William & Mary’s Director of Athletics Samantha Huge steps down

Exploring the litigation, plagiarism claims, and positive COVID-19 tests that caused her sudden departure

~Matthew Morhiser, Sports Editor~

On Oct. sixth, The College of William & Mary’s (W&M) President, Katherine Rowe, announced their Director of Athletics Samantha Huge and herself had mutually come to the decision that it was in the best interest of the university if Huge stepped down after nearly three and a half years of holding her position. Huge succeeded former Tribe Athletic Director Terry Driscoll, who served W&M for 21 years after playing basketball professionally in the National Basketball Association, in early May of 2017. Prior to taking over in Williamsburg, Huge worked as the Associate Athletic Director for College Station’s Texas A&M University for over 60,000 students. The reason for Huge’s compromised departure lies in a pending lawsuit from a group of female student athletes who were affected by Huge’s cancellation of seven varsity sports on Sep. third of this year. 

Included in the cancellation were men’s and women’s gymnastics, men’s and women’s swimming, men’s and women’s track and field and women’s volleyball. The announcement of the cuts came in an open letter to the W&M community from Rowe, Huge and Provost Peggy Agouris. The letter stated the aforementioned sporting programs would play out the rest of their seasons, if permitted by the university in close consideration with precautions taken towards preventing the spread of the COVID-19 virus, but would ultimately conclude by the spring of 2021. Several available steps were listed for the affected student athletes to take, if they should so choose, regarding transferring to another university to play out the rest of their athletic eligibility. 

In spite of W&M’s efforts, the cancellations caused an uproar of objection and impouring of support for the student athletes. For instance, a petition on change.org was formed entitled “Save William & Mary Athletics” with over 20,000 signatures received over a one month span. The petition is part of a growing group of current and former students, parents of the students and all other members of W&M’s active community who act under the name “Save the Tribe 7.” The most significant action taken against the cancellation comes from the members of the discontinued female sports who have prepared to conduct a class action lawsuit against the university for breaking guarantees granted to female athletes in Title IX of the 1972 Education Amendments. Arthur H. Bryant, an Oakland attorney for Bailey & Glasser, LLP, sent a letter to President Rowe in which he voiced his support of the females and assistance with their potential litigations. 

In addition to the ever present legal movements looming over their heads, W&M has further fallen into hot water after their original open letter to the community announcing the revocation of the seven sports has drawn direct comparisons to a similar letter from California’s Stanford University. On July eighth, 2020, President Marc Tessier-Lavigne, Provost Persis Drell and Director of Athletics Bernard Muir issued a statement saying they could no longer sustain all of their 36 varsity teams. In accordance with their Board of Trustees, Stanford cut 11 of their programs due to financial constraints enhanced by the COVID-19 pandemic. W&M’s letter has been compared to Stanford’s due to mirrored word choice and structure, and some have even claimed complete plagiarization from W&M by inserting their particular details over Stanford’s. 

If receiving mountains of backlash for cutting the seven sports, being threatened with legal action for cutting said seven sports and having several newspaper publications write about how they plagiarized their open letter from another university’s address was not enough, 12 people who work closely with W&M athletics tested positive for COVID-19 two weeks ago. It is unclear if any students made up the 12 positive cases, but the university advised the 12 to self-isolate for 10 days under the watch of medical attendants. In addition, anyone who had come into contact with the 12 were advised to self-quarantine for two weeks. W&M suspended all athletic practices and sessions beginning Oct. seventh until an unspecified date. 

Dealing with all these setbacks is the interim Director of Athletics, Jeremy Martin. On Oct. second, W&M and Martin shared an article titled “A Shared Path Forward for William & Mary Athletics.” In the article, the university explained the immediate actions they would take in response to the recent national attention the college has been receiving. Their urgent steps included meeting with the Tribe Club Executive Committee and the seven athletic teams’ representatives to discuss financial frameworks that could be attempted in order for the university to accommodate the seven sports again. The article specifically lists Nov. eleventh as a deadline for any changes to be made since it falls in the early signing period for letters of intent. The article also promises more transparency from the Athletics Department moving forward. W&M’s next steps will be highly monitored over the next upcoming months. 

Lawsuit information obtained from: 

https://www.pilotonline.com/sports/college/william-mary/vp-sp-william-and-mary-sports-lawsuit-20200924-avw3ulypine6rbxc6w7fkufspi-story.html

https://www.nbcsports.com/washington/ncaa/william-mary-ad-samantha-huge-resigns-school-facing-potential-lawsuit

Terry Driscoll and Samantha Huge background obtained from: 

https://tribeathletics.com/news/2016/10/3/general-w-m-athletics-director-terry-driscoll-to-retire-in-2017.aspx

https://www.webcitation.org/6zwEvkpOh?url=http://www.dailypress.com/sports/william-and-mary/dp-spt-wm-ad-0316-20170315-story.html

Stanford’s official letter: 

Information of positive cases obtained from:

https://www.13newsnow.com/article/sports/college/positive-covid-19-cases-puts-pause-on-athletic-activities-at-william-mary/291-b651e3a4-ef03-4903-8db8-4e36bf89883b

“A Shared Path Forward for William & Mary Athletics:”

https://tribeathletics.com/news/2020/10/2/general-a-shared-path-forward-for-athletics.aspx

To sign the petition to bring back the seven W&M sports, visit: 

https://www.change.org/p/william-mary-save-william-mary-athletics

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