Saturday, December 07, 2013

Temple University Cuts Seven Teams

On Friday, officials at Temple University announced that they were cutting seven athletic teams, reducing their varsity sport programs from 24 to 17.  The board of trustees made the decision recently at an emergency meeting, though it is also reported that it followed a "seven month detailed analysis."  According to a spokesperson, the motivation for cutting teams was the institution's inability to provide "the quality of student athlete care that we would like to have for a Division 1 athletic program with this amount of sports being sponsored" and that they also considered finances, facilities, and Title IX compliance.

I looked at Temple's reported athletics data in order to evaluate the likely role Title IX played in the decision.  Presently, the school's student body is 51.3% female, and it offers 49.2% of athletic opportunities to women.  These numbers are close enough that Temple could make a strong case for compliance with the proportionality prong.  So there's no basis to believe that Title IX played a strong role in the decision to make cuts in the first place.  In fact, the university's stated rationale of having too many teams, more than it can afford to maintain at a high level of quality, rings true given that 24 varsity programs is above average (20) for a Division I school in the Football Bowl Subdivision. 

Moreover, Temple's cuts affect both men's and women's teams: baseball, softball, men's and women's rowing, men's gymnastics, men's indoor track and field and men's outdoor track and field, a total of 172 for men and 84 opportunities for women, producing a distribution of athletic opportunities that are 59% female, 41% male.  If Title IX was a dominant consideration, the cuts would have stopped at a ratio much closer to 51.3% female, 49.2% male. 

Given the minor role that Title IX seems to have played, the cuts seem more likely to belie the speculation that Temple's new athletic administration is "betting big on football," which would explain the elimination of teams as way to redistribute financial support to it biggest team, which is losing both games (2-10) and money right now.