Another Black Coach For The Ivy League

By John Christoffersen
Updated: January 8, 2009

NEW HAVEN, Ct. — Jacksonville Jaguars defensive assistant Tom Williams was introduced Wednesday as the head football coach at Yale, making him the first African-American to hold the job and only the second black football coach in the Ivy League.

Williams, 39, will replace Jack Siedlecki, who retired in November after 12 seasons to become an assistant athletic director at the school.

“I am thrilled, absolutely thrilled to accept this position,” Williams said.

Williams was blunt and succinct in outlining his goals, the first being to win the Ivy League championship.

“And secondly, we’re going to beat Harvard,” Williams said, sparking applause and laughter. “We’ve got to turn the game back into a rivalry.”

“Those are all the goals we need,” Williams added.

Yale went 6-4 this season, including 4-3 in Ivy League play and a 10-0 loss to Harvard in the 125th edition of “The Game.”

Yale has lost seven of the past eight games against the Crimson.

To accomplish his goals, Williams suggested Yale could expand its recruiting, possibly even internationally.

Tom Beckett, Yale’s director of athletics, said the university was proud of the appointment, noting Yale has been playing football for 137 years, but said Williams’ race was not a factor.

Columbia coach Norries Wilson is the only other black football coach in the Ivy League.

“We wanted the best coach and the best leader that this university could possibly find and bring to New Haven and we did that,” Beckett said.

Williams said he looked forward to the day when a coach’s race didn’t matter.

“Movement is glacial, it’s happening, but it’s glacial,” Williams said. “And I’m proud to wear that banner for African-American coaches.”

Williams has been assistant coach for the NFL’s Jaguars for the past two seasons and has been an assistant coach at Hawaii, Washington, Stanford and San Jose State. This will be his first head coaching job.

Carm Cozza, the legendary Yale coach and a member of the search committee, said Williams brings an impressive ability to relate to the unique pressures of being a student-athlete at a school where the student part comes first.

Williams is a former Rhodes Scholar candidate who played linebacker at Stanford.

“We’ve had problems getting enough black athletes,” said Cozza. “That might help him. He’s an example. He could have come here.”

Eight members of the football team served on one of the advisory committees involved in the selection process and strongly backed Williams, Beckett said.

Hall-of-Famer Calvin Hill, a former Yale running back, said the choice goes a long way toward disproving the myth that there is a lack of qualified minority candidates for head coaching jobs.

“I think anybody who has ever worn the Yale blue and played in the (Yale) Bowl ought to be excited, especially if they are black,” he said. “They picked a guy who can carry on the great tradition that started with Walter Camp, and included Carm Cozza, and they’ve gotten somebody who perhaps can start to beat Harvard, like things should be.”

NOTE: AP writer Pat Eaton-Robb in Hartford contributed to this report.