Joint Press Conference Illustrates the Very Real Issues between Temple, Villanova

Joint Press Conference Illustrates the Very Real Issues between Temple, Villanova

As former NFL commissioner Paul Tagliabue once told Big East commissioner John Marinatto: "Rivalries are what people really want to see."

It may have only been a press conference where representatives from Temple and Villanova gathered to say nice things about each other, but their past, present and future rivalry was on full display Wednesday night. And in that sense, even though the final announcement was as public as possible, one could get the sense in watching that Temple's addition to the Big East was something of a series of "diner deals" from the start (don't worry, we'll explain later).

First, the basics. Temple has accepted an all-sports invitation to join the Big East. Owls football will begin conference play next season, while all other sports will join in the 2013-2014 academic year. As part of the invitation from the Big East to Temple, the conference will be footing the bill for half of Temple's $6 million exit fee from the Mid-Atlantic conference and providing an interest-free loan to the university for the remaining $3 million, according to CSNPhilly.com contributor Michael Bradley.

Now, the juicy parts. The Chairman of the TU Board of Trustees' Athletic Committee, Lewis Katz, said on Wednesday night that "Everything you've heard about Temple and Villanova is accurate." We fully believe that.

It was reported in the fall of 2011, when the Temple-to-the-Big-East reports were first heating up, that Villanova stood strongly opposed to the Owls joining the Big East. It was even alleged that Villanova used its influence to block the Owls from joining the conference as part of its initial expansion that welcomed Boise State, San Diego State, Houston, Memphis, Central Florida and Southern Methodist.

Perhaps that's why the conference felt it important to include Villanova president Fr. Peter Donahue in the Wednesday evening press conference and to make it clear that it was Villanova who made the motion (seconded by Rick Pitino's Louisville) to admit Temple. From there, a press conference meant to announce Temple's addition began like a public address about the state of Villanova athletics, specifically football. 

John Marinatto opened the proceedings by thanking Villanova for "taking the lead" in the conference's expansion talks and for its cooperation in overcoming any potential conflicts -- conflicts related to Temple University. Despite Donahue's words that the expansion was "good for the Big East, Villanova and Temple," those conflicts run deep enough that Marinatto would later announce the conference's decision to hire an outside consultant to identify how both institutions will "maintain their unique identities" while simultaneously receiving the full benefits of their membership in a shared market. 

First off, we give a legitimate hat tip to the Big East. Their inclusion of Donahue in the press conference was a fantastic way to promote the public image that all three entities -- Temple, Villanova and the Big East -- are all working in harmony and are pleased to be together. We were pleasantly surprised by the late-breaking news that 'Nova would be represented at the press conference and were impressed that the conference's public relations arm had the foresight to put representatives from both schools in the same room as quickly as possible.

That said, the carry-over of the negative publicity from the fall was in no way invalidated by the shared stage. If anything, it now seems legitimized by the very fact that Donahue was there, as those reports, regardless of their accuracy or inaccuracy, necessitated his presence.

On the one hand, there is absolutely nothing wrong with Villanova voicing an opposition to sharing a market with Temple. They, the Villanova Board of Directors, have very real economic concerns regarding the move and have no reason to be excited by the addition of Temple for reasons other than how such a move might ultimately benefit the Wildcat athletic program. Be clear, that is the job of the Villanova board and athletic department: to do what is best for Villanova University. Their concerns are not for the advancement of Temple.

On the other hand, Wednesday night's press conference gave off a certain "we (Villanova) were brought to this kicking and screaming and held out for as long as humanly possible" vibe that felt awkwardly and uncomfortably distracting. 

To return to Katz's statement about "everything you've heard" being "accurate," it's tough to tell what he really meant. Presumably, he meant that Donahue and Marinatto's comments about Villanova's cooperation were true (Donahue even told a lengthy anecdote and a joint storm-water sustainability project conducted by the engineering departments of Temple and Villanova to illustrate how the schools have worked together in the past.). But it was Katz's first statement that was in many ways the most revealing, and that worked to color all of his comments moving forward, when he thanked Villanova and the conference with a smile for their acceptance after taking "all the time they needed."

What Villanova received in taking that time was a "vote of confidence" and a financial commitment from the conference to further explore Villanova's potential FBS expansion. What exactly that means -- who knows? To borrow from an oft-used colloquialism: "you give a little, and you get a little."  

