Women’s gymnastics, swimming and volleyball aren’t going anywhere at the College of William & Mary.
The NCAA Division I university in Williamsburg, Virginia, announced Monday that it was reinstating those three sports about a month and a half after a Sept. 3 announcement that they were being dropped along with men’s gymnastics, swimming and track and field. There is still no path forward for the men’s programs, while the women’s teams are being reinstated in order to comply with Title IX standards.
“After a detailed review, Interim Director of Athletics Jeremy Martin concluded that attainment of the anticipated roster adjustments was uncertain and the plan would not achieve equity in participation by next fall,” William & Mary’s release reads. “To bring about decisive progress more swiftly, the three women’s sports would need to be restored.
“The university wants those teams to thrive and will treat them equitably with other varsity teams at the university. By reinstating these sports, William & Mary will make significant progress toward achieving equity in participation in 2021-22. Completing that progress will require reduction in the men’s program via roster management and retaining the current cuts to the men’s teams, or a swift and significant increase in participation opportunities for women, or both.”
The original plan was announced by former director of athletics Samantha Huge, who resigned Oct. 6 after she was accused of plagiarizing a Stanford press release and right before William & Mary’s Arts & Sciences Faculty was set to vote on a motion of “no-confidence” in her leadership.
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“The costs associated with operating a department that sponsors 23 varsity teams — and what is now required for them to excel at a high level — have grown dramatically over time,” read William & Mary’s initial announcement read, noting that William & Mary’s best-case scenario for the 2021 fiscal year was a $3.2 million deficit. “These have become unsustainable. The pandemic has made these budget constraints acute and has brought us to a point of reckoning.”
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The university projected that cutting seven sports would eventually save $3.66 million annually. However, according to Bailey & Glasser, LLP, Arthur Bryant, lead counsel for the women student-athletes, wrote to William & Mary president Katherine Rowe on Sept. 23 to tell her that eliminating three women’s teams violated Title IX. Bryant wrote that Bailey & Glasser would file a class action lawsuit in federal court.
That, along with Huge’s resignation, led William & Mary to conduct a review of the entire athletic program.
“Now it is clear to me that a new approach is necessary,” Rowe said after Huge’s departure. “Accordingly, Director Huge and I have mutually agreed that it is best to part ways so the university can focus on the critical questions facing W&M Athletics.”
Martin began to meet with every William & Mary team to find the best way forward. That review process will continue even after Monday’s reinstatements.
“While the adjustments to the plan announced on Oct. 19, 2020, reinforce William & Mary's wholehearted commitment to gender equity, the university recognizes that the Sept. 3 plan raised broader concerns that still need to be addressed,” the university’s timeline reads. “Interim Athletics Director Jeremy Martin is outlining a calendar to work swiftly through each core issue and will continue his planned moderated conversations via videoconference over the coming weeks. The work he is charting includes a path to financial stability, for which the department must find a sustainable, long-term solution. As a public institution in the Commonwealth of Virginia, intercollegiate athletics must be self-supporting, so sustainable funding from our donor community and increased revenue generation for every sport will be critical.”
“We recognize the very substantial challenge but are committed to engaging those who bring substantive solutions,” Martin said, noting there’s no easy pathway to reinstate the four suspended men’s programs. “Consistent with our phased approach to decision making under COVID-19, we will move swiftly to lay out the challenge and arrive at a decision for the 2021-2022 academic year.”
“This is a major victory for gender equity, everyone at William & Mary, and all who care about fairness and the law,” reads a statement from Bryant of Bailey & Glasser’s Oakland, Calif. office. “The school has decided to do the right thing: reinstate the women’s gymnastics, swimming, and volleyball teams; create a detailed plan to ensure gender equity; and commit to get into compliance with all aspects of Title IX in two years. The women student-athletes at William & Mary are finally going to get the equal treatment they deserve — and the law requires.”
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