William & Mary pauses decision to eliminate varsity sports through at least 2021-22

Kevin Portofee
Posted at 12:27 PM, Nov 05, 2020
and last updated 2020-11-05 12:45:37-05

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. - The wholesale changes coming to William & Mary athletics are on hold - at least for a while.

On Sept. 3, 2020, William & Mary announced the decision to discontinue seven of its 23 NCAA Division I varsity sports — Men's and Women's Gymnastics, Men's and Women's Swimming, Men's Indoor and Outdoor Track & Field, and Women's Volleyball — effective with the end of the 2020-21 academic year. However, on October 19, 2020, the university announced it would be reinstating Women's Gymnastics, Women's Swimming and Women's Volleyball, which will continue as Division I varsity sports.

Thursday, W&M revealed the men's athletics teams (gymnastics, swimming, indoor and outdoor track & field) slated for reclassification will continue as Division I sports through at least 2021-22.

In a release, the university said its decision was made in hopes of taking "a phased approach that allows for a gender equity review paired with exploration of alternative solutions leading to a long-term financial plan."

A review was conducted by Interim Director of Athletics Jeremy P. Martin. It focused on the status of the four men’s teams slated for suspension at the conclusion of the 2020-21 competitive season. The review concluded with the recommendation William & Mary complete the gender equity review this spring before making any decisions on sport sponsorship as we continue to aggressively explore financial alternatives to program eliminations.

Martin adds, the recommendation is "made with the understanding that the university remains committed to achieving gender equity by 2022-23 and that W&M Athletics continues to face real and immediate financial challenges. Depending on the outcome of our equity review and our ability to identify a new, sustainable financial path, I do not believe the university can rule out future reclassifications at this time."

When Martin assumed the role of Interim Director of Athletics on Oct. 6, 2020 following the abrupt departure of former Director of Athletics Samantha Huge, Rowe - according to the university - directed him to review the Sept. 3 plan, and asked that a report be completed by early November to minimize the uncertainty for those most directly affected.

While that process was underway, the university received notice of intent to sue on the grounds that the announced plan, including the cuts and the associated roster adjustments in other sports, did not in fact meet the Title IX standards. After a detailed review, Martin concluded that given the suit, the law and the university's desire to move quickly to achieve gender equity, the three women's sports should be restored.

Martin concluded that despite the very real and pressing financial challenges, the university should take more time to consider the best path for W&M Athletics going forward, in order to rebuild confidence, explore potential financial support and develop broader understanding of the challenges faced.

"My review made it crystal clear that the Sept. 3 rollout and the subsequent identification of flaws in the plan's proposed implementation of the gender equity component led to legitimate questions within the W&M community," Martin said. "We should bring the same thoughtful, phased planning and execution the university used in dealing with COVID-19 to the challenges facing W&M Athletics. The next year and a half will give us the opportunity to do just that."