Manufacturer's last week, 56th time he's shot his age or under. It was one of those brutal, sultry days, so he was 16 under the
temperature, which makes it even more impressive.
And makes it even more puzzling as to why a former football coach of sound mind and body (and a crisp golf game) would step out front in a quixotic campaign to lure a sellout crowd to Lincoln Financial Field for
Temple's opener against Navy on Friday, Aug. 31.
"We draw 66,000 for the game and it will be a shot heard 'round the country," he said, squeezing off the words like a guy throwing darts at a target 10 feet away. Shot? Around the country? If 66,000 show up for Temple-
Navy it will be a 21-gun barrage, rate 8.7 on the Richter scale, set the needle quivering in a Moscow bunker where they monitor underground nuclear testing.
"When I was there," he said, "maybe 400 to 500 students lived on campus. Now, there are 10,000 students living on, or near the campus. They've got a brand-new student-union building as good as any in the country. Anyone who criticizes the Temple campus, just hasn't been there. It's time people became aware of Temple.
"All I'm trying to prove is that there are 124,000 alumni living within 2 hours of the stadium. We've got 34,000 students and 9,000 faculty and staff. If we get 15,000 students, 20,000 alumni, 4,500 faculty and staff . . . "
Uh, coach, that adds up to 39,500. Throw in 1,500 midshipmen and you have 41,000. The game was originally set for Thursday night, before the
inevitable Labor Day weekend exodus from town. The Eagles snatched the date back.
"We're the tenant," Hardin said bluntly. "It's their house. Me, I love the Eagles."
Hardin coached at Navy,
successfully, flamboyantly. He knows that the brigade of
midshipmen must attend home games. He suggested making
the game a Navy home game,
visualizing a 20,000 march-in. But it couldn't be done, and
besides, the Eagles didn't want the middies trampling their grass, the night after one of their preseason charades.
He did recruit Roger Staubach and Joe Bellino to be part of the coin toss, the 1963 and '60 Heisman Trophy winners for Navy, respectively. "Joe said 'Yes' right away," Hardin reported. "Roger wasn't sure, he figured they'd boo him. I told him, 'That's out of respect. In Philadelphia it's a sign, we love you . . . BOO!' "
Hardin is always dreaming the impossible dream. Out loud.
Trounced Army in '59 - 43-12 - with his players wearing conservative jerseys and gold helmets. Next year they had anchor logos on the helmets. Next year, "Beat" and "Army" on the shoulders. Next year, after Army had hired Paul Dietzel away from LSU, Hardin slapped a skull and crossbones on the Navy helmets and Chinese lettering on the shoulders that translated into "Beat Army."
Did the Navy brass wince? "Nah," Hardin remembered. "It was all derived from naval history. Skull and crossbones, that was the flag of a ship that went undefeated. Dietzel brought his 'Chinese Bandit' defense with him, and we wanted to show that our defense was tough, too. 'Beat Army,' those are the first words shouted after the swearing-in. And 'Drive for Five,' the next year, that's what the admiral shouted as we walked off the field after the fourth straight win.
"Even Roger the Dodger, that was part of naval history." Huh?
Maybe he meant Jolly Roger, but that's the only time his
memory was fuzzy. Hardin brought the same feistiness, the same pizazz with him to Temple.
"First time we played Penn State," he said, referring to the 1975 season opener at Franklin Field, "I told Ernie Casale, the athletic director, that I wasn't
going to get out-pompommed.
I told him I wanted 10,000
"He said, and I loved Ernie, 'Who's gonna buy 'em?' I said, 'They won't have to buy 'em,
we're gonna give 'em away.' Night of the game, me, Ernie, some of the managers are laying out the pompoms on the seats.
"First play from scrimmage, Bob Harris goes 76 yards, touchdown, 10,000 cherry and white pompoms waving in the stands. My wife and mother are stuck on the Schuylkill in jammed
Penn State squeaked out a 26-25 victory that left Hardin bawling in the deserted locker room. "They took a safety near the end," Hardin recalled. "And then we call a crossing pattern off the draw and the pass is just too long [he holds his index
fingers 4 inches apart]. If he
gets his hands on it, he catches it, we kick the game-winning field goal."
Talk about shots heard 'round the country.
Hardin likes Temple coach Al Golden, brags about Golden's recruiting skills. "He may be a year away," Hardin cautioned. "He doesn't have a senior class yet. You need a senior class to win."
And then he's off on a wonderful story about his first adventure, recruiting for Temple. "I go to Steve Joachim's school and the coach won't let me talk to him, says he's already committed to Penn State," Hardin said.
"I convince the coach to let me talk to him. Steve says that Joe Paterno has recruited some wide receivers and they're going to throw the football. I tell him, 'Yeah, but the first time you're sacked or throw an interception, it will be back to the running game.'
"I tell him, I believe in a
balanced offense, 250 yards
running, 250 yards passing,
40 points a game. I don't have
to change. I tell him, if things don't work out, give me a call. And that's what happened.
"Meanwhile, I'm watching their films and I ask the coach if I can talk to the guy catching the ball, or is he all-world, too? I'm sitting at a desk in front of the classroom and Randy Grossman walks in the back door. I say, 'Hi, you're my first scholarship to Temple.' And all he's got is four Super Bowl rings."
Joachim and Joe Klecko will be there for the coin toss, too.
Former Temple quarterback Brian Broomell, now with
Classic Auto, is offering a 1-year lease on a Nissan to one lucky ticketholder and two tickets to the game to anyone coming in for a test drive.
Wilkie Subaru is giving away
a 2-year lease. And one lucky
student will win a semester's
tuition, which figures out to be around $9,000. An outdoor lottery, with better odds than you get from the second most
famous groundhog in
The marketing folks couldn't provide a guess on the crowd
because they have all those
discount offers out there, to the military, to unions, to the recreation department, to area high schools. They're leaving no turn unstoned in their efforts to back Hardin's dream.
By the way, Temple is a 21-point underdog.
"Me, I'm hoping for a tie game that goes into overtime," Hardin said. "A memorable game." *
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