Expansion Project Vol I
Expansion Project Vol II
This Spring I released part of the Expansion Project that mentioned Temple as a dark horse candidate for the Big 12 and was mocked rather handedly. Yes, they started as a Baptist college and, yes, they got kicked out of the Big East for what is affectionately called, “program shortcomings”, which basically means they didn’t support football and were not competitive. However, when they appeared on the list of schools presenting to the Big 12, I wasn’t surprised. A review of the numbers shows the university may have a lot more of what the Big 12 is looking for than many give them credit.
Don’t believe me? Read on.
Starting with a review of Temple’s brand we can see that, while not at the level of the Big 12 or the Power Five, Temple is in the top half of the FBS.
With enrollment at 38,000, 28,000 undergrads, they’d be second in the Big 12, squeezing in between Iowa State and Texas. This gives them a solid fan base to work with if they attempt to compete at the highest levels.
They don’t currently bring in a lot of revenue on their licensing over all, but it is about the same level as the rest of the AAC. This could stem from their competitiveness lacking considerably over the past decade or so. They still bring in more than conference mates, Houston and Memphis, but are behind Cincinnati and UConn.
It is obvious that they are definitely not a brand that is battling within the Power Five at the moment, but they have been able to leverage success in the past and could see a marked increase. Currently they are a larger university than and they make the same amount of revenue off their licensing as their in state brethren, the University of Pittsburgh who is already a member of the Power Five. I don’t see any reason why, with the right investment, Temple couldn’t have similar success as the Panthers.
This is the category where I am guessing most people will be most surprised when looking at Temple’s scoring. Not only did they outperform the FBS, but they also scored better than the Power Five average and the Big 12 average.
Matter a fact, counting only the Power Five and the AAC, Temple was the seventh highest location score behind Ohio State, Missouri, Cincinnati, Kentucky, Memphis, Louisville, and Arkansas. This is due to the fact that they are not terribly far away from the Big 12 geographic center, at 1,150 miles. Granted, that isn’t necessarily close, but it is about the same as the Florida schools and BYU was over 1,200 miles away. The advantage Temple has over those schools is it is only 309 miles down the Pennsylvania turnpike from Morgantown, West Virginia, nearly exactly the same as Cincinnati, just in the opposite direction. Adding them would not only provide some relief to West Virginia travel, but they would also provide more games on the east coast for the Big 12.
It wasn’t until WVU joined where the Big 12 games were featured in Pittsburgh and D.C. or syndicated on the Orioles and Nationals MASN sports channel in the Mid-Atlantic. Temple could provide the Big 12 another beachhead in this highly populated area of the nation. And not just any beachhead, I am not sure there are any schools who are located within a larger DMA than Temple, who resides in downtown Philadelphia. Philly may be an old city and not located at a nexus of population growth, but it is currently the fourth largest DMA in the country, with 2.9 million households. Additionally, the state of Pennsylvania is the sixth largest state in the nation with 12.8 million people and may pass Illinois soon for 5th place. Considering West Virginia resides within the Pittsburgh DMA in western Pennsylvania (#23, 1.15m households), that gives the Big 12 a solid representation in a large population in the east coast where football is part of the culture. Paired with Cincinnati, the Big 12 would gain nearly 25 million people to its footprint overnight. That’s basically a second Texas.
Additionally, as discussed in the review of UConn, the Huskies claim often that they are close enough to pull the New York City DMA, being only 140 miles from the number one media market in the nation. Well, at 90 miles, Temple is closer. Philadelphia and New York City are so close in fact that quite a few people make the commute back and forth, dubbing Philly the “sixth borough”. This is a much more densely populated part of the world than most appreciate.
However, with all this population comes a lot of other powerful brands to vie for eyeballs, including the Eagles, Steelers, and the college behemoth, Penn State. There is no way that the Big 12 will be able to build Temple to the level of Penn State any time in the near future, but they could easily create another Pitt with some consistent success from Temple over the next decade. The wild card to all of this is can Temple invest like that and, if they do, will anyone care?
Finance is an area where Temple definitely needs some major improvement, but perhaps not as much as other expansion candidates. Like instate brethren, Pitt, Temple appears to operate without much subsidies, which is a great sign. As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, if a university is spending more than it makes to keep up with a university who doesn’t have to subsidize its athletics, then it has less flexibility to invest and improve. And, for the Big 12, if you’re going to be providing more revenues to a school you want to make sure they are going into growing the athletic program, not just reducing the amount of subsidies a school pays out. In Temple’s case, it appears any growth in revenues can be invested directly into the programs, which is a plus.
The negative is they make about $20-25 million less a year currently than Pitt, who already would be the lowest revenue school in the Big 12 if they weren’t in the ACC. Speaking of which, a lot of this difference could be accounted for due to Pitt receiving the ACC’s media revenue, which is around $15 million more per year than what the AAC pays out. Whatever the case, Temple’s revenues are far too low to compete consistently within the Big 12. They will have to be boosted much more than just with conference revenues, the Owls will need to start filling some seats.
Currently Temple is basically right in the middle of the FBS when it comes to attendance; not horrible, but nowhere near the support the Power Five receive and that is coming off a good year. Temple football last year averaged just shy of 45,000 in attendance, which would have put them last in the Big 12, just behind TCU by a few extra seats. The worry here is that last year Temple saw the single largest improvement in attendance from the year prior, adding 20,789 more to their average per game than 2014.
