Want to Play in an NFL Stadium? That’ll Be $12-Million, Please.

Temple University has had a hard-enough time making a name for itself in football. Now the NFL’s Philadelphia Eagles—whose field the Owls use—want to nearly double the university’s rent and charge it $12-million upfront as part of a new contract proposal.

Lincoln Financial Field, which seats nearly 70,000, is arguably not the best fit anyway for a program that went 2-10 last season and has a history of attendance problems. Even its marquee matchups this past season—like those against Louisville and Army—attracted only 21,000 to 25,000 fans.

But like many programs, Temple has pushed to make it into the big time. This past fall it played Notre Dame, next fall it will play Penn State. And its head coach, Matt Rhule, a former New York Giants assistant, has high hopes for a revival (at one point, he told Sports Illustrated last year, he had a picture of Che Guevara as his screensaver).

Neil D. Theobald, who took over as Temple’s president in January 2013, says the university has been negotiating with the Eagles for about a year and a half. Its current contract has four years left to run.

The proposed $12-million fee would help finance upgrades in the 11-year-old stadium. This season the Eagles are expected to add new video boards and 1,600 new seats. The contract also proposes raising Temple’s rent to $3-million a year, from $1.8-million. (Under the agreement, the Eagles would still keep all parking and concession fees.)

“We’re not about to give them that kind of money,” Mr. Theobald said on Wednesday.

Last year Temple announced plans to cut seven sports (it has since decided to keep two of them). Its athletics budget, Mr. Theobald said, is about $44-million, including an $8-million university subsidy.

The president did not appear confident of a deal, but he is not backing down. He said he had called Gov. Tom Corbett of Pennsylvania to express his displeasure. The stadium was built with public funds, and he said the team has an obligation not to price its tenant out.

“They clearly believe we do not have a viable option,” he said.

An Eagles spokesman said the team was “surprised by the president’s statement, as we have been extremely generous partners with this fine university. We have a 15-year license with Temple through the 2017 football season, and with that Temple has not had an increase in their rent since 2003.”

If the deal doesn’t get done, Mr. Theobald said, the university could try to play at the University of Pennsylvania’s Franklin Field, built in 1895. Or it could approach the Philadelphia Union, a professional soccer team, about using its facility.

Temple might also consider building its own stadium—albeit not one with 70,000 seats.

“We’re not going to build this thing with all the boxes and everything like that,” Mr. Theobald said. “But we’re far away from that.”

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