Aaron Murphy never brought it up.
For the past few years, the women’s gymnastics coach hoped visiting recruits wouldn’t ask to see the team’s locker room, since he would be forced to say, “Well, we don’t really have one.”
The team was put in a shared facility last year, Murphy said, a first for a program that never had its own locker room before that point. But the team didn’t get a space to truly call its own until August, when it and the university’s other Olympic teams were introduced to their new facilities.
Women’s gymnastics, field hockey, lacrosse, track & field, men’s and women’s cross country, men’s and women’s tennis, women’s soccer, rowing, volleyball, fencing and golf all received new locker rooms coming into the 2014-15 school year.
“At first it was indescribable,” senior gymnast Lauren Capone said. “When we first heard that we were getting them, you have a picture in your head, but once I actually saw it, it blew my mind. It was so nice, and now it’s so convenient to have it down there. It feels like we earned it and they gave us something that was really nice for how we’ve done as a team and as a program.”
“I just think it’s really going to push our team and other teams to be better than they ever have been before,” Capone added.
Field hockey and lacrosse have rooms separated by a common area, a space in the basement of McGonigle Hall that was formerly a general locker room for multiple sports, while the other spaces downstairs are interconnected by a lounge area.
Men’s and women’s soccer have also seen renovations to their locker room facility at the Ambler Campus. Their field has seen some upgrades, too, like an improved playing surface, more seating and a permanent press box.
Elvis Forde, who was hired as the track & field/cross country coach prior to the start of the school year, came in just as the new spaces were being unveiled. Even though he wasn’t coaching this time last year, his fresh perspective hasn’t kept him from seeing the effects.
“A lot of this happened before I got here,” Forde said. “But it has made a tremendous impact on our young ladies in terms of track & field and cross country on this team, then also on our men’s cross country program as well.”
“Any time you have a locker of your own, some place to call home after practice or after travel, I think those are great things to want to have,” Forde added. “That is one of the things that I think our athletes have enjoyed this semester.”
Forde said the locker rooms are a start for the athletic department in pushing its programs forward.
The Board of Trustees voted to cut seven of the university’s Division I programs on Dec. 6, 2013, but elected to reinstate the men’s crew and women’s rowing teams on Feb. 25, 2014. The money saved from cuts would be invested into the remaining programs.
While interviewing, Forde said he wouldn’t have come to Temple had he not been convinced that the athletic department was trying to move in the right direction.
“From my perspective, I wouldn’t have come if during my interview they didn’t indicate that they are trying to build these programs to a successful level,” Forde said. “I want to be successful. I want a staff that is attached to our program to be successful.”
Based on his interview, he believed the department wanted the same.
“I’m going to ask all the questions that are going to ensure that we can get the exact support that we need to be successful,” Forde said. “And in my interview with [senior associate athletic director Joe Giunta] and [athletic director Kevin Clark], they indicated that they want the program to be successful and they’re doing everything that they can.”
At the same time, Forde said, each program has to find and develop the athletes it needs in order to grow. He declined to comment on the cuts, noting that he wasn’t here at the time, but he said his run as coach would be the start of a new era for his respective teams.
“We’re going to move forward,” he said. “And I hope that all the things that [the athletic department] did or talked about doing are going to continue to happen here, and these programs are going to keep getting better, based on the financial support and facilities that they are looking forward to invest in our students and give them that great experience that they truly can call Temple home.”
Nick Tricome can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on twitter @itssnick215