Most of this was accounted for in two games; Penn State and Notre Dame. Both drew nearly 70,000 fans for the games, which is tremendous for any program, let alone an expansion candidate. Outside those games, Temple averaged around 35-38,000 for games against Tulane, UCF, etc. To keep the comparison with Pitt going, the Panthers drew about 1,000 less in attendance for their game at home against Notre Dame last year, which shows that there is definitely the fan base in Temple to support the big games. This may also be indicated in the remaining schedules, where Pitt drew about 43,000 per game against ACC foes or about 12% more attendance over all. I would be surprised if that level of growth wasn’t able to be replicated for the Owls with a Power Five conference slate.
To their benefit they play their football games at Lincoln Financial Field, the home of the Eagles. With a capacity of just under 70,000 this gives Temple the flexibility to swell their attendance for large games, where other expansion candidates would be limited by smaller stadiums. Financially the agreement is a win for Temple as they only pay the Eagles a million dollars a year for their six games. That’s far less than what they’d pay to service the debt on building a new structure on campus, which, due to being located in downtown Philly, is likely impossible anyway. Lincoln Financial is only eight miles south of Temple as it is and is easily accessible from campus.
While a good year in football, including the first win against Penn State since World War II, is boosting Temple’s numbers much higher than they’ve been prior to success, men’s basketball is not keeping pace. Ranking sixth on the list of all-time winningest schools in men’s basketball, Temple has thrived in the past, most recently under John Chaney who had 741 wins in his 24 years. Since his retirement Fran Dunphy has posted a 214-120 record and seven NCAA appearances in ten years. This is the sort of program that would fit well with the basketball depth of the Big 12, but its attendance is atrocious for this level of success.
The Liacouras Center holds just over 10,000 seats and is right on the Temple campus. However the Owls last year only utilized 63% of it, averaging less in attendance than UTEP, Hawaii, Richmond, and Nevada. They still drew more attendance than two Big 12 schools (Oklahoma State and TCU), but are not only below the Big 12 average, but also are leaving money on the table. They have the capacity to sell more football and basketball tickets and are in a market to foster numerous fans, but they are under performing.
Temple is an interesting school to compare against the Big 12 because its entire history is quite different than the bulk of the land grant schools that make up the conference. While it was started as a religious university, it is now run as a state-related public research university. Pennsylvania created this classification to give preference to universities in the state who provide reduced tuition for in-state residents, offsetting it with public funds. Pitt and Penn State are also classified this way. In this sense, Pitt and Temple are both public and private.
The academics at Temple are also well respected. While Penn State is the largest campus in Pennsylvania, Temple graduates the largest number of professionals (lawyers, doctors, dentists, etc) in the state. It is also classified as a High Research institution with R&D expenditures similar to Carnegie Mellon, the University of Missouri, and Indiana University.
As mentioned, Philadelphia is a large market with a strong corporate presence, headquartering 12 Fortune 500 companies. These include names such as Lincoln National, DuPont (who just merged with Dow) and Aramark. However the most significant corporate headquarter in Philadelphia is media giant, Comcast. Not only are they the largest cable provider in the country, but they also own NBC Universal Media and own joint ventures with Hulu, MLB Network, NHL Network, and the regional Comcast SportsNets in major markets. Currently the connection between the university and the media giant is academic in nature, partnering to become members of the Government-University-Industry Research Roundtable and use it as a platform to work together to determine the needs of research.
However, as the Big 12 considers its media partner options for 2024 and beyond Comcast could become a major player through its NBC properties and expertise with regional sports channels. Just like Fox helped build the Big Ten Network and ESPN created LHN and the SEC Network, Comcast could do the same with a collegiate sport network of its own should it decide to get into that arena. With 22.4 million subscribers on its network alone, not to mention digital avenues, it likely would have no issue with carriage in the major population centers.
This is pure speculation at this point, but it is something for the Big 12 to consider should Temple be able to provide a local focal point for a major media partner.
After taking into consideration all the positives and negatives discussed, we start to get a clear picture of the value Temple brings the Big 12.
Its attendance and financial health are dragging down its score, but the fan base has shown signs of rising to support the university against Power Five opponents recently and the administration has made strides to invest in athletic success, something it neglected to do in the past.
What the Big 12 decides to do with its excess inventory once it expands, which should amount to around 40% of their total football inventory, plus Olympic sports, will either boost Temple’s value or dismiss them entirely. If this inventory needs to be packaged as a network to keep up with the rest of the Power Five, than the Big 12 would be greatly strengthen with a presence near WVU in Pennsylvania. The Owls are located in a larger market than the University of Houston, but are also providing support with West Virginia in one of the most populous states in the nation.
This likely make little sense without more schools between the Big 12’s geographic center and West Virginia, however. If you’re going to head east, don’t go past West Virginia with your first choice or you’ll just increase travel expense. Adding them with either another team in the Ohio River Valley or adding them 13th after two within that valley, could cement an eastern direction that the Big 12 can leverage with a larger footprint and exposure.
Either way, while Temple is not the best candidate out there, they definitely have the potential to provide the Big 12 a lot of what they are looking to boost within the conference. However, Temple will need to prove to the Big 12 that it is willing to invest in their athletics, because that increased footprint and exposure only comes with continued success on the east coast.
©2016 Number Monkey Media