PHILADELPHIA -- Television and top ratings are nothing new to Bill Cosby, who figures the two go hand in hand for his alma mater's basketball team.

Temple University is atop the Associated Press' poll for the second straight week, and the star of "The Cosby Show" said the new exposure may help Coach John Chaney's Owls stay among basketball's elite.

"Clearly what I'm hoping for is that this will get Coach Chaney the kids academically and physically that he's looking for," Cosby, a former Temple football player, said in a telephone interview from New York.

The ranking, he said, "gives us a little credibility when we're trying to recruit.

"If your team is not getting national print and respectability, they don't get on television. Kids want to know if they're going to be on TV," he said.

Now, he said, kids "know that they can come to this school and they don't have to give up one of their dreams, and that is to play on television."

Cosby, who left Temple after his junior year, but since has been awarded a degree, said the ranking might prompt nonathletes to ask about the school, as well.

"Somebody answers: 'That's in Philadelphia,' " said Cosby, who also appears in television ads to attract top students for the north Philadelphia school. "Before, they might not have gotten an answer."

On his NBC television show, Cosby's character, Dr. Heathcliff Huxtable, has a Temple symbol on his office wall. Cosby said he plans nothing special for the show to reflect the basketball team's new ranking, but to just enjoy it.

"This is something they've earned," he said. "I want to keep the reality there."

Cosby said he has "been asked to make a few calls" in basketball recruiting, but said he stresses the importance of education.

"I want the parents on the phone with the boy," he said. "I listen to these parents and I tell the kid what he has to give up, and that he is not going to be pampered, and that this is a fine academic university and that he can't come there thinking that people are going to treat him like a little king and he doesn't have to study and people are going to pass {him} along to keep him eligible . . .

"John knows that when I call I'm going to tell the kid these things because I want the kid to get what that university has to offer and he's cheating himself if he goes for anything less."

A product of Central High School in Philadelphia, Cosby has fond memories of the basketball rivalries among the area's colleges, including Temple, Villanova, St. Joseph's, La Salle and Penn, and hot games at the Palestra on Penn's campus during the days of the Big Five.

He also has ideas of how Temple can look to the future -- namely, replacing the 4,500-seat McGonigle Hall with a new 20,000-seat arena that would include space for academic purposes. He said he already has made that suggestion to Temple president Peter Liacouras, with one note of caution.

" 'Take your eyes out of my pocket.' That's exactly what I told him," he said.