Finals were done, the semester was over, but the men’s gymnastics team still had plenty of work to do.
On a rainy Tuesday afternoon, sophomore Evan Eigner, freshman Misha Kustin and senior Charles Baldi were at the gym inside McGonigle Hall working on their routines. Many of their teammates were home for break, where they worked out in their local gyms continuing to train for the start of the quickly approaching season.
“It’s 100 percent every single day,” Kustin said. “We all dedicate so much time and effort. Every day we’re trying to get better and doing everything we can.”
“It’s part of the sport,” Eigner said. “You really can’t take a break. One day you’re not in the gym, one of your competitors is in the gym getting stronger, learning a new skill, they’re getting better too. With us it’s a year round sport. It takes hard work day in and day out every day.”
More than three weeks have passed since the athletic department announced the elimination of seven sports teams, including men’s gymnastics.
Each cut team is making efforts to save their programs, and the men’s gymnastics squad has been at the forefront of those efforts. A petition was created that has garnered more than 12,700 signatures, as the team has reached out to many students and others connected with the university.
Reaching the Board of Trustees has been a different story. Thirty-eighth-year coach Fred Turoff acknowledged that the petition signatures were nice, but would rather have the alumni and supporters behind it send letters to trustee members.
“I would like that and I encouraged my people not to let up,” Turoff said. “I want them to be sending letters in January and February as well, until we get some sort of communication from them and get a chance to plead our case.”
But so far, nothing. A majority of the team, along with student-athletes from other programs, were present at the most recent board meeting. The student-athletes were not given a chance to offer public comment, though the cuts were discussed briefly by President Theobald.
The athletic department will be saving $3 million to $3.5 million with the cuts, but the men’s gymnastics team says money hasn’t been an issue for them, as the team makes up only a small portion of the budget. Administrators say Title IX, which encourages an equal proportion of male to female student-athletes, was another reason behind the cuts.
The program is allotted a $60,000 operating budget and the team says it is tasked with raising at least $29,000 of it every year. This past year, the team says it raised nearly $59,000 in donations.
The team is also given four scholarships, but Turoff has the ability to divvy them up as he sees fit. Eigner, who is Turoff’s son, receives tuition remission – not a scholarship. Both Eigner and Turoff believe that it will be honored much like the scholarships, but there has been no official word as of yet. Still, a majority of the 19-man roster is paying for some part of their tuition.
“We’re really a positive cash flow situation for the university,” Turoff said.
The men’s gymnastics team has been one of the must successful at the university. Turoff’s squad has won back-to-back Eastern College Athletic Conference titles, four in the last seven years and 15 since 1990. The program has also run a boy’s team for the past 11 years and hosts a Sunday clinic, which gets Philadelphia youth involved, competing and in some cases, even attracting them to come to Temple.
“This is something I would like the president and the board to know,” Turoff said. “That we’re not just an athletic team and we don’t cost them anything. We produce great products we represent the school well.”
Nick Tricome can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @itssnick215.