The College of William & Mary announced Sept. 3 that it will no longer sponsor seven varsity sports programs -- men's and women's gymnastics, men's and women's swimming, men's indoor and outdoor track and field and women's volleyball -- following the conclusion of the 2020-2021 academic year due to monetary concerns.
The decision will potentially impact 118 student-athletes and 13 coaches.
Missy Cundiff, a Leesburg resident who competes for the Tribe's swim team, said she and other athletes learned sports were being cut through a brief Zoom meeting that did not allow for any discussion after Director of Athletics Samantha K. Huge read a statement.
"I was thinking to myself, what can we do as athletes that other programs in our positions have not done? At this time, the coaches and parents just said [for us] to focus on academics. This is difficult, just focus on what you can control," said Cundiff, an Honorable Mention Scholar All-American with a double major in accounting and psychology.
"But being somewhat of a type A person, that wasn't really an option for me," she continued. "I wanted to do what I could to help save the program."
A few days after the announcement, Cundiff developed the idea of producing a music video and spent the next couple of days coordinating film times with her teammates.
After consulting with a coach to ensure the video was appropriate and would not undermine any other efforts being made to save the program, Cundiff released "Save Tribe Swim Rap" on her YouTube page Sept. 10.
"It kind of leaned toward being humorous, but I also wanted to be serious in the statistics and the message I was giving," Cundiff said.
One message Cundiff brought to light in the video was her belief that swimming is one of the least expensive sports to fund and that the team could have explored options to fund the program if given the opportunity. She did so by rhyming, "Cut two great teams without a second glance. Couldn't let us self-fund, couldn't give us that chance?"
Cundiff also highlights that the men's and women's swim teams at William & Mary have combined to win eight Colonial Athletic Association titles since the 2014-2015 season: "Eight-time champs in just six years, but only took four minutes to end our careers."
In addition, the three-plus minute video praises the academic achievements and charitable work of swim team members. The video has received more than 9,000 views within five days of its release.
"I've had so many people reach out to me and say this is really cool, this is a great way to get people talking," Cundiff said. "That is exactly what I wanted."
The swim program has set up a website, savetribeswimming.com, with the aim to educate, spread awareness and encourage financial pledges to support the reinstatement of the men's and women's teams.
Cundiff, a Tuscarora High School graduate, has qualified for the U.S. Olympic team trials in the 50-meter freestyle. Gabby Zhang (Rock Ridge) and Steven Thalblum (Stone Bridge) are also members of the Tribe's swim team. All three swimmers are juniors.
Fall sports at William & Mary are currently suspended due to COVID-19. The intent is for all impacted sports programs to have one final season to compete if the school deems it safe to do so.
Cundiff notes that many swimmers will consider transferring if the program is not reinstated. She is considering all options before making a decision about her future.
Watch the video here: