The Norman Transcript

Sports

December 22, 2013

Cutting sports from budget concerns a growing trend at major colleges

(Continued)

NORMAN —

Now he may get one or the other, but not both.

“I wouldn’t want to go anywhere else but Temple,” Eigner said. “Gymnastics is a big part of my life. Competing collegiately is a big goal of mine. For our team, gymnastics is really a part of our identities. If you take away the opportunity, you’re affecting who we are as individuals.”

A growing number of whom are finding themselves forced to choose between staying in school or competing elsewhere after their programs are dissolved to help other sports deal with geographically confounding — if more lucrative — conference alignments, increased travel budgets and coach salaries.

Rutgers did it in 2007. Maryland followed suit in 2012. It’s not just the schools in power conferences either. Robert Morris, which plays in the Northeastern Conference, is trimming seven sports in 2014. Spelman College, a Division III historically black women’s college in Atlanta, dropped intercollegiate athletics altogether this year in favor of a health and fitness program designed to benefit all 2,100 students. Though some schools are expanding — Duke announced recently it is adding softball in 2018 — the Blue Devils are a deep-pocketed exception.

While athletic departments at the Division I level aren’t going anywhere, schools that opt to downsize are faced with thorny questions. The biggest is the notion that athletes in one sport are more valuable to the school — and vice versa — than athletes in another.

“It’s a football thing and chasing the dollars,” said Turoff, who has led Temple men’s gymnastics to 18 Eastern Intercollegiate Gymnastics League titles. “But there’s nowhere in the mission statement of the athletic department that its goal is to raise money.

“It’s to give opportunity to student athletes.”

Robert Morris athletic director Craig Coleman isn’t quite so sure that’s a fair assessment. Like Clark at Temple and Maryland athletic director Kevin Anderson, Coleman stressed the school’s decision-making is designed to do a better job of providing a level playing field for the sports it does offer.

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