In an April editorial regarding the Walter Zable estate’s $23.9 million donation to the College of William and Mary’s athletic program, our editorial board said renovating Zable Stadium would do little to reduce student apathy if the football team did not also improve. This season, the football team is 3-1, having lost only to West Virginia University, one of the best college football teams in the nation, and only by a single touchdown. Tailgates have been filled with excitement, and students want to attend football games. Even during the inclement weather of the parents’ weekend football game, many people stayed, prompting coach Jimmye Laycock to write a public letter of thanks, published by The Flat Hat. This is what happens when we emphasize the quality of athletes over the quality of facilities. If this trend continues, we believe it will have a positive effect on the College by boosting Tribe pride and attracting quality student athletes in all sports, perhaps leading to more alumni donations.
Putting the College’s general apathy toward sports aside, students will be more inclined to attend games if teams perform well. This is evident by the football team’s success so far this season. These events help bring students together and foster a greater sense of community within the College and the Williamsburg area; organizations like Tribal Fever should exploit this by continuing to organize trips to away games, to expand the College’s support system beyond the campus. The Student Assembly should be commended for doing its part by funding portable toilets for the tailgating area. They will be much appreciated in the coming weeks.
Because students don’t know a great deal about sports on campus and the College doesn’t promote them, student athletes’ success is not always received with the same level of enthusiasm as the success of students in non-athletic arenas. The men’s soccer team defeated the No. 1 and No. 24 teams in the Colonial Athletic Association in the last two weeks. Student accomplishment ought to be recognized, whether it is in academics or sports. Tribal Fever could perhaps do more to promote successful non-football sports teams as well, even organize rides to home games, which take place near the Dillard Complex, a difficult walk for students.
Let’s not delude ourselves: The College will never become a sports-centered school. But providing a great education and cultivating great athletes need not be a zero-sum game. As long as we do not divert resources away from academics, students and administrators should not fear an improvement in athletics. Prospective students who would not have otherwise considered the College may see us as a potential option in the future. And with $10 million of Zable’s donation set aside for athletic scholarships, the College will be able to reel in more of these students.
We hope that, in the future, improved athletics will lead to more donations — if not from billionaires like Walter Zable, then at least from other prominent alumni. The ultimate goal would be a positive feedback loop: More donations could contribute to better teams, which would then lead to more donations. Of course, the only way this loop works is if the money is used to help build teams, rather than simply renovate stadiums. We are happy to see, at least right now, that the College understands this and that it is paying off.