Resigned or asked to resign? Termination? Severance? Still unclear what happened to W&M’s first female athletics director

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Samantha Huge speaks at her introductory news conference March 15, 2017. (WYDaily file/Courtesy of Tribe Athletics)
Samantha Huge speaks at her introductory news conference March 15, 2017. (WYDaily file/Courtesy of Tribe Athletics)

What transpired between W&M President Katherine Rowe and now former Athletics Director Samantha Huge that led up to Huge’s departure seems to be buried in jargon.

For one, did Huge actually resign?

Was she asked to resign?

Or did she get fired?

W&M officials declined to address the issue and give a simple answer. They would only say “this was a mutual decision,” and did not offer a clear definition on what that really means.

On Thursday, WYDaily asked W&M spokeswoman Suzanne Clavet if Huge had in fact resigned from her post as athletics director.

Clavet was not immediately available for comment.

So another university spokeswoman, Erin Zagursky wrote in an email on Thursday the departure was a “mutual decision” and “there are no new severance agreements.”

“Samantha Huge has an employment agreement that entitles her to payment through May 1, 2022, and that obligation will be honored according to its terms,” she wrote. “The timeline for Ms. Huge to complete her separation process is being finalized.”

Huge’s contract

In the Letter of Employment, Huge was entitled to a base salary of $255,000 per year with her contract from May 1, 2017 to May, 1, 2022.

In addition to the five-year deal, Huge could receive up to $6,500 for a car allowance, a membership to a local country club and a cellphone or cellphone allowance.

Huge was also eligible for 24 days annual leave and reimbursement for moving costs and $10,000 for “one time assistance for reimbursable costs that exceed the state maximum.”

She also had performance bonuses, according to the letter.

  • $10,000 for finishing in the top-100 in the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics Cup, currently know as the Learfield Director’s Cup.
  • $10,000 for achieving a scholarship athlete federal six-year graduation rate (as reported for the NCAA) equal to the university’s overall rate for the same cohort. This bonus may be partially awarded for progress to within three percentage points (25%) two percentage points (50%), and one percentage point (75%) of the university’s overall rate.
  • $10,000 for increasing the portion of Tribe Athletics’ revenue generated independent of student fees by two percentage points over the prior fiscal year, a target never to fall below 50% in a given year, according to the publicly audited statements. Half of this bonus may be awarded for progress to within one percentage point of the target.
  • $5,000 for each sport reaching NCAA national championship postseason competition that has not done so in the previous 10 years, thus broadening the championship experiences in Tribe Athletics.”

While Huge stepped down on Oct. 6, her contract is not up until May 1, 2022 which means she could get a severance package.

Based on the letter, Huge was hired as an executive employee which means she was “subject to the Employment Policy for Executives.”

Per the policy, if Huge were to resign from the university, she was “asked” to give 90 days notice. If she wanted to “give notice” or receive “severance pay,” she would have to give 6 months notice since she had been working at the college for three years.

“If your employment ends during your term of employment for any reason other than “for cause” (as defined and determined pursuant to the Employment Policy for Executives), William & Mary will pay you an amount equal to your base monthly salary determined at the time of termination times the number of months remaining in the term of employment,”  according to the letter of employment to Huge. “Fifty percent of this amount will be paid within 14 days of your termination date, with the remaining fifty percent paid within 180 following your termination date.”

Her monthly salary in 2017 before taxes amounted to $21,250. It’s unclear what Huge’s currently monthly base salary was this year.

If she was entitled to the remaining salary noted in her contract, she would receive $212,500 within 14 days of her “termination date” and $212,500 within 180 days of her “termination date.”

But what if Huge was actually fired “for cause”? Would she still get severance pay?

Not really.

“Executive are also subject to removal for cause, at any time,” according to the Termination section of the Employment Policy for Executives. “Removal for cause is termination for serious, willful, or repeated misconduct such as:

  • unethical conduct or dishonesty, including falsification of credentials or records, and misappropriation or misuse of College funds or property;
  • serious, knowing, or repeated violation of policy or law;
  • malfeasance;
  • serious or repeated insubordination;
  • inappropriate behavior that adversely affects College operations;
  • convicted criminal conduct occurring (i) on the job, or (ii) off the job, if plainly related to or affecting job performance, detrimental to the College’s reputation, or of such a nature that retention of the executive would be negligent in light of the Colleges duties to itself, the public, students or other employees; or
  • inability, unwillingness, or refusal to perform functions of the jobs, including job abandonment.”

If W&M administration did fire Huge, the former athletics director would get a written notice and could explain in person or through a written statement “why the planned action should not occur.”

“The termination notice will specify the deadline for the executive’s response, which must be at least five working days after the date of the notice,” according to the policy. The executive may be placed on administrative (paid) leave pending the termination date, at the College’s discretion.”

“Executives terminated for cause are not entitled to severance or notice beyond that described in this paragraph.”

It remains unclear whether Huge will receive severance from the university and just how much severance she’s entitled to.

W&M’s response

WYDaily filed a Freedom of Information Act request with the university for Huge’s contract and the authors who wrote the open letter which was later revealed to be partially plagiarized from Stanford University.

Lillian Stevens, W&M’s FOIA officer, shared Huge’s contract, a Letter of Employment between Huge and former W&M President Taylor Reveley, but said the three documents related to open letter were considered “presidential working paper” under the Code of Virginia Sec. 2.2-3705.7 (2) which meant the documents were exempt under FOIA.

“As is common with executive communications, there were several individuals who advised the signatories in developing the final published letter,” she wrote.

The events leading up to Huge’s departure

In an open letter on Sept. 3, Huge, along with Rowe and Provost Peggy Agouris, announced the following sports would be cut effective in the 2021-2022 season: the men’s swimming, gymnastics and outdoor and indoor track teams and the women’s swimming, volleyball and gymnastics teams.

Seven W&M sports program would be cut starting in the 2021-2022 year: Men's and women's gymnastics; men's and women's swimming; men's indoor and outdoor track & field; and women's volleyball. Pictured is Mary Graceyn Gordon, 2020. (WYDaily/Courtesy of Tribe Athletics)
Seven W&M sports program would be cut starting in the 2021-2022 year: Men’s and women’s gymnastics; men’s and women’s swimming; men’s indoor and outdoor track & field; and women’s volleyball. Pictured is Mary Graceyn Gordon, 2020. (WYDaily/Courtesy of Tribe Athletics)

Parts of the letter were plagiarized from Stanford University’s open letter announcing their decision to cut several sports teams in July of this year, which sparked outrage from student-athletes, faculty, staff and alumni.

Huge nor Rowe did not admit the letter was plagiarism nor use the word in official written statements to the community. Agouris did not release a public statement about the letter.

In the days following the controversy, W&M alumni started fundraising for the affected teams and a faculty member called for motion for a vote of no confidence in Huge and her resignation.

But less than an hour before the vote of no confidence, Rowe and the Board of Visitors announced Huge’s departure effective immediately and would be replaced by Rowe’s chief of staff, Jeremy Martin.

WYDaily asked Zagurksy what Huge’s severance package was the same day she left.

“We’re not going to discuss any personnel items at this time,” she wrote in an email.

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