William & Mary cuts seven of their Division 1 Sports

What that means for the athletes and remembering each sport’s legacy

~Matthew Morhiser, Sports Editor~

On September 3rd, the College of William & Mary issued a self-titled “open letter” to its community. The contents of the letter, issued by President Kathreine Rowe, Provost Peggy Agouris and Director of Athletics Samantha K. Huge, centered on the future of the university’s athletic department. 

In a decision based on financial concerns brought on by the omnipresent Coronavirus pandemic, seven of the university’s twenty-three sponsored varsity teams are scheduled to be terminated upon the completion of William & Mary’s 2020-2021 academic calendar. Among the canceled Division 1 sports for male athletes are Indoor and Outdoor Track & Field, Gymnastics and Swimming. Similarly, Women’s Gymnastics and Swimming have also been canceled for the university’s female athletes, and Women’s Volleyball marks the last of the canceled sport programs. 

According to TribeAthletics.com, the official website for William & Mary sports, 118 student athletes and 13 coaches and assistants are affected by the cancellations. Through a video conference meeting, all parties impacted were given the news, but they were also informed of the outlook for their immediate future. 

William & Mary, who like CNU, Old Dominion University and thousands of other universities across the United States, cancelled each of their planned fall sports for the semester out of concern for their athletes’ well-being. While the university has not released a statement on the guidelines of spring athletic events for athletes, coaches and fans, their open letter includes a statement saying they have all the intentions of letting sports “play out” next year. Of course, with the proper health and safety precautions in place. 

A soccer player at William & Mary. Photo by Jim Agnew

Along with baseball, softball and a potentially rescheduled football season, the previously listed cancelled sports will go on as scheduled for one final season. Each team will get to say their farewells before their competitions cease in June of 2021. 

The video conference’s participants were also notified that William & Mary would continue to honor any scholarship that an affected student athlete may be attending the university on. In addition, the students are still welcome to utilize all the academic resources and medical services that are afforded to them as athletes, and they will also have the university’s support if they choose to finish their college career in a different location if they find transferring to be their best option. 

With the termination of seven of William & Mary’s contending varsity sport programs, the university is closing their doors on a superabundant history of collegiate athletic excellence spanning nearly six decades. Each one of the cancelled programs have enjoyed some form of post-season success during their life span. 

For instance, the Men’s Track & Field team have accrued 32 championships during their existence. Men’s Gymnastics, despite never winning an NCAA National Championship, has held two individual national champions in gymnastic events. Scott McCall, from the graduating class of 1997, won an NCAA championship on the rings in 1996. A fellow William & Mary Hall of Fame inductee and gymnastics legend, Ramon Jackson, won a championship on the parallel bars seven years later in 2004. Additionally, Men’s Gymnastics have won thirteen USA Gymnastics Collegiate Championships and four Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) Championships. The Women’s Gymnastics team has also not been able to capture a NCAA National Championship, but they won six ECAC Championships as recently as 2015. 

The Men’s Swim team attended two straight NCAA Championships in 1985 and 1986, and swimmer Colin Wright was slated to compete at the 2020 NCAA Championships before it was canceled. In spite of their struggles and unfortunate luck on the national stage, the team have earned six Colonial Athletic Association (CAA) Championships, including this year’s award. The Women’s Swim team have won three CAA Championships of their own in 2007, 2016 and 2017. 

Lastly, the Women’s Volleyball team has eight CAA Championships to their name, and they officially qualified for the NCAA Tournament in 2001 after posting a record of 21-5. The team ran into Duke University in the first round, and they were eliminated after losing three games to none. 

Although William & Mary’s termination of these winning sports programs lies in financial instability and comes after months of budget manipulation and economic planning, the deeds and successes of the university’s current and former athletes should not go forgotten. 

As mentioned several times throughout the university’s open letter, they could no longer sustain twenty-three varsity sports any longer due to the Coronavirus pandemic’s forced restrictions. CNU, which acted originally as an extension of William & Mary, fields twenty sports teams of their own. While most, if not all, of CNU sports compete in the NCAA’s Division 3, William & Mary’s sudden drop of notable athletic programs should not be treated as an irregular blip on Virginia universities’ athletics future. 

Information compiled from TribeAthletics.com

To sign the petition for the reinstatement of the seven William & Mary sports, visit https://linktr.ee/savethetribe7.

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