Sunday, July 21, 2024

‘We will set a new precedent for collegiate sports’: W&M alum pens proposal on the future of athletics. Here’s what’s that all about

David Hildebrand, a College of William & Mary alum and former Tribe swimmer, wrote a proposal regarding the future of the athletics department. (WYDaily/ Courtesy of Tribe Athletics)
David Hildebrand, a College of William & Mary alum and former Tribe swimmer, wrote a proposal regarding the future of the athletics department. (WYDaily/ Courtesy of Tribe Athletics)

Another member of the Tribe community has penned a letter on Wednesday to William & Mary administration following the university’s decision to cut varsity sports programs.

David Hildebrand, W&M alum, member of the Save Tribe Swimming movement and former Tribe swimmer, wrote a proposal about the future of the athletics department: William & Mary Athletics: Returning to the College’s Core Values ––A Proposal.

“The men’s teams can, and must, be reinstated,” he wrote. “The women’s teams can, and must, obtain equity.”

“We can achieve the former today, and we can achieve the latter in due time,” he added.

The nine-page proposal comes two days after Board of Visitors Rector John Littel told WYDaily they had the “utmost confidence” in W&M President Katherine Rowe’s leadership.

“The Board remains extremely pleased with her performance, particularly how she led the university safely through the first and almost-completed second semester of the pandemic,” he wrote in an email. “We are fortunate to have someone with her leadership skills and character as our president.”

“As it relates specifically to athletics, she and Interim Director Martin continue to meet the commitment made to the Board and community to ascertain, in an inclusive and comprehensive manner, the correct path forward for athletics,” he added.

RELATED STORY: ‘Leaders lead and she’s being silent:’ Track team, alumni react to W&M Board of Visitors’ ‘utmost confidence’ statement about Rowe

Hildebrand’s proposal, which was posted on the Save Tribe Swimming website, suggested restructuring the athletics department to have a system of checks and balances such as having all athletics staff report to the athletics director and a college administrator and making sure the entire athletics community is involved in short and long term strategic plans.

“By restructuring the reporting framework, Athletics will be better integrated into the operations of the College, less trapped within its own groupthink, more accountable, and more trusted,” he said.

Here are some main points from his proposal:

  • Hiring Peel Hawthorne as the new athletics director.
  • Roaster and scholarship cuts for the men’s teams.
  • Adding roster and scholarship for the women’s teams.
  • Adding a women’s team.
  • Enrolling more men at the university.
  • Leaving the CAA Division I to join the Patriot League.

His suggestions for complying with Title IX is to “gradually increase” roster spots on women’s teams and decrease roster sports on men’s teams, add more women’s scholarships and enroll more men at the university.

Other suggestions included giving athletes early registration to avoid missed practices, reviewing the athletics department’s staffing, including coaches, and advertising W&M as a public, liberal arts college with “exceptional academics and competes in Division I.”

“We will set a new precedent for collegiate sports,” Hildebrand wrote. “Rather than succumb to hopelessness and defeat, universities nationwide will know a beacon of possibility within a tempest of doubt.”

The fight for more transparency

Hildebrand and the Save Tribe Swimming community is currently pursuing a Freedom of Information Act request with the university for all correspondence between Rowe and former Athletics Director Samantha related to the 2025 Tribe Strategic Plan and the sports cuts from 2018-2020.

In addition, they plan to FOIA three others: Littel, Chelsea Burk, deputy director of athletics, and Tiffany Christian, senior associate athletics director for student services, senior woman administrator.

“We want to know was this whole strategic plan built up with the intention of cutting sports or were they in fact two entirely separate process or entities,” Hildebrand said. “Because technically the plan itself does not say anything about cutting sports. They are two separate things that may or may not have overlap –– we don’t know for sure.”

By filing a FOIA request, the goal is to get more transparency about the decision to cut the seven sports teams and get “the truth, an accurate timeline of what was known, by when and by whom,” Hildebrand added.

Lillian Stevens, FOIA officers for W&M, originally quoted them for $1,500-$2,500 for the requests, Hildebrand said.

After going back and forth for weeks with Stevens asking them to narrow down their request to save her time and save them money. Save Tribe Swimming did not agree to tailor their request further.

Stevens told Hildebrand the same thing she told WYDaily: Most of the documents may be protected from FOIA under president executive privilege.

“Please also note that Virginia FOIA provides an exemption for presidential correspondence and working papers and they are not subject to mandatory release under the statute,” she wrote in an email to the Save Tribe Swimming community on Oct. 22. “While the university has discretion regarding which presidential correspondence and working papers records to withhold or release, I cannot say how that discretion is likely to be exercised without reviewing potentially responsive records.”

“It is possible that records may be withheld even after payment of costs, so again I encourage you to identify the records you seek with greater specificity so that we can bring those costs down and better predict whether those records will be exempt from mandatory release,” she added.

The most recent quote is for $800 ––which is for the FOIA request regarding Huge’s and Rowe’s correspondence ––and the deposit for the request has been mailed, he added.

Hypothetically speaking, if W&M charges $800 per request, the Save Tribe Swimming community is looking at a $3,200 FOIA request.

W&M response

“The university received Mr. Hildebrand’s proposal earlier today,” W&M spokeswoman Suzanne Clavet she wrote in an email Thursday. “We appreciate his thoughtful approach and interest in this issue and will certainly consider his proposal along with the other comments we have received as we work toward a sustainable path forward for athletics.”


Julia Marsigliano
Julia Marsigliano
Julia Marsigliano is a multimedia reporter for WYDaily. She covers everything on the Peninsula from local government and law enforcement agencies to family-run businesses and weather updates. Before WYDaily, she covered Hampton and Newport News for WYDaily’s sister publication, HNNDaily before both publications merged in December 2018. Julia was born in Tokyo, Japan and moved to Long Island, New York in 2001. A true New Yorker, she loves pizza, bagels and good Chinese food. Send comments, tips and other tidbits to You can follow her on Twitter at @jmarsigliano

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