W&M President Katherine A. Rowe sent the following message to the campus community Oct. 19, 2020. - Ed.
Dear students, faculty and staff,
I write to make you aware of an important update regarding the path forward for Athletics. Earlier today, Interim Athletics Director Jeremy Martin wrote to student-athletes, coaches and staff to share that three women’s varsity sports will be reinstated. Interim Director Martin’s message, included below in full, describes how W&M will make significant progress toward achieving gender equity in participation in the 2021-22 academic year.
Advancing equity in Athletics in a decisive way is a core commitment, it is a legal requirement under Title IX, and it is essential for a university committed to the value of belonging. The uncertainty of the past month has placed incredible strain on our exceptional student-athletes, their families and our coaches. Taking this step now brings clarity to one of the important challenges facing William & Mary Athletics. Very significant challenges remain that Athletics will outline later this week.
Interim Director Martin met with affected students this afternoon to answer their questions and hear their concerns. He has committed to be with them every step of the way through this difficult time. William & Mary will continue to do everything we can to support them and to advance the important conversations this process has opened.
Katherine A. Rowe
William & Mary Student-Athletes, Coaches and Staff,
I write to ensure this message reaches you promptly and with the greatest probability that you will receive this news directly from me. In addition, I am currently meeting with affected student-athletes and coaches and will offer a second meeting at 5:00 p.m. for anyone from that group wishing to talk further with me.
On September 3, the university announced the discontinuation of seven NCAA Division I sport programs. After further review conducted in response to an impending lawsuit, it was determined that the discontinuations and related roster adjustments for remaining sports were not likely to accomplish the goal of equity in participation by next fall.
Therefore, as interim athletics director, I recommended to President Rowe, who affirmed, that women’s gymnastics, women’s swimming and women’s volleyball will continue as NCAA Division I sports, and we look forward to seeing these programs thrive. In addition, we will undertake a gender equity review in the current year, creating broad opportunities for members of the community to engage.
We now know, as a result of this step, reduction in men’s participation via roster management and suspending teams, or a swift and significant increase in participation opportunities for women will be necessary. We will be engaging the broader William & Mary community to receive input and ideas and to explain the magnitude of this challenge, which offers no easy pathway to restore the four men’s programs this year. Yet we remain committed to swiftly continuing those conversations with alumni and supporters in order to reach a decision for the 2021-2022 academic year.
We also fully remain committed to supporting the affected student-athletes and coaches through this transition:
- Any athletics scholarships will be honored through graduation. Whether a scholarship recipient or not, you are a William & Mary student and we hope you will choose to continue to be a W&M student.
- We will fully support any student-athlete seeking to transfer to continue their athletic career.
- On that front, the NCAA Council voted on Oct. 14 to allow fall and winter sport athletes an additional season of eligibility, meaning gymnasts and swimmers will not lose a season of eligibility by competing for William & Mary this year should they transfer to another institution.
- Coaches will have access to resources throughout the coming months in pursuing their own career planning. The continuing women’s programs will allow us to retain some of these talented individuals.
- And we remain committed to offering a final season of competition if we are able to do so safely in 2020-21.
This has been an incredibly difficult chapter for our community, particularly our student-athletes. Each of you has done everything expected of you to be at William & Mary – you’ve done nothing wrong to find yourself in this moment. As we proceed, know that resources are available to support your mental health and academic success. Please, please reach out if you are struggling and be mindful of your teammates and friends who are.
Jeremy P. Martin Ph.D. ’12 MBA ’17
Interim Director of Athletics