Temple Saves Men's, Women's Crew Programs

The school's men's and women's crew programs were reinstated by the Temple Board of Trustees.

Temple University officials say two sports programs that were previously dropped last year have been saved. The Temple Board of Trustees reinstated the men's and women's crew programs Monday.

"It is a subdued celebration," said Rebecca Grzybowski, head coach of women's rowing.

"I feel great for my kids," added Gavin White, head coach of the men's team. "But at the same time, I feel guilty."

Both coaches said the men's and women's rowing teams are sensitive to the fact that five other varsity sports are still scheduled to end in July.

In December 2013, Temple University officials announced the decision to drop the men's and women's crew program, along with baseball, softball, men's gymnastics, track and field, and indoor track and field, which affected 150 students and nine full-time coaches.

But a financial partnership between the City of Philadelphia and the Lenfest Foundation allowed school officials to remove the crew teams from the chopping block.

On Monday, Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter announced that the city committed $2.5 million to renovate the Temple Boathouse on Kelly Drive in East Fairmount Park, while the Lenfest Foundation committed $3 million.

The boathouse which stood along the banks of the Schuylkill River and was owned by the city, was condemned more than five years ago. Tents were constructed to hold the rowing equipment, but a winter storm crushed the structure and damaged equipment.

The university announced plans to build a new boathouse in March 2012, but those plans were withdrawn in the spring of this year. A Temple spokesman said a new boathouse would have required a $10 million investment.

The combined funding will provide renovated public restrooms, office and storage space for the Marine Police along with new lockers and boat storage for Temple's crew teams. The funds will also be used for landscaping and the rebuilding of the parking lot.

“The City of Philadelphia is blessed to have two beautiful rivers, one of which was named the 2014 River of the Year - the Schuylkill River,” said Mayor Nutter.  “The Schuylkill River and its amenities, namely the Boathouses and recreation trails, are iconic landmarks that make our great city unique.  It is incumbent upon us to preserve these historical treasures for future Philadelphians.  The City of Philadelphia thanks Mr. Lenfest and the Lenfest Foundation for understanding the importance of these amenities, and helping us secure and improve upon them.”

Temple University president Neil Theobald thanked both Mayor Nutter and Lenfest for their contributions.

“The renovation and improvements to the Canoe House will make it possible for Temple University to return men’s crew and women’s rowing to their former status as varsity sports," Theobald said.

Officials say Temple will have a long-term lease at the newly renovated boathouse. Once design plans are finalized, construction should last between 12 and 18 months.

In addition to the renovated boathouse, Nutter also announced that the city would allocate $1 million to repair a portion of the Schuylkill River retaining wall along Kelly Drive starting at the Strawberry Mansion Bridge and extending to the St. Joseph's University boathouse. The city is also using a combined $500,000 in grants from the Pennsylvania Department of Conservation & Natural Resources, Parks & Recreation and Water Department to install rain gardens along the Kelly Drive recreation trail to manage storm-water runoff.

With the reinstatement of the two sports programs and the ending of the other five, Temple will go from 24 varsity sports to 19.

In December, Temple officials claimed they were dropping the seven sports in order to concentrate on its Olympic sports programs.

"Temple does not have the resources to equip, staff, and provide a positive competitive experience for 24 varsity sports. Continuing this model does a disservice to our student-athletes," Kevin G. Clark, vice president and director of athletics, said in a statement on the school's website.

"We need to have the right-sized program to create a sustainable model for Temple University Athletics moving forward," he said.

Temple says the reduction would put the school in line with other universities in The American Athletic Conference, which the school participates.

Clark notified the affected student-athletes of the decision during a December 2013 meeting. One student, who recorded part of the announcement and posted it to YouTube, can be heard crying as he spoke.

Derek Peterson, senior captain and third baseman on Temple's baseball team, was also in attendance.

"I was obviously really hurt. It is an issue that is bigger than me personally," the 22-year-old said of the announcement. "The baseball program has had a lot of success here and there has been a team since the 1920s. There is a long legacy of baseball tradition here."

Athletes from the five teams the university still plans to drop and their supporters are still working to sway the school's decision.

Some headed to Harrisburg Tuesday to rally while the Pennsylvania State Senate's Appropriations committee met to vote on the budget for state related universities, including Temple.

Athletes from the crew teams did not plan to attend, but Gryzbowski says the rowers will continue to support the other five teams as they continue their fight.

"In December, we received an oupouring of support," Grzybowski said. "So now more than anybody else, we understand what it feels like to be on that side of the decision. [The student-athletes] see this as an opportunity to support their friends and fellow athletes."

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