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W&M Athletics Director Samantha Huge resigns amid controversy over cutting 7 sports programs | Williamsburg Yorktown Daily

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W&M Athletics Director Samantha K. Huge leads the W&M men’s swim team and CAA champions for on-field recognition in spring 2019. (WUDaily/Courtesy of Tribe Athletics)

Samantha Huge is no more.

William & Mary’s athletics director tendered her resignation, according to an internal memo received Tribe Club board members Tuesday.

In a message sent to Tribe Club board members on Tuesday from the athletics department, W&M President Katherine Rowe and Board of Visitors Rector John E. Littel released statements, noting she had resigned effective immediately.

“Athletics Director Samantha Huge was asked to lead difficult change at William & Mary – change required to address long-standing imbalances and put the athletics department on sound financial and operational footing for years to come,” Rowe said in the statement. “She took on that challenge recognizing that it was in the best interest of the university and she continues to make decisions using that standard as her guide.”

Rowe wrote “it is clear to me that a new approach is necessary.”

“Accordingly, Director Huge and I have mutually agreed that it is best to part ways so the university can focus on the critical questions facing W&M Athletics,” Rowe wrote. “I accept this with a heavy heart and with great respect for Samantha Huge and her leadership.”

Rowe added Huge would be replaced by her chief of staff, Jeremy Martin, who would act as interim athletics director.

The news comes hours before the faculty Arts & Sciences meeting Tuesday afternoon where a motion would be introduced calling for the reinstatement of seven varsity sports programs which were cut and Huge’s resignation.

“We are grateful to Samantha Huge for all of her service to William & Mary. She has been a tireless advocate for William & Mary and the role athletics plays in the life of our university – taking on hard and necessary issues with courage,” Littel said in a prepared statement. “The board stands behind President Rowe and Interim Athletics Director Martin as they chart a future course for a successful and sustainable athletics program at William & Mary, and as they work to unite our community behind that shared objective.”

Rowe added the open dialogue will continue with “sport-specific groups who have been asked to contribute to practical solutions” and share the “near- and long-term shortfalls” of the athletics department.

“We will begin this process of extended dialogue this Thursday and I welcome all of you to participate in these important conversations,” Martin said in a prepared statement, “In the meantime, my door remains open to all who want to genuinely address how we move our beloved Tribe forward.”

A group created shortly after the programs were cut was Save Tribe Swimming, and they issued this statement:

“We are encouraged by the resignation of Samantha Huge, this is the first step. We demand that the seven teams be reinstated immediately. Without this second step the college and athletic department cannot move forward.”

Huge’s term

Huge was hired in 2017, succeeding Terry Driscoll, who had been AD for 21 years. Since then, Jimmye Laycock, the long-time football coach, announced his retirement after 39 seasons and Tony Shaver, the men’s basketball coach for 16 seasons, was fired by Huge a few months later.

Huge replaced Laycock with Mike London from Howard University and hired Dane Fischer from George Mason University to replace Shaver. The hiring process for both London and Fischer was vague.

It remains unclear whether Huge will receive severance — or how much.

Suzanne Clavet, spokeswoman for W&M, was not immediately available for comment.

Seven sports

W&M announced in an open letter on Sept. 3 the men’s swimming, gymnastics and outdoor and indoor track teams and the women’s swimming, volleyball and gymnastics teams would be cut starting in the 2021-2022 year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

After the college community discovered parts of the open letter had been plagiarized with direct sentences from Stanford, Huge released a statement 15 days later noting she had consulted with other universities, including Stanford. Rowe released a statement six days later calling the letter a mistake, adding it did not rise to W&M standards.

Agouris did not release a public statement. It remains unclear why Agouris, Rowe and Huge copied part of the open letter and did not release a joint statement addressing the plagiarism.

Following the outcry from student-athletes, faculty and alumni, the Board of Visitors had a “listening session” on Sept. 23 where the student assembly read their For Bold Resolution, asking for transparency about the decision to cut the programs with other members of the community weighing in on the decision and the manner in which it was done: In a seven-minute Zoom call.

The women’s swimming, volleyball and gymnastics teams hired an attorney, Arthur H. Bryant of Bailey & Glasser LLP, who sent a letter to Rowe threatening a Title IX lawsuit.

Bryant wrote the college would be in violation of Title IX by cutting the sports programs and not offering the same opportunities to women and wanted the sports teams reinstated.

Carrie Nee, the university’s counsel, told Bryant the college did not have to reinstate the sports programs and could comply with Title IX by cutting the men’s sports teams rosters, including football, and adding more spots on the women’s sports teams currently offered at the college.

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