And it's tough to say what specifically Villanova "got." Marinatto and Donahue both denied that Villanova received any sort of monetary compensation for welcoming an institution just 12 miles from their own campus; and though Marinatto did say the Big East would ultimately look for a 14th football-playing partner once the conference signs a new television deal, he made mention that it would be the conference's preference to find a Western partner to begin to alleviate some of the travel difficulties of their new non-Eastern members.

In the sense that Villanova "gave," it doesn't seem it had much of an option. In short, the Big East needed Temple. The conference had an immediate scheduling hole to fill after West Virginia opted to pay $20 million dollars to exit early and Temple was one of most viable football programs left on the market.

Temple athletic director Bill Bradshaw was quick to quell talk that the move was strictly about filling an immediate need for the Big East, citing what Temple brings to the conference, like it's 160,000 alumni who live in the Philadelphia metropolitan area. We'll add that the school brings a renewed commitment to a resurgent football program and a basketball program that has been ranked in the Top 25 in the nation the past three seasons and is about to make it's fifth-consecutive Atlantic 10 tournament. Temple basketball will by no means replace a Pitt, Syracuse or West Virginia, but will strongly supplement the remaining basketball schools and add an increased viability moving forward. If that last bit about the "increased viability" is in some way unbelievable, then just check with Rick Pitino, who has been publicly campaigning for the Big East's addition of Temple for those very same reasons for months and consider why any coach would be that vocal about such a specific candidate for expansion. Temple, in a number of different ways, is good for the conference.

In that same vein, consider why Villanova was so reportedly opposed. It isn't just a matter of picking one football program over another. Nor is it only a matter of one school previously having a monopoly on home games versus schools like Connecticut and Georgetown. It's also about the success of the individual programs on the court and/or field. Temple just completed construction on a brand new state-of-the-art basketball practice facility as part of an ongoing $58 million renovation of Pearson and McGonigle Halls. They are in the process of a $9 million expansion of their on-campus Edberg-Olson football complex. Before, Villanova could poach mutually-desired basketball recruits by dangling the bright lights and big stages of the Big East relative to the Atlantic 10. But now, with both schools sharing the same conference schedule, and Temple making these improvements to its own facilities, recruiting will be conducted on an even playing field. The advantage could even swing in Temple's favor.

With all that mind, we shouldn't downplay the aforementioned monopoly of Big East home games, as it is one of the key reasons the conference will be forced to hire an outside consultant to ensure these schools cohabitate. Following the litany of opening statements, a question was posed to the entire panel about Temple potentially using the Wells Fargo Center for more of its basketball home games, as it did with Duke earlier this season and as Villanova does for multiple home games every season. Katz responded that Temple was quite fond of both the Liacouras Center and Wells Fargo Center and would be interested in using the latter more often. It should come as little surprise that commissioner Marinatto then immediately lauded then Liacouras Center and reiterated multiple times that the conference will do its best to stick with the set practices both the schools and their now-shared conference have previously exercised.

To translate: both of these schools will want the largest gates possible and it is going to be difficult to come to an agreement about whether only one or both gets to play their biggest games in a 20,000-seat arena, and it, like a whole host of other issues, could become a point of contention. 

After all, that's why they hired a consultant. And in a sense, that's all you need to know. There are very real conflicts between Temple and Villanova that made their move to the Big East all the more complicated and will continue to present difficulties moving forward. But once those difficulties are ironed out (or even before), there is little denying that Temple brings with it qualities that benefit the Big East, benefits strong enough that Villanova accepted this deal in the broader interests of its conference, even if those qualities conflict with the school's narrower self-interest.

Now, before we close, a brief story as told by Bradshaw. The Temple AD revealed Wednesday that he first met Marinatto in a diner on the New Jersey-New York border 16 months ago, prior to former attending a Temple game at Army and the latter a contest at Rutgers. It was there the two first shared their mutual interest in one another. They met in such a clandestine location, as Bradshaw admitted, for the obvious reason that it wouldn't draw much attention. Such a start to this renewed relationship now seems fitting. From an initial meeting at an off-the-beaten-path diner to the alleged behind-closed-doors opposition from, and eventual cojoling of, Villanova, this partnership seems more or less, as we said at the outset, like a series of a diner deals that have brought together three simultaneously willing and unwilling partners.

