Q & A with David Adamany Temple football was challenge for president

Posted: July 30, 2006

David Adamany, who stepped down as president of Temple University on June 30 after six years, was in office as the football program was kicked out of the Big East Conference and nearly dropped by the university before it landed a spot in the Mid-American Conference.

Adamany, 69, is on a sabbatical for a year. He is honorary chancellor at Temple, a position in which he will assist incoming president Ann Weaver Hart in various capacities as called on. When he returns to the university, he will teach a course in election law at the law school, a course in American politics to freshmen, and a course on the Supreme Court to undergraduates.

The lifelong Green Bay Packers fan recently sat in his office on campus and looked back at his tenure as president.

Question: How would you sum up your time as Temple's president?

Answer: Temple faced, and still faces, a lot of challenges. We took on some of those and did pretty well. We have the largest number of 18-year-olds that we've ever had. ... Enrollment grew from 28,000 to 34,000. Applications jumped for the freshman class from 12,000 to 17,000. ...

We recruited over 150 new faculty members from all over the country to strengthen the teaching programs at the university. Once the university began to develop, private developers took an interest in the neighborhood, and there's been about $170 million in investment in this neighborhood. This was a really distressed neighborhood, and we're making some progress.

Q: Temple's academic standards for athletes became higher. Did you meet any resistance from the athletic department?

A: I think that in the athletic department, the attitude wasn't so much resistance, but let's see what we can do to skirt these new standards. I think the people in the athletic program like the new Temple. It's a magnet. It draws students. But they kind of hunkered down and hoped they wouldn't be held to the new standards.

Q: What was your reaction last summer when seven Temple football players were deemed ineligible by university standards days before the season opener?

A: The real problem we had all along is that the internal operations of the athletic department did not focus in enough on academic matters. The ineligibility of those football players should have been known much earlier, not as they were suiting up to play.

Athletics has not done a good job of monitoring itself, and now we've reorganized that to make sure the monitoring is done from the outside.

Q: What about the perception that Dr. Adamany was anti-football?

A: The people who talk like that, and the supporters of football, have not wanted to face up to the enormous difficulties that Temple football has faced. Instead of thinking about the issues and how they can be addressed, they've wanted to find somebody to blame. It's 'the university doesn't do enough; the players aren't good enough; the coach is bad and should be driven out of town; the president of the university has been hostile to football.' In fact, we've made tremendous progress in laying the foundation for a successful football program. I'm not sure it will be successful. That remains to be seen.

Q: What went on during the negotiations when Temple was seeking to use Lincoln Financial Field?

A: There was a lot of controversy with the Eagles. We did get the right to play in Lincoln Financial Field, but on terms that are financially acceptable to us. They wanted us to pay five years of lease payments in a single lump sum on day one. And I said I've never heard of a lease where the person with the lease has to pay five years' rent on day one. And I resisted that. They figured they had us over a barrel because we didn't have a place to play. Vet Stadium was coming down. But we got some wonderful help from [State] Speaker of the House John Perzel, who told them if they didn't work with Temple on this, he would put in legislation to impose taxes on their operation down there. So they gave in, and we've got a lease and a great place to play ball.

Q: What about attendance?

A: We worked very hard, unsuccessfully, to try to promote attendance. It just didn't happen. We had one year where the university trustees stepped up to the mark and bought 30,000 tickets and authorized us to distribute those tickets through employers, through schools, and community organizations. Even with that, we couldn't get much attendance.

Q: What is the university subsidy for football now, compared to when you took office?

A: The people who've been so critical have not been interested in all the investment we've made. All they want to do is blame somebody. Our subsidy for all athletics was $11.9 million. In the year that I am leaving, it's $17.4 million. There's no part of the university that has had that kind of percentage increase. In football, we had to step in and plug the hole when the Big East revenue sharing disappeared. The football subsidy has increased from $3.5 million to $5 million.

Q: Was there a time when you seriously questioned the viability of continuing to field a Division I football program?

A: Yes, I did. There was a time when it looked to me like we would not meet NCAA academic or attendance standards. It wasn't always clear that we would have a great stadium to play in. And I watched those attendance numbers and wondered, 'Where is the support?'

Q: Had it been solely your decision, would you have dropped football?

A: That's a very tough question. I certainly think that when the bottom was dropping out in 2003 and 2004, and it just didn't look to me like we were going to make it, I might very well have closed the program.

Q: How was it for you during the team's 0-11 season last fall?

A: I went to more than half the games, and last season was about as discouraging as it gets. The margins by which we lost were the results of the student-athletes' becoming discouraged. You looked out and there was no audience.

Q: What are your impressions of Al Golden, Temple's new head football coach?

A: The big change that's come over the program that allows us to be quite optimistic is the hiring of Al Golden. I think it's on two fronts. He's as tough a guy as there is on academic standards, and as far as I can tell, he's working this team hard and building discipline. I like the coaches he brought in. I'm impressed by the determination he's brought in for high standards and athletic performance.

Q: You had also met with Fran Dunphy as he was being lured away from Penn to become Temple's head basketball coach.

A: I think that he will bring a totally different style, and we're going to have to adjust. John [Chaney] was here a long time, and we became accustomed to a certain style.

I think the challenge Fran Dunphy will have is not as a coach of basketball. He's been accustomed to working with a basketball team of students who can't be admitted unless they meet Ivy League standards. Now, he won't be recruiting in the same universe of young students, though he'll get some who are academically very good. How he does that is going to be a challenge.

Q: Was there angst for you dealing with the John Chaney issue after the 'Goongate' incident?

A: I didn't lose a wink of sleep. There was a lot of criticism and a lot of upset people, including some on our board of trustees. The e-mails flooded in from people who demanded that we fire John at a minimum, and half wanted us to kill him.

I made a statement to the board in which I laid out my philosophy about this. As a university, and as human beings, we should believe in redemption. John Chaney has been a superb teacher and an exceptional Temple citizen, and a person of innumerable good works in this larger community. Nobody, not even John Chaney, could defend what he did. But does one incident make a human being? No.

Contact staff writer Kevin Tatum at 215-854-2583 or ktatum@phillynews.com.

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