After the announcement that seven sports were being cut at the end of the season back on September 3, including men’s and women’s swimming & diving, the William & Mary community has been working towards getting the programs reinstated.
Following both the news that athletics director Samantha Huge plagiarized the announcement of the sports being cut and that the women’s programs on the chopping block alleged a Title IX violation against the school, the Board of Visitors held a listening period last week where the community had up to two minutes to speak directly to the Board.
The session lasted over two hours, giving current swimmers the chance to let the Board know the effects of the decision on the team, along with presenting the facts on why the decision was wrong. The Board was reportedly upset after the session concluded with how the entire situation had been handled.
On Friday night, both President Katherine A. Rowe and Rector John E. Littel released statements indicating that they would be taking the next month to revisit the true meaning of “Division I competitiveness” and how it was applied as a reason to cut the programs.
“We need to dig more deeply into the assumptions made in that plan about competitiveness and what that means in a Division I context for the community now,” said Rowe. “We need to do that to ensure a shared understanding of what we mean by competitive excellence in intercollegiate athletics.
“We need to be open about the deep disagreements that we have about that and finish this conversation by listening to all of the voices in our community – students, alumni, faculty and staff – recognizing that our starting place is Division I.”
In terms of the campaign launched to save the swimming & diving programs, “Save Tribe Swimming”, alumnus Jaimie Miller says that they are “still actively looking for large donors who have made an impact at W&M in the past to get involved”.
To date, $1,085,207.13 has been raised, having surpassed the $1 million mark on September 18. The group’s stated goal at the September 7 launch was $4.5 million, an amount that the group estimated would fully cover the annual operating cost of the program, along with the existing $3 million endowment.
In a document released by the school, it’s indicated that in order to bring back the seven sports that were cut, an endowment of almost $150 million would be required. This includes a series of scholarships for each program, introducing two additional sports (softball and rowing) and adding several “associated support positions”.
Men’s swimming & diving does not offer scholarships, and the only women’s scholarship is being phased out at the end of the year, according to Miller.
“We have never had that sort of scholarship budget,” she said. “My assumption is that the administration released these numbers at such incredibly lofty points to discourage teams from trying to achieve self funding.
“One of the reasons our administration is arguing in favor of the cuts is surrounding the ‘Division I experience’, which in their mind needs to include numerous scholarships, and buckets of money to support fancy facilities and other miscellaneous costs that our current budget does not support (and is in no way needed to justify a winning program such as W&M men’s and women’s swimming).”
Softball and rowing are included in the list because, if the school were to reintroduce the seven sports that are being cut, they’re indicating they would need two more women’s teams to be Title IX compliant, Miller says. Of course, the letter sent last week to the President alleges that with the current cuts the school would not be Title IX compliant anyway.
The document says the men’s and women’s swimming & diving programs have a combined operating cost, including scholarships and salaries, of $1.96 million, while in reality the estimate is closer to $450,000.