Temple Athletes Rebuffed During Trustee Meeting

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The Philadelphia Inquirer
By Susan Snyder; Inquirer Staff Writer

PHILADELPHIA More than 100 student-athletes and alumni packed the Temple University board of trustees meeting Tuesday to show their displeasure with last week's sudden decision to cut seven intercollegiate sports.

But the athletes - many of them dressed in Owls warm-up sweats and jackets - left frustrated after the board breezed through its agenda in about 20 minutes and adjourned without giving them a chance to speak.

The university on Friday announced it will drop baseball, softball, men's and women's rowing, men's gymnastics, and men's indoor and outdoor track and field in June, and Tuesday was the first opportunity anyone had to address board members on the decision.

Adam Dian, a junior from Pittsburgh, shrugged his shoulders in disbelief.

"It's kind of ridiculous. We were under the impression we could address the board here and get some answers about our programs," said Dian, a member of the baseball team.

On Friday, he said, they learned of the decision "in a matter of a three-minute presentation by the athletic director."

After the meeting ended, board chairman Patrick O'Connor told the athletes that the move was a year in the making and came after a "huge" debate on the board's athletic committee.

Ultimately, he said, "the board itself decided unanimously to do what's best for the university and its students."

He also told the athletes they could schedule a meeting with Temple officials if they wanted a more thorough explanation of the decision.

Officials on Friday said the school will use the more than $3 million saved to boost funding for the remaining sports and to become more competitive in the American Athletic Conference, which it joined in the summer.

But many at Tuesday's meeting, held on the 27th floor of Morgan Hall, the university's new dorm, vowed to continue their campaign, noting that petitions to save the sports are garnering thousands of signatures.

"This is the mecca of rowing, and to not have a team anymore is embarrassing," said former rowing team member Allison Boc, a 2012 graduate from Manayunk.

Stephanie Hanlin, a 2007 graduate from South Jersey and a former captain of the rowing team, said the battle was not over. "It's a long uphill fight," she said.

President of Temple Student Government Darin Bartholomew called the board's decision final and said his association now will work to help students move forward.

"This is something that Temple has fought with for years," Bartholomew, a senior, said, noting that the school had been hurt by its lack of compliance with federal regulations that require males and females to be treated equally in scholarship funds, participation, and support. "It's unfortunate that it was an unavoidable situation that they faced, and I really feel for all the students involved."

President Neil D. Theobald, who addressed the athletes briefly in his remarks, noted "the level of anguish and frustration" but called the cuts "casualties of Temple University's overreach in trying to operate an athletic program beyond its facilities and resources."

Brynn Moore, a 2011 graduate and former captain of the rowing team, said the board should have given athletes and the school community a chance to weigh in before the decision was made.

"People are angry," she said. "It's so hard not to be torn. This is our school that we love and these are the sports that we love, and it's really difficult to feel that they're at odds with each other."

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