President Theobald said Tuesday that Temple is “right where we were” in terms of the health of the seven sports teams that were eliminated last month, reiterating that the Board of Trustees decision on the matter was final though hinting that his own recommendation on the future of the programs could change.
Theobald’s comments came in a 10-minute press conference at the Liacouras Center following two hours of meetings with coaches and players from each of the eliminated teams, in addition to representatives from the T7 Council, a group formed with the hopes of restoring the cut programs. Each sport gave approximate 15-minute presentations to Theobald and other administrators, including Athletic Director Kevin Clark, Chairman of the Board of Trustees Patrick O’Connor and Lewis Katz, chairman of the athletics committee of the board.
Theobald said the university’s plan is to bridge-fund the eliminated programs for the next four years to allow them to compete as club sports, while honoring scholarship agreements with student-athletes that were guaranteed athletic aid for an NCAA sport. He said the administration is “open to all ideas” concerning the futures of the programs, but insisted that nothing has changed regarding the status of the cuts.
“The board made the decision,” Theobald said. “The next step is I will go back and review everything today, and if there are to be changes, I will make a recommendation to them. But at this point, we’re right where we were.”
Theobald said he “learned a lot” about the histories of the programs through Tuesday’s presentations, but said he was mostly concerned about facilities issues with each of the cut sports, which he outlined specifically.
The fact that the men’s crew and women’s rowing teams don’t have a boathouse was the “determinant” on the decision to cut those programs, Theobald said. Indoor facility issues with men’s track & field and men’s gymnastics, as well as travel concerns with the Ambler Campus-based softball and baseball teams, determined those teams’ fate, he said.
“I was focused on, OK what is information here that I can use to address these problems,” Theobald said about Tuesday’s meetings.
Theobald said the university is in discussions to add an athletic facility south of Main Campus, a move that would allow the men’s and women’s soccer programs to avoid traveling to Ambler Campus.
“A soccer field is flat and doesn’t require fences. Baseball and softball, you have the mound, fences…it’s a single-use facility,” Theobald said. “And given how landlocked we are in Philadelphia, it’s hard to find the land here.”
When asked about some of the cut sports that are able to fundraise a significant amount of their operating budget, like the men’s gymnastics program, Theobald said it was unfair to consider readmitting those programs purely because they’re less expensive.
“I am very sensitive to the idea that we’re going to let those people that can afford to pay for it themselves continue to do it,” Theobald said. “I think that runs into an equity problem.”
Joey Cranney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @joey_cranney.