COURTESY PHOTO / WM.EDU

Tuesday Oct. 6, College of William and Mary President Katherine Rowe sent an email to the College of William and Mary community announcing that Athletics Director Samantha Huge had resigned effective immediately, and that Rowe’s chief of staff Jeremy Martin Ph.D. ’12 M.B.A. ’17 would be assuming the role as Interim Athletic Director for the foreseeable future.

“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 said in the letter. “I accept this step with a heavy heart and with great respect for Samantha Huge and her leadership.”

The decision comes after Huge and Tribe Athletics as a whole have been embroiled in controversy following the decision to discontinue seven varsity sports  Sept. 3.  Many current and former students were angered by how Tribe Athletics handled the news, which prompted a barrage of fundraisers and petitions aimed at the administration.

While the anger of the Tribe community was not directed at Huge alone, she caused even more controversy when it was discovered that the letter she wrote to address the discontinuation of the seven sports at the College had portions that were almost verbatim from a letter published by Stanford University when Stanford announced the suspension of some of its varsity sports.

In a Sept. 18 statement about the letter, Huge admitted to the mistake.

“Our goal was to emulate best practices, not imitate,” 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. At the end of the day, regardless of the drafting process, I take responsibility and we will do better.”

After Huge’s resignation, all of the focus has now shifted onto Interim Director Jeremy Martin.

With the myriad of issues that Tribe Athletics is facing, Martin has had to quickly transition into the new role.  Thursday, Oct. 8, two days after his appointment, Martin gave a 30-minute video address where he discussed his background and illustrated the path ahead for Tribe Athletics.

In the video, Martin outlined that due to reduced revenue, Tribe Athletics has experienced a $2.87 million shortfall during this fiscal year. This deficit was covered by Tribe Club reserves, but Martin made it clear that these reserves have been declining steadily for years.

Martin also addressed the ways to counteract this budget deficit.

“We can reduce the number of games; we can reduce travel; we can take some personnel actions; we can launch fundraising initiatives and we can try to increase sponsorships, all of which we’ve done,” Martin said. “We did not choose to affect the sport budgets, so many of which are already below the median in the conference.  That left us with two possible decisions, and thinking that we needed to reduce student athlete participants and reduce sports sponsorships.”

Many in the College community have been calling on Tribe Athletics to reinstate the seven discontinued sports, but Martin made it clear in the video that any possible solutions that Tribe Athletics would agree to would have to meet certain requirements.

“If an affected sport would like to be reinstated, it has to be able to do so with Title IX compliance, with provided ongoing budget stability — not in the near term, ongoing long-term budget stability, and it has to do so within a Division One identity,” Martin said.

For many in the College community, Martin is not a well-known name. Prior to being named Rowe’s chief of staff in 2017, Martin has worked at the College since 2009 and holds a master’s degree in sports administration.  He has worked as an assistant women’s basketball coach and assistant sports information director at Emory University but has never been an athletic director before.

Despite this lack of experience, Martin believes that he has the skills necessary to be successful while also uplifting those working around him.

“I do think I know how to build up teams and let people be the professional experts in their spheres,” Martin said. “One of the stories I shared in the first all-staff meeting was … I’m keenly aware of my talent level and its limitations, and I have spent my entire career trying to be around people who are more talented than me, and create the space in which they can be great, and I hope to able to do that at this moment for our athletics department.”

Martin emphasized the importance of communication between the administration, students, alumni and athletes.

“I hope to be present for people,” Martin said. “The reality in trying to be present is I can’t be everywhere at once, but one of the pieces of immediate feedback was ‘be present, know our names, say hello to us in the hall,’ things like that … I want to be connected to and present for both the student-athletes and staff. In any moment like this, they’re incredibly difficult.”

He also acknowledged that his appointment as Interim Athletic Director does not come at the calmest or steadiest moment for Tribe Athletics, but that he wants to focus on the critical problems at hand.

“The first thing we really have to do is to get the ground stable underneath us so that we can move forward,” Martin said. “I think that’s true for everybody … for the student athletes, for the coaches and staff and for the alumni and friends who care so much about William and Mary. What I hope we are able to do is to say ‘here’s the problem we face,’ and have everybody concretely aware of what that is, and then we can channel our energy into trying to figure out if there are viable alternatives that we might pursue.”

One of the most pressing issues that has involved Tribe Athletics is the COVID-19 outbreak among those associated with the athletics department. After 12 athletes and staff tested positive, the College paused all athletic activities and practices  Oct. 7.

No specifics about how the virus spread have been released, but Martin expressed his confidence in the safety procedures set up by the athletics department.

“Dr. Wells — she’s our chief medical officer for the athletics department — is on the public health advisory group; she’s an immunology and an infectious disease expert, and so the immediate communication to the entire department was that Dr. Wells is in charge and whatever she says goes,” Martin said. “We work with a fairly extensive list of protocols in athletics to make sure those activities are safe, and it’s absolutely vital that beyond those spaces we create for athletic practices that everyone in our community is following the Healthy Together commitment.”

No punishments have been announced, but Martin also made sure to affirm that athletes would be subject to the same standards as everyone else at the College under Healthy Together.

The looming issues of Tribe Athletics aside, Martin said that before a search for a new Athletic Director starts, the athletics department has a lot of work to do.

“What we need to do in this moment is to get William and Mary well and in as good a shape as we can get so that we can ultimately be attractive to someone who will permanently lead the department,” Martin said.

To get the College and its athletics department into better shape, Martin is determined to explore every possible solution.

“I am listening,” Martin said. “We may never reach full agreement in this moment and if there are any viable possibilities that we can pursue going forward, I will do everything I can to make sure that we pursue them fully. My commitment to the student athletes and to the alumni has been that if we reach the end of this process and the end of this year and it turns out to be the final season of competition in a respective sport, I do expect to be able to look folks in the eye and say ‘we tried everything we could to see if there was a viable alternative.’”