Decades from now, if Tom Williams is looked upon as among Yale’s legendary coaches, the University will know exactly whom to thank: former Mississippi State football coach Sylvester Croom.
Croom resigned as head coach on Nov. 29 after a difficult 4-8 season. Little did Croom know that he had set in motion a coaching carousel that would ultimately result in Tom Williams’ hiring at Yale.
Twelve days later, Mississippi State introduced Florida offensive coordinator Dan Mullen as its head coach. Florida coach Urban Meyer tapped his offensive line coach, Steve Addazio, to succeed him.
The only problem was Addazio was also Yale’s top choice for its own coaching vacancy, according to sources familiar with the search. So Addazio had a choice to make.
Ultimately, the offensive coordinator position at a powerhouse like Florida — