On Friday, an Op-Ed penned by President Theobald made its way to the front pages of both the Inquirer’s website and Philly.com, offering what appeared to be a necessary delineation as to why and how the university decided to eliminate seven non-revenue sports on Dec. 6.
What the Temple community needed – and still needs – from its administration was an honest explanation as to why these cuts happened, why exactly zero of the affected coaches were consulted along the way and why 200 student-athletes were proverbially kicked out of a moving vehicle a mere three days before final exams began with no prior warning.
On multiple occasions since the decision to cut the seven sports was finalized – that’s men’s crew, women’s rowing, men’s indoor and outdoor track and field, men’s gymnastics, baseball and softball for the uninformed – the university has neglected to stand up and simply face the affected students in a public forum, save Athletic Director Kevin Clark’s scant, three-minute conference announcing the cuts and a rushed speech by Theobald at the Board of Trustees’ most recent meeting on Dec. 10.
Rather than give affected students the platform to speak at either event, Temple’s administration closed up shop and ran out on its athletes without taking questions on both occasions. What the affected student-athletes have craved is any sort of human accountability from the folks that cut their athletic legs out from under them.
“What are Kevin Clark’s office hours?” an exasperated student-athlete asked Athletic Communications Director Larry Dougherty after the Dec. 10 meeting. “How can I reach him?”
Instead, Theobald’s op-ed provided the public with nothing more than a line-by-line rehash of the same rhetoric it has been fed since these cuts were made public: Temple’s hands were tied in order to remain competitive after its move to the American Athletic Conference, it needed to fall into compliance with Title IX regulations quickly and efficiently and the seven sports that were given the proverbial axe simply could not compete with dignity in their current states.
Most importantly, Theobald stressed that anyone blaming the cuts on Temple’s football program is “simply wrong,” an assessment so erroneous it borders on either insult or delusion.
While it’s true that the $3 million to $3.5 million that the cuts will free up in the university’s athletic budget will not build Temple its own football stadium, these cuts purely would never have occurred had the university not moved its entire athletic department into The American in 2013 to pursue more football revenue in bowl payouts and larger television deals.
Moreover, the university has concluded – without consulting a single athlete or coach – that many of its facilities do not stack up to standards set across The American. Again, this could not have occurred without a football-driven move to The American.
Football-relatedness aside, the university has yet to address the fact that these cuts were made without any sort of prior consultation with affected athletes or coaches. Temple’s athletic department has deduced that the seven affected teams cannot compete “with dignity” if left in their current states, despite the fact that it has decided for itself exactly what “dignity” entails.
Now, there is no “right” way to disenfranchise 200 student-athletes. That being said, no one on the administration’s side – Theobald, Clark, Athletics Committee Chair Lewis Katz, or otherwise – has provided a truly human response as to what caused the cuts, or why they happened in the first place.
Despite being handed what is arguably the loudest megaphone in the Philadelphia area, Theobald has failed to address why Clark’s investigation remained behind closed doors since January, or why teams have been barred from fundraising their way back in.
Instead, Temple’s student-athletes have, yet again, been handed the same boilerplate message they found so inadequate in the first place.
Jerry Iannelli can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @jerryiannelli.