I want tough guys who love football and who want to compete. No, you can't be running a 7.0 40, but I also don't want to be known as a "measurables" program. There's a piece of that stuff, of course. But it's really about how you play on film. Do you have a passion for the game? Those kinds of guys are all over Division I football. You always hear about guys like Ben Roethlesberger, who ended up at Miami of Ohio in the MAC. Well, what happened there? There's just something special inside some of these guys. That's the goal here. Those diamonds in the rough are all around, and this is a wonderful place. Kids can come here and have the opportunity to play in one of the elite stadiums in the country, to go to one of the top academic schools in the Northeast, and to do it in this just unbelievable city of Philadelphia. It's a city that loves sports. It's a great city. We're in a conference with great tradition that plays a great brand of football, and we're going to play quality non-conference opponents like Notre Dame. And we'll continue to do that. And Temple is a great place, on the upswing. Temple eight years ago and Temple five years ago are totally different than the Temple of today. That's the word that needs to get spread. That's the truth. This is a real place on the rise, a special place.
You were at Florida during some pretty incredible years, as well as a couple challenging ones. What can you take away from that experience?
It was a great place, but I've been at a lot of great places. I was at Syracuse, and we won three conference championships there and I coached some great players. That was a great experience. I was at Notre Dame and was around some great players there. Then I was at Indiana in the Big Ten and again around some great players and the great stadiums of the Big Ten. At Florida, we won two national championships. Two years ago, we had an undefeated regular season and crushed Cincinnati in the Sugar Bowl. All of those stops collectively ... become a part of your background. At Florida I had a chance to be involved in every single phase of the program—special teams, offensive line. I got to serve as assistant head coach and later interim head coach. I wore a lot of hats and it was tremendously valuable.
There’s a lot of talk these days about the SEC being the best conference in the country.
I don't think anyone can deny it's the best conference in the country.
Why is that? Is it the talent? The coaching? The passion of the fans?
It's all of the above. It's about the quality of the players, the quality of the pageantry, the venues, the coaching. It's a phenomenal conference from top to bottom. It's the best defensive conference in the country, with some of the best defensive players. Then there's the pageantry. There is great pageantry in other conferences, but pageantry in the SEC is second to none. And when you go on the road in that conference, I'll tell you, that is really rough duty. Rough, rough duty. People talk about home-field advantage. Well, that's for real in the SEC.
Along with that passion, however, comes pressure. Do you sense the pressure to win, both in the SEC and elsewhere, is higher today than it was 15 years ago or 20 years ago?
I can't comment on 15 or 20 years ago. But yeah, there is great pressure to win. There's not a lot of patience among fans. There are great expectations. But that's what makes places great. That's why there is such passion and pageantry. It's just part of the business. If you're thin-skinned, you won't be able to handle that. If you're asking if there's less patience and more expectations, sure, but that's what happens with more visibility, more TV. It's a trickle-down effect. You're not hearing a lot about guys staying in one place for a long time anymore, because it's tough to consistently win. You win a lot and expectations rise even more. So it's hard to stay in one place.
Your old boss, Urban Meyer, retired after last season, apparently due the grind of the job. Did you sense that the pressure was wearing on him?
It took a toll, sure. But in the same breath, it's all about learning how to process that stuff. Years ago, we talked about Dick Vermeil going through the same thing here in Philly. It's not a new phenomenon. Some people are wired so tight that they don't have any outlets. You have to funnel that stress. But there's a lot of money being paid [to coaches], and the pressure isn't isolated to football. You see it in business, too.
We’re hearing a lot lately about the issue of ‘oversigning’ in college football. What are your thoughts? Is this something that needs to be looked at more closely?
We were not an oversigning outfit at Florida. It just wasn’t something that we did. I know a lot of other programs did. They may take kids whoa are marginal as far as whether they were going to qualify, and then commit them in case they make the grades. And if they don't qualify, they can then put them in a prep school. That's something that some people practice at that higher level. But I think you ought to be very careful, ethically, so that you don't [take a commitment] from a kid if you can't come through with a scholarship. I don't think you can do that. I don't think you can promise a kid a scholarship if you can't come through with it. But if you're up front about it, then that's their choice. It's not something that should be forced on somebody. ... You're trying to create opportunities for people, but some kids put themselves in a situation that you have to work through with them to try and help them. As long as they are talked through properly, up front, you can usually make everything work.
Last question: What are your goals, short-term and long-term, for Temple football?
We've got to win a championship. You go out there to win championships. That's the big picture. The small picture is about getting ready for opening day. You've got to get the focus down to winning on opening day, because opening day is huge. But again, the big-picture goal is win a championship—to get a MAC championship. That's the beautiful thing about being in a conference; you get the opportunity to win a title.