Around 5 p.m. on Feb. 24, Temple students received an email blast alerting them of vital news. However, instead of the standard warning of danger or the recently popular snow day alert, this message brought joy to the university community. In a brief letter, President Theobald announced the reinstatement of men’s crew and women’s rowing. Sadly, it also reaffirmed that men’s gymnastics, baseball, softball and men’s track & field were not so lucky.
The news came only a day after the closing ceremonies of the 22nd Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia, in which 230 Americans competed and brought home 28 medals, second only to Russia. For almost two weeks my friends and I watched the Olympics and felt a certain level of pride in cheering on Team USA, which continues to thrive in the international arena. But I seemed to hit a wall when it came to visualizing the future of “Team Temple U.” And I was even more struck at the links between the two. Could the elimination of Olympic sports at the college level spell disaster for future Olympic teams?
The elimination of nonrevenue sports is not a phenomenon isolated to Temple. Rutgers made the move in 2007 and the University of Maryland made cuts two years ago.
“The decision to reduce the number of Temple’s varsity sports and bring us in line with all other mid-major athletic programs in the U.S. was not an easy one,” Theobald said in the statement.
With many schools across the nation either decreasing funding for Olympic sports or nixing them altogether, our athletes and coaches are largely on their own to shape up to an increasingly competitive national stage.
With Temple’s men’s gymnastics team cut, there will only be 16 colleges that sponsor men’s gymnastics teams nationally. These teams feed the U.S. Olympic team, but with shrinking outlets for young athletes to train, it will become more difficult to field a competitive international team every four years.
One hundred years ago, the record for the men’s marathon was 2:40:35. Now it stands at 2:03:30, and athletes are getting faster and more skilled every year, due in large part to more intense training. With rivals like China and Russia pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into state-run training programs, it is up to our private universities to provide aspiring athletes with the support they need to become real competitors.
And it certainly is an attainable goal for Owls to become Olympic athletes. This year Arman Serebrakian, a second-year Temple medical student, qualified for the 2014 Olympic Games in alpine skiing. At the 2008 Olympics, Temple Owl Marcus Mc Elhenney was part of the U.S. rowing team, which took bronze. Former member of the men’s gymnastics team and founder of the College Gymnastics Association Chet Phillips was on the 1936 U.S. Olympics team.
I am proud to watch the Olympics as an American, knowing that we will probably bring home a good chunk of the medals. I’m not sure if the games would hold quite the same allure if I didn’t think the U.S. was putting forth real contenders. While we may not see the ramifications of nationwide sports team cuts immediately, we may feel the sting as we cheer on our now-disadvantaged American athletes in upcoming Olympic Games.
Victoria Szafara can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.