Posted April 28, 2020

The history of “T for Temple U”

Here’s the story behind our university’s catchy cheer.

TempleDiamond Marching Band performing “T for Temple U” at a football game

Most in our Temple family know the can’t-get-it-out-of-your-head cheer that acts as Temple’s battle cry for all things cherry and white.

“T for Temple U
Fight, fight, fight!
For the cherry and the white,
For the cherry and the white,
We'll fight, fight, fight!”

It fills our stands during sporting events, welcomes our new Temple Owls to campus and showcases our Diamond Marching Band’s extra shine. 

But where did it come from? What’s its history? 

The story starts on Dec. 17, 1982. It was a Friday night and the Temple men’s basketball team was playing Villanova the next day. Then senior and captain of the cheerleading team, Dennis Fleming, SSW ’83, was sitting at a North Philly hotspot on Rising Sun Avenue. He and former student John Mackanich, also a Temple cheerleader, were brainstorming ways to get the fans excited and show Villanova the fighting spirit of the Temple Owls. They were sipping “Johnnie Walker Red—not Black.” said Fleming when he was asked to relive the night. “We wanted to come up with something that was catchy and that got people involved.”

Though the cheer didn’t help muster a win for the Owls on the court that Saturday night, it would for generations to come. 

Photo of the 1982 Temple cheerleading team. Image courtesy of Dennis Fleming.

1982 was a big year for Temple men’s basketball. It was the year a new head coach named John Chaney joined the Owls on the sidelines. Chaney led the Owls to success for decades. Known for pushing players to strive for excellence on and off the court, Chaney also understood the importance of the crowd and its role in the game. 

Fleming remembers Chaney taking the time to stop and talk with the cheerleaders after the last game in 1982. “He said thank you for always making it to all the games,” Fleming said. “The cheerleaders would sometimes have to drive themselves in those days,” he explained.

Photo of Harry Woodhouse leading the band in a cheer and the Diamond Marching Band’s drum section marching onto the field at the Vet. Image courtesy of Temple University Libraries, Special Collection Research Center. Temple Templar, 1984.

Fleming and Lynne Ewell, ENG ’86, also a Temple cheerleader, remember talking about the cheer they were working on with members of the band. Harry Woodhouse who played a baritone horn in the Diamond Marching Band that season added music to the cheer and brought the compilation to his band director, Arthur Chodoroff, BYR ’73.

Chodoroff, emeritus professor of instrumental studies and former director of the Diamond Marching Band, remembers Woodhouse as a leader and as someone who epitomized Owl pride. “Peter Liacouras, the university’s president at the time, wanted him to be a cheerleader for Temple,” said Chodoroff of Woodhouse. After hearing what Woodhouse put together, Chodoroff arranged the music and the band  “started playing the tune,” he recalled. 

The Diamond Marching Band has continued to play that tune for basketball games, football games, orientation sessions and campus celebrations ever since.

Though the sentiment of “fight, fight, fight for the cherry and the white,” has stayed relatively the same for decades, the band has made some tweaks here and there.  

Current Diamond Marching Band Director Matthew Brunner said that when he came to Temple 12 years ago, “‘T for Temple U’ seemed to be the song everyone sang and that everyone wanted to hear.” Some are surprised to learn that this popular cheer isn’t the university’s official fight song. The official fight song is “Fight Temple, Fight” and it has been since the 1920s.

In recent years, Brunner and the band have added an intro that encourages the crowd to shout, “T.E.M.P.L.E.!” and “Let’s go Owls!” before they start the cheer. 

“T for Temple U” is played throughout the games to lift the crowd’s spirits and, according to Brunner, “It’s always the last song we play.” 

Today, what began as an idea to get fans involved at a basketball game has grown into a cheer that lives inside all Temple Owls. Ewell, now a parent of two Temple Owls, said, “It’s part of our family history.” The cheer has catchiness that sticks and choreography that will have you raising your arms in a “T” no matter where you are.

One thing is certain: for years to come every Temple Owl will know what “T” and “U” stand for. 

Special thanks to Dennis Fleming, Lynne Ewell, Arthur Chodoroff and Matthew Brunner for helping to tell this story. 

—Kate O’Brien, KLN ’12