JERSEY CITY, N.J. — Whatever else happens with conference realignment going forward, Rick Pitino wants Temple back in the Big East.
“To me, Temple’s perfect,” the Louisville coach told SNY.tv during an exclusive interview Tuesday at Hudson Catholic High School, which he was visiting on a recruiting trip. “They were already in the Big East. They are an excellent football program right now. They should’ve beaten Penn State. They blew out Maryland, who beats Miami. They’re 3-1
“And they’re a terrific school scholastically. They fit what we should’ve been doing from the beginning. They should’ve been our No. 1 priority four years ago, Temple, to get them back in. We made a mistake letting them go; they should’ve been our No. 1 priority.”
Pitino was elaborating on a comment he first made on his blog and that has drawn interest around the nation.
Temple was a football-only member of the Big East Conference from 1991 through 2004. They were forced out of the league due to poor attendance averages, non-competitiveness and a lack of commitment to the football program from university officials. Temple played the 2005 and 2006 seasons as an independent before joining the MAC in 2007 where they currently reside.
As things stand now, the Big East will lose Syracuse and Pittsburgh to the ACC, although a timeframe has yet been set. Navy and Air Force will reportedly join the Big East as football-only members, bringing the number of football teams for next year to 11, including Texas Christian, which joins in 2012.
On the basketball side, Pitino believes Temple will be able to compete in the Big East, which will feature 17 programs next year after TCU joins.
“We get a terrific basketball school,” Pitino said of Temple, which finished 26-8, 14-2 in the Atlantic 10 last season.
Reached on his cell phone, Temple coach Fran Dunphy said he was flattered by Pitino’s comments.
“I certainly appreciate Coach Pitino’s comments and the confidence he would have in our University and program,” Dunphy told SNY.tv. “They were wonderful to read. Obviously, at this present time we’re in the Atlantic 10 and we’re in the MAC for football, and we certainly appreciate the relationships that we have with both of those institutions.
“And whatever’s going to happen with any of our Universities out there is going to happen at a much higher level than me. But I certainly appreciate Rick’s comments.”
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Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.