WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (WAVY) — While some universities in Virginia have grappled with when and how to reopen their campuses for in-person learning, the coronavirus pandemic and other financial issues have caused a local university to make a different “wrenching decision.”
Financial concerns have prompted William & Mary in Williamsburg to eliminate seven varsity sports after the current 2020-2021 academic year. The move affects 118 student-athletes and 13 coaches and includes men’s and women’s gymnastics, men’s and women’s swimming, men’s indoor and outdoor track and field, and volleyball.
W&M President Katherine Rowe, Provost Peggy Agouris and Director of Athletics Samantha K. Huge made the announcement to the campus community in an open letter.
Those sports will all continue to compete one more season as long as it’s safe to do so under coronavirus health guidelines.
William & Mary currently sponsors 23 varsity sports, which the school says is more than any other full-time Colonial Athletic Association member.
“W&M laid out several criteria for why these seven sports were chosen. Among them: support from alumni and donors, potential for revenue, proven or likelihood of success, operating costs, facilities and diversity/gender equity,” the school wrote in a news release.
The cost to sustain those seven sports at a competitive level nationally would cost William & Mary $5.84 million annually. An endowment to fund those programs would be about $150 million.
Previous cost-cutting measures, such as reducing the salaries of Huge and head coaches such as Mike London (football), Dane Fischer (men’s basketball) and Ed Swanson (women’s basketball).
Fundraising increased in recent years, but it still wasn’t enough to sustain those sports at a competitive level.
“The pandemic has made these budget constraints acute and has brought us to a point of reckoning,” the letter reads.
William & Mary expects to save $3.66 million each year once it honors student scholarships and coaching contracts for those seven sports.
“As a department, we simply can no longer continue on an unsustainable financial trajectory. We will do everything that we can for the impacted student-athletes and coaches, and I sincerely hope they are able to participate in one final season of competition. Today is a sad day for all of us who love William & Mary,” Huge wrote in a statement in the letter.
Athletic scholarships for student-athletes will be honored. Coaches of the canceled sports will still retain their appointments until the end of their contract.
Students who choose to transfer will have the “full support of the university.”
William & Mary is at least the 24th Division I school to cut at least one program since the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States in March, the school said.
As far as announcing the news this September at the start of the school year, the college said there was “no good time.”
“There is no good time to deliver such devastating news,” it read. “We decided to move forward with the announcement now to provide our student-athletes and coaches with as much time as possible to explore options in the coming months, should they elect to continue their collegiate athletics careers elsewhere,” the letter read.