How Did We Get Here? A Timeline.

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William & Mary Athletics Launches New Brand Campaign- Our State Our Tribe —  Allegheny Image Factory

Following W&M’s decision to cut 7 sports earlier this month, many of you are probably wondering: how did we get here?

Everything seemingly escalated in an exceedingly quick manner.

But for anyone closely monitoring press releases from W&M Athletics over the past several years (yes, that’s we here at the W&M Sports Blog), the news didn’t come as a complete surprise.

Over the past 18 months alone, W&M Athletics has released multiple public reports detailing its goals and areas for improvement.

To get you up to speed, we’ll walk through the timeline of events that led to the program’s most recent cuts.

April 2015: W&M Athletics Releases 10-Year Plan

Toward the end of former AD Terry Driscoll‘s tenure, William & Mary set ambitious fundraising goals for both its academic and athletics programs.

A $192 million fundraising target was specifically set forth in a strategy document called the 10-Year Plan, released in April 2015.

Full details on the 10-year plan can be found here, which include several big-ticket items, such as:

  • The goal of endowing all athletics scholarships.
  • Creating a new multi-sport indoor practice facility for the basketball and volleyball programs, independent from Kaplan Arena.
  • Building an entirely new Kaplan Arena, or completely renovating the existing one.
  • Installing a brand new, regulation Swimming Facility, which would allow W&M’s premier swim teams to bring back diving programs.
  • Overall improvement of the fan experience for all W&M sporting events.
  • And more.

Get to Know W&M's New Athletics Director: Samantha Huge – The William and  Mary Sports Blog

March 2017: Samantha Huge Hired

After 21 years of service, W&M’s longtime AD Terry Driscoll retired; W&M then hired a new AD, Samantha Huge, in early 2017.

Hired away from Texas A&M, Huge had experience working in several college athletics departments, including the University of Delaware, Georgetown, and Wake Forest.

One of her primary mandates coming in was to begin tracking toward the ambitious goals outlined in the 10-Year Plan, mentioned above.

From the beginning, Huge was tasked with implementing a growth-first strategy, originally set in motion by the previous regime.

July 2018: PICTOR Group Hired

About a year after Huge’s hiring, she brought in the PICTOR Group to map out a five-year strategy for Tribe Athletics.

The all-female, sports-specialized team was brought in to analyze Tribe Athletics — both internally, as well as externally.

For reference, the PICTOR Group is an intercollegiate athletics consulting firm whose mission is to help intercollegiate athletics programs “Rethink, Refocus and Recalibrate” to achieve expanded opportunities and increased effectiveness.

In an article by David Johnson of the Daily Press, Huge at the time stated, 

“We need to not be afraid of being successful competitively because here’s the thing: Being successful competitively does not diminish our success in the classroom. They’re not mutually exclusive. So my goal would be that we are seeing improvement every step of the way with our programs and we’re seeing them reach their full potential.”

W&M Athletics Enters New Phase of Strategic Planning - William & Mary  Athletics

May 2019: PICTOR Group Analysis Released

After spending a year-plus studying W&M Tribe Athletics, the PICTOR Group released a 27-page report detailing its findings.

The report was very informative and included an in-depth SWOT analysis (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Strengths) on Tribe Athletics and the school as a whole.

Essentially, this was a refreshed, detailed version of W&M’s previously announced 10-Year Plan.

Strengths: Academic Success, Accomplished Alumni, Campus Setting, Loyal Donors and Alumni, National Rankings, Residential Campus, Research University with a Liberal Arts Core, Athletics.

Weaknesses: Institutional Financial Support, Brand Identity and Intellectual Property, Facilities, Diversity, Media Market, Compensation and Benefits, Fan Engagement, Student Athlete Support Services.

Opportunities: Competitive Success, Fundraising, Community Engagement, Campus Partnerships, Institutional Leadership, Intellectual Property, Corporate Sponsorships.

Threats: Adverse Publicity, Conference Instability, Inadequate Facilities, Lack of Diversity, Lack of a Sustainable Financial Model.

