ATLANTIC CITY - The top-seeded Temple Owls' run was cut short in the Atlantic 10 Conference men's basketball tournament - bringing their run in the league that much closer to an end as well.
On Wednesday, Temple's Board of Trustees voted to accept an invitation to join the Big East Conference in all sports. Football will make the move immediately and the men's basketball team, along with the other sports, will follow in 2013.
Talk of Temple's move to the Big East surrounded the Owls before they lost their quarterfinal game to No. 8 Massachusetts on Friday. Temple basketball had been part of the A-10 for 30 years.
"We knew that decision was coming. It was no surprise," Atlantic 10 commissioner Bernadette McGlade said Friday night at Boardwalk Hall, which is hosting the league's tournament for the final time. "We are a strong conference. I think we will certainly absorb their departure and we will go on and maintain our strength in Division I."
Owls fans seemed to be overwhelmingly positive about the move.
"I think it's a big thing for Temple to move to the Big East," said senior Alyssa Furukawa, 21. "The A-10 has been great for us and we've had great rivalries with Saint Joe's and La Salle, but this is a step up."
That seemed to be the sentiment heard around the Hall. The A-10 was good and Temple was one of its top programs, but the Big East is one of the best conferences in the country, particularly in basketball.
In football, the Big East is a BCS conference, giving Temple an opportunity to earn national prominence.
"It's going to be a big challenge for Temple," said state Sen. Jim Whelan, a Temple alumnus who was at the tournament. "But it's going to be good for football and basketball, all of the sports programs."
Whelan, an Atlantic City native, said he had dinner with Temple men's basketball coach Fran Dunphy on Thursday night.
"He knows it's a step up," Whelan said of the conference switch. "He knows it's a big challenge, too."
The Owls have built a great rivalry with many of the Big 5 teams, especially Saint Joseph's, which is also in the A-10. When they play each other in men's basketball, the gym, wherever it is, is always packed with passionate fans.
In 2008, when the A-10 final was between Saint Joseph's and Temple, more than 10,000 fans showed up at Boardwalk Hall to make one of the loudest games in the six years the tournament has been here.
So are Saint Joseph's fans going to miss playing Temple twice a year?
"I'm happy about it because it will probably hurt Villanova more and get more of their recruits," said 2006 Saint Joseph's graduate Justin Worzel, 28, who is from the Poconos. "I'd like to see Temple get the Philadelphia recruits."
Worzel described the rivalry between Catholic schools Saint Joseph's and Villanova as a Holy War. But he also said Temple's conference switch might even help keep good Philadelphia athletes home instead of having them run off to teams such as Syracuse, which is leaving the Big East for the ACC in 2014.
"Maybe there are guys who want to play in the Big East, but still want a big city feel," Worzel said. "This will give them both."
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