A pile of purple bats sat on a couch in Joe DiPietro’s office. There were about 20 of them, half of the amount that were donated to the softball team. Enough were donated that every player got two Louisville Sluggers, which retail for $350. Temple didn’t pay anything for them.
The bats aren’t the only pieces of equipment the softball team has had donated. DiPietro said the team has received $35,000 worth of free equipment in the past year. That number was one of the sixth-year coach’s main points in last Tuesday’s face-to-face meeting with administrators, along with the fact that the team has improved its win total every year since DiPietro took over. The biggest point DiPietro made, though, was regarding the administration’s position that traveling to Ambler to compete provides a bad student-athlete experience.
“My argument was ‘Well, how come no one asked me about their student-athlete experience?’ DiPietro said. “Better yet, how come no one asked the players what their student-athlete experience or dignity was?”
DiPietro said he suggested the use of SEPTA’s Regional Rail service as a way to quicken the commute to Ambler.
“Ambler seems to be a big stumbling block with the administration,” DiPietro said. “It’s not a stumbling block for the teams that have to go there, at least for us… It’s not a big deal for us.”
Baseball coach Ryan Wheeler said he has been looking into other potential playing venues. He said he would like to consider more games at Campbell’s Field in Camden, N.J., where the team will play all but one conference game this season. He said he also suggested finding a field in Fairmount Park or partnering with MLB’s Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities program, among other ideas.
“There are solutions,” Wheeler said. “They would take time to solve and some money, but they’re very practical and I think they’re solutions that would benefit our programs.”
Crew coach Gavin White said he stressed that his sport has more value to the university than the amount of money it brings in.
“We talked about how crew is not a bottom line sport,” White said. “Of course, we don’t raise that money, we don’t get any income from attendance… this can’t be about bottom line. We travel all over the world, racing Russians, Germans. I think we bring ambassadorship to Temple. I have kids from Ireland. [Senior] Fergal [Barry] was in there talking about Ireland. Kids from all over the world come here.”
White also said the Schuylkill Navy – an association of Philadelphia rowing clubs – has pledged to pay half of an estimated $5 million renovation cost of the East Park Canoe House. However, the Schuylkill Navy and the City of Philadelphia Parks and Recreation department both say the money is coming from Parks and Rec. Mark Focht, the First Deputy Commissioner of Parks and Facilities, said the city plans on renovating EPCH regardless of whether or not Temple is a tenant.
“We will work to support people in the community and we are sure that donors and funders will step up when they see that there’s a good, viable plan for the East Park Canoe House to be restored and for Temple to be a lead tenant in that building,” Margaret Meigs, a commodore of the Schuylkill Navy, said.
“We’ve been told all along that it’s a facilities issue, particularly with rowing, and we’ve got a number of people who are on our side in terms of trying to work something out from a facilities perspective,” women’s rowing coach Rebecca Grzybowski said. “We have a couple of different options, so we’re hoping that if we can eliminate the facilities issue, then that can be the path to reinstatement.”
Men’s gymnastics coach Fred Turoff said his presentation was mainly based around the academic and athletic success of the team. He also said Bill Cosby has offered to do a benefit concert to raise money.
“Certainly the fact that we have represented Temple honorably and quite well in both the academic and the athletic areas speaks favorably to our program,” Turoff said. “I’d certainly like to continue being here. I’ve been here for 49 years.”
Gabe Pickett, a senior jumper and team captain for the track & field team, said his program’s presentation took a different approach than the other teams. He and his coach, Eric Mobley, talked about how eliminating the team will result in lost opportunities for African-American males.
“Men’s track & field is very popular with African-American males,” Pickett said. “If you get rid of that, especially in a prominent African-American area such as North Philadelphia… you’re eliminating that group.”
Pickett said he wanted to help the administrators understand what the coaches and players were going through, rather than listing numbers and statistics.
“I talked about the opportunities that track & field have provided me,” Pickett said. “Not just competing, but education, camaraderie with my teammates. It’s opened up a lot of doors, like being vice president of [Student-Athlete Advisory Committee]. I’ve been able to give back to the community with a lot of volunteer efforts to be an influence to those around us. It’s done more than just allow us to compete.”
Evan Cross can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @EvanCross.