Rowing supporters turn out to protest planned Temple cut

Ferdinand Bergen and his year-old son, Christian, with medals he won as a member of the Temple rowing team. Bernard Kiefer brought his, too.
Ferdinand Bergen and his year-old son, Christian, with medals he won as a member of the Temple rowing team. Bernard Kiefer brought his, too. (APRIL SAUL / Staff Photographer)
Posted: December 16, 2013

Scott Brodie went to Temple on a rowing scholarship from his native Canada in the early 1990s. Now, the rowing program that helped him earn a spot on Canada's rowing team when it finished just short of winning a bronze medal in the 1996 Olympics is getting cut.

"It's sad that it always comes down to numbers and not the people whose lives it's changed and will change," Brodie said.

About 150 past and present crew members, their friends, and relatives from across the country gathered on the Schuylkill on Saturday morning to show their displeasure with Temple's recent decision to cut the men's and women's rowing teams. They stood among snow flurries with the dozens and dozens of medals, trophies, and plaques the teams have won throughout the years.

"We want to show people, hopefully, how much we'll be missed," said men's coach Gavin White, who has been at Temple for more than three decades. "We always tell the kids: What doesn't kill you makes you stronger."

Along with the rowing teams, Temple cut baseball, softball, men's gymnastics, men's indoor track, and spring track and field, effective at the end of the season. Temple targeted the sports for cost reasons, its athletic director, Kevin G. Clark, said. Temple loses $7 million every year on athletics.

Over the last few days, an online petition called "Save Temple Rowing Teams" has collected more than 11,700 signatures from across the country and around the world. The rowing program wants to try to keep the sport at Temple by leveraging community support, raising money, and petitioning the state.

"We will not go quietly into the night," said the rowing "team mom," Janice "Mama" Sbei. "I'll do whatever I have to do to keep them on the river."

Nearly two dozen students had signed on to join the rowing teams. Their future and current students' futures are uncertain.

"I'm one of those people who planned out my whole life," freshman rower Imani Johnson said. "I don't know what to do. I'm in denial."

She said she hoped to earn a scholarship. "But now it's not going to happen," she said.

Members of the Villanova, St. Joseph's, La Salle, and Drexel crew teams also came out to support the Temple program. "You want to beat them on the river, not because of financial issues," said sophomore Marqus Brown, a member of La Salle's crew team.

Luisa Magda, a coxswain from 1988 to 1991, went to Temple on a scholarship. "That was my whole life," she said. "That was my identity."


mbond@philly.com

610-313-8105 @MichaelleBond

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