Ira Guilford would look great in the Temple backfield.
Guilford certainly thinks so. The former prep All-American from Hoboken, N.J., says he faxed a National Letter of Intent to the school on Feb. 1. That's where the conversation ends right now, as far as one of the nation's worst programs is concerned.
|Ira Guilford may end up at Temple after attending El Camino (Junior) College. (Provided to CBSSports.com)|
It is assumed that Guilford did so when he signed with the Buckeyes in 2003.
But after an arrest in Columbus in 2004, Guilford was suspended and eventually found his way to El Camino College in Torrance, Calif. He played safety there this past fall and is on track to receive his associate's degree this spring.
In fact, Guilford recently won a statewide California junior college student-athlete award. His award bio stated, "He has accepted a full-ride scholarship to Temple University."
Coach Al Golden would not comment on Guilford, who might even be the Owls' starting tailback in the fall. He's that good. But it does Golden no good to acknowledge it. Most likely, Guilford has signed a scholarship agreement with Temple. All that means is, until he actually enrolls at the school, Guilford is still a recruitable athlete. So why cut your throat? If Golden bragged his interest in a former prep star, he would be alerting other schools that could swoop in and steal his prize.
It takes both parties to sign scholarship papers. No one could blame Temple for withholding its signature for now. It's not the best of times for the program to have interest in a prospect that was under house arrest for two months. Temple just got docked those nine scholarships, penalties imposed by the NCAA due to the new Academic Progress Rate evaluation.
Temple football was kicked out of the Big East after the 2004 season. To stay competitive, former coach Bobby Wallace had to recruit more jucos. Some of those were recruited on "faith," according to AD Bill Bradshaw.
The faith was not fulfilled academically.
"We'll hurt in the long run if we don't get it corrected this year," said Golden, who will have only 76 scholarships in his first season as a head coach.
This begs the question Golden has heard a hundred times since he took the job in early December. Why take the Temple job? It has been a coach killer. The school came close to dropping the program before he arrived.
The answer is Golden himself. The 36-year old is like a lot of young coaches who think they can change the world.
Maybe, but Golden can't change the pecking order. The APR accomplished little more than what major football powers have been trying to do for decades: separate themselves from the mid-majors.
The superpowers provide most of the television and bowl content. They don't want to share their booty with the likes of Temple, the MAC -- the Owls' new conference in 2007 -- or any of the other 55 schools below the BCS cut line.
To keep the football factories humming, the major powers spend millions to erect massive academic centers and hire tutors. That keeps their indentured employee-athletes eligible.
But what happens to schools that can't afford such luxuries? The NCAA comes down on the financially strapped have-nots. Not one of the schools that suffered a scholarship loss this week was a BCS-level institution.
"It may be a function of compromise," Golden said. "Some of the have-nots are the last ones to pick (recruits). What do they do, go for the better athlete despite the fact the he might be a risk academically?"
Golden is in the process of answering that question. If there are no more academic casualties, the roster will be up to the 85 maximum in a year. That is if the NCAA doesn't come down on his program again.
Temple fields 21 teams. Twenty of them made the APR cut. Only football didn't. It wasn't just Wallace; it was the athletic department playing along, cutting corners trying to save football.
This is optimism: Golden sees $500 million in school improvements. He is inspired to see a new movie theater and TGI Friday's nearby on the previously undeveloped corner of North Broad and Cecil B. Moore.
"It's a different university than it was 10-15 years ago," Golden said.
He sees all the possibilities but also knows the cold, hard truth: three wins in the last three years and 15 years without a winning season.
It will take all this Golden boy of the profession has to turn it around. A former Penn State player, he rose to become Joe Paterno's recruiting coordinator. In 2001 he was the nation's youngest defensive coordinator at Virginia.
Most of all, Golden can recruit like Tony Soprano can kill. Ruthlessly.
That's why players like Guilford are so important to Temple. Four-star prospects usually don't land there unless John Chaney is recruiting them. Golden, however, knows how to work the system.
Guilford's mother lives in Philadelphia. Coming out of Hoboken, Guilford was rated one of the top 25 high school prospects. He played five games an Ohio State as a ballyhooed freshman in 2003.
But Guilford was suspended in May 2004 along with teammate Louis Irizarry after both were charged with robbery in a mugging incident. Remember, this was in the middle of the Maurice Clarett controversy, when the school was unlikely to cut anyone slack. Guilford never returned to Ohio State.
Guilford spent three days in jail and was sentenced to house arrest and two years' probation. In an essay written recently for that student-athlete achievement award, Guilford said he lapsed into depression.
"He went from being cock of the walk to not knowing a person," said El Camino defensive coordinator Gene Engle. "He was all-everything."
USC looked promising at one point until Guilford found out he was a few credits short. El Camino coach John Featherstone is friends with Pete Carroll and Guilford found his way across town. Guilford eventually became part of a bumper crop of 14 Division I athletes for the Warriors.
He arrived so late on campus that Guilford had trouble picking up the defense, but had enough of a reputation that a couple of Golden's assistants remembered the golden child.
"He didn't even have a place to stay when he came into my office," said El Camino academic counselor Chris Jeffries. "He never tried to hide (his past) from me. He said he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. They were thinking they were better than everybody. It messed up his life. Now he has a chance of making something of himself."
Will it be at Temple? Guilford certainly thinks so.