This Saturday, the 8th-ranked men’s gymnastics team comes face-to-face with Temple for what will probably be the last meet against the Owls.
The Temple Owls Men’s Gymnastics was one of seven varsity sports to be cut from Temple’s athletic program in December of 2013. Effective July 1, men’s gymnastics, along with baseball, men’s crew, men’s indoor and outdoor track and field, softball, and women’s rowing will cease to be varsity sports funded by Temple’s Athletic Department.
As much as Penn State and Temple have upheld an ongoing rivalry of sorts, the loss of Temple’s men’s gymnastics program is tragic to the sport’s chances of survival in the NCAA in the future.
For those less aware of the history of collegiate men’s gymnastics, allow me to give you a quick rundown. In 1969, there were 230 schools that sponsored NCAA men’s gymnastics. Upon the introduction of Title IX in 1972 as a means of gender equality, men’s gymnastics has taken a sharp blow. Out of those 230 men’s gymnastics programs that once existed, only 16 Division I Men’s Gymnastics teams in the NCAA exist today. Losing Temple means that come July, only 15 teams will exist in the sport.
John Leonard, co-captain of the Temple Men’s Gymnastics team, explained via e-mail that unlike the teams cut throughout the decades, Title IX is not the reasoning behind the cut.
“After the proposed cuts, [the gender distribution of student athletes]will now be 43 percent male and 57 percent female. Bringing back gymnastics will bring it to 46 percent male athlete representation. Before the cuts, Temple has been out of compliance with title IX for over two decades,” Leonard explained.
According to Adrian Evans, senior and captain of the Penn State Men’s Gymnastics Team, losing Temple in the NCAA is not just a matter of having one less competitor. Evans explained that each loss of a men’s gymnastics program is a threat to the collegiate sport as a whole.
“The real fear is that if the team gets dropped, there will eventually only be two conferences.”
Unlike football, men’s gymnastics only has three conferences: the Big Ten, the Eastern Intercollegiate Gymnastics League (EIGL), and the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF). Temple, a part of the EIGL, is the reigning champion of the conference for two years running. With the loss of the strongest team in the league, the security of EIGL’s existence is definitely questionable.
Call me a pessimist, realist, passionate collegiate men’s gymnastics enthused sociopath, but suppose the EIGL were to cease, leaving just the Big Ten and the MPSF. Within the MPSF, the University of California at Berkeley’s men’s gymnastics team faced similar cuts to Temple just in 2011. Luckily for the Golden Bears, community support was able to raise $2.5 million to reinstate the team for a few more years, but that is beside the point.
My point is that the threat of losing NCAA sponsored men’s gymnastics programs across the nation is very real. Fortunately for Penn State, with the Big Ten having the most solid of men’s gymnastics programs, it is far less likely for any of the Big Ten teams to be cut in the near future. However, programs being cut on either side of the country may ultimately result in the Big Ten being the only conference left, and you know what that means: no reason to have an NCAA Championship. No NCAA Championship means no need for the NCAA to sponsor that sport.
An online petition,as well as a “Keep Calm and Save Gymnastics” T-shirt sale is ongoing to gather support for Temple. According to Leonard, fundraising will not officially begin until the Board of Trustees sets an amount of money to reinstate the program.
“Right now, our main goal is to perform well at meets, perform well in the classroom, and pack our home meets with fans.”
“The main point we are trying to make is Temple Gymnastics only takes up 0.7 percent of the athletic budget. We have an overall winning record and the best team GPA out of Temple sports and sometimes the NCAA. We are a shining example of what it means to be a Temple athlete, and we are being cut for 0.7 percent.”
Penn State will face the Temple Owls in a double duel in which the women’s team will face Nebraska on Saturday at Rec Hall at 4 p.m.