Temple to cut 7 athletic programs

Temple to cut 7 athletic programs

December 6, 2013, 2:45 pm
Share This Post

Updated 5:15 p.m.

Temple University will cut seven intercollegiate sports effective July 1, 2014.

The decision was made Friday to drop baseball, softball, men's rowing, women's rowing, men's gymnastics and men's indoor/outdoor track and field. Approximately 150 student-athletes will be affected and nine full-time coaches will lose their jobs.

The cuts, according to Temple vice president and director of athletics Kevin Clark, will save the athletics department between $3 million and $3.5 million.

“Temple does not have the resources to equip, staff and provide a positive competitive experience for 24 varsity sports. Continuing this model does a disservice to our student-athletes," Clark said in a statement released by the university. "We need to have the right-sized program to create a sustainable model for Temple University Athletics moving forward."

Temple will honor its scholarship commitments to those student-athletes impacted through their graduation or help them transfer to schools that continue to sponsor their respective programs. Those who opt to transfer will receive waivers and will not have to sit out a year.

"Our first concern, now and in the future, is the academic and athletic experience of our student-athletes," Clark said. "We will work with those affected by this decision to ensure their success either here at Temple or at other universities."

Clark was named Temple's interim athletic director after Bill Bradshaw stepped down in May. He was installed as the university's full-time A.D. on Nov. 1.

He came to Temple from Indiana with current university president Neil Theobald last year.

"Temple's student-athletes are extraordinary ambassadors for the university," Theobald said. "This is an extremely difficult decision, but it is being done in the best long-term interests of our student-athletes."

The cuts, decreasing Temple's number of varsity programs from 24 to 17, come less than one year into Temple's tenure in the American Athletic Conference. With the exception of UConn, which fields 24, all other members of the American support between 16 and 19 teams.  

Temple's tightening budgets, the need to get Title IX complaint, and the state of the university's facilities for the programs being dropped were all factors in the decision.

Baseball and softball, for example, were played at Temple's Ambler campus and lacked support from the student body, and ultimately support from the university. Separately, Temple's former rowing facility, the East Park Canoe House, was condemned in 2008. The rowing teams have been operating out of a tent on Kelly Drive ever since.

It's likely that the increased travel costs necessitated by the American's geographically distant members also played a role.

These budget cuts come as Temple appears to be interested in moving the remainder of its athletic programs -- some of which still reside at Ambler -- back to main campus. The university's lease agreement with the Eagles that allows the football team to play at Lincoln Financial Field will expire in 2018, prompting Temple to consider new on-campus athletic facilities -- including a football stadium -- as part of its next development plan.

"Reducing the number of sports will mean Athletics can invest more into the student-athletes, staff and facilities for the remaining Olympic sports, and offer the best possible learning and competitive environment,” Clark said.

Responding to the perception that the cuts were made specifically to fund a football stadium, Clark told reporters at a press conference, per OwlScoop.com: "If I could find a financial institution that could provide me with the opportunity to build a football stadium on $3 million, I would take it. But that’s not going to happen. This is to right-size our budget and truly give our student-athletes that are remaining a chance to compete and give them the experience they deserve.”

The cuts are not without precedent. The University of Maryland eliminated seven programs last year to make up for a deficit in its own athletic budget. Maryland will be joining the Big Ten, and enjoying the economic benefits that come with it, next summer.

Most athletic departments around the country operate at a loss, sponsoring programs that lose money, even if some football and men's basketball teams manage to generate revenue.