December 21st, 2011 | Sports

Williams resigns amid Rhodes controversy

Williams leads players onto the field at the 2009 Harvard-Yale game.
Williams leads players onto the field at the 2009 Harvard-Yale game. Photo by Charlie Croom.

Head Football Coach Tom Williams resigned this morning, a little over a month after his history as a candidate for the Rhodes Scholarship first came into question.

Williams came under fire when the New York Times reported that the Rhodes Scholarship Trust had no record of Yale’s coach applying for the scholarship, even though Williams’ official biography on the Yale Athletics website listed him as a Rhodes candidate. The Times article prompted University President Richard Levin to ask for a review of Williams’ Rhodes candidacy on Nov. 17, and in a Wednesday morning press release, Williams said he was encouraged to apply for the scholarship but never did.

“I am extremely proud of my academic, athletic and coaching career,” Williams said in the release. “If there was confusion created, I take full responsibility. The timing of this inquiry has been difficult for everyone. At this point I believe it is in the best interest of my student-athletes and Yale University that I step down.”

When Williams was named coach in January 2009, he said his two goals for the team were to win an Ivy League championship and to beat Harvard. Though the Bulldogs posted a 16–14 overall record during Williams’ tenure, they have failed to win a single Yale-Harvard game in the last three seasons.

“We’ve got to turn The Game back into a rivalry,” Williams said in 2009. “You know, it’s been a little bit one-sided these last few years. A rivalry is only a rivalry when there’s some give-and-take, and the last few years there’s been too much take.”

But while the Elis finished a 7–3 campaign in the 2010 season, they tallied a mediocre 5–5 record this fall and suffered their worst loss against Harvard in 29 years, 45–7.

Williams’ Rhodes history came into the spotlight after quarterback Patrick Witt ’12 was named a Rhodes finalist in October, with an interview scheduled on the same day as the Yale-Harvard game. Witt said he looked to Williams for advice in deciding to play or attend the interview because Williams had reportedly forgone a Rhodes interview when he was a Stanford student in 1992 in order to try out for the San Francisco 49ers. Witt ultimately withdrew his Rhodes application.

Although Williams was listed as a Rhodes candidate in his biography on the Yale Athletics website, the New York Times first reported on Nov. 16 that the Rhodes Scholarship Trust had no record of Williams ever applying for the scholarship. His biography on the website no longer mentions the scholarship.

Williams said in the statement today that the Stanford Fellowship office, faculty members and his coach Bill Walsh suggested he consider the scholarship when he was a student, but that he decided against applying. He also said his involvement with the San Francisco 49ers went no further than a three-day try-out camp during his senior spring.

Director of Athletics Tom Beckett said in the press release that the search for a new head football coach would begin immediately.