Last week, we published an article asking if
William & Mary should consider joining the academically-minded Patriot League. In it, we played devil’s advocate, putting forward 5 arguments for why W&M joining the Patriot may one day make sense for the Tribe. Reasons included the league’s high academic standards, scholar athlete emphasis, and geographic vicinity relative to W&M, to name a few.
I want to clarify: we at the WMSB aren’t saying that we favor W&M moving to the Patriot over the CAA. Instead, we’re simply pointing out the possibility in hopes of stirring legitimate, intelligent back and forth within the Tribe community.
Suffice to say, we received an outpouring of comments from Tribe fans on the subject. Below is an assortment of those comments taken from social media, providing insights from both sides of the aisle; in addition to those comments, I’m adding in some comments of my own.
Continue to let us know what you think on social media!
WMSB’s take: Following W&M’s Scandal of 1951 (which we covered extensively in a previous article), there was little chance of W&M joining the ACC when the league formed in 1954. But the above comment brings up an interesting point related to W&M’s financial priorities. We aren’t saying W&M should move to the Patriot League tomorrow and give up on the CAA; we are simply saying that if we stay in the CAA and keep the same recruiting standards & level of financial support for the teams, then W&M will never be a true, sustained power in the CAA across the majority of its sports teams. If we stay in the CAA and want to experience sustained, widespread athletic success that matches our high academic standards, we need to either (1) spend more on our teams and/or (2) lower the academic bar on recruiting standards for certain sports. However, if we lower recruiting standards, we know this will slowly eat at W&M’s strong academic reputation — which we know, is above all the most important thing for W&M. By moving to the Patriot, W&M can compete against true peer schools while continuing to maintain high recruiting standards and pay far less for the lower level of scholarships that the Patriot requires relative to the CAA.
WMSB’s take: This is a very interesting comment, and we appreciate the passion and insight. Our only issue with it is that it is exclusively focused on football, which is just one of many sports W&M offers. Is it worth not making a move to the Patriot based exclusively on football? If we look at the success of Patriot League Basketball teams in recent years — specifically in the NCAA Tournament, as we mentioned in last week’s article — Patriot League basketball champs have performed no worse than, or even better than, CAA champs (including, mind you, an upset victory of Lehigh over Duke in 2012). Football is just one of over 20 sports that W&M offers, and while it is the biggest revenue-generating sport, we can’t make a decision based off just one sport. Speaking of football, while the concerns about limited scholarships and lack of redshirting is valid, I think the fact that there are only seven Patriot teams playing FCS football plays to W&M’s advantage. The Patriot League, just like the CAA, gets one automatic qualifier to the FCS Football Championship each year. In a league with just 7 teams (compared to 12 in the CAA), less scholarships, “smaller time” football traditions, and similar academic recruiting standards, doesn’t W&M have a better chance of making the FCS Championship each year as the auto qualifier?
WMSB’s take: A lot to digest here, so we’ll break it down by number. 1) Sure, we’re raising money for athletics; when are we not? But to say all of the money is dedicated to moving the entirety of W&M’s athletics program “forward” is subjective — what is “forward” to one sports program is adequate facilities (swimming, looking at you). “Forward” for just about every other program on campus, for example, is improving our sports hub (Kaplan Arena), which is currently in its 50th year of operation. To say W&M is collecting money to move “forward” is to automatically assume what “forward” means in a time when many W&M programs still need to be brought into the modern era. 2) We highly doubt any school in the Patriot League would agree that they adhere to “lower” standards than any school in the CAA. If anything, their standards are higher across the board. Just depends on your definition of “standard.” 3) Comparing W&M to UVA, Duke, and Stanford — schools that have existed in the Power 5 for the entirety of D1’s existence — is not realistic, nor is it anywhere close to a fair comparison or representative of a realistic goal for W&M — especially in today’s day and age given the current collegiate landscape. Perhaps in the 50s, but not now. 4) Maybe we do refocus our recruiting, as stated above; unfortunately, that would likely result in lowering of academic standards. As long as W&M is fine with that, the strategy represents one potential avenue toward potentially increasing the winning percentage of teams at W&M.
WMSB’s take: First off, THANK YOU for your support of W&M Athletics. We appreciate your Tribe fandom, and thank you for this comment. So let’s get to it: will the level of competition drop? Maybe. Will Tribe super fans stop watching W&M sports as a result? Maybe, but we don’t think so. If you bleed Green & Gold, you are going to tune in to watch your Tribe no matter who we’re lining up against. Our big concern is with the current student body. At recent games we have attended, the student section is often bare — especially at football games. Talking to students on campus, it seems that fewer and fewer care about Tribe sports. Most fans we see at Kaplan and Zable are older alums who were on campus when Tribe sports were “big.” Therefore, we do not think that moving to the Patriot will impact the current students’ perception of W&M sports at all. In fact, if W&M makes the move and increases its winning percentage, even against lesser competition, we think it will be a net positive among current W&M students. Everybody loves a winner, no matter the competition. We have to think about the future of W&M Athletics in 10, 20, even 30 years from now. Not just 1 or 3 years out. If current Tribe students don’t see a consistent winner across several sports, interest will continue to wane throughout generations of incoming students, and future financial support for W&M Athletics will likely reach dangerous lows. Conclusion
Again, we are not suggesting that W&M abandon the CAA and move to the Patriot League. We are merely providing a counter argument to folks (especially older alums who remember the “glory days”) who say that we should 100% stay in the CAA without even considering potential alternative scenarios and their sustainable benefits. As one of our comrades notes below, the college landscape is going to change dramatically in the coming years; it’s better to have these discussions
now, before it’s quite literally too late.
We appreciate the healthy conversation this has stirred among Tribe fans on social media, and we continue to encourage you to provide comments below or on social media. See you there.
Discuss this topic with us on social media!