“I hate to say this to you, but today you are very fortunate that you do not need to look into your players’ eyes and tell them they chose the wrong school.”
After that moment, I felt really bad that I said that to coach Tonya Cardoza at the restaurant we both frequent, but the pain I felt was far too emotional to not gauge the reaction of another Owl.
“With the rising costs of doing business in intercollegiate athletics it has become impossible to achieve that mission for 24 varsity programs,” Athletic Director Kevin Clark said. “With limited funds and growing needs, this was a difficult choice that had to be made.”
These sentiments were being shared with me the way any news gets shared in this day and age: With a grainy YouTube video that was sent out via Twitter. The irony was deep watching this video, as if I were one of the current student-athletes in attendance. As a Temple baseball alumnus, ‘01, I watched online as Clark made this announcement in our new indoor practice facility, which was to help all of the Olympic sports teams prepare in the winter conditions of the northeast. Hanging in the background was our new conference banner, proudly featuring one massive word: American. It is truly that, this decision: American.
I spent the rest of my day cautiously sharing my thoughts with other former Temple athletes, along the way apologizing in advance to my Temple football friends who would be caught in the crossfire, implying that we should all stand together.
Let’s be clear on one point before moving on: I totally get all of it. Kevin Clark isn’t the enemy at all. A new athletic director with a background in finance was asked to take a look at the grand scheme and render a proposal.
“Reducing the number of sports will mean athletics can invest more into the student-athletes, staff and facilities for the remaining Olympic sports, and offer the best possible learning and competitive environment,” Clark said.
How are we supposed to grin and bear this “Hunger Games”-esque logic after eliminating a sport that made up my identity during my time in school? The goal of this university is to keep alive the sense of pride in a much-maligned commuter school where alumni support is already null and pathetic. If you completely rattle the beehive and chop away 30 percent of its identity, you are not just saving $3 million of an annual budget, but establishing a windfall of undetermined dollars you lose in the lifetime of those you hurt.
Temple and our Owl Club are at a complete disadvantage when it comes to donors and I, along with many other millennials, have fallen short in this matter – to be completely honest. But who is to say that in five to 10 years when our priorities are in order and we have pulled up our boot straps to overcome a difficult financial era that we would welcome giving back to our university and its athletic programs?
Before we start cutting a check, let’s focus on the real problem with college athletics and the casualties which fall in its wake. Temple athletics has always felt it deserved to sit at the “big kids table” without ever considering what it takes to repair itself from within first. In the conference realignment shuffle, this was again our burden and the American Athletic Conference was sold to us as our knight in shining armor.
This final and desperate decision was “Temple Made,” but made by members of Temple’s administration that use their Temple job as a stepping stone to their next big job. Even worse, it was already considered and approved by our esteemed Board of Trustees. Do any of these new officials and administrators from other schools and bigger conferences even have a clue about what is to be “Temple Made,” let alone Philadelphia made?
We are Temple University: Student-athletes and students alike who made the decision to love and embrace North Philadelphia for what it is and not what it can be. We know what it is to live on Broad and Norris and how to diagnose a fraud from reality. North Philadelphia and my teammates, friends and colleagues made me the man I am, and together we have always had each other. All we have ever asked is for someone to listen. Instead, no one took the time to want to learn from the insiders, they wanted to go about things on their own and be a hero. From today on, you lost the largest group of heroes I know.
Kevin Sharp is an alumnus of Temple baseball, ‘01. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.