William & Mary interim Athletics Director Jeremy Martin introduced himself to the campus community via Zoom.
That was two days after Samantha Huge resigned from the post.
The Zoom deal lasted about 30 minutes.
“We find ourselves in a moment of conflict,” he said. “We must ensure that W&M will thrive for all time.”
Martin, W&M President Katherine Rowe’s chief of staff, was tasked with presenting “A Shared Path Forward for W&M Athletics” –– an “open dialogue” –– which was supposed to be a moderated discussion with Huge.
“Given the leadership transitions in recent days and Interim Director Martin’s new role, the format of the session has been adjusted,” according to the W&M Featured Events page. “Interim Director Martin will use this time to introduce himself to the Tribe family, address the issues around long-term sustainability for W&M Athletics, and answer questions we’ve received while framing new ones for the community.”
Martin spoke about his ties to the college, how we had received both his graduate and doctorate degrees from W&M and worked at the university for 13 years as an associate provost and most recently, Rowe’s chief of staff, before discussing the future of the athletics department. He said Huge asked him to “unite W&M moving forward,” too.
His entire statement lasted 26 minutes with slideshow presentations showing the athletics department’s projected shortfalls for this year and the current state of the department’s financial situation. You can view the entire slideshow presentation ––all 30 slides–– here.
“We project a $30 to $100 million shortfall for the institution this year,” he said.
In order to elevate the institution, Martin said W&M had three things to keep in mind: Institutional identity, “who we are as an athletics department, budget stability and legal requirements, specifically Title IX compliance.
That criteria also applies “if affected sports want to be reinstated.”
At one point during the presentation, he compared Division I expectations with Division III, noting the former had scholarship athletics, is more competitive and has clubs while the latter were non-scholarship, broad participation for sports and a “financial aid investment.”
Martin noted there was a history of the athletics department was struggling financially which he referred to as “longstanding issues.”
He outlined the university’s previous attempts to support the department: From fundraising campaigns in 1975 and annual giving in 2006 to philanthropic support in 2015 and the 2018 PICTOR Group’s report, which noted the athletics department could not financially sustain itself unless some cost cutting measures were made.
“W&M must have to make the decision on the size and scope of our athletics program,” he said, referring to the 2015 Strategic report for W&M.
Another slide showed the school was projected to have a $2.87 million shortfall and the Tribe Club Reserve funds had “declined” over time.
“COVID-19 is not the cause of these budget deficits but they are an accelerant,” he said.
Martin added W&M has “among the highest student athletics fees” in the division and has already reduced games, travel or road games and had personnel cuts before making the decision to permanently cut sports teams ––the “hardest decision of all”––instead of across the board cuts.
“If you make that choice it yields more savings because you can limit the impact to a fewer number sports but it is a permanent impact,” he said.
Another slide showed as of Sept. 29, 26 NCAA Division I schools had discontinued sports and as for Title IX compliance, he said W&M would comply in the 2021-2022 athletics year with the sports cuts.
“We will engage this problem head on,” he said. “We will face it with curiosity, we will pursue creative solutions and we answer the call to pursue excellence with integrity. We will respect one another in conflict, in short, we will be William & Mary in this moment.”
He wrapped up the presentation with a few words about how he tried to address some of the community’s questions — he said he would try to get his own questions answered before the next community meeting, adding there would be more sessions in October.
Martin said he met with the student-athletes affected by the sports cuts as well as the student advisory committee. The next steps would be working with the Tribe Club members and the faculty assembly.
“Decisions are as final as the circumstances in which they are made,” Martin said. “As I said earlier, my door is always open.”
Martin did not say if the seven sports teams which were cut in September would be reinstated.
WYDaily asked David Hildebrand, W&M alum, member of the Save Tribe Swimming movement and former Tribe swimmer, what he thought of Martin’s presentation.
He laughed before answering the question.
“I think that men’s and women’s swimming meets all three requirements that the college is putting forth,” Hildebrand said.
He noted Martin had responded to the Save Tribe Swimming’s open letter to Rowe, the Board of Visitors and Martin, who had agreed to meet with a few members of the movement’s executive committee on Monday prior to the Thursday’s presentation.
“I feel cautiously optimistic,” Hildebrand said.
According to W&M’s website, future sessions in October will “include additional W&M voices and moderated Q&A.”
It’s unclear when the next moderated discussion or question and answer sessions are.
Here is the timeline leading up to the resignation of Huge:
- Open letter- On Sept. 3, Huge announced in a seven-minute Zoom meeting with the student athletes and coaches from seven varsity sports teams: Men’s and Women’s Gymnastics; Men’s and Women’s Swimming; Men’s Indoor and Outdoor Track & Field; and Women’s Volleyball. An official statement from Rowe, Agouris and Huge “with the full support of the Board of Visitors” was posted to the college’s website, citing financial concerns and the coronavirus pandemic.
- Discovery of plagiarism- After the announcement, student athletes, parents and alumni from the cut sports programs created petition to try and reinstate the programs. Save Tribe Swimming raised more than $1 million in a couple weeks. The college community discovered parts of the open letter announcing the decision to cut the sports teams was plagiarized from Stanford University’s open letter in July announcing their sports cuts.
- Huge statement- On Sept. 18, Huge released a statement about the joint open letter from W&M stating the goal was to “emulate best practices not imitate.” “We clearly fell short of the William & Mary community’s standards. Upon reflection, we should have taken more care with the review of the materials we shared with our community.”
- Rowe statement- On Sept. 23, Rowe released a statement about the open letter, referring to Huge’s statement. “The open letter announcing these decisions did not rise to William & Mary’s standards, as Athletics Director Samantha Huge has shared, and this was a mistake.”
- BOV meeting listening session- On Sept. 23 the Board of Visitors met with the student athletes, faculty and staff, shared their thoughts about the sports cuts and the plagiarized letter at a “listening session.” The college’s student assembly presented their resolution, which demanded more transparency about the decision to cut the sports programs. Rowe announced in an email she appointed her assistant, Jim Golden to “help guide strategic communications in Athletics” and work with Huge.
- Title IX lawsuit- The same day as the meeting, Arthur H. Bryant, who represents the three women’s teams that were cut by the college, demanded the sports be reinstated, threatening to file a lawsuit because the college would violate Title IX by not offering equal opportunities to both men and women.
- “Open dialogue”- At the BOV meeting on Sept. 25, Rowe promised to have an “open dialogue” about the future of the athletics programs.
- W&M responds to the lawsuit- Carrie Nee, attorney for the college, responded to Bryant’s letter on Sept. 30, Bryant’s deadline, noting W&M did not have to reinstate the seven sports teams and could still comply with Title IX.
- No confidence- One faculty member planned to bring a motion –––a vote of no confidence–– in Huge on Oct. 6 based on the lack of the faculty’s involvement about the decision to cut the sports programs and Huge’s plagiarism of the open letter.
- Huge resigns Oct. 6 just before the faculty’s meeting for a vote of no confidence. Rowe and the Board of Visitors announced Huge had resigned and was being replaced by Rowe’s chief of staff, Jeremy Martin, who would act as the interim athletics director. The motion to reinstate the sports programs is still planned for Tuesday, Oct. 13.
- Pledge not to donate- On Oct. 7, a pledge circulated among parents and Tribe alumni to not donate money to college until the sports were reinstated, the administration publicly apologizd to student-athletes and apply the same Honor Code consequences to staff.
You can view Martin’s entire statement to the community below via YouTube.
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