Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and on-going financial strain the College of William & Mary cut the mens' track program from their varsity sports this past summer. Since then there has been fundraising efforts, alumni outpouring support, disdain from many in the community, and now a very bold move by the women's track and field team.
The women penned an open letter addressed to the W&M's administration with a simple demand - either reinstate the men's team or we will not compete for W&M.
That move shows support that is very familiar to many programs at all levels. Yes, some schools may consider the men's and women's team as separate teams but that we all consider it one program.
One of the biggest reasons this move could have a huge affect on the athletic department is its Title IX implications. Title IX is essentially a legal standard ensuring that men and women have equal access to athletics in college.
Why this comes in to play is simple and can be described in one word - football.
Football teams have huge rosters and that almost always means colleges need to offer more women's sports than men's to have close to a 50/50 split. So when colleges need to make cuts, it is usually a men's sport that goes first.
Here the issue is what the ramifications would be if these female athletes do not compete for W&M this year. Would they not be counted as student-athletes? Would they not count towards the Title IX compliance numbers? The answers to those questions may be more telling than anything else to see if the men's program will be reinstated.