (Sept. 22) on the road — the Owls will play their inaugural conference game on Oct. 6 when they host South Florida at Lincoln Financial Field. Temple's BIG EAST debut against the Bulls is also the Homecoming game. The Owls will play three other BIG EAST home games (Rutgers on Oct. 20, Cincinnati on Nov. 10 and Syracuse on Nov. 23) and three conference road games (Connecticut on Oct. 13, Pittsburgh on Oct. 27 and Louisville on Nov. 3) in 2012.
How can I get tickets to home games?
Students get one free ticket for every home game. 2012 season tickets and three-game packs are available for purchase at owlstix.com or 215-204-8499. Six-game season ticket packages start at just $16.50 per game. Three-game packs, which permit purchasers to choose any three home games, start at $19 per game. In addition to discounted prices, three-game packs include access to the best seat locations and a personal account representative. Full season plans come with one parking pass and an opportunity to buy tickets for the Owls' game at Penn State.
Temple isn't the only new development in the BIG EAST. Who is the conference's new leader?
On Aug. 14, Mike Aresco, formerly executive vice president of programming at CBS Sports, was named the BIG EAST's new commissioner. Aresco, who also worked for ESPN for more than a decade, is the first network television executive to lead a major athletic conference. His experience negotiating deals between networks and conferences will help the BIG EAST tackle its first big challenge, negotiating a new TV agreement that will benefit all member schools.