This past weekend, Temple’s greatest athletic program competed in what is likely the last home meet in its history.
The men’s gymnastics team finished last out of three teams at McGonigle Hall on Saturday, Feb. 15. Approximately 700 attended, most of who were there to voice their support for the program, which is set to be eliminated on July 1 as part of the university’s decision in December to cut seven sports.
Beginning in 1926, the men’s gymnastics team has won 26 conference championships, the most of any Temple sports team. From 2010-12, the team finished in the Top 2 of men’s gymnastics programs nationwide in GPA. Coach Fred Turoff was a star gymnast at Temple and graduated with a degree in physics. He has coached here for the past 44 years.
In July, Turoff will lose his job without a severance package.
Surely, any decision that eliminates opportunities for student-athletes and coaches is a shame, but the cut to men’s gymnastics seems to make the least sense out of all the sports that the university eliminated.
The main reasons for the overall cuts, according to the administration, were budgetary constraints and issues with facilities. However, out of Temple’s 24 Division I sports, only the men’s and women’s tennis teams are cheaper to operate than gymnastics, according to 2012-13 athletic data from the U.S. Department of Education.
Explaining the university’s reason for the cut on Jan. 28, President Theobald said the gymnastics practice facility space, which is shared by the men’s and women’s teams, is “large enough for one, but not large enough for two.”
It’s true that McGonigle Hall, which received a $48 million renovation in 2012, doesn’t stack up to some of the more lavish facilities boasted by major gymnastics programs, but 13 of the 14 colleges in the country with Division I men’s and women’s gymnastics programs have their teams share space.
As Turoff has pointed out, the team is also able to fundraise a significant portion of its budget. Turoff told the Inquirer in December that the team fundraises more than half of its operating budget, which was about $54,000 in 2012-13.
Theobald said the university would run into an “equity problem” if it allowed sports that can afford to support themselves remain.
Still, that’s no justification for eliminating the athletic department’s most successful program. Considering men’s gymnastics’ small budget, standard facilities and location on Main Campus, we question its inclusion in the sports cuts.
Considering the program’s history, we wonder if the administration knew what it was losing.