There were problems before the deal, there were problems during the deal, and there will no doubt be problems after the deal -- so God Bless whomever inherits that consulting job.

Temple and Villanova played nice Wednesday night. It was the only thing they could do, the only decision that made sense and the only decision that will make sense in the future. Temple is back in the Big East, meaning the three partners who took the stage on Wednesday -- the two schools and their shared conference --  will have to continue to act like friends. Whether or not that's really the case is no longer relevant, because their now-common interests mean they need each other.

Ryan Howard's miserable May continues as Tigers out-power Phillies

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Ryan Howard's miserable May continues as Tigers out-power Phillies

DETROIT — Back when they were racking up National League East titles and filling Citizens Bank Park night after night, the Phillies could slug with anyone.
 
Those days are gone.
 
So even on a night when they got some power from two young up-and-comers in their lineup, the Phillies still couldn’t get enough to match up with the Detroit Tigers on Monday night.
 
“We don’t have enough pop to go blow for blow with them,” manager Pete Mackanin said.
 
The Tigers belted four home runs, three against starting pitcher Vince Velasquez, in beating the Phillies, 5-4, at Comerica Park (see Instant Replay).
 
Maikel Franco and Tommy Joseph both homered for the Phillies, but Ryan Howard, no longer even close to the player he was during those aforementioned title years, slipped deeper into the May quicksand. He went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts to fall to .156 on the season. He is 4 for 48 (.083) in the month of May.
 
“Man, it’s been brutal,” Howard said after the game. “I’m not going to lie. I need some breaks, man. It’s been tough. I’ve hit some balls hard, but they’re not finding any real estate out there.
 
“I have to keep grinding and swinging. Luckily, it’s still early to get it turned around.”
 
Yes, it’s early for some guys.
 
But it might not be that early for Howard. He’s 36 and in the final year of his contract. His slump has coincided with Joseph’s ascension from the minors. Joseph played first base Monday night and looked good at the position. In addition to hitting a game-tying homer in the sixth, he had a double. Half of his six hits in his first seven games in the majors have been for extra bases.
 
Joseph will continue to play first base while Howard serves as the designated hitter in the final two games of the interleague series in Detroit. After that, Joseph is expected to start against lefty Jon Lester in Chicago on Friday. If he keeps hitting — and Howard keeps struggling — the situation could be ripe for Mackanin to continue to play Joseph, even against the right-handers Howard usually sees.
 
“I'm going to look at it a week at a time,” Mackanin said. “We'll see. At some point it might come to that, but I can't say it's imminent.”
 
If Howard starts spending more time on the bench, it will be part of a downhill progression that started in the second half of last season when he became a platoon player. Will a progression to the bench ultimately lead to his being released in the coming weeks? Well, if Joseph keeps hitting and continues to earn playing time, management may have to seriously ponder the move.
 
Even with Franco and Joseph hitting home runs, the Phillies didn’t have enough to match the Tigers’ thunder.
 
Miguel Cabrera belted two home runs and in the seventh inning clubbed his 500th career double. He then came around to score the go-ahead run on a single by Victor Martinez.
 
Entering the game, the Tigers were among the top teams in the American League in batting average (.265), runs per game (4.60), homers (56) and OPS (.758).
 
Meanwhile, the Phillies couldn’t get much lower in offense. They ranked near the bottom in the National League in batting average (.233), runs per game (3.23), homers (32) and OPS (.651).
 
“You look up and down their lineup on the scoreboard and it looks like everybody is hitting .300 with eight or 10 home runs,” Mackanin said. “It can be daunting.
 
“The middle of their lineup hurt us with the long ball. We knew they were swinging the bats well lately. They weren’t earlier. Now they’re swinging well and we couldn’t contain them.
 
“We got 12 hits of our own. But they’ve got a lot of power on that team.”
 
The Phillies are at the start of a challenging trip — three in Detroit followed by three against the Cubs in Wrigley Field. The Cubs have the majors’ best record. The Phillies, a surprising four games over .500, will be tested on this trip.
 
They did not pass the first test. Velasquez had trouble commanding his pitches and for the second straight start ran a high pitch count. He took a 3-1 lead to the mound in the fifth, but it evaporated quickly under the weight of homers by J.D. Martinez and Cabrera. Reliever Colton Murray also gave up a homer in the inning. He also allowed the go-ahead run in the seventh as Mackanin held David Hernandez back in case the Phils got a lead.
 
