The men’s gymnastics team will return as a club sport next season, according to the Campus Recreation department, after a series of attempts from team members and alumni failed to convince the university to reinstate the program’s varsity status.
The Board of Trustees voted in December to cut men’s gymnastics and six other sports: baseball, softball, men’s indoor and outdoor track & field, crew and rowing. In February, the crew and rowing cuts were overturned due to new sources of funding that will lead to the renovation of the East Park Canoe House. Now, the men’s gymnastics program is preparing to stick around as a club beginning next year.
Trustee Lewis Katz said after the reinstatement of the crew and rowing teams that he will offer a $70,000 matching grant, given that coach Fred Turoff and his squad is able to raise the money each year through fundraising. Turoff said there will be future opportunities to compete in the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference championship as a club team.
“This is happening,” Campus Recreation Director Steve Young said. “It has the full support of athletics…And obviously based off of what Lewis Katz has done, what’s gone on in the president’s office, things like that. So this is a go.”
Turoff said he is happy about Katz’s pledge, but added the kinks are still being worked out in how the process will unfold.
“He was generous enough to offer us the $70,000 matching grant, which I hope is a yearly matching grant.” Turoff said. “But I haven’t gotten written proof of that.”
“I think it’s an attainable thing to do,” Turoff added. “It’s going to go a long way to help the club out and to get me a salary, because I have to look at that now.”
Young said some of the planning for how the club would run has already been discussed. The women’s gymnastics team would have priority when scheduling practice time in Gyms 143 and 144 in McGonigle Hall, which occurs between 3 p.m. and midnight.
Since there is already a gymnastics club in place at Temple, Young said there would probably be a distinction between the new club and the current club. Turoff’s squad would be under a “competitive” title, while the other club would be referred to as a “novice” club.
Turoff said that most of his scheduling for next year for his new club team has already been established.
“We’re still going to compete with other varsity collegiate teams in the ECAC, and perhaps some other clubs,” Turoff said. “Since we are still a member of the ECAC, we can compete in that championship. But we cannot qualify for the NCAA championship.”
Turoff said a drawback in terms of scheduling is that there is no guarantee that Temple will be able to keep hosting a meet on Presidents weekend in February, one in which the Philadelphia Boys’ Team participates in.
Meanwhile, gymnasts on the team have begun thinking about what their future plans will hold in terms of both their athletic and academic careers. Junior Blaise Cosenza and freshman Misha Kustin are two that plan on sticking around.
“I already transferred from [Northampton Community College], and I’m over halfway through my major,” Cosenza said of his decision. “So I don’t think it’s worth it trying to transfer in [somewhere else].”
“I don’t really have another place to go,” Kustin said. “And if we are a club, we’re going to be a top-notch club … No matter what, I’m excited for it. I’m going to train hard – it’s why I’m here right now.”
Still, Cosenza said there needs to be a distinction between the new club and the current club.
“A lot of the guys [on the team] have been doing it all our lives,” Cosenza said. “I’ve been doing it since I was two… So there definitely needs to be a line.”
But not everybody has made up their mind yet. Sophomore Evan Eigner, is still on the fence.
“One view is that I’ve been working my whole life to compete at my maximum level at the sport,” Eigner said. “My ultimate goal growing up was to compete collegiately…Not being able to do that, it really hurts to grasp and deal with that. On the other side, I could stay at Temple, where I’ve grown up and be comfortable with that. And if we are a club team, we could potentially revolutionize the sport and the whole club system.”
In terms of the facility itself, there is one significant change that could take place in the next couple of months – the floor mat could be moved from Gym 143 to Gym 144.
“It could coincide with the types of classes during the day that [the] kinesiology [department] puts in there,” Young said of the possible rearrangement. “That’s something that [women’s coach Aaron Murphy] would have to work out with academics.”
Ultimately, much of the say when it comes to the facility and practice time rests on the hands of Murphy. But considering that both teams share the facility at the same time now, sharing it at different times isn’t out of the question.
Steve Bohnel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SteveSportsGuy1.
CORRECTION: In a version of this article that appeared in print, Campus Recreation Director Steve Young was misattributed as “Steve Jones.”