College on the verge of dramatic change

In the aftermath of the dismissal of the College of William and Mary’s basketball coach, the college needs to reflect on the possible implications this action may have for the future direction of athletics at the college. Does this action suggest the essential measure in gauging successful programs is winning?

For the basketball program, apparently, the primary requirement for success has now become qualifying for the NCAA tournament — not an easy thing for mid-majors to do in one-bid leagues. Given that has become the expectation, how long will the incoming coach be granted to achieve that goal? (At least until one recruiting class has graduated, one would hope.)

Furthermore, how does this expectation for basketball translate to the college’s other programs? Is there a similar expectation for the football program — that it should qualify for the Championship Division tournament in most years? Similarly, what are the expectations for the non-revenue teams? Must they qualify for postseason play in order to be considered successful?

One might foresee that the consequences of placing greater emphasis on winning could be manifested in a serious erosion of academic standards – standards pertaining to admission, player and team GPAs and graduation rates.

High aspirations are a positive thing. Unreasonable expectations are not. The college must consider carefully what it seems to be on the verge of doing.

William and Mary athletics has a lot to be proud of: the high academic standards it has consistently maintained, the high graduation rates it continues to achieve and the great many outstanding women and men who have been part of its programs. The college needs to recognize that a single-minded emphasis on winning might place those notable achievements in jeopardy.

John Conlee

Professor of English and faculty representative to the NCAA 1985-1995

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