In the economics of collegiate sports, Temple football had been in danger of being banned from post-season play during the previous season. After two miserable years, a third consecutive low NCAA rating for the Temple football team would ban them from bowl competitions. Back in 2001, Temple was forced out of the league due to poor attendance averages, non-competiveness and a lack of commitment to the football program from university officials. This year was different. The Owls were playing competitive football and the Eagle Bank Bowl was their first bowl game in 30 years. The last time the Owls played for post-season glory, Jimmy Carter was president and Babe by Styx was at the top of the charts.
For UCLA, it was all about Westwood pride. The Bruins team had played in 35 bowl games in its history, compiling a record of 16-18-1. After their 4-8 record last year, UCLA's coach made appearing in a bowl game a primary goal.
"I understand there is bean counting that has to take place," Coach said, "but I also understand that there will be more beans the better we do. Of course, any momentum the Bruins might gain would be killed by a loss to a Temple program making its first post-season game in 30 years."
For Temple University's highly funded but largely unsuccessful football franchise, this game was indeed the Big One. This being their third bowl appearance in 110 seasons and, coming off the disgrace of being ineligible earlier in the decade, the Temple athletics department invested in a 104-page glossy commemorative post-season guide, to celebrate their new-found football accolades. It didn't hurt that they'd be facing an opponent whose gridiron feats were the stuff of legend. Defeating them would only heap greater glory upon the Owls. Sportscasters would take note of this game, thanks to the Bruins, a team to follow and by following them, would surely remark on the worthiness of this contest.
Cast off the chains of moderation! Greatness demands excess. While others toil abjectly, football patriots take to the stadium to win honor; to wreathe their school in victory; to achieve greatness in the face of such mundane obstacles as an icy field, numb fingers, a bitter wind circling the concrete colosseum. Gridiron gladiators gather to face lions – no, Bruins – and prove their hardiness, their unbesmirched character, their excellence deserving of the gods' laurels. No falterers need apply. The years gone by, with their dismal statistics, mean nothing today. This game, this frigid afternoon, offers an eternity in glory. Temple's players need only the fortitude to grasp it, to hold their fortune proudly before them as a standard in a parade.
"Shower us with cheers! We are your team today, here to win!"