Saturday, August 2, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Temple didn't have to cut

According to Temple president Neil Theobald, the cost of upgrading the poor condition of facilities for Temple´s crew team factored into the decision to cut the program.
According to Temple president Neil Theobald, the cost of upgrading the poor condition of facilities for Temple's crew team factored into the decision to cut the program. TOM GRALISH / Staff Photographer

The officeholders can never be greater than the people; they should be honest servants of the people.

- Russell Conwell, first Temple University president


No one disagrees that times are tough, as fewer dollars are being stretched further. That said, we expect decisions on budget cuts will be made based on sound reasoning and fairness.

Sadly, the controversial decision by the new Temple University president, Neil D. Theobald, to eliminate seven NCAA Division I teams was shrouded in secrecy and then clothed in excuses that cannot possibly withstand scrutiny.

When the Temple president said cutting the teams was the only solution, what he really meant was that it was the only solution he and a select few powerful university trustees were willing to consider. This assertion is supported by a statement to me by Mark Ingram, a Temple athletics official, that no amount of private donations - and no amount of potentially withdrawn gifts - would result in reversal of the decision.

The reality is that there are better, student-focused alternatives that avoid cutting programs, solve the Title IX scholarship allocation issue, and enable Temple to strengthen important bonds between it and the Philadelphia community. The university should seriously consider a program-saving option that would:

• Retain the seven teams and give them five years to raise sufficient funds to cover operating expense budgets (other than coach salaries) and solve their facilities problems. This, it should be noted, has been done by rowing and crew, which have commitments sufficient to fund a new boathouse without any Temple funding (all that is required is retention of the two teams as Division I NCAA teams).

• Enter into an agreement with Campbell's Field in Camden to use it for training, games, and community clinics, and discuss with the Phillies and Major League Baseball the use of Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities fields in exchange for Temple teams running youth clinics. Men's gymnastics already runs clinics in the community to universal acclaim. All teams should do the same. (After all, student athletics is not only about competition but also about good citizenship.)

• Move $702,000 in scholarship money from the men to the women (average of $4,500 from each of the 156 men's scholarships - all except football and basketball) as each athlete currently receiving funds graduates. This resolves the Title IX inequity caused by paying male athletes $5,781,258 ($19,465 each) and female athletes $4,176,737 ($14,970).

Adopting a realistic and results-focused plan along these lines can make Temple the example to follow nationwide.

However, while I hope the administration has the courage to embrace this or similar solutions, I fear, instead, that it will devote significant resources to attacking it. Simply put, shutting down these programs is a case of a desired outcome in search of an excuse that leaves us all the poorer, not only for the loss of valued programs, but also because Temple's governing body has sacrificed not just seven teams but its integrity.

In the end, when those who govern do not trust us enough to tell the truth and allow us to help develop solutions to problems (real or made up), we all suffer.


Susan Borschel is a Washington-based lawyer and mother of a Temple University gymnast

Susan Borschel
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