The group that is organizing to attempt to save the William & Mary swimming program has launched a website and begun soliciting donations in an attempt to save their swimming & diving program.
According to program alumnus Jaimie Miller, who is among those taking a leadership roll in the group’s effort, the goal is to raise about $4.5 million.
Those donations, along with an existing $3 million endowment, would fully cover the annual operating cost for the program, the group estimates.
The existing endowment, which was established after the school began talking about cutting the program during the 1990-1991 season, was set up when a group of non-swimming William & Mary donors agreed to match donations made by those directly interested in the swimming program.
Miller says that while some small portions of that endowment will be returned to donors or sent to certain academic departments once the swim team is cut, the majority of it will go into the general athletics fund, which athletics director Samantha Huge would have discretion over.
As Miller breaks things down, William & Mary’s program (men and women combined) has about $450,000 in operating costs. That includes coaches’ salaries and benefits and travel; the team doesn’t offer athletics scholarships. While the pool that the team trains out of is owned by the rec sports department, Miller says that rec sports is not charging athletics for its use.
At present, the team is drawing about $118,000 from the endowment annually – which at about 3.9% of its total value is less than its average return, which means the principle of the endowment remains in-tact.
The school is also receiving another $150,000-per-year in donations (as high as $192,000 last year).
Based on those numbers, the school’s annual burden is about $180,000 for the cost of running both the men’s and women’s swimming & diving team.
Miller believes that with $4.5 million in donations, which they are soliciting both from the swimming community as well as a network of potential donors within the broader William & Mary network, the school would not be able to use the cost burden of the program as justification for cutting it anymore.
There is a matter of a strain on facilities like weight rooms with the number of programs being supported by a relatively-small Division I school, but with a $57 million renovation announced earlier this year to Kaplan Arena, which is to include a new Sports Performance Center, Miller thinks that problem is temporary, at best.
She believes that Samantha Huge, William & Mary’s athletics director, has a vision of the school’s athletics program that would see it built into a traditional football and basketball powerhouse, but Miller says that this is a misunderstanding of the school’s culture.
“There is no ‘football Saturdays’ here,” Miller said. “Students don’t come to William & Mary for the powerhouse football program.”
With almost $31,000 in pledges recorded on the website on the first day, the Tribe’s effort has begun, though it is still a long road to their goal.
Besides the fundraising, the site also serves as a poignant memorial for what the alumni are fighting for: the history of the program.
- 9-time CAA Championship team
- 4 NCAA Championship participants
- 3 NCAA All-Americans
- 53 AIAW All-Americans
- 13 Olympic Trials Qualifiers
- 17 members of W&M Athletics Hall of Fame
- 121 Individual Event CAA Champions
- 64 CAA Championship Relays
- 9 CAA Swimmers of the Meet
- 6 CAA Swimmers of the Year
- 9 CAA Rookies of the Meet
- 11 CAA Coaches of the Year
- 62-time Scholar All-American team (including last 17 consecutive semesters for men and last 22 for women)
- 1 Rhodes Scholar
- 10 Phi Beta Kappa inductees
- Team GPA Fall 2019: 3.39 Men, 3.34 Women
- 2 all-sports CAA Scholar-Athletes of the Year
- 20 team members earned Provost Award in 2020 for Cumulative GPA over 3.50
- Wally Riley Memorial Cancer Swim is now in its 44th year of existence.
- The team continues to volunteer its time every year for the annual Kiwanis Shrimp Feast, amassing about 180 hours of service in one weekend.
- Team members have been active in the Williamsburg Special Olympics and in reading in local elementary schools.
- Several team members have held important leadership positions in Camp Kesem at W&M. Camp Kesem is a unique experience designed for children whose lives have been affected by a parent’s cancer provided at no cost to the children or their family.