If you enter through the left door leading into Gymnasium 143 in the back of McGonigle Hall, you might bump into something.
There’s an elevated runway that leads up right to the front door. It serves as the vault runway for the men’s and women’s gymnastics teams.
Both programs have been sharing Gyms 143 and 144 in McGonigle since 1982, the year when Temple lost a Title IX lawsuit to former Temple badminton student-athlete Rollin Haffer and was forced to equalize the facility.
Men’s coach Fred Turoff came up with a specific plan: put the uneven bars where the parallel bars and pommel horses were, and move the latter two apparatuses into Gym 144. That, along with sharing the floor and vault, was acceptable to Temple’s administration for the past 32 years. Now, the setup is one of the reasons the men’s team is slated to be cut in July.
“I think the administration’s intent here is to make training facilities as good as they possibly can,” Turoff said. “For the teams that remain, to fund them maximally at the NCAA limit level.”
After the Board of Trustees voted to cut the men’s team in December, President Theobald said on numerous occasions that facilities were one of the primary factors for eliminating the program. But Temple is not in a unique situation when it comes to both the men’s and women’s team practicing together. Only three teams in the country have separate facilities for men and women: Michigan, Minnesota and Nebraska.
One of those schools, Michigan, has two facilities that are far larger than what Temple has in the 8,000 square-foot McGonigle gyms. The women train in the 22,000 square-foot Donald R. Shepherd Training Center, while the men practice in the Loken Training Center, a 10,500 square-foot facility. Both feature resi and free-foam pits for every individual event.
Most of the other Big Ten schools have similar facilities, including Penn State, the only other school in Pennsylvania to sponsor college gymnastics at the Division I level. The Nittany Lions practice in the White Building, which is 13,400 square feet, features various pits and has a team lounge with a flat-screen TV.
But concerning Temple’s facility, gymnasts said the lack of pits isn’t the main problem for the Owls – it has to do with the building itself.
“The biggest limitation is the wall separating the gyms,” Turoff said. “Because that means the coach can’t oversee the entire field of practice.”
“It’s hard when we have to have one coach over here and one coach over there, we don’t really know what’s going on in either side,” senior female co-captain Heather Zaniewski said. “We have to run across if we need to spot for something. Sometimes it’s honestly just a distraction.”
And even if Temple wanted loose-foam pits, it wouldn’t be able to install them. Turoff said there are several I-beams underneath the floor of both gyms, which would complicate the process.
Either way, the men’s team doesn’t view the pits as a necessity.
“The only reason you would ever need pits is if someone’s scared of something,” senior male co-captain Scott Haddway said. “I don’t think many guys here are scared of doing something.”
On the other hand, women’s coach Aaron Murphy would prefer foam pits for gender-specific reasons.
“When these girls get into college, this is the home stretch of their career,” Murphy said. “For the guys, their bodies are getting stronger, so they can sustain a facility like ours a little bit better. If we had foam pits, we could take some more turns, and it wouldn’t hurt the body as bad, which in turn would allow the competitions to maybe be a little more successful.”
Murphy added that although Temple’s facility may not be among the best in the country, the team does the best with what it has.
And even though McGonigle may not match up with some of the best schools in the country, it stacks up relatively even with those in the Eastern College Athletic Conference.
William & Mary’s men’s and women’s teams practice in a 5,000 square-foot gym in the basement of William & Mary Hall. Coach Cliff Gauthier said in an email last week that his team also has a 750 square-foot area where the ceiling is 12 feet high, which limits what his team can do in that part of the gym.
One limitation the Owls have is the necessity to set up equipment each day. But like any other obstacle McGonigle poses, Turoff said it hasn’t stopped his teams from practicing and competing.
“Would I like to have a bigger gym so we wouldn’t have to set up and tear down each day?” Turoff said. “Of course I would. But I realize the limitations in this building. And until they build another building that has more gyms, this is what we have to do.”
Steve Bohnel can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @SteveSportsGuy1.