“Velasquez didn’t have any command of his secondary pitches, pretty basic stuff, and he left some fastballs over the plate,” Mackanin said. “You have to throw quality pitches to a lineup like this. If you make mistakes against them, they don’t miss. If you don’t command your secondary pitches against good hitters, they become like sharks and smell blood and hit the fastball.”
 
Velasquez said he should have gotten the loss, not Murray.
 
“You can’t shy away from hitters and I did that,” he said. “You’ve got to pitch inside. I pitched around them.
 
“I’ve got to do something about this. I’ve got to challenge hitters.”

With game on the line, Pete Mackanin benches his best player for lack of hustle

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With game on the line, Pete Mackanin benches his best player for lack of hustle

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DETROIT — Phillies manager Pete Mackanin made a strong statement Monday night when he benched his best hitter in the seventh inning of a tie game.
 
With Odubel Herrera on the bench for the final innings, the Phillies went on to lose, 5-4, to the Detroit Tigers (see Instant Replay).
 
Mackanin did not regret his decision to yank Herrera and his team-high .335 batting average from the game.
 
“It’s important to me to set that tone,” Mackanin said. “When you don’t hustle, I’ve got a problem.”
 
Herrera had singled in each of his first three at-bats. He drove in the Phillies’ first run with a hit in the third inning.
 
But when he bounced back to the pitcher and took his time getting to first base in the seventh, Mackanin abruptly pulled him. Even Ryan Howard said something to Herrera in the dugout.
 
“He didn’t run,” Mackanin said. “One of the ingredients to our success to this point is the fact that guys play with energy and they play hard. We’re training them to play the game the right way and not running is not the right way.”
 
Herrera said he did not run because he was “frustrated” and “angry” with the at-bat. He said Tigers reliever Justin Wilson “got in his head” by varying his delivery times. Herrera even mentioned that Wilson quick-pitched him.
 
“The pitcher was playing with me,” he said. “I have to learn from it. I didn’t think [Mackanin] was going to bench me, but I understand why. I can’t argue. I was frustrated. I respect the decision. I know that I did wrong. I have to learn from my mistakes and it won’t happen again.”
 
Mackanin is a huge fan of Herrera. He has predicted the 24-year-old Venezuelan will someday win a batting title.
 
But Mackanin indicated after Monday night’s game that Herrera might be developing some bad habits — at least when it comes to the hustle that Mackanin values. The front office values it, too. Playing with “energy” is something the front office frequently says it wants to see, and the ability to get his players to play with energy is one of Mackanin’s strengths.
 
“I’ve seen it in the past and it’s been trickling in,” Mackanin said of Herrera’s occasional lapses in hustle. “I didn’t like it and I made the decision. He knows he should have run.”
 
Jonathan Papelbon put a chokehold on Bryce Harper’s neck last year in Washington for a similar transgression.
 
In the Phillies’ dugout Monday night, Herrera got a little talking-to from Howard.
 
“That was great to see,” Mackanin said.
 
Said Howard: “Doobie's got a lot of promise. He’s going to be around this game for a long time. He makes things happen. He brings energy to the game.
 
“The pitcher lost the grip and had to double-pump. If you’re running hard, maybe he makes a bad throw and you’re on base.
 
“I just told him, ‘You’ve got to keep going. I know it’s not the at-bat you wanted, but look at me, bro, I’m still out there grinding.’ If he’s running there, the pitcher could throw it away and he could be on second and we could squeeze a run out.”
 
Howard went 0 for 4 with two strikeouts to fall to .156 on the season. He is 4 for 48 (.083) in the month of May (see story).
 
Mackanin said his message to Herrera was complete. Herrera will be back in the starting lineup on Tuesday night.

NBA Playoffs: Raptors hold off Cavs to even East Finals 2-2

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NBA Playoffs: Raptors hold off Cavs to even East Finals 2-2

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TORONTO -- A series that once looked lopsided is now even.

Kyle Lowry scored 35 points, including a driving layup in the final minute, and DeMar DeRozan had 32 as the Toronto Raptors evened the Eastern Conference Finals by beating the Cleveland Cavaliers 105-99 in Game 4 on Monday night.

