Bill Cosby may be one of the most well known alumni to attend Temple University, but one of his lesser known accomplishments is that Cosby was inducted into Temple’s Hall of Fame in 1984 due to his accomplishments in track and field, football and basketball.
That same year, Fred Turoff was inducted for his excellence in the sport of gymnastics. Even though Cosby is known to dominate the stage, Turoff had the upper hand in the induction ceremony 30 years ago.
“They let me talk longer, if you can believe that,” Turoff, the 38-year-old head coach of Temple gymnastics, said.
Now, three decades later in 2014, Cosby is having an event to help fund the recently cut men’s gymnastics program. This Thursday, starting at 8:30, Cosby will hold a concert in front of 200 guests at the Independence Visitors Center at the corner of 6th and Market Streets in Philadelphia. All the proceeds will benefit Turoff’s squad, which will continue as a club team in the fall.
The event, titled “An Evening with the Legendary Bill Cosby,” was organized by The Nouveau Image, a marketing and PR agency founded by Michelle Miller in 2009. But Miller, who has collaborated with several celebrities ranging from Snoop Dogg to NHL star Mike Richards, says a lot of the credit has to go to Turoff.
“This is really being put together by coach Turoff,” Miller said. “He has worked diligently, even when the program was raising money. Even when the program was being funded, he was still raising funds to help the program out.”
Miller also noted that a silent auction will take place during the event, and several local athletes donated in that regard. Among the items up for bid are an autographed Brent Celek helmet, Jimmy Rollins autographed baseball, and gift baskets from the 76ers, as well as non-sports items like baskets from Jason Matthew Salon in Rittenhouse and pieces of artwork from throughout the city.
However, the big name on the flyer is Bill Cosby himself. Turoff said a major reason why the long-time entertainer has stepped forward is because of former men’s gymnastics coach Carl Patterson, who coached Temple from 1955-1968.
“He was taught by Patterson, because he was a physical education major, and he had to take a course in gymnastics,” Turoff said. “Several times when I spoke to him, he reminded me, ‘You know why I’m doing this? Carl Patterson.’”
Evan Eigner, who is Turoff’s son and decided to transfer to Ohio State in early June, is happy one of the most notable alumni in Temple’s history is stepping forward to support a program that he still feels very much a part of.
“It’s pretty awesome, because Bill Cosby is definitely an icon to Temple University,” Eigner said. “Everybody knows about Bill Cosby at Temple. For him to be able to help us out, it’s pretty amazing.”
Eigner added that collecting money for the program isn’t the only problem that his former program faces. Getting word out about the sport may be the more important mountain to climb.
“I think it’s very valuable to think outside the box,” Eigner said. “Right now, I think one thing the gym community lacks is awareness. I’m not sure how many people knew about men’s gymnastics before the cuts. So this event spreads the word that we have a team here.”
Turoff hopes that this event encourages future alumni donation in not only his program, but also the other cut programs and even the lesser known ones that remain. The more money alumni donate to each of these sports, the better off each sport is.
This fundraiser may give the athletic department a reason to reconsider their decision to cut the five athletic programs, which officially started July 1. Some athletes, including sophomore men’s gymnast Casey Polizzotto, remain optimistic.
“It’s so important, just so everyone knows what’s going on,” Polizzotto said. “The more people know about it, the faster we can get our program back.”
Tickets for Thursday’s event are on sale at eventbrite.com, starting at $175. A cocktail hour will begin at 7:30, followed by Cosby’s concert at 8:30. The aforementioned silent auction will take place throughout the evening.
Steve Bohnel can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @SteveSportsGuy1.