Contrary to Belief, Mayor's Cup a Plus for both Temple and City

Contrary to Belief, Mayor's Cup a Plus for both Temple and City

The third annual Mayor's Cup between the Temple Owls and Villanova Wildcats kicks off this evening at 7 p.m. from inside Lincoln Financial Field (ESPN 3/1210 AM).

Through two seasons, the series is split 1-1, with both contests delivering high drama and plenty of late-game heroics. With the play so evenly matched in the first two seasons, the Mayor's Cup has been quite often, and frankly unfairly, characterized as something of a lose-lose for Temple.

Stop us if you've heard this before.

Should the Temple Owls prove successful in beating the Villanova Wildcats, they stand to generate little but the following dismissal from those already skeptical of the program, "You beat a team you're supposed to be better than—congratulations." On the flip side, should the Owls lose a heartbreaker to a I-AA program, as they did following the game's first playing in 2009, Temple supporters are likely to hear more of that same, pithy remark they've been forced to endure for so long: "Same ol' Temple."

So, rather than retreading that "same ol' argument" (again), here's a look at why the Mayor's Cup is actually a boon for both Temple and the city.

First, this game captures a greater level of local media attention than either squad would ordinarily receive on their own against a different opponent. Specifically, it sparks an interest for two programs stuck in a region more generally concerned with the exploits of an institution who plays its home games roughly three-and-a-half hours away.

Though college football will more than likely never reach the level of college basketball in Philadelphia, there's no reason for it to be shut out altogether, and this game helps to pave those necessary in-roads in securing public appeal. Really, Temple and Villanova have taken the Big 5 blueprint and run with it, proving that local rivalries do matter and can generate interest in sports other than basketball.

As Temple has struggled to match the opening night attendance of the Mayor's Cup throughout their last two seasons, Villanova continues to question whether or not they can generate a large enough fan base to satisfy the Big East. Still, there's no doubt the two can draw in tandem.

If last year's figure of more than 32,000 in the seats is any indication, the game will more than likely prove—if we exclude the 9/17 Penn State game—Temple's largest gate of the year for a third straight season. While some may object to it from a strict football perspective (see the "lose-lose" sentiment above), it's hard to argue against the financial rewards motivating both schools.

Granted, attendance did receive a bump in 2010—up approximately 5,000 from the year before—when the university offered a discount to any fans who already held tickets to the Phillies game two hours later. Still, with more than 45,000 sports fans not at CBP tonight, this year's game could do even better than last's in attracting fans to the stadium.

And if you're still hung up on that whole "Temple is a no-win position" myth, then consider the following. The Temple Owls lost the 2009 Mayor's Cup and went on to play in their first bowl game in thirty years. After winning their match up versus 'Nova in 2010, the Owls were left out in the cold as one of only two eligible teams not to play in a year end bowl.

Here's the takeaway, the Mayor's Cup will not make or break Temple's season. The Owls are not in some inescapable hell hole of a season opener. And if you remain so jaded as to continue to bury the program as that "same ol' Temple," then a win or loss in this game isn't likely to sway your opinion anyway and you can feel free to continue enjoying your outdated and unnecessary cynicism.

The Temple Owls are an improved football team. The Villanova Wildcats have been one of the best FCS teams in the country the past few years and have aspirations of moving to the Big East.

This is a good game. This is a good rivalry. Stop worrying for two seconds about "what the Mayor's Cup really means," and start having some fun with it. You might even surprise yourself and have a good time watching college football in Philadelphia. Don't feel guilty. It'll be a good thing.

As Temple head coach Steve Addazio has repeated so often over the last week, geographic rivalries are what make college sports so special, and we'd be remiss to overlook something that meaningful in our own backyard.

Now, assuming we failed to get you interested, you will find below a video of coach Addazio from his Mayor's Cup press conference last week. If you can watch that man speak, and not become yourself excited, or at least develop an appreciation for the room in which he's standing (see the vid), then it's not altogether impossible you're in a coma. But before you hear from coach, here are some quick updates on the Temple Owls heading into this evening's game.

--Coach Steve Addazio announced on Monday that the decision as to who will start at quarterback—either Mike Girardi or Chris Coyer—will be announced immediately prior to game time. As of Monday afternoon, Gerardi was listed No. 1 on the depth chart.

--Temple University quarterback Chester Stewart and defensive back Kee-ayre Griffin have been suspended for week 1 after violating team rules. The specific nature of the infractions has not been released.

--Junior running back Ahkeem Smith will be starting Thursday night, but not where you'd expect. Smith, who was slated to struggle for touches behind runners Bernard Pierce and Matt Brown, has been moved to the WILL linebacker position and is, according to the Inqy's Keith Pompey, really enjoying his new role with the team.

