September 25, 2020
Community to address what sustainable, competitive Division I success means at W&M
During Friday’s Board of Visitors meeting, William & Mary’s rector and president announced a path forward to rebuild trust and open dialogue with the community following the recent announcement to eliminate seven varsity sports programs.
Rector John E. Littel P ’22 thanked all of those who have “called us out where you think we have not met the standards we cherish,” adding that board owns “what was a poor rollout of very difficult news.” On Wednesday, the Board of Visitors hosted a listening session, in which W&M athletes, parents and other supporters voiced their concerns about the decision and how it was communicated.
“We know that this is a community that wants to be engaged in finding solutions. When we collaboratively seek solutions, we can achieve great success together — as we have done repeatedly during our history,” Littel said.
Key to that process, President Katherine A. Rowe said, will be dialogue with members of the university community and supporters of athletics to define what intercollegiate athletic competitive excellence means and how athletics may be financially sustained moving forward. She said more conversations are needed as the university and W&M Athletics consider the best path forward for the impacted sports programs.
“Our first and most important task is to rebuild the trust of this community and to repair the distress we have caused our student athletes, families and alumni,” said Rowe. She added that the W&M Athletics 2018 strategic review was the culmination of months of work with many across the community. However, she said, it is clear that more conversation is needed to reach a shared understanding.
“We need to dig more deeply into the assumptions made in that plan about competitiveness and what that means in a Division I context for the community now,” Rowe said. “We must achieve a shared understanding of what we mean by competitive excellence in intercollegiate athletics. We need to be open about possible disagreements that we have about that and finish this conversation by listening to all of the voices in our community – students, alumni, faculty and staff – recognizing that our starting place is Division I.”
Earlier this week, Rowe announced that former W&M Vice President for Strategic Initiatives Jim Golden would begin helping to guide W&M Athletics’ strategic communications. Golden, who serves in the volunteer role of special assistant to the president, will work in partnership with Athletics Director Samantha K. Huge, as W&M Athletics engages in the next steps of the process.
“I am committed to a path forward that leads to a restoration of trust in our leadership by our many stakeholders and a healing of the pain caused by the difficult decisions announced on Sept. 3,” said Huge. “I am particularly pleased to welcome back Gen. Jim Golden, and I look forward to working together with Jim in this process.”
Added Littel, “Many of the students we have heard from spoke about what our motto, ‘One Tribe One Family’ means to them,” he added. “The board has confidence in this president and her team and have seen what they can accomplish. I can’t promise you that we won’t make mistakes and I do not want to suggest that we have all of the answers, but please know our commitment is to this family and rebuilding that trust.”