When Fred Turoff made his presentation in the hope of saving the men’s gymnastics team on Tuesday, there was one thing unrelated to the athletic cuts that was worrying him.
“Hopefully everybody could hear me,” the longtime coach said. “I tried to talk as loud as possible.”
All cut sports, plus the T7 Council – a group of parents and alumni of the cut sports – were given about 15 minutes each to plead their case Tuesday afternoon in front of a group of people that included President Theobald, Athletic Director Kevin Clark and Chairman of the Board of Trustees Patrick O’Connor. Multiple coaches said they were happy to get the chance to talk to administrators.
“They said we appreciate what we said, and – I hope it wasn’t window dressing – they said they’d take it under consideration and get back to us within the next two weeks,” crew coach Gavin White said “I hope it’s not [window dressing]. I put a lot of effort, a lot of emotion into it. It takes a big man to admit they made a mistake, and I think they made a mistake, personally. I’m sure they have a different opinion.”
“[It was a chance to] face our accusers,” White added.
Turoff said the mood in the meeting was “respectful.”
“I listened to them too,” Turoff said. “Not being an athletic administrator, of course, I don’t know some of the problems that they have to deal with. They’re balancing a lot more money than I’m used to dealing with and they’re balancing the lives of many, many student athletes, many more than I do. On the other hand, they don’t know what I’m in, necessarily. I have to do not just coaching, but I have to do development. I have to bring funds in.”
Turoff said he made the same arguments he’s been making since the cuts were first announced: that the team fundraises a significant amount of money and is one of the highest-performing teams academically. He also revealed he contacted Bill Cosby, who agreed to do a benefit performance to support the cut teams.
“[Cosby] made that offer because he has very good memories of Carl Patterson, who was my coach and his physical education teacher here when Bill was an undergraduate,” Turoff said. “Evidently, Carl made a very good impression on Bill and Bill feels that this is a way to pay him back for the kindness and education that he got from Carl.”
Both White and rowing coach Rebecca Grzybowski said the boathouse issue was one they focused on in their presentations.
“The Schuylkill Navy put in an offer to help us fund a boathouse,” White said. “It won’t be our own, it would be a community boathouse. You’ll hear more about that as we go. The university has to make a decision if they want to try that. It would be no cost to the university. We’ll raise the money, the Schuylkill Navy will partner with us, and we’ve got ourselves a boathouse.”
“We’ve been told all along that it’s a facilities issue, particularly with rowing, and we’ve got a number of people who are on our side in terms of trying to work something out from a facilities perspective,” Grzybowski said. “We have a couple of different options, so we’re hoping that if we can eliminate the facilities issue, then that can be the path to reinstatement… We’ve been talking to people on Boathouse Row about, potentially, temporary housing down there. There are a lot of people who are very willing to help out and do what they can. And then, obviously, the Canoe Club is probably the biggest, easiest way to go about. Renovating that for a lot less than it would cost to build a brand new boathouse.”
Baseball coach Ryan Wheeler said he has been contacting people in hopes that the team can play at a facility in the city. He said renovating the Ambler facilities could also be an option.
“Right now, O’Connor told us that they would take all the information that they were presented and sit down and try to reevaluate and revisit things and they would get back to us,” Wheeler said. “Really, right now, we’re sort of up in the air. There’s not much else that we can do. We pleaded our case and we’re going to be waiting to hear what they say back. Based on whatever the answer is, we’ll go from there, but hopefully it’s a positive one.”
“We want to support Temple and be proud of Temple,” Rick Gross, president of Friends of Temple Rowing, said. “And I can honestly tell you that a lot of rowers right now are not.”
Smith said when a new boathouse was still in the works, she was told that the East Park Canoe House – Temple’s now-condemned former boathouse – was too small and renovating it would be too costly.
“To hear these same arguments come back at us as the reason why we’re getting cut or why we can’t renovate the Canoe Club, that is a little bit frustrating, but we’re working on it,” Smith said.
Smith said that Clark went to the Dad Vail Regatta in May and told her a boathouse was in the works.
“The last time I spoke with him was December 6,” Smith said, referencing the day the cuts were announced. “Hopefully this is the beginning of a continued conversation and both sides can come to an agreement.”
Evan Cross can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Evan Cross.
Joe Brandt, Joey Cranney and Avery Maehrer contributed reporting.