AT PEARSON Hall last night, students on Temple's men's gymnastics team trained as usual on the horse and rings under the watchful eye of coach Fred Turoff.

But the day was far from ordinary. Hours earlier, team members learned that their sport was one of seven varsity sports being cut by the university.

"It was devastating to my team," Turoff, head coach for 38 years and assistant coach for another 6, said last night. He also was on the team in the 1960s.

The young men, some with muscles bulging as they twisted and rotated on the gym equipment, weren't afraid to say they had cried at the news about the cuts.

"There wasn't a dry eye in the place," said Colton Howard, 20, and a junior who still has 3 years of eligibility.

Casey Polizzotto, a 19-year-old freshman from Colorado, said that, at first, he was worried about his scholarship - but students were told they would get to keep all athletic scholarships as long as they maintained the grades and rules just as they are required to when their sport is part of the NCAA program.

"I couldn't afford to stay here as an out-of-state student," Polizzotto said.

Team co-captain John Leonard said, "It was a big shock."

Leonard, 23, is a senior and graduates in May.

But he said he is hopeful the team can raise money to continue to compete.

At the University of California at Berkeley, the gymnastics team "was put on the chopping block 2 years ago," but managed to survive by raising money.

"We hope we can do the same thing," he said.

The students were training because they still have a season left to compete as a team - the cuts are not effective until the end of June.

Turoff said there is a possibility that some of the sports can continue as club teams, as opposed to varsity NCAA teams.

Ali Watkins, 22, a senior on the women's rowing team, said in a telephone interview last night that all student-athletes were told to report for a mandatory meeting yesterday.

But the students on the seven sports being cut looked around the Student Pavilion, she said, and started to wonder: "Where's the football team? Where's the basketball team?"

Watkins said it took only 10 minutes at the meeting for Temple athletic director Kevin Clark to tell the students their sports were being cut.

"The real difficult part was everyone was totally blindsided," Watkins said. "The prevailing emotion was just shock and disbelief."

She said the university may see this only as athletic programs being cut, but "it was seven families that just had bombs dropped on them."

Watkins and other athletes said the fact that students may keep their scholarships isn't as important what being on a team means to each athlete.

As a senior, Watkins will get to continue to row her final year. But, she said, it is difficult to "watch all these younger girls who are our sisters struggle and know they won't have the same experience, the same family experience, we have had."

Temple just recently bought new boats for the rowers: one eight-seater, two four-seaters and two doubles.

"When we go out in the water come March, we're going to be working hard for each other as a rowing family," she said.

"This is much bigger than doing it for Cherry and White right now," she continued, referring to the university teams' colors.

"We are not going out there for them, for Temple. This is about our family. We are going to row hard for each other," she said. "That's who we are going to go out and win for."

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