After cuts, uncertainty

The university’s athletic department is on the rise, but it faces an uphill battle.

Almost a year has passed since the rainy December afternoon when several student-athletes exited the Student Pavilion on Main Campus in tears, as they dealt with the harsh reality that their teams would soon be nonexistent.

The athletic cuts divided the university community, with many questioning Athletic Director Kevin Clark’s recommendation to eliminate crew, rowing, baseball, softball, men’s gymnastics and men’s track & field. The Board of Trustees reversed its decision to eradicate crew and rowing, but the others remained on the chopping block.

While the athletic department’s announcement of the cuts was poorly handled – Clark delivered the news in a two-minute speech to coaches and students from the affected teams – the elimination of the sports is having a positive effect on the remaining programs.

Teams have received new locker rooms and training facilities this fall. The soccer teams, the only programs that still compete on Ambler Campus, will move to a new facility to be built on the retired site of William Penn High School. Rumors of a football stadium near Main Campus remain.

Despite the positive signs of growth for the department, questions linger on the future Clark and other athletic officials envision at Temple. In an Op-Ed published in the Inquirer this past January, President Theobald said the cuts were necessary for the university to compete with other mid-major institutions. Last week, a university spokesperson said he believed Theobald “probably misspoke,” in reference to his classification of the athletic department.

In an exclusive interview with The Temple News, administrators identified their aspirations of becoming one of the nation’s elite schools in all sports. Deputy Athletic Director Pat Kraft went so far as to say the department’s end goal is for all Temple teams to win national championships.

There’s nothing wrong with the department forming high standards, and as the university aims to bring in some of the nation’s most sought after recruits, they need to strive for excellence.

But Temple remains, as Theobald said nine months ago, a mid-major institution. Despite the positives the American Athletic Conference have brought for the university, the teams are still fighting an uphill battle when stacked against the powerhouse schools that are winning national titles.

And as these powerhouse teams continue to grow and gain influence in their own conferences, the slope Temple is climing may only become steeper.

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