The “Save Temple Athletics” Facebook group intends to “help save all 7 teams that have been cut from Temple University Athletics.”
Temple University junior Nick Lustrino said the school’s athletic director told his baseball coach this would be the team’s year.
But before their season even began, the school announced the baseball program would be one of seven varsity teams cut in July 2014 because its athletic department is underfunded.
The proposed cuts blindsided the 150 student athletes and nine coaches who will lose their team, and now they are banning together with alumni and other supportive university members to fight for their teams and demand answers.
“I’m waiting to wake up from a dream,” Lustrino said. “It was really a surprise.”
The announcement came just before students began finals.
Lustrino said he and his teammates immediately began calling former coaches and parents, trying to figure out their options. Currently, several petitions are circulating on social media for the teams, and at least one has more than 1,000 signatures to date.
A Facebook group called “Save Temple Athletics” has more than 4,000 members.
The cuts will affect the baseball, softball, men’s gymnastics, men’s and women’s rowing, men’s indoor track and men’s outdoor track and field teams.
Although Temple will continue to honor the scholarships for the athletes affected by the cuts, students were given the option to transfer to other universities without having to sit out for a year.
Lustrino said when he first heard the news, he and his teammates didn’t know if it would be their last week at Temple.
Shawn Casey, a former Temple softball player who graduated in 2007, wrote a letter to the University after hearing the news of the cuts.
She said she understands “budgets are budgets,” but she said the decision was not handled with compassion and would like to see the university communicate more with the student athletes and coaches.
She said she was pleased to teams’ united front.
“The worst thing that could happen would be for students to try to save one program verses another,” she said. “I think at this point it’s just a matter of remembering the history of those programs and fighting for what we can.”
On Tuesday night, athletes from several different teams attended a board of trustees meeting, trying to talk to the board and get answers.
Lustrino said many left feeling dissatisfied.
The university has posted a list of answers to frequently asked questions about the reduction on its website, citing student-athlete welfare, financial commitments, facilities and Title IX as the reasons for the athletics reduction.
According to the website, the seven sports that are being eliminated were chosen because the school lacked proper facilities and to address a Title IX spending imbalance.
The athletics program plans to use the money it saves to improve academic support for student athletes, fully fund all NCAA permitted scholarships in the women’s programs, and invest in under-funded Olympic programs.
Boston College Prof. Warren Zola is an expert on the business of college sports.
He said over the past two decades, conference changes and what he calls the “recruiting arms race” have caused financial problems for athletic programs that aren’t in powerhouse conferences.
At schools in what he calls the five “powerhouse conferences,” revenue from televised football can cover these costs.
However, at schools in smaller conferences where football programs can’t generate enough revenue to cover other sports, departments need to start cutting costs. He said as conferences realign and teams have to travel farther to games, expenses increase. As competition to recruit more athletes also increases, schools have to spend more on facilities.
At nearby Drexel University, the women’s crew team all signed a petition in support of the teams at Temple.
Co-captain Colleen Delaney said the decision struck a cord with the team not just because they compete against Temple and many rowed on the same teams in high school, but because her team knows how expensive it is to have a rowing program and how it does not generate much revenue.
“We know and we don’t take for granted that we are one of the most expensive programs,” she said. “We could easily be in their shoes too.”
Currently, Lustrino said the baseball team is waiting for their coach to plan their next move to try to save the program. He said they have had a lot of support from alumni and the community. Although the future is uncertain for the team, he knows he will be back at Temple in the spring.
“I don’t think this is over,” he said. “We’re definitely going to fight this thing.”
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