Any of this sound familiar today?

With hindsight serving as 20/20, the PICTOR Group’s findings publicly revealed W&M Athletics’ new goals all the way back in May 2019.

October 2019: W&M 2025 Strategic Plan Released

That same year, taking into account the PICTOR Group’s analysis, W&M Athletics released its “W&M 2025 Strategic Plan.”

The 23-page plan outlines a multitude of goals that W&M Athletics wishes to accomplish by the year 2025; it’s full of interesting nuggets that describe the future direction of athletics at our esteemed Alma Mater.

Already, emphasis on Football and Basketball was well-documented — twice over. First with the PICTOR Group and then with the 2025 Strategic Plan.

Administration’s concerns about inadequate swimming facilities were made public, alerting many in the community even then.

A new or completely renovated Kaplan Arena was emphasized, and soon after announced.

Overall, the writing seemed to be on the wall for several major athletic department changes — with or without COVID-19.

January 2020: W&M Sports Blog Releases 10 Bold Predictions for the Next Decade of W&M Athletics

All these releases led us at the W&M Sports Blog to release an article detailing 10 bold predictions for the next decade of W&M Athletics.

Mind you, this list was written pre-pandemic, back in January of this year. But that makes some of these predictions all the more interesting:

  1. The Dillard Complex will become W&M Athletics’ main hub
  2. Kaplan Arena’s renovation will cut its seating capacity by 25%-50% 
  3. W&M will lose a sport or two
  4. But W&M will gain a sport or two 
  5. Football will win the CAA outright under Mike London
  6. W&M will qualify for its first-ever NCAA Basketball Tournament
  7. …More than Once
  8. Zable Stadium will lose the track surrounding the football field
  9. A W&M alum will be the Head Coach in a Super Bowl game
  10. Marcus Thornton AND Nathan Knight will have their numbers retired

Particularly interesting to us is the fact that #3 happened far sooner than expected (albeit under completely different circumstances).

Moreover, in January’s pre-pandemic climate we expected no more than perhaps a couple sports to be considered for elimination — suffice to say, we never expected 7 sports to be eliminated.

And in recent documents released by W&M, it was shown that admin formally considered adding softball and rowing teams prior to the pandemic (which confirms our #4 prediction above).

All of this is to say that, even prior to the pandemic, W&M Athletics seemed to be headed toward fundamental changes. And they weren’t coy about it.

This is one big reason why we weren’t completely surprised when the announcement came to cut sports programs.

Though we never could have predicted 7 teams going away.

March 2020: March Madness Cancelled due to COVID-19

This one is self explanatory — once the outbreak officially began in the NBA, and as teams and leagues across the country shut down, everything took a turn for the worse.

College athletics proved to be no exception as the NCAA’s biggest revenue generating event, March Madness, was cancelled.

September 2020: W&M Cuts 7 Sports

Coming full circle here, W&M announced cuts to 7 sports on September 3 this month.

Primary reasons cited by administration included financial difficulties tied to the COVID-19 pandemic.

But as the timeline above shows, W&M has long been public about the direction its athletics department is headed.

While many can argue (and rightfully so) that recent decisions could have been made in a more transparent manner (W&M is currently aiming to rectify that situation), W&M Athletics has actually been very transparent over the past couple years in publicly outlining its desired direction.

Only time will tell if its strategy is destined to work, or more importantly, what will ultimately happen with the Tribe 7.

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11 thoughts on “How Did We Get Here? A Timeline.

  1. The, “Administration’s concerns about inadequate swimming facilities” were addressed in October 2019 and removed from the Strategic Plan when Huge said the swim teams would not be cut!

  2. Are you guys on the Huge payroll? Was the report really “very informative” woahhhh noooo way they “included an in-depth SWOT analysis”??? The “consultants” spoke to 44 people on the entire campus and never once talked to the Swim coaches. Their “survey” response rate as 17% – football fields away from a representative sample, ripe for manipulation, and response bias. It shouldn’t take a consultant to figure out that the report is a shoddy chop job at best, but, more likely, a coordinated hit orchestrated by Huge.

