The gymnasium in McGonigle Hall was filled to near-capacity Saturday night as fans came out to support the men’s gymnastics team in what could potentially be its last home meet ever.
At the end of the bleachers sat a group of Temple gymnastics alumni, as enthusiastic as they were during their days on the team. Though they were cheering for their fellow Owl gymnasts, the support was bittersweet as the program that gave them so many memories could be competing at home for the last time.
“It was all the best years of my life,” Rob Kay, who graduated in 2009, said. “I can attribute most of that to being on the team.”
The alumni all shared the common belief that the men’s gymnastics program creates a lifelong bond between members of the team.
“I have friends that are like family,” 2012 graduate Dan Pizzota said. “It’s a complete brotherhood. I know I use that word a lot, but it is.”
“If I were to put it into a word, it would be family,” said 2013 graduate Taylor Brana, who earned a spot on the team as a walk on. “We always come back and it feels like home.”
Brana was quick to mention that the program does not just create lifelong friendships, but also produces some very accomplished members of society.
“Our program has produced so many wonderful individuals,” said Brana. “We’ve got doctors, we have physical therapists, we have IT managers. So much success has come from the program, and to have that opportunity taken away, to not produce those successful individuals, it’s just huge and it’s detrimental.
The former Owls have great pride in their alma mater, but even they cannot help but question the controversial decision made by the Board of Trustees.
“The cut doesn’t seem to have a very positive impact on the university as much as having the sport does,” Kay said.
“The reasoning kind of seems like it was the easy way out,” Pizzota said.
The future of Temple men’s gymnastics is uncertain, but the resolve of its members, past and present, is not in question.
“We’re cautiously optimistic looking ahead right now,” Pizzota said. “There are people that graduated years ahead of me that I know now just from the alumni support, that come back here and are some of the greatest support I’ve seen for a team.”
“We stand together,” Brana said. “And that’s exactly what a family is.”
Benjamin McWilliams can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.