The Board of Trustees approved a recommendation from Athletic Director Kevin Clark Friday to eliminate seven intercollegiate sports from the university’s Division I sponsorship, effective July 1, 2014.
The following sports will be cut: baseball, softball, men’s crew, women’s rowing, men’s gymnastics and men’s indoor/outdoor track & field. More than 200 student-athletes will be affected and nine full-time coaches will lose their jobs.
The cuts were described by officials as a culmination of the university’s long history of an underfunded athletic department despite sponsoring a relatively large number of sports. Student-athletes under scholarship are still guaranteed financial aid for the remainder of their academic tenure and will be able to transfer without sitting out a year.
The cuts will save the university an estimated $3 million to $3.5 million. In an interview after the announcement, Clark denied that the cuts were made to pump money into the upstart football program.
“This is to resize our budget and to give our student-athletes remaining a chance to compete and give them the experience they deserve,” Clark said. He said there was no pressure from officials in the American Athletic Conference to improve facilities or cut sports.
Clark said the decision to cut five men’s sports was made to help balance Temple’s ratio of male/female student-athletes. Title IX requires that the percentage of male/female student-athletes should closely represent the student body population at the university and that the proportion of student aid should closely resemble the participating male/female ratio.
Temple has an overall ratio of about 51 percent women to 49 percent men. Prior to the cuts, Temple’s athletic programs were made up of about 52 percent men and 48 percent women, but the university gave 58 percent of its student aid to men, according to the U.S. Department of Education.
Clark said the decision on the cuts are final and there won’t be an opportunity for any team to fundraise itself back into the athletic department, which some teams have done at other universities.
Clark made his recommendation after nearly a year-long review that began shortly after he arrived at the university in January. Clark’s recommendation was approved by President Theobald and unanimously approved by the board at a public session in Sullivan Hall on Friday afternoon.
“This is an extremely difficult decision, but it is being done in the best long-term interests of our student-athletes,” Theobald said in a statement.
Student Body President Darin Bartholomew said it was a “heartbreaking day for Temple University.”
“Rather than make the necessary adjustments when the funding issue was less harmful, past administrators ignored it and created the unavoidable situation that new administrators found themselves inheriting today,” Bartholomew said in a statement.
Clark met with coaches individually before personally informing students of his decision at a meeting with the affected programs at the Student Pavilion later in the afternoon.
On his one-on-one conversations with coaches whose teams are being cut, Clark said: “You could feel their passion and you could feel their pain.” When speaking about underclassmen student-athletes on eliminated teams, Clark said: “I feel like I took an opportunity away from them.”
Athletics committee chairman Lewis Katz called the cuts “an enormously difficult decision.” The athletics committee also voted unanimously in favor of Clark’s recommendation.
Multiple coaches said they will not receive a severance package. Baseball coach Ryan Wheeler said he doesn’t believe any of the coaches will be granted one. A university official said each of the affected coaches were signed to one-year contracts, but declined to talk specifics.
The cuts represent the most sweeping reduction to the athletic department since the university cut eight varsity sports in 1986 and comes at a time when several universities across the country have recently announced their intentions to redistribute athletic funding to stay afloat in the world of Division I sports, which has become an increasingly bloated financial enterprise.
The University of Maryland, a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference, cut seven sports last year to help settle an anticipated $17 million deficit in its athletic budget. Earlier this week, Robert Morris University announced it would be reducing its Division I sponsorship from 23 to 16, citing a desire to invest more heavily in less sports.
A report released Wednesday by the Knight Commission, a college athletics watchdog, concluded athletic spending per athlete from 2005-11 grew at a faster rate than academic spending per student in every Division I subdivision.
The cuts came less than six months into the Owls’ tenure in The American, in which most opposing schools have larger budgets and sponsor a smaller number of sports than the Owls.
A Temple News analysis of athletic budgets of schools in the new conference, conducted in the spring, showed that Temple’s operating expenses per sport during the 2011-12 reporting year were less than every university – except Tulsa and Tulane – set to join The American by 2015.
These operating expenses, which don’t include coaches’ salaries or student aid, were allocated to the university’s 24 Division I sports out of its budget of $41.5 million. Temple was tied for first in The American in the number of sports it sponsored, but it ranked ninth out of 13 schools in the size of its budget.
As a result, Temple ranked below the average of The American schools in operating expenses in all of the university’s sports except football. In most cases, it was well below the average. Temple ranked last in baseball, third to last in combined track & field, second to last in softball and third to last in women’s rowing. Men’s crew is not a conference-affiliated sport.
Temple also ranked last in men’s soccer, women’s soccer, tennis (men’s and women’s combined) and volleyball.
Placing the Owls further behind the eight-ball were their sub-standard facilities for most of Temple’s non-revenue sports, which made recruiting more difficult and hampered attendance.
Temple is the only school in The American that doesn’t have stadium lighting and grandstand seating for its baseball and men’s and women’s soccer programs. The Owls rank last or second to last in attendance in four out of the five sports that competed this fall. Temple ranks first in field hockey, which competes in the Big East Conference and plays at Geasey Field on Main Campus.
When questioned in September, officials said there weren’t any plans to upgrade facilities for non-revenue sports, but multiple administrators have expressed a desire to bring the Ambler sports to facilities on Main Campus.
In April, the university tabled a plan it had submitted to the city to get the rowing teams a new boathouse. The teams have been rowing out of tents since its former home, the East Park Canoe House, was condemned in 2008.
The football team (1-7), men’s soccer team (3-1-4), women’s soccer team (1-8) and volleyball team (9-9) combined to go 14-25-4 in The American in the fall.
Every eliminated sport will compete in the spring.
Joey Cranney can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @joey_cranney.
Sean Carlin, Evan Cross and Avery Maehrer contributed reporting.