--Finally, Temple athletic director Bill Bradshaw announced today that the university has signed a multi-year agreement with 1210 AM WPHT for the broadcasting rights to Owls football and basketball games. Harry Donahue will be staying on for his 17th season as the play-by-play voice of both teams. Well alriiight.

--And now, Steve Addazio:

Brian Dawkins spotted at Eagles practice and he still looks ripped

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Brian Dawkins spotted at Eagles practice and he still looks ripped

Brian Dawkins, one of the most beloved Eagles off all time and a guy who clearly still hits the gym, was in Philadelphia on Thursday and was spotted at the NovaCare Complex to watch the team practice.

As you can see, Dawkins still has biceps as big as your waist. The team sharing a simple photo of Dawkins got fans all in a tizzy.

Was it a coincidence that Weapon X appeared just days before "X-Men: Apocalypse" is set to hit theaters? Only he knows.

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For his part, Dawkins acknowledged that it's better to stay in shape than become a fat old man.

Flyers Stay or Go Part 5: R.J. Umberger to Ryan White

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Flyers Stay or Go Part 5: R.J. Umberger to Ryan White

In the final installment of our five-part offseason series examining the future of the Flyers, Tom Dougherty, Jordan Hall and Greg Paone give their opinions on who will be and who won't be on the roster. We go alphabetically. Here are links to Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4. Today, we begin with R.J. Umberger.

R.J. Umberger
2015-16 stats: 39 GP, 2 G, 9 A; Contract: Signed through 2016-17, $4.6 mm cap hit

Dougherty: At the end-of-the-season media availability, Umberger said he expects to be bought out. And he will, unless general manager Ron Hextall can work some magic. He’s a goner.

Verdict: GO

Hall: Umberger expects to be bought out. It seems imminent at this point. Either way, the Flyers need to move on from Umberger.

Verdict: GO

Paone: To his credit, Umberger was a total pro as he went through his immense struggles this season. But to say the writing is on the wall for Umberger in Philadelphia is an understatement. It's like he sees a skywriter spelling it out in the clouds above him everywhere he goes. He even said himself that he expects the final year of his contract to be bought out sooner rather than later. His premonition will come true and the Flyers will take the $1.6 million cap hit that comes with it for next season.

Verdict: GO

Chris VandeVelde
2015-16 stats: 79 GP, 2 G, 12 A; Contract: Signed through 2016-17, $712,500 cap hit

Dougherty: VandeVelde is a Dave Hakstol disciple. He played for him at North Dakota and he played for him here. He was a cog on the fourth line, playing with Pierre-Edouard Bellemare and Ryan White all season long. But while VandeVelde kills penalties, he doesn’t do anything else. He has no offensive ability and, simply stated, is an AHL player playing in the NHL. The Flyers want to add scoring and to do that, someone has to go. And VandeVelde should be that guy.

Verdict: GO

Hall: Debating a fourth-liner’s status shouldn’t be one of the harder decisions, but it is in this case. That’s because Dave Hakstol adored his final unit of VandeVelde, Ryan White and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. However, the Flyers need better depth and VandeVelde is super cheap, so sending him to the AHL to clear a roster spot wouldn’t be a stomach-churning move. With a tiny cap hit, even an offseason trade is conceivable.

Verdict: GO

Paone: This is a tougher call than one would think for a role player of VandeVelde's ilk. On one hand, he, Ryan White and Pierre-Edouard Bellemare formed one of the most effective fourth lines in the entire league this season and an effective fourth line can be such a valuable weapon in today's NHL. There's chemistry there that you shouldn't want to mess with. On the other hand, VandeVelde is probably the most expendable and interchangeable of that trio. And with the Flyers needing as many roster spots as they can create, another younger and more effective player may be able to fit in there (Scott Laughton to start, possibly). That's why I lean toward saying VandeVelde won't be with the big club to start the season, despite his longstanding ties to Dave Hakstol. Roster spots are becoming more and more valuable in Philadelphia.

Verdict: GO

Jakub Voracek
2015-16 stats: 73 GP, 11 G, 44 A; Contract: Signed through 2023-24, $8.25 mm cap hit

Dougherty: This is a no-brainer. He signed an eight-year contract extension last summer, and that kicks in July 1. He had confidence issues this season and battled injury, but there’s nothing of concern there. He should be healthy and back to his productive self next season.

Verdict: STAY

Hall: Obviously, this isn’t really a question. What is, though, are Voracek’s health and rebound.

Verdict: STAY

Paone: It's no secret the Flyers' star winger struggled with both production and injury this season, a year removed from his spectacular 81-point campaign that earned him a massive eight-year, $66 million extension. That extension just so happens to kick in this year, by the way. You're crazy if you don't think a motivated Voracek will be back in orange and black next season.

Verdict: STAY

Jordan Weal
2015-16 stats: 14 GP, 0 G, 0 A; Contract: Restricted free agent

Dougherty: Weal was basically a throw-in in the Vinny Lecavalier trade. Los Angeles didn’t want him because there was no room for him on its NHL roster, but the Kings would have lost him for nothing had they placed him on waivers. He came to Philly and didn’t do anything to impress. He’s a restricted free agent. He’ll probably get qualified, but shouldn’t. Let him go.

Verdict: GO

Hall: Ron Hextall knows a lot about Weal. The 24-year-old was often the first player on the ice for extra work before practice. I think there was more than one reason why Weal was included in the trade that sent Vinny Lecavalier and Luke Schenn to the Kings. I say he’s back at a minimum rate but will head to the minors.

Verdict: GO

Paone: What exactly is Weal capable of at the NHL level? That's a really good question and one we don't have an answer to considering his lack of playing time with in both Los Angeles and Philadelphia this season. His injury after becoming a Flyer did him no favors, either. As I mentioned above when talking about VandeVelde, roster spots in Philadelphia are becoming more and more precious as the influx of talented prospects begins. Weal is really going to have to prove himself during camp to earn one of those spots. But, for right now, starting the season with the big club is a hazy picture for him.

Verdict: GO

Ryan White
2015-16 stats: 73 GP, 11 G, 5 A; Contract: Unrestricted free agent

Dougherty: White is everything the Flyers thought Zac Rinaldo would be. He brings energy, he’s physical and he can even score. He displayed the ability to play on the power play, which is a plus with a player in a fourth-line role. White should be back at least for another season.

Verdict: STAY

Hall: White epitomizes what you want. He cares more about the Flyers than money. He’s a terrific teammate willing to do anything. And he’s understanding more and more how to score ugly. A perfect fourth-liner for the Flyers who will be re-signed.

Verdict: STAY

Paone: You want to talk about an almost-perfect fit? That's what White has been with the Flyers over the last season and a half. In 107 games as a Flyer, White has recorded 17 goals and 11 assists for 28 points. In his first five seasons in the league with Montreal, the 28-year-old forward had just five goals and 12 assists for 17 points in 117 games. Even in a mostly fourth-line role, he's made an impact to the point he's earned Hakstol's trust enough to be the net-front presence on the Flyers' second power-play unit. He's a UFA who'll be due a bit of a raise, but White just meshes way too well to not bring back. He knows it, too, saying in his end-of-season media availability that money is necessarily the determining factor in negotiations with the Flyers. He'll be back in his familiar roles next season.

Verdict: STAY

Chase Utley: Still the Man (just in Los Angeles)

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USA Today Sports

Chase Utley: Still the Man (just in Los Angeles)

It's been a while since we checked in with everyone's favorite former Phillie, Chase Utley. And let's be honest: it's not good to go too long without a little Chase in our lives.

Utley was traded from Philadelphia to Los Angeles last summer and it took the Philly faithful a while to get used to seeing Chase wear Dodger blue. That said, I think there were plenty of Phillies fans who oddly found themselves rooting for Utley in last year's postseason, specifically against the New York Mets.

It's Utley's return to New York this weekend that brings him back up on our radar, thanks in large part to a nice article in the L.A. Times by Andy McCullough about Chase returning CitiField where he will play the familiar role of villain, this time for breaking Ruben Tejada's leg last October.

Phillies fans may still get nostalgic about Chase, but Utley himself is no nostaglia act for the Dodgers. After signing a one-year deal to return to L.A. this season, he's leading the Dodgers with a .379 on-base-percentage hitting out of the leadoff spot and is absolutely loved in his clubhouse. The latter is certainly no surprise.

Phillies fans likely remember Roy Halladay writing an ode to Chase last summer which ended with the former ace suggesting people tell their kids to model their play after Utley. Chase hasn't even been in L.A. the equivalent of a full season, but he's having the same sort of influence there.

“Even people who give him credit don’t realize how much he brings to this team,” third-base coach Chris Woodward said.

Utley inspires hyperbole all around. Clayton Kershaw suggested if he had a son, he would instruct his child to study Utley to learn how to play baseball. Utley, he explained, “is always doing the right thing.” Bench coach Bob Geren, a member of the Mets coaching staff last October, offered Utley his version of the ultimate compliment.

“I’m trying to think, in all my years, if I know anybody I’ve ever either played with or coached or managed that’s a better baseball player,” Geren said. “I can’t think of one.”

There's also some fun -- and not at all surprising -- tidbits of how Utley pretty much bends the rules as far as possible to get every single edge he can while playing.

Utley hunts for the tiniest edge. One day last week, he struck out on a pitch that bounced away from the catcher. Utley dropped his bat in between the catcher and the baseball, so the catcher had to make a more difficult play while stepping over the lumber.

“I’m in the dugout like, ‘Did you see that?’” Geren said. “It’s the littlest thing. But that’s who he is.”

Miss you and your dirt, Chase.

>>After The Slide, Chase Utley returns to New York prepared to face the vitriol of Mets fans [L.A. Times]