    I think you guys should Rethink, Refocus, and Recalibrate.

    1. Not sure you read the article correctly. We never said it was “right” of the school to cut any sports. The main takeaway of this article is that through various documents and press releases in recent years, the athletic department has shown the direction it wants to take. Nothing more. If you want us to resort to belittling folks in admin or getting into writing hate articles, you’ve come to the wrong place. There’s been animosity on all sides of this situation, and we don’t want any part of that.

      1. No one involved with the swim team missed the comment in Tribe2025 about the need for a natatorium, and the false contention that it was required for future success. The part you are missing in your timeline is when Huge denied that this comment in the plan was a hint at future cuts, and actually met with the team and told them over and over that they WERE NOT being cut. She literally said we misunderstood the plan. In hindsight, she was lying.

  3. Another football and basketball slant. Those sports not only lose by far the most money- negative nearly $2M annually, but they also haven’t consistently won even at the low bar of CAA and FCS Level.

    This article cherry picks the facts for the purported timeline- just like Huge and the Pictor group did. Backing into an answer from an initial position.

    Does anyone think spending more for sports that have been weak for decades to have a national stage was the right strategy for William and Mary- a small elite education institution?

    1. Not sure you read the article correctly. We never said it was “right” of the school to cut any sports. The main takeaway of this article is that through various documents and press releases in recent years, the athletic department has shown the direction it wants to take. Nothing more. If you want us to resort to belittling folks in admin or getting into writing hate articles, you’ve come to the wrong place. There’s been animosity on all sides of this situation, and we don’t want any part of that.

  4. Clearly Samantha Huge, Rector Littel and President Rowe are pulling the strings on this blog. It is shameful. Ms Huge sat with the swim team in October of last year and third them they were safe and at no risk of getting cut. She told coaches and parents the same thing in June 2020. She is telling lies and honestly going to drive the school into the ground. She is already looking for other jobs and interview at Vanderbilt in the Spring. Read professor Guthrie’s letter. This is not just about Olympic sports it’s about academic excellence, honesty and integrity. These are not traits that the current upper administration seems to possess. It also seems like the author of this blog doesn’t either. Know your facts before you publish.

    1. I appreciate how official you think we are, but no — we have no official connection to the school in any sense. Also, not sure you read the article correctly. We never said it was “right” of the school to cut any sports. Show me where we wrote that, because you seem to think we did. The main takeaway of this article is that through various documents and press releases in recent years, the athletic department has shown the direction it wants to take; if you want us to resort to belittling folks in admin or getting into writing hate articles, you’ve come to the wrong place. There’s been animosity on all sides of this situation, and we don’t want any part of that.

  5. I think you guys should look more in-depth into the mismanagement of money that led us to the situation in the first place. This includes the increases in the budget of football and basketball teams when no other sport saw much of an increase since huge took her position. and these increases happened when their donations and ticket sales were decreasing, which resulted in much higher student fees. I believe this is more telling than anything. huge put us in debt before the pandemic hit, the pandemic was just the excuse.

  6. While I have lifelong friends who competed in gymnastics, track and field, and wrestling (cut long ago in a bygone era), and am disappointed for the loss of the 7 sports that were cut, the rhetoric surrounding Samantha Huge is way out of line. Samantha Huge has done EXACTLY what W&M leadership asked her to do when she arrived on campus back in 2017. Katherine Rowe and the BOV have failed her during the recent backlash. The absurdity to think that she would not find counsel from fellow AD’s and peers who were having to make the EXACT SAME DECISIONS. Then, to suggest that it was an honor code violation instead of recognizing a collaborative work stream with a very close peer and personal friend. Samantha had the guts to make difficult decisions at a public university, with an enrollment of 6500, trying to compete in more varsity sports than the University of Texas. She executed the plan that leadership asked her to put into action. This absurd backlash needs to stop and people need to move on and stop looking at Samantha Huge as their scapegoat.

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