When playing Temple, pray

Persuading local heroes to stay home, the Owls' Wayne Hardin built a power that has dropped opponents to their knees 13 straight times
October 28, 1974

Forget all that old business about desire, dedication and do or die. Temple's Wayne Hardin has hit on a new formula that seems as simple as it is surefire. Take one heavy dose of loneliness. Mix well with a dash of rejection and disillusionment. Stir in a few assorted longings—for a clean pair of socks, say, a cold beer or a faraway girl friend—and presto! You've got a 13-game winning streak.

That more or less is the concoction that has brought sudden acclaim—and, not coincidentally, an influx of talented transfers—to Temple. The fact that the once-powerless Owls won their last eight games in 1973 and are 5-0 this season, rank among the nation's top five teams in scoring, passing and total offense, lead in the Lambert Trophy standings as the best team in the East and last week put a 56-0 whammy on Holy Cross has prompted some rivals to suggest that Hardin, the Wizard of Broad Street, is practicing something akin to witchcraft.

Nonsense, he says. The conjuring that caused a dozen refugee players to come to Temple's aid this season involves nothing so tangible as eye of newt or wing of bat. "It's just plain homesickness," says Hardin. "Yes, if I had to point to one reason why we are having such success with transfers, I would have to say homesickness."

Hardin got into the jock foundling home business by accident as well as necessity. Two hours after he arrived at the north Philadelphia campus on Jan. 12, 1970 he sped off to Havertown, Pa. to court Quarterback Steve Joachim (pronounced "Jo-ak-im"), a high school All-America. Joachim, already committed to Penn State, responded with the kind of polite indifference that Hardin soon came to expect. The problem is not just that Temple's recruiting grounds are also raked over by many of the glamorous football powers. Because they live so close to the school, prospects tend to have the kind of preconceived notions about Temple that indicate Go West—or somewhere, anywhere else—young man.

Temple is known as the college that deemphasized football so effectively after World War II that by the late 1950s, when it sometimes was unable to suit up more than 28 players against such teams as Drexel, Scranton and Gettysburg, it lost 21 straight games. In many minds it is the "city school," an architectural mishmash bounded by tenements, interlaced with congested streets and patrolled by neighborhood winos. And its student body is regarded as a busy rush of commuters whose enthusiasm for Temple teams was expressed one year when they elected a shaggy-maned male student as homecoming queen and a mongrel dog as his escort.

Hardin has gone a long way toward changing that image by the power of suggestion. "What ghetto?" he says. "That's way off there somewhere. That's not here. This is a university."

When a prospect seems reluctant, Hardin will recall the days when, as a high-school tailback in Stockton, Calif., he decided at the last moment to stay home and attend the College of the Pacific instead of going to USC.

"And I'm glad I did," he will tell the young man. "You don't have to go far away to grow up. You can live on campus like I did. There won't be any parents here bugging you. And whenever you want to you can shoot home for a good meal, hit dad for a couple of bucks and, what was very important for me, drop off a bag of laundry. Your parents have raised you for 18 years and they love you, and they deserve to see you play. You run off somewhere where nobody knows you, and that won't be possible." Then, eyes narrowing and voice lowering, he will plant the seed. "You'll get homesick, too. And believe me that's a baaad sickness."

Few of the most widely prized prospects take heed. Not even when Assistant Coach Vince Hoch conducts a tour to prove that there is indeed a big, vital university of 30,000 students concealed somewhere behind all those concrete walls. "Sure, grass and trees are nice," goes Hoch's pitch, "but after awhile they get boring. The city is where it's happening."

Something rubs off for, sure enough, on several occasions Hoch and other coaches have returned home late of a night to find a former high school all-everything parked on their doorsteps asking to be transferred to Temple. The reasons vary. Halfback Bob Harris, for example, went to Florida A&M hoping to gain the kind of fame won by his hero, Bob Hayes, but found that he was lost in the scuffle of "105 guys trying out for a 55-man roster. I couldn't adjust to it."

Others, raised in the city proper, discovered that small-town college life, where the main diversion is going to the town square and looking at the cannon, did not make it. Linebacker Rich Taber, who lasted all of two weeks at West Virginia, says of Morgantown, "There was nothing, I mean nothing, out there. You couldn't even go to the corner for a beer." Tight End Jeff Stempel never even made it to Pittsburgh. "When they didn't come through on their promise of a summer job," he says, "I decided I didn't have to live up to my commitment, either." Tackle Joe Judge spent one lovelorn year at VPI before caving in. "Well," he says, digging his size 12s into the turf, "there was this girl back home and, well, you know...."

Among the most welcomed—and the most chagrined—defectors was the once-jaded Joachim. "I had dreams of being an All-America," he says, "but as soon as I got to Penn State they switched to a running attack, using sprint-outs and options—things I don't do very well. When I wasn't starting in my second year I decided to go back where I could play right away."

Poor Holy Cross could not stop Temple's rampaging transfers from moving in any direction last week. Harris, an explosive, shot-from-a-gun type of runner, took off on one 45-yard tear, and Jerry Conicello, late of Syracuse, added another that was good for 36. Stempel and P.J. Calin, a renegade receiver from Michigan, accounted for a total of five receptions and three touchdowns. Taber picked off an interception while Judge buttressed the defensive line.

The day, however, and all those impressive numbers that place him among the national leaders in total offense, belonged to Joachim. A strapping 6'4" and 217 pounds, he fended off Holy Cross's all-out blitzes like a Roman Gabriel among Pop Warner leaguers. Two of his five touchdown passes were launched while he was being pulled to the ground. Another time, with Crusaders hanging on all available appendages, he delivered a long lateral left-handed. "Once again," said an elated Hardin, "Steve proved beyond all shadow of a doubt that he's the best in the country."

Certainly there is a happy communion between this quarterback who says, "Basically I'm a flinger," and this coach whose avowed philosophy is "Throw it!" Temple's free-for-all attack is reminiscent of the early 1960s when Hardin's Navy teams, paced by such dazzlers as Roger Staubach and Joe Bellino, finished as high as No. 2 and No. 4 in the national rankings.

Though possessed by all kinds of door-die spirit these days, the Owls are not yet aspiring to such giddy heights. If, however, they can get by the formidable likes of Delaware, Pittsburgh and West Virginia in the coming weeks they will undoubtedly merit Top 20 ranking and a bowl bid, which would please Hardin no end.

There have been some uncertain years since he was eased out of his Navy post in 1964 in a squabble over administrative duties. Hardin, who spent one season with the Philadelphia Bulldogs of the old Continental League and two years selling trailer hitches in Lodi, Calif. before coming to Temple, insists that coaching a team that until three years ago was listed in the small college division is "in no way a comedown."

An emotional man, his eyes well up with tears when he talks about his boyhood and "the debt I owe athletics. I like to think that we help kids. What difference does it make at what level you play? Everybody I know has a big-time program in their hearts."

Though he says, "Now that we're winning, the better players will come to us in the first place," he still holds in reserve another inspirational message called "Acres of Diamonds," a tale made famous by the founder of Temple. Hardin begins by showing the face of a watch with the tiny letters OWLS surrounded by...diamonds? "Ah, yes, diamonds," he says, cuing himself for the story about a Persian farmer who searches the world for gems only to die destitute a few days before acres of precious stones are discovered on his own land.

"The point is," says Hardin, "whatever you're looking for is right in your own backyard." If the Owls keep winning, there soon may be some people in the backyards of Philadelphia who will believe that even if acres of diamonds do not surround the Temple campus, there really is no ghetto out there.

PHOTOJOACHIM IS PHILADELPHIA'S LATEST IDOL

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)