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Wheelchair basketball slashed amid cuts

Budget cuts and decreased activity led to the end of the program this year.

Initiated in 1983, Temple’s wheelchair basketball team, the Rollin’ Owls, has served as the only available team sport for Temple and the community’s disabled students.

That changed this fall when a $110,000 budget cut for Campus Recreation forced the discontinuation of the team among other cutbacks.

“You have to make a decision,” Director of Campus Recreation Steve Young said. “Do you squeeze everything and then make everybody unhappy? Or do you take a look at what is not efficient…what do we do that is an up and above, an enmity that we give, that in a real world, folks could do without.”

Along with the Wheelchair Basketball Club, other cuts included the discontinuation of towel services at Temple University Fitness Center and IBC Student Recreation Center, a reduction of facility hours during non-academic portions of the year and a reduction on gym hours at Temple Administration Services Building.

This didn’t come as a surprise to coach Tribit Green.

“I kept saying ‘this year is the year we’re going to get cut,’ but we kept going, but I knew there was going to be one year where we would financially be over-budget,” Green said.

Wheelchair basketball was cut because, in terms of cost-efficiency, Campus Recreation would be spending $20,000 on one student that had enrolled in the program for the academic year 2012–13. The basketball team has seen a gradual decrease in Temple student participation during recent years. From 2007 to 2012, numbers have fluctuated from one to four Temple students.

To make up for the required number of at least five players, wheelchair basketball alumni, as well as students from Philadelphia Community College, were included in the program. However, as the students graduated or moved away, the program couldn’t sustain itself the same way, leading to smaller teams.

The student who enrolled for Fall 2012 was recommended to play for the Philadelphia McGee Sixers and is now currently part of a team there.

Overall, Campus Recreation was facing a cost of $20,000 as well as the prospect of buying a new handicap accessible bus if it were to continue the program.

Green, 71, said that the club wasn’t struggling financially until only a few years ago.

Adding to the cost, every game the team played had to be away, which this year amounted to nearly 26. The bus would often be vandalized because it was parked outside instead of in a garage and this added more money for repair.

Coach Green had retired four years ago, but was asked by Young to come back as a part-time coach for disabled students because he was a certified therapeutic recreation specialist.

“It was important that disabled students were included in the advertisement in the publicity of recreation…it was always a struggle to get this program on equal footing as other programs,” Young said.

“I’m not angry about it,” coach Green said. “I saw it coming. I was just hoping that we could hang around for a couple more years because what happened is that this program isn’t about basketball at all…at least about 200 to 300 students used this program to get their volunteer hours.”

He recalled that the team was “one big family,” where everyone supported each other and learned to appreciate and respect each other. It was a program that helped set these disabled students up for life, Green said.

“If they were to get a job, they’re already prepared,” Green said.

When asked what Temple’s attitude toward the disabled community was like, he said, “Temple has a history of doing more, but there’s also a lot more that needs to be done.”

Young said the most negative feedback he received as a result of the budget cuts was the result of the discontinuation of towel services at the IBC Student Recreation Center and Temple University Fitness Center.

“We need more money because if it was up to us, we’d leave the facility open later at night because the typical student may want to work out from 10 [p.m.] to midnight.”

Young added that while he didn’t like the fact that they had to cut wheelchair basketball program, it made the most sense financially.

“It wasn’t a pleasant thing to do at all, but I think that if you look at it from a very pragmatic view,” Young said, “it had the smallest impact compared to a lot of things on that list.”

Hayon Shin can be reached at hayon.shin@temple.edu. 

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