When Tom Williams was introduced as Yale’s sixteenth head football coach in 2009, he named two major goals for the program: an Ivy League title and a win over Harvard.
He might be out the door before accomplishing either.
Tom Williams confirmed Wednesday night that he has spoken to Stanford Athletic Director Bob Bowlsby about the vacant head coaching job with the Cardinal. According to the San Jose Mercury News, Stanford plans to announce a head football coach by the end of the week.
Williams would not comment on whether he would accept the head coaching position at Stanford should he be selected, but said that he remains committed to Yale football.
“I don’t know that that’s going to happen,” Williams said. “I don’t want to speculate. The fact of the matter is that I’m the head coach at Yale. I love it here, love the kids, love the school.”
ESPN and the Mercury News broke the news earlier on Wednesday that Williams is among five candidates Stanford is considering. Representatives from Stanford’s athletic office also confirmed the story.
All six football players interviewed, including captain Jordan Haynes ’11 and quarterback Patrick Witt ’12, said that they had not heard anything from Williams about a potential move. Only Haynes knew about the situation before talking to reporters, and only because he had read the report on ESPN.
Former coach Jim Harbaugh left the school on Jan. 7 to pursue a career as head coach of the NFL’s San Francisco 49ers. Stanford first interviewed Boise State head coach Chris Petersen, but he turned down the job offer on Jan. 10.
The Cardinal have since talked to Williams and three internal candidates: associate head coach Greg Roman, offensive coordinator David Shaw and defensive coordinator Vic Fangio, according to ESPN.
Williams is the only known candidate from outside the Stanford team that finished the season ranked No. 4 in the nation, but has many connections to the university. He served as captain and played four years of football in Palo Alto, where he earned both his Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees and was a Rhodes Scholar candidate.
“He’s used to being around individuals who are in general motivated, and he’s used to being around people who succeed in everything they do in life,” said Academic All-American linebacker Jesse Reising ’11. “He really understands what it takes to balance football and academics.”
According to Williams, his alma mater is particularly interested in him because he is one of few of the school’s alumni in coaching. Indeed, Williams’ name came up for the open Stanford head coaching job in 2007, when he was still an assistant coach at San Jose State.
The attraction goes both ways. Williams acknowledged that he is loyal to his school.
“You always have a fondness for your alma mater. You never quite get it out of your system in terms of your love for the place. That goes for your undergrad especially. And in my case, I got both my degrees from Stanford.”
Even as his name comes up again, Williams emphasized that he is a long way from moving to the west coast and remains firmly dedicated to his duties at Yale.
“I’m still the head coach until someone tells me something differently,” he said. “I’m committed to the things we’re doing.”
Williams added that because his involvement with Stanford goes no further than a phone interview, he has not yet discussed the situation with his players.
Because it is the offseason for football, NCAA and Ivy League rules dictate how much contact players can have with the coaching staff. Haynes said that he had not seen Williams since his return to campus from vacation.
Though surprised by the news, the players who agreed to comment expressed support for whatever decision Williams makes.
“The players love Coach Williams and we all think he’s a really great coach,” said standout wide receiver and kick returner Chris Smith ’13. “But we also want what’s best for him, and we would understand if he wanted to go back to Stanford. But we would really want him to be our coach next year.”
Williams’ interview with Stanford comes just before Yale football recruits for the class of 2015 arrive in New Haven this weekend. When questioned as to whether his interview with Stanford would affect his ability to recruit, Williams said he hopes kids decide on Yale because of Yale, not because of a coach.
“If I have a part to play with the football program, it’s a small part,” Williams said.
Whatever the decision, Williams’ players stand by their coach.
“If the opportunity presents itself to advance himself, then we can’t blame Coach Williams for taking it,” Reising said. “We’re a football family and we all wish each other the best. But then again, his departure would be a tremendous loss to our football program. Coach Willliams really helped us to develop not only as players but also as men.”