WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (WAVY) — There’s a push to save some sports at William & Mary.
Last week, the school announced that it would discontinue seven sports after the current season for financial reasons. The discontinued sports are men’s and women’s gymnastics, men’s and women’s swimming, men’s indoor and outdoor track and field and women’s volleyball. This decision impacts 118 student-athletes and 13 coaches.
In response, student-athletes and alums are launching “Save the Tribe 7” to challenge the school’s plan.
“I was sad and I was angry and then just kind of heartbroken, almost numb,” said Christian Marsh, who is a gymnast. “It seemed like she read from a script as she told us that our seven programs were going to be discontinued.”
Last week, Marsh and the athletes of seven teams were on a virtual meeting with William & Mary’s athletic director, Samantha K. Huge, who told them that this season would be their last.
Marsh said, “The entire thing felt incredibly disingenuous and in my opinion, it is the rudest possible way that they could’ve broken that news.”
It didn’t take long for former athletes to launch a campaign to challenge the decision. It’s called “Save the Tribe 7.”
They are encouraging people to sign a petition, pledge money to support the sports, and contact school leadership.
“I formed the most important relationships in my life on that pool deck and to think that future generations of people won’t have that opportunity is heartbreaking for me,” said Matt Crispino.
Crispino was on the swim team from 1998 to 2002 and then later returned as head coach from 2007 to 2019. He says they were always aware of budget constraints.
“We all took a lot of pride in the ability to overachieve and take those thin resources and shoe string budgets and achieve at a national level,” said Crispino.
Crispino is part of the group that wants an audience with the decision-makers at the college and a “stay of execution.”
“Allow us a chance to fundraise, allow us a chance to make the program self-sustaining, just give us an opportunity,” Said Crispino. “Give us an opportunity to show how loyal and supportive our alumni and parents and friends are.”
Marsh says he’s already seeing that support.
“One tribe, one family is something that the school preaches and I have seen that within the students specifically these past couple days,” Marsh said.
The College says the costs of “operating a department… have grown dramatically over time” and have “become unsustainable.” It also says the pandemic has brought them to a point of reckoning.
You can find a link to the Save the Tribe 7 petition and contact information here.