NORMAN — The meeting was brief. A few minutes tops.
Temple athletic director Kevin Clark didn’t mince words. Standing inside the football team’s indoor practice facility earlier this month, Clark scanned the crowd of dozens of student-athletes — none of them football players — and told them the financially strapped athletic department was cutting their sport at the end of the 2013-14 academic year.
There weren’t a lot of details. No lengthy question and answer session. Sitting alongside his 16 teammates on the men’s gymnastics team, sophomore Evan Eigner sat in stunned silence.
“When I heard the news,” Eigner said, “I kind of went numb a little bit.”
Temple’s announcement that it’s going from 24 sports to 17 next fall, a move that will eventually save about $3-3.5 million a year, was just the latest in a growing line of colleges and universities that are reshaping overextended athletic programs by shuttering smaller sports to help make those that remain — particularly those designed to bring in revenue — more competitive.
To be honest, Eigner still isn’t sure what happened. He understood the athletic department was in a tight spot money-wise. He knew there had been talk about changes and the threat of cuts. It was all just white noise until suddenly, it became only too real.
He heard the part where Clark said the school would honor all of the scholarships for the affected student athletes until they graduated. He heard the part where Clark said the school would do what it could to find new athletic homes for those wishing to transfer.
Eigner just didn’t hear what he would consider a sensible argument for cutting a program that takes up a small fraction of the athletic department budget yet nets conference championships. He grew up wanting to compete at Temple, where his stepfather Fred Turoff has been coach since 1976. He grew up wanting to walk out of his graduation ceremony with a degree in hand and four years of college gymnastics under his belt.