I owe Professor Sam Crane a Christmas present. So, instead of advocating for cuts in programs he likes (Bolin Fellows, visiting professors, local charity), here are some proposed cuts in Athletics. Readers should suggest their own (or argue against mine).

1) Decrease staffing dramatically. Morty has insisted that no one will be fired, but there are many (explicitly or implicitly) one year positions in the department. No one should be fired before June 30, but anyone without a longer term contract and/or reasonable expectation for permanent employment should be let go, and the position should not be filled. For example, men’s basketball coach Mike Maker does not need two paid assistants. Each should finish out the year but be told now that they should start looking. And, to prove my gender neutrality, the same argument applies to the women’s basketball team. Pat Manning is a wonderful coach, but she can survive without two paid assistants. To the extent that help is needed, student managers should fulfill that role.

Obviously, I have nothing against the basketball program and in a world of infinite cash, the more coaches the merrier, although I will note that students seem to learn a lot from club sports precisely because they don’t have a collection of coaches telling them what to do every step of the way.

Do any of these folks make a lot of money? No! These jobs pay little. But there are a lot of them and every little bit will help. Moreover, the Department can and should exercise discretion. One of these assistants is married to another Williams coach. Best to look out for Williams families.

2) Decrease headcount through attrition. Entering “Athletics” under Department here generates 56 names. My sense is that this is a dramatic underestimate. For example, none of the 4 assistant basketball coaches are listed. (Perhaps this is a better list, with 100 odd folks but lots of double-counting.) We generally see the Williams faculty described as having either 250 or 330 members. I think that the 80 difference is a rough estimate of the number of coaches. Does Williams need that many coaches? No. Does it need its current support staff? No. Back in the day, my coach Sean Sloane did his own scheduling. Current coaches can do the same. Again, there is no need for firing, but there should be a hiring freeze.

3) Increase the responsibilities of current staff. It is absurd that, say, Athletic DIrector Harry Sheehy ’75 and Women’s Athletic Director Lisa Melendy don’t actually, you know, coach anyone. If Bob Peck could be both Athletic Director and coach of mens basketball than so can Harry Sheehy. Again, I am not calling for anyone to be fired. But, as attrition occurs, current staff should be used to take their places. For example, volleyball coach Fran Vandermeer is retiring (I think). She has done a wonderful job. But Williams is no longer a rich enough institution that it can engage in a showy “nationwide” search for her successor. Instead, Melendy or Sheehy or someone else not coaching a fall team should become the volleyball coach.

Now, of course, none of these coaches (as great as they are) will do as good a job as an experienced volleyball coach would. But Williams needs to cut tens of millions of dollars from its budget. If you don’t want to fire people then a hiring freeze is a necessity and, if you have a hiring freeze, then other staff members will need to step up.

4) Don’t turn Dance into an academic department. This isn’t a cost cutting suggestion per se, just a way of avoiding spending more money on an activity that is currently classified under athletics. As always, in a world of infinite money, one could make the case that Dance, like Studio Art or Theater, should be an academic department, but not within our current financial constraints. Does anyone have an update on this proposal? The Record reported in September that:

After more than three decades as part of the department of physical education, the College’s dance program is on its way to becoming an academic department, with a new Dance Committee formed to oversee the transition. According to Holly Silva, assistant director of dance, the College is “committed … to a move towards dance in an academic setting.”

Since its inception in the early 1970s, the ultimate goal of the dance program has been to become a comprehensive academic program and eventually offer a major in dance, Silva said. In 2007, the College ordered an outside peer review of the program, and in the coming year the Dance Committee, consisting of faculty, administrators and two appointed students, will be looking into logistics of the potential change.

Silva may be in for a surprise.

5) Start saving money. In a world of infinite resources, there is nothing wrong with sending Harry Sheehy and Lisa Melendy and Kris Dufour (and others?) down to watch the women’s soccer team play in the Final Four. But Williams needs to start saving money. No more junkets. (Obviously, if these folks paid their own way, then more power to them and all praise their dedication to Williams athletics.)

How much would all this save? I don’t know. The College makes it impossible for any outsider to understand its budget. But all these cuts come well before more dramatic options like eliminating teams altogether, not traveling to tournaments and so on. Again, readers sometimes perceive me as an ogre for advocating these cuts, but if you won’t make these cuts from the athletic budget, then what cuts would you make? And, if you won’t make some major cuts in athletics, then what departments would you cut?

Merry Christmas, Sam!

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