Silence On The Schuylkill, The End Of Temple Rowing

Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. It’s often said to be the rowing mecca of the United States. Home to the historic Schuylkill Navy and Boathouse Row. Home to the University of Pennsylvania, Saint Joseph’s, Lasalle and Drexel rowing. And for one last time, Temple University.

With the announcement this week from Temple’s board of trustees to cut seven varsity sports including their prestigious rowing team, the waters of the Schuylkill River will flow with a little less passion in the years following 2014.

As a coxswain of nine years now, any rowing-related news warrants special attention. It’s so uplifting to read about all the accomplishments this sport has seen over the past few years. Our humble national rowing community even saw the success of a purely crew-related novel, The Boys in the Boat, by Daniel James Brown hit the “Top Seller” list this past year. But out of all the success stories that cover the pages of Rowing News and that grace the social media newsfeeds courtesy of USRowing, there are those heart-breaking stories that no rower hopes to come across.

One of these stories is unfolding at Temple.

Temple University’s boathouse resides in the heart of this country’s rowing mecca. A tight-knit community home to some of the nation’s best athletes, coaches, and crews, Temple is also widely recognized as top choice university for young rowers to commit to. I understand that running a university is the same as running a business, but why Temple’s board of trustees didn’t even give head coach Dr. Gavin White (or any of the other head coaches) a head’s up until the decision was final is beyond me.

There is ample research that states it is more beneficial for a university to include a wide variety of sports.

Alumni donations mostly depend on how successful that team was during an athlete’s undergraduate career. If this statement holds true, I wonder how much money Temple just lost in future alumni donations from a rowing team that has won an outstanding twenty varsity championships and has sent countless athletes to the Olympic Games and the National Team.

Reports state that Temple will save roughly $3 million by cutting a third of their varsity sports teams, but what they will lose will all but outweigh that number.

Trying to stay positive, “going club” may not be the apocalypse for Temple Rowing. As a club sport, any donations to the crew team by alumni will be directly funneled into the rowing program and the decision on how to spend that money will be up to the coaches, not the university.

That money will also be there for immediate use by the program and projects such as a new boathouse will move along more quickly. Over the years, there have been a number of very successful club programs and, with the right fundraising and steady recruitment, Temple should be able to get through these dark days.

Though even if that’s the case, one need only look at universities who don’t field a varsity level team in some major sports to see that a drop-off in talent is inevitable, and continued nationally recognized athletes can be few and far between.

It’s heartbreaking to hear the loss of a successful rowing program that has already gone through tremendous obstacles and was coming off of a terrific fall season with a still young and prominent group comprised mostly of sophomores. And, just to add an extra stab in the back, the announcement of all this came just in time for final exams.

Student-athletes at Temple haven’t given up just yet, on December 11th over 100 packed into a board of trustees meeting at the university, only to be ignored and to watch the meeting adjourn without a moment of attention given.

A prestigious program has been pushed aside this week, and for what? Certainly not Temple football, a team that has been stuck in mediocrity from the Mid-American Conference to the American Athletic Conference.

Temple will make their last appearance on the Schuylkill at the Dad Vail Regatta this May, the largest intercollegiate rowing event in the United States dating back to 1934. Rest assured, the Owls will be ready to put on a show.

Author’s Note: If you happen to be in the Philadelphia area next Saturday, December 14th, stop by the old Temple boathouse to rally for the team and, of course, meet the legendary Coach Dr. Gavin White.

Audrey Strasenburgh

Audrey Strasenburgh

Associate Editor at The Chiefly
Born and raised in Rochester, NY, a graduate of St. Lawrence University with a passion for the sport of rowing. A current rowing coach, avid hiker and skier with the lifetime goal of sampling every beer ever made.
Audrey Strasenburgh
Audrey Strasenburgh
Audrey Strasenburgh
Audrey Strasenburgh

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