Temple president: Price hike could force Owls out of the Linc

By Jerry Hinnen | College Football Writer

Stella, the Temple mascot, might have a new gameday home in the future. (USATSI)
Stella, the Temple mascot, might have a new gameday home in the future. (USATSI)
Temple football has seen no shortage of major changes over the past 11 seasons, going from the Big East to independence to the MAC and then back to the Big East (which then became the American). But there has been one constant: the Owls have made the Eagles' Lincoln Financial Stadium their home venue every year since its debut in 2003.

Judging by Temple president Neil Theobald's comments in this Philadelphia Inquirer story Friday, though, there's a distinct chance of that changing in the semi-near future. The Owls' lease agreement with the Eagles runs through the end of the 2017 season, but Theobald says that preliminary negotiations have seen the city's NFL team ask for a $12 million up-front payment and a 100 percent rent increase -- from $1 million per season to $2 million -- for Temple's continued use of the stadium.

Theobald says those requests have re-opened the possibility of Temple building its own stadium, or possibly finding another existing city venue.

"If your landlord wants to substantially increase your rent, you check your options," Theobald told the Inquirer. "We have told them we are going to see what our other options are and see if we can house our football team somewhere else at a lower price."

That apparently comes as news to the Eagles. Team president Don Smolenski told the Inquirer that Theobald's comments "do not accurately reflect" the conversations between the two parties, and that it was the Owls that cut off discussions.

"We do not consider statements in the press to be negotiations with us," Smolenski said, "and we are mystified as to why Temple hasn't communicated with us on this subject in over a year.”

Temple's athletic department has never exactly been one of the FBS's wealthiest, or its football team a model of success -- we mentioned their having been booted out of the old Big East, right? -- which means a brand-new football stadium might be a tough sell. On the other hand, if the Eagles' demands remain anywhere near the $12 million-plus-$2 million rent level Theobald has portrayed (a big if at this stage), that's a big, big ask of the Owls' budget, too.

Again: with nothing happening until the 2018 season at the earliest, there's plenty of time for the two sides to work out their issues. But with the frostiness between them apparent in their public comments, it's also entirely possible Temple will be playing somewhere else four seasons from now.

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