Three women’s sports programs at the College of William & Mary were reinstated last week.
This week, the NCAA Division I university in Williamsburg, Virginia announced that “an anonymous alumna has stepped forward with a $1.5 million challenge gift for women’s athletics scholarships. The gift will further advance the university’s efforts to ensure gender balance and equity among its student-athletes.”
The gift comes amid an interesting fall at William & Mary, which announced Sept. 3 that it was dropping men’s and women’s gymnastics, men’s and women’s swimming, women’s volleyball and men’s track and field. The college’s press release was discovered to be plagiarized from Stanford’s similar announcement, which caused consternation that led in part to former director of athletics Samantha Huge resigning on Oct. 6.
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Jeremy Martin stepped in as interim director of athletics and met with every program before the university announced Oct. 19 that the three cut women’s sports — gymnastics, swimming and volleyball — were being immediately reinstated.
Related content: William & Mary Reinstates Three Women’s Sports
They’ll have increased support going forward. The anonymous alumna, a William & Mary Foundation trustee, is hoping to encourage others to donate. The university's press release stated that the goal is to raise $250,000 for women student-athlete scholarships in fiscal year 2022, $500,000 in fiscal year 2023 and $750,000 in fiscal year 2024.
"The pandemic has tested all of us, including on our ability to make tough decisions and to do what is necessary to overcome some of the greatest challenges we might experience in our lifetime,” the alumna was quoted in the announcement. “I made this gift in honor of President (Katherine) Rowe, both for her leadership of our university during an extremely challenging time and for her efforts to ensure its long-term success.
"I am fully confident that her unwavering commitment to equity will elevate the experience for all athletes and enable the university to come out of this stronger and in a better place than ever before.”
William & Mary awarded about 172 scholarship equivalencies to student-athletes in 2019, almost 33 percent less than the allowable 258 the NCAA allowed. In the 2021 fiscal year, William & Mary expects to award $9.1 million in athletics scholarships.
"This gift and all of the matching funds will put our women and men athletes on a more level playing field. I am so thankful to our beloved alumna for her visionary support as we navigate a more equitable path forward," Rowe said. "Scholarships are about opportunity. They make it possible for academically and athletically talented students from all backgrounds to thrive at William & Mary."
The athletic review is still ongoing at William & Mary, which in September said the best-case scenario for the 2021 fiscal year is a $3.2 million deficit.
"W&M Athletics faces significant budget shortfalls. The donations upon which we depend to operate and the scholarships that we provide for our athletes are vital — this gift is vital," Martin said. "We are committed to doing everything we can to support our incredible student-athletes and recognize we have further to go.”
A group of women’s track and field athletes have reportedly said they won’t run under the current situation, writing a letter to the school’s administration saying they won’t compete until the men’s team is also reinstated.
“We recognize the very substantial challenge but are committed to engaging those who bring substantive solutions,” Martin said earlier this month, 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.”
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