Temple To Cut Baseball After 2014 Season

Citing costs and Title IX compliance, Temple announced Friday that it will cut seven sports—including baseball—after the 2013-14 academic year.

Five men’s sports (baseball, crew, gymnastics, outdoor track & field and indoor track & field) plus two women’s sports (softball and rowing) will be eliminated, bringing the school’s total from 24 to 17 varsity sports. The decision is a result of a seven-month analysis of Temple’s athletics situation.

“Temple does not have the resources to equip, staff and provide a positive competitive experience for 24 varsity sports,” Temple vice president and director of athletics Kevin Clark said in a release. “We need to have the right-sized program to create a sustainable model for Temple University Athletics moving forward.”

Team co-captain Matt Hockenberry, a senior righthander, tweeted after hearing the news, “I’m physically and emotionally shattered. Thanks for the support everyone.”

Last month, Temple announced that the baseball team will spend its first season as a member of the American Athletic Conference with a new home. The baseball team will play all but one of its home conference games at Campbell’s Field, home of the independent Camden Riversharks. The team will continue to play its nonconference games at Skip Wilson Field in Ambler, Pa.—about 15 miles north of campus.

Between the move to the new facility and the recruiting boost provided by switching to a stronger conference, Temple looked like a program with positive momentum under third-year head coach Ryan Wheeler. Back in October, Baseball America even featured the program, highlighting identical twin prospects Patrick and Eric Peterson. Righthander Adam Dian has also garnered interest from scouts, giving Temple a chance to be competitive in the AAC this spring.

But it looks like this season will be the program’s last hurrah. In an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer, Clark noted that baseball is one of the most expensive sports to maintain because of the travel, outfitting, equipment and number of games. And he cited Temple’s weather disadvantages in a sport dominated by programs in the South and West. Of course, programs such as Stony Brook, St. John’s, Indiana, Purdue and Kent State have led a Northern baseball surge over the last few years. But despite Temple’s progress under Wheeler, the Owls have had just one winning season and produced just four draft picks since Bobby Higginson was a 12th-round pick out of the school in 1992. So Temple’s baseball program wasn’t anywhere near being ready to make a Stony Brook-like postseason run.

This isn’t the first time baseball has been on the chopping block at Temple. Back in 1994, the baseball and gymnastics programs were eliminated but then reinstated by the Board of Trustees. Last fall, Towson announced it was cutting its baseball and men’s soccer programs, but the baseball program was saved in the spring, in part because the state stepped in and contributed $600,000 over two years to take the program off the chopping block through 2015. California’s program endured a similar test, as frantic fundraising efforts spared the Golden Bears from getting cut in the spring of 2011.

This move, coming at the tail end of a seven-month analysis, feels more irreversible. Temple has been out of compliance with Title IX for years, according to the Inquirer, with more male athletes than female athletes by about three percentage points, and 58 percent of its scholarship money going to men. Clark said these changes will put the school in compliance.

Clark’s recommendation to cut the seven sports has already been approved by the school’s president and board of trustees. President Neil D. Theobold pointed out that tightening budgets have resulted in unpopular decisions across the university, with cuts of more than $113 million in operations support in recent years.

But that doesn’t make it any easier for the 150 student-athletes and nine full-time coaches who will be affected by Friday’s cuts. The players, of course, will be allowed to transfer freely after the season without having to sit out a year. First, they will try to give Temple baseball—a program whose history includes a pair of College World Series appearances in 1972 and ’77, but just one regional trip since 1984—a memorable sendoff.