That Notre Dame vs. Temple is the premier matchup of the college football weekend is amazing. But perhaps equally amazing is how the game found its way onto the schedule in the first place.
While Notre Dame is notoriously quiet about commenting on their scheduling decisions, the Philadelphia Inquirer talked with former Temple athletic director Bill Bradshaw about his work trying to get the Irish to play the Owls in football. The two-game series with Notre Dame—the Owls visited South Bend to open the 2013 season—had the twists and turns of a spy movie, all part of the complexities of scheduling football games in this era of college football.
Bradshaw’s first attempts to get Notre Dame to consider a game were far from successful. He couldn’t even get a phone call returned.
“I understood it, because I didn’t believe we gave any value,” Bradshaw told the Inquirer. “We weren’t a good win or a good loss.”
But the identity of the program began to change when Al Golden built the program’s profile. And as the years went by, Bradshaw kept on the Irish, knowing that Notre Dame had played 16 games in Philadelphia, but none since beating Navy in 1993.
Here’s the Inquirer’s Mike Jensen on the breakthrough moment:
“The brand started to get a little bit better,” Bradshaw said. “They said they could be interested.”
That eventually turned into talks about a single game in South Bend, Ind. (One source had Temple getting $900,000 guaranteed for the game.) Soon the conversation evolved into adding a home-and-home, with each side keeping the revenue from those two dates separate from the one guaranteed game in South Bend.
“It was really like a magic moment,” Bradshaw said of the announcement in 2011, “to say Notre Dame would come in.”
That was just the beginning for this game. The original Irish visit was set for last season, and talks of a third game evaporated after the ACC merger. Notre Dame’s buy-out number also worried Bradshaw, a $100,000 escape possible before an escalator clause.
But the schools made it work, even if it meant Temple’s visit to South Bend was pushed until 2013 and Notre Dame had to delay its visit to Philadelphia for a season, the same year Penn State would hit the Owls’ schedule.
“Nobody could have foreseen all of this,” Bradshaw said.
That goes for both sides of this matchup. While the game is being billed as one of the biggest in Temple football history, it’s also turning into an important one for Notre Dame.
With high-profile matchups against Texas and Georgia Tech fizzling after slow starts for both programs, the Irish also had to deal with the difficulty of USC not living up to its Top 10 billing (though a convincing win over No. 3 Utah certainly doesn’t hurt).
Needing some impressive wins to boost their playoff resume before a game with Stanford to close the season, the Irish getting a chance to play in front of a primetime national audience against an undefeated Temple team. That just isn’t a scenario that anybody pictured when they looked at the Irish schedule this summer.
But thanks to the play of Matt Rhule’s team, the work of an administrator like Bradshaw and some fortuitous scheduling luck, Notre Dame vs. Temple is essentially the national game of the week.
Who saw that coming?