In the five weeks since the administration announced that it will cut seven non-revenue sports, one fault in its reasoning has hung over the affair: That these cuts somehow happened in a vacuum, wholly separate from Temple’s football program.
To claim that teams were cut in order to be more competitive within the American Athletic Conference, as the university has stated on multiple occasions, is – in and of itself – a football-driven decision.
Athletic Director Kevin Clark said the seven eliminated teams – baseball, softball, men’s gymnastics, men’s crew, women’s rowing and men’s indoor and outdoor track & field – were cut after a yearlong comparison of Temple’s athletic budget and facilities against the rest of the schools in The American, a conference that the university could not have entered without putting its football goals ahead of every other sport at Temple.
In terms of its budget and facilities, the football team was aligned with most schools in the new conference. However, Temple’s non-revenue sports didn’t stack up.
A Spring 2013 Temple News analysis of athletic budgets in The American, using 2011-12 data, raised several concerns about Temple’s commitment to its non-revenue sports.
Temple ranked below the average of The American schools in operating expenses in all of the university’s sports except football. In most cases, it was well below average. In baseball, men’s soccer, women’s soccer, tennis and volleyball, Temple ranked last.
Moreso, the facilities housing most of Temple’s non-revenue sports were inadequate when compared to the lavish arenas that other schools in The American boast.
Particularly for the teams who compete at the Ambler Sports Complex, Temple’s facilities more closely resemble high school stadiums than the grandstand seating available at all other schools in The American.
By uniting all sports in a semi-power conference, the university turned its back on the longstanding tradition of allowing its non-revenue sports to compete in a modest conference separate from the football team.
From 1982 to 2013, most of Temple’s non-revenue sports competed in the Atlantic 10, a conference filled with schools with smaller budgets that don’t sponsor Division I football teams.
Records show that last year Temple had the largest athletic budget out of all the A-10 schools by far, about $12 million more than the University of Massachusetts. Facilities, too, were much more in line with that conference.
Last year in the A-10, Temple would have ranked third in operating expenses per sport, a category the Owls rank last in The American among non-revenue sports by about $12,000 per sport.
If Clark had benchmarked Temple’s non-revenue sports against A-10 schools rather than schools in The American, he would have come to a much different conclusion.
But the football-induced decision to drag all of Temple’s non-revenue sports into a major conference led Clark to recommend taking a drastic measure.
Sadly, it seems Temple’s decision to eliminate sports was purely economical.
Most of the cut programs are among the most expensive of all of Temple’s non-revenue sports, according to budget data. Other sports, like men’s and women’s tennis, have weak facilities, but are much cheaper to operate.
Instead, to cut costs, the administration eliminated the expensive budgets of the men’s crew team, which has won 20 Dad Vail Regattas in the Varsity 8, and the men’s gymnastics team, which has won 18 conference championships.
And this summer the administration will terminate the contracts of Gavin R. White and Fred Turoff, who have coached crew and gymnastics, respectivley, at Temple for a combined 70 years. The coaches say they won’t receive severance packages.
Ultimately, cutting costs is just another way of saying increasing revenue. And the only sport that brings in significant revenue is football, a program that athletic administrators across the country recommend investing in.
We recommend that Temple start thinking about athletics as something other than a budget line.