DeMarre Carroll scored 11 points and Bismack Biyombo had 14 rebounds as Toronto improved to 8-2 at home this postseason and got back on level terms after big losses in Games 1 and 2.

"We've been counted out, and we like that challenge," DeRozan said.

The next challenge for Toronto? Game 5 on Wednesday night in Cleveland, where the Raptors are 0-3 this season, losing by a combined 72 points.

"We have to continue to make sure that when they punch, we punch back," Lowry said. "And if they punch three times, we punch four times."

The Raptors are 2-6 on the road in the playoffs.

After a 10-0 start to these playoffs, the Cavaliers are counting on home court advantage to help them reach their second straight Finals.

"Going back home we have to play a lot better and I think we will," LeBron James said.

Cleveland lost consecutive playoff games to an Eastern Conference opponent for the first time since dropping the final three games of the conference semifinals to Boston in 2010.

"We had a few defensive breakdowns that you can't have down the stretch of a game, especially in the playoffs," Cavs coach Tyronn Lue said. "They executed every time we made a mistake."

James scored 29 points and Kyrie Irving had 26 for the Cavaliers, who trailed by as many as 18 points. Channing Frye scored nine of his 12 points in the fourth quarter.

Lowry scored nine in the fourth and DeRozan had 12, connecting on five of six shots.

"It's a cakewalk for me when (Lowry) gets going," DeRozan said. "It opens up everything."

The Raptors led 78-69 to begin the fourth but Frye made consecutive 3-pointers as Cleveland opened the final quarter with an 8-0 run, cutting it to 78-77. The Cavaliers made their first 11 shots of the fourth quarter.

"It wasn't enough because we got off to a horrible first half once again in this building and you're playing catch up the whole game," James said.

Frye's errant 3-point attempt at 4:12 was Cleveland's first miss of the fourth. DeRozan made two free throws at the other end and, after another miss by Frye, Carroll made one of two to put Toronto up 99-96 with 3:23 to go.

A long 3 by Irving made it 101-99 with 2:00 left, but DeRozan answered with a driving bank shot at 1:33. Toronto got the ball back after Biyombo blocked J.R. Smith's 3, and Biyombo kept the offensive possession alive by rebounding Lowry's missed shot. After a timeout, Lowry let the shot clock wind down before driving for the decisive layup, making it 105-99 with 22 seconds to go.

Toronto jumped out to a 13-5 lead as Cleveland missed eight of its first 10 shots. Following a timeout, the Cavs made five of their next six to cut the deficit but the Raptors led 27-24 after one quarter.

Lowry scored 15 points in the second, making three of Toronto's four 3-pointers, as the Raptors opened a 57-41 halftime lead despite not shooting a single free throw in the first two quarters. It marked the first time a team led by 15 or more at halftime in a conference finals game without shooting a free throw since Game 2 of the 2001 East Finals between Milwaukee and Philadelphia. The Bucks made two of six from the line, the fewest ever made in an NBA playoff game at the time.

DeRozan shot Toronto's first free throws at 6:13 of the third after being tackled by Smith on a drive. The foul drought came after Raptors coach Dwane Casey was fined $25,000 for criticizing the officials following Toronto's Game 3 win.

Fans cheered derisively when Matthew Dellavedova was called for Cleveland's first foul of the game at 8:56 of the second.

Not much to Love
After shooting 3 for 19 in Game 3, Kevin Love shot 4 for 14 in Game 4. He finished with 10 points. Love did not play in the fourth after appearing to injure his left ankle when he stepped on referee David Guthrie late in the third. "It didn't feel too great," Love said. Lue said Love's health was "no concern."

Fair and foul
Cleveland didn't shoot any free throws in the third quarter and had just two in the fourth. Twelve of Toronto's 19 free throws came in the fourth.

Tip-ins
Cavaliers: James and Irving each had six assists. ... Cleveland shot 3 for 23 from 3-point range in the first half. The finished 13 for 41. . Cleveland's Dahntay Jones served a one-game suspension for hitting Biyombo in the groin in Game 3.

Raptors: Raptors C Jonas Valanciunas was active but did not play. He's been out since spraining his right ankle in the third quarter of Game 3 against Miami on May 7. ... Toronto is 10-1 in the playoffs when holding opponents below 100 points.