Columnists, Sports

The Blue Line: Are small college sports safe?

This past semester, Temple University in Philadelphia robbed over 200 student athletes of their dreams and also took the jobs of nine head coaches. After cutting seven teams —five men’s and two women’s — Temple’s approximate $44 million athletic budget was lowered by less than $4 million.

The practice facility of Temple’s 2-10 football team was completely renovated for a whopping $10 million, or two-and-a-half times the combined budgets of Temple’s baseball, softball, men’s and women’s rowing, men’s gymnastics and men’s indoor and outdoor track and field.

From a business standpoint, the crew program cannot be compared to the football or basketball program. TU basketball makes the NCAA tournament on a regular basis, and Temple’s football, although pitiful last season, has been on the rise since coach Al Golden turned the football program around when he was appointed in late 2005. Although the men’s crew team hasn’t lost at the Dad Vail Regatta since 2000, it simply cannot compete with the revenue that a football team can create.

In fact, Temple men and women’s crew operated out of tents, and lacked basic commodities like plumbing and heating. A new boathouse would have cost over $25 million, which is over half the university’s operating athletic budget. While lacking the boathouse, the rowers were not bothered in the slightest.

“Plumbing is cool, heating is cool, but that’s not what gets you over the finish line. The tents make us tougher,” said senior rower Allison Watkins.

I completely understand that budget cuts and tough decisions alike must be made, especially with regards to Title IX, the federal law authorizing gender equality in federally funded establishments. However, I am both irritated and puzzled by Temple’s decision to cut one of its most champion and prestigious teams.

Despite lacking a boathouse, the men’s crew team has won 13-straight Regatta races, which is the largest intercollegiate rowing competition in the country. The crew program has produced numerous Olympic competitors, including Jason Read, who was on the Men’s Eight that set the world record in Athens in 2004.

Coach Gavin White, who led Temple to 20 championships at the Regatta in his 34 years of service, was crushed.

“Nobody would look me in the eye,” Gavin said after the cuts. “It felt like I was walking into my own funeral.”

Aside from the fact that the crew team has been a complete success, Philadelphia is quite the rowing city. If you were to take a train out of Philly, you would more than likely see “Boathouse Row”, or, a line of 15 Victorian boathouses on the banks of the Schuylkill River. And with other excellent crew programs at the University of Pennsylvania and Drexel University, college rowing in Philadelphia is highly competitive.

So, if a sport like rowing wasn’t safe at a school with a phenomenal program, in a city that can arguably be called the rowing capital of the United States, then should smaller sports be worried? Sadly, yes.

The current trend is to cut non-revenue creating sports. Rutgers University cut six varsity programs in 2006 and the University of Maryland got rid of seven sports programs in 2012. Robert Morris University announced that seven varsity teams would be dismembered the same week Temple announced its cuts.

At Boston University, where there is no football team, and where the basketball team does not have a very large fan base, I highly doubt that either of the crew programs will be going anywhere anytime soon. After all, BU just recently spent quite a large sum on the DeWolfe boathouse. However, we too still feel the pain of program cuts.

The men’s wrestling team will compete for the last time this year. The decision to cut wrestling was made in the spring, or more specifically on April 1. While many like junior wrester Peter Ishiguro believed the announcement was a joke, it sadly wasn’t.

BU wrestling resembles the Temple rowing in two ways. Primarily, BU wrestling was always competitive. During Coach Carl Adams’ 32-year term, the Terriers have competed in the NCAA Tournament all but once. Secondly, the total budget of the wrestling program is a mere $187,000, and the lockers the team uses are hand-me-downs from the field hockey team.

At bigger schools, which have football, basketball and several minor sports, participants in programs like rowing, softball and baseball should be concerned. High school rowing and wrestling recruits should carefully contemplate the longevity of their respective programs at each school they consider before committing.

I hope I am wrong, but I truly feel that more and more schools will be cutting sports that cannot generate revenue like basketball and football do. Though I hope schools don’t make cuts, I’m not optimistic about the future.


  1. Please note that the 25 million for a new boathouse was a lie put out by Temple. The worst-case scenario would be 10 million for a new boathouse or renovating a condemned canoe house, but for less than a million (for renovations), Temple Rowing could have moved onto historic Boathouse Row as Drexel did several years ago (as an equal partner with a historic club).

  2. Temple rowing has indeed lost in recent years at the Dad Vail. Not that it should make a difference, but in recent years, they haven’t even necessarily made the final of the Varsity Eight. Every program goes through ups and downs, and it doesn’t mean there’s no inherent worth to them when they’re in a valley. But this has nothing to do with why or why not administrators choose to cut sports, we’re all on the chopping block, whether we’re good or whether we’re not.

  3. Nice article, but your comments on Temple crew are not accurate. Temple has not been a leading Dad Vail crew for many years now. Drexel owns the Schuylkill River these days.