In the span of a single week William & Mary athletics director Samantha Huge resigned after facing backlash from cutting seven sports programs last month, and a mix of student-athletes and athletics department staff have tested positive for coronavirus.
The university announced Tuesday that Huge was stepping down from her position and then on Wednesday news broke that athletics employees and athletes had tested positive for COVID-19.
The announcement of Huge resignation was made by university president Katherine Rowe in a Tuesday letter to the William & Mary community.
In the letter, Rowe wrote that it was a mutually agreed upon decision between her and Huge to part ways “so the university can focus on the critical questions facing W&M Athletics.”
Huge was facing massive backlash from the decision last month to discontinue seven sports programs after the 2020-2021 academic year as part of a school-wide review on adjusting to the operational and financial challenges brought upon by COVID-19.
Those teams included: men’s and women’s gymnastics, men’s and women’s swimming, men’s indoor and outdoor track and field, and volleyball. Overall, the decision cut William & Mary’s 23 varsity sports to 16 and impacted 118 student-athletes and 13 coaches.
The athletes, who had already returned to campus and paid tuition for the new semester, were notified of the decision via a Zoom call that lasted six minutes and featured no explanation or discussion, according to the Save Tribe Swimming website.
“I think it’s been a mismanagement on a lot of different levels,” a former William & Mary student-athlete, who requested to not be named, told The Virginia Star. “It’s been a mismanagement on the sports that they targeted, I think it’s been a mismanagement on the lack of transparency and I think it’s been a complete and utter abomination of leadership.”
The former student-athlete whose own sports program was cut by the university during his time added: “As an athlete, [your sport] is a key driver of your identity. You worked hard for years and years to have the opportunity to play at a division 1 level, but it’s suddenly taken away from you and you might lose a year of eligibility because of it, it’s catastrophic.”
In a September 18 statement on the decision, Huge said: “We clearly fell short of the William & Mary community’s standards. Upon reflection, we should have taken more care with the review of the materials we shared with our community.”
With those athletics department cuts, William & Mary is projected to save $3.66 million annually in 2021-22 after honoring current scholarships and coaches’ contracts, according to a news release from the school.
A change.org petition that was created last month and is titled “Save William & Mary Athletics” has been signed by nearly 22,000 people.
In the meantime, Jeremy Martin, Rowe’s chief of staff, has assumed the role of interim athletics director until a new person is appointed.
As far as the student-athletes and athletics department staff who tested positive for the virus, information was shared in a statement from Erin Zagursky, associate director of university news.
“We had a number of positive cases of COVID-19 reported over the last few days as a result of our prevalence testing and through our self-reporting system,” Zagursky said. “They include 12 people associated with W&M Athletics, and we have temporarily paused all athletic team activities as a precaution and to conduct testing.”
No William & Mary sports teams can practice or conduct training sessions until given permission to do so by the athletics department chief medical officer, who keeps in close contact with state health officials, according to Zagursky.
Out of the 12 individuals who received positive test results, a specific breakdown of how many were department staff versus student-athletes was not provided to The Star because that information could compromise privacy, Zagursky said.
The COVID-positive students and staff must now self-isolate for ten days and anyone who had been in close contact is being asked by the school to quarantine for 14 days, according to Zagursky.
Zagursky also reiterated that William & Mary is following all university, CDC and NCAA guidelines and is taking every precaution necessary to prevent the further spread of the virus.
Martin did not immediately respond to a request for comment from The Star on the positive cases.
William & Mary has reported that 28 students and less than 10 employees have tested positive for coronavirus this semester, according to the school’s COVID-19 dashboard.
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Jacob Taylor is a reporter at The Virginia Star and the Star News Digital Network. Follow Jacob on Twitter. Email tips to [email protected]
Photo “Samantha Huge” by William & Mary. Background Photo “William & Mary Football Game” by benuski. CC BY-SA 2.0.