Newly appointed athletic director Pat Kraft brought a handful of updates and sweeping declarations concerning the athletic department when he updated Temple’s trustees on staff movement and facility upgrades during an hour-long public meeting of the board’s Athletics Committee Oct. 12 in Sullivan Hall.
Kraft, who came from Indiana University in 2013, was promoted from associate athletic director in May after current Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer Kevin Clark was promoted.
With President Theobald in attendance, Kraft addressed how the department has adjusted to new NCAA legislation, the status of a handful of fall teams and new implementations aimed to improve the department.
‘Marybeth will win a national championship here’
After two straight seasons ranked in the Top 20, the nationally ranked 2014 field hockey team lost all-American Amber Youtz to graduation and 10-year coach Amanda Janney to what she told The Temple News was a better job at Indiana University.
Replacing Janney, Youtz and two other seniors has been tough for the Owls, who sit at 3-12 (0-2 Big East Conference).
Despite the struggling record, Kraft gave newly appointed coach Marybeth Freeman an endorsement, vowing the team would be nationally relevant in the coming years.
“That team is struggling, you’re going to look at those teams and their records and think, ‘Boy, they’re struggling,’” Kraft said. “Marybeth has won five national championships. Marybeth is going to win a national championship here. This season is hurting her more than anybody else on campus. She’s going to build it the right way. … I think that program is going to surprise a lot of people.”
This wasn’t the first time Kraft expressed high aspirations for the department. Before his promotion in 2014 Kraft told The Temple News he “wanted to put Penn State’s student body to shame” and expressed his desire to have both revenue and non-revenue sports compete for national championships last October.
Freeman’s resume includes two national championships as a player for Old Dominion and three national championships as an assistant coach. As a head coach, Kraft expects her to join very rare company. Over the last 20 years, seven coaches have taken the trophy home; since 1981, 12 have won the title.
The low number of cost of attendance, and how it works
During the committee, Kraft addressed the new cost-of-attendance stipend provided by the school to student-athletes. The stipend is a new trend in the NCAA, spearheaded by some of the top conferences in college athletics last January.
Kraft confirmed all Temple student-athletes from 19 Division I sports receive $2,500, and said this was not the maximum the department could provide. The compensation is also among the lowest in the country, according to a report by CBS Sports.
The University of Memphis, Temple’s American Athletic Conference rival, provides $5,373 to men’s and women’s basketball players, but $3,000 to football, volleyball and women’s tennis, according to The Commercial Appeal, a Memphis newspaper.
Penn State offers all of its full-scholarship athletes $4,700, according to CBS Sports. East Carolina, another school in The American, announced in a press release the department would offer $4,025 to student-athletes in revenue sports and plans to provide the rest of its sports with the same amount by next year.
Kraft and Clark told the trustees keeping the number low preserves the department’s ability to call on the NCAA “student aid fund” for student- athletes who have emergency situations.
Kraft added he is not sure how other schools that max out their cost of attendance allowance plan to help student-athletes with emergencies.
“Because we’re under our full cost of attendance, it allows us to give more services to our athletes,” Kraft told the committee. “For example, if an athlete’s mother is sick … we are able to pay for that individual to go and see their mother, which is all on the up-and-up by the NCAA. If you were up to the full cost of attendance, you would not necessarily be able to do so. They can say, ‘Well, we gave you a check and that’s the check you need to go and use but we all know where that check is going.’”
President Theobald, who sat in on the meeting, questioned how Penn State’s cost of attendance number was more than $2,000 higher than Temple’s.
Penn State’s athletic department was “keeping it close to the vest,” Kraft said, calling cost-of-attendance figures a “gray area” in many school’s athletic budgets.
Supporting student-athletes and their body images
This year, an NCAA report revealed an estimated 25 percent of female athletes, and 20 percent of male athletes suffer from “disordered eating systems.”
In order to lower the problematic volume of students affected by eating disorders, the department has implemented the “care team” in order to help students with issues, including body image and eating habits, Kraft said.
“I think the biggest piece that we have to continue to look at is student-athlete welfare,” Kraft said. “We’ve put together a student welfare committee to make sure their experiences are the best experiences. Now, we’re not talking about wins and losses, we’re talking about body image, drugs, alcohol, finances even. … We have built a frontline team, called the care team.”
E.J. Smith can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @ejsmitty17.