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The Philadelphia Inquirer

Is Temple's decision to cut seven sports really final?

Temple University's leaders met Tuesday afternoon with coaches and representatives from the sports that Temple announced would be cut after this academic year. Each sport's leaders were given 15 minutes to explain why they should not be cut.

After the meeting, Temple president Neil D. Theobald said he would "consider everything that was said today" and report back to the board of trustees, adding, "We're open to all ideas."

Owls softball coach Joe DiPietro said board of trustees chairman Patrick O'Connor told the gathering, closed to the public, that the board would revisit the cuts and have a decision in about three weeks. Also at the meeting were athletic committee chairman Lewis Katz, several other board members, and athletic director Kevin Clark.

One coach who wished to remain anonymous said a member of the board of trustees told him after the meeting, "Hang in, this isn't over." The coach added, "There was no promise, no assurance."

Asked if the cuts voted on by the board of trustees in December were still final, Theobald said that based on his recommendations, "the board made the decisions. The next step is, I'll go and review everything we did today, go through all this information. If there are to be changes, I will make a recommendation. But at this point, no, we're right where we were."

Coaches from each targeted sport - baseball, men's gymnastics, men's and women's rowing, softball, men's track and field, and indoor track - were at the meeting at the Liacouras Center, along with up to two athletes from each sport plus three representatives from the T-7 Council, a recently formed group of parents and alumni fighting the cuts.

Theobald said that the $44 million athletic budget is not being cut and that fielding 24 sports affects issues such as academic support and the training and medical staff.

"We're running almost a veneer of varsity sports," Theobald said. "We have a large number of them, but we don't spend a lot on each of them. So the support we provide the students is relatively limited compared to everyone else."

Theobald said there was information presented at the meeting he had not heard before.

"Some issues about the boathouse I had not heard," Theobald said, referring to the cost of rehabbing the condemned former home of Temple's rowing programs. "We'll continue the dialogue. We hired a consultant to price out what it would cost us to renovate the city Canoe House. The figure we received and the figure they believe is correct is off by a factor of three."

Theobald said Temple had been given a figure of $14 million, while Temple's rowing coaches said they have been told the cost of rehabbing the boathouse is $5 million.

After the meeting, men's crew coach Gavin White said his assistant met Monday night with representatives from the Schuylkill Navy, which governs rowing on the river.

White said there were discussions about renovating the East Park Canoe Club and sharing the boathouse with other programs. Under the arrangement being discussed, White said, Temple would have to pay $2.5 million, a portion of which has been pledged already. It's his understanding, White said, that the offer is off the table if Temple's rowing teams become clubs without the financial support of the university. Temple's rowing teams have been operating out of tents since the Canoe Club was condemned in 2008.

"As of right now, we're converting to club sports," Theobald said. "If we'd had a boathouse, clearly that makes it a very different situation for the rowing programs, for example. But as of right now, I don't have one. But we're going to follow up on this. Any new information - can this really be done for $5 million?"

Gymnastics coach Fred Turoff said his presentation included how he had raised nearly $59,000 of a $60,000 operating budget last year.

"So far, my alumni have come through with pledges of over $300,000 over the next five years," Turoff said. "In essence, I've paid for my operating budget with the pledges."

Turoff added that Bill Cosby had offered to do a fund raiser for the gymnastics team because Turoff's predecessor had taught Cosby in a physical education class.

On the subject of teams raising funds to stay afloat, Theobald said, "We are very appreciative of everything they do. . . . That would be a concern I'd have, the fact that one sport is self-funded and another sport is not."

Other coaches presented information about their self-funding mechanisms. DiPietro said he had personally obtained $7,500 in free equipment last year and over $30,000 worth of equipment in recent years.

"We didn't get into the budget end of it," DiPietro said of the meeting.

Baseball coach Ryan Wheeler said he presented information about alumni willingness to raise funds for the baseball team to continue playing at Campbell's Field in Camden.

Going into the meeting, DiPietro said, "I wondered if it was a window-dressing meeting. I think it was a good meeting. I think they were receptive to all the coaches and the student-athletes. I don't think it was a waste of time. Even if nothing changes, at least we all had an opportunity to present our case."



January 29, 2014




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