After nationwide college sports cuts, alumni & athletes wonder what ripple effects will be

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WILLIAMSBURG, Va. (WAVY) — There’s concern over the state of college sports, given recent cuts at programs across the country. Seasons are upended and student-athletes are on the sidelines.

Last month, William & Mary announced that it was discontinuing seven sports at the end of the academic year. Then Monday, they announced that three women’s sports would be reinstated. However, four of the men’s teams are still on the chopping block. That’s a trend that is concerning some alumni.

More than 200 NCAA sports teams have been cut from college athletics since April. It’s a troubling trend for athletes and alumni who wonder what the ripple effect of these cuts will be.

Tom Gill knows what it’s like to be cut.

“We were cut after our sophomore year without much notice,” said Gill, who was on the William & Mary swim team in the 1990s.

The team was cut and then reinstated after the members started fundraising.

“When we did that, we accomplished something that we thought ‘this is it’,” Gill said.

Unfortunately, that wasn’t it. Back in September, William & Mary announced that seven sports would be discontinued at the end of the academic year. Three women’s teams were just reinstated on Monday.

That original announcement immediately fired up alumni and students alike, including Gill.

“It’s just so important that we have these opportunities available,” he said.

Gill worries about the impact these cuts will have on youth and high school sports.

“I think the impact on swimming in general, on Olympic sports, is huge.,” said Gill. He believes the impact starts with encouraging physical activity and extends to the role the athletes play in their communities.

“It’s these athletes that come back to their summer league pools and to the rec centers and to the YMCA that become the instructors for the next group coming up,” said Gill. “They’re role models and they’re mentors and they’re the ones that are going to go back into their communities all around the country and making a difference in some child’s life.”

The group that oversees high school athletics, the Virginia High School League, weighed in, saying in part:

Youth and high school sports are an integral part of American society… Most participants of youth and high school sport programs play for fun and the love of the game in addition to lifelong benefits. There are many studies that have looked at the number of high school student-athletes who go on to play sports in college. Most estimates are fewer than 5-6% and fewer than 1% go onto play division 1.

– Dr. Billy Haun, VHSL executive director

A few weeks ago, William & Mary Interim Athletic Director Jeremy Martin addressed the Tribe community, sharing more details on how the university made its decision.

“We project a $30 to $100 million shortfall for the institution this year,” said Martin. “We’re in a recession that’s going to take many years for the nation to recover from. Athletics faces problems that are long-standing and must be addressed.”

He said the pandemic exacerbated the athletic department’s budget deficit, which has been an issue for the last 45 years.

Martin also highlighted the national trends regarding college sport cuts.

“Between April 1 and Sept. 29, 26 NCAA Division 1 institutions have made decisions to reduce sports programs. That’s 94 total sport programs that have been affected across the country,” said Martin.

Gill says its that trend that worries him.

“Every parent should be concerned right now,” said Gill. “You think, ‘Oh they would never cut this at my alma mater.’ If they can cut it at William & Mary, they can cut it anywhere.”

He hopes his team’s efforts to save the program in the 90s weren’t for nothing.

“When we saved the program in 91, I’m not going to lie, we weren’t very good,” Gill said. “I mean no one was running out and going ‘Well that’s the best team on campus.’ They are now and that’s what we saved them for.”

William & Mary is welcoming questions for its next virtual meeting, which is set for Wednesday night at 7 p.m.

On Thursday, 10 on Your Side’s Kayla Gaskins explores how the cuts are impacting the college’s gymnastics program.

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