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Board holds final meeting in front of student-athletes

O’Connor tells gathered athletes to contact secretary of the board for answers.

Surrounded by student-athletes and alumni supporters from seven soon-to-be slashed intercollegiate sports, the Board of Trustees met for its final meeting of the semester Tuesday, Dec. 10, four days after its approval of Athletic Director Kevin Clark’s recommendation to eliminate the programs in July 2014.

The board promised to address the concerns of more than 200 affected athletes and coaches, after it voted unanimously to cut the baseball, softball, men’s crew, women’s rowing, men’s gymnastics and men’s indoor/outdoor track & field programs on Dec. 6.

President Theobald told the crowd that student-athletes in the seven disaffected sports will still receive scholarships and academic support services throughout their tenures at Temple.

“Our student-athletes and coaches are the casualties of Temple University’s overreach in trying to operate an athletic program beyond its facilities and resources, which caused us to be out of compliance with federal law,” Theobald said.

Several student-athletes said they felt blindsided by the board’s decision, and some expressed concerns of secrecy by the board and the athletics department.

“Going to this meeting, emotionally, I had no idea what to expect. We went in there and saw how they go about making decisions. We would hear a bunch of topics and they would say, ‘Hey, we’re going to spend this amount of money on these buildings. Any motions?’ Then they would say, ‘Aye.’” said Nick Lustrino, captain of the slated-to-be-cut baseball team said. “They were like, ‘Do we need to talk about this? Nope. Next question.’ It kept going by, and the whole time I’m thinking ‘Is this how they treated this athletic programs decision?’ Lord knows if that’s how they went about it.”

“They knew they had to do this for over a year,” said Rachel Jordan, a former student-athlete. “At the same time they continued to recruit and fundraise. It’s unethical playing with the lives of student athletes.

In an interview after the meeting, Athletics committee chairman Lewis Katz said he only found out in October about the Clark’s recommendation to cut the seven sports. Since January, the athletics department knew cuts needed to be made, Katz said.

“I don’t know when the decision could’ve been made earlier,” Katz said. “The administration decides that.”

Muhammad Abdul, a member of the men’s crew team, said he came to Temple with the intent of wrestling, but when it didn’t work out, he was given the opportunity to row. “After half a season it’s taken away without warning,” Abdul said. “We need an explanation of the timing. Why was it one week before finals?”

In addition to addressing the sports program cuts, the board heard reports from its committees.

The Executive Committee agreed to allow the university to borrow $30 million to use for unstated purposes, which the board approved.

The Temple University Health System reported that it lost $4.2 million during the summer due to fewer patients entering emergency rooms.

The Alumni Relations and Development Committee reported that Temple received $20.8 million in donations over the course of the fiscal year, more than $2 million more than it had the same time last year. The committee’s report did not include an anticipated $25 million donation from trustee Lewis Katz, which he announced at the end of November.

Katz said he did not yet know what he wanted his donation to be used for, but that he was not thinking of the Visualize Temple Master plan, which is set to include the new library, when he made it.

Chairman of the Board Patrick O’Connor concluded the meeting, saying that students who want to inquire into the decision-making process of the athletics department could contact the Office of the Secretary of the Board of Trustees, which would provide the facts of the matter.

“We do what is best for the university and its students by unanimous decision,” O’Connor said.

The board has not had a single dissenting vote in either of its public sessions this semester.

Joe Gilbride can be reached at joe.gilbride@temple.edu.

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