Temple men's gymnastics goes out with a bang
Signs floated around, one propped against a chair – “Save Men’s Gymnastics.” From the energy in McGonigle Hall, you wouldn’t have known it was in any danger.
Like baseball, softball, men's and women’s rowing, men’s track and field, and indoor track, gymnastics was deemed unworthy of Temple’s funding weeks ago. This season, it seemed, would be their last. The university held a death panel for coaches from each team to speak for 15 minutes on why their programs shouldn’t be cut.
That glimmer of hope is all they have left for now, but on Saturday night, the Owls gymnastics team planned to put on a show just the same.
Team co-captain John Leonard, sidelined with an elbow injury, celebrated his final bound into McGonigle Hall. As a senior, this was his last trip, regardless of Temple’s gutting.
“It was pretty emotional, kind of nostalgic,” he admits. “At times, it is [difficult to stay positive]. When we’re working out in the gym and after meets we kind of pretend like we’re not getting cut. We’re trying to just do our routines well and get good grades in class. We’re trying our best … there’s just nothing we can do right now to stop the cut.”
When it came to trying to stave off the elimination of their program, which has won two conference championships during leonard's tenure, the men’s gymnastics team showed the same dedication they’d had before the team was being threatened with destruction.
“We do everything right, we do community service, we do everything they ask of us and more,” says Leonard. “We raise all our own money. We’ve done everything they’ve asked us to do, and they’re cutting us, even though we cost them 0.7% of their total athletics budget. I think we’re a good example of what it’s like to be a student athlete at Temple, and we cost very little. Getting rid of that to save 0.7% seems silly to me.”
Leonard isn’t the only one who finds the move silly. The final home meet drew the largest crowd the team had ever seen, and offered a kind of solace for a squad feeling powerless to their own demise. For gymnasts unlike Leonard, who would still be on the team should it still exist next season, the co-captain could only offer the same advice he’d given them from day one.
“I told them to not worry about the cuts, there’s nothing they can do about them now. I just want them in the gym, working hard,” he says. For the university, he has polite disagreement. “I think they’re making a mistake,” Leonard digresses. “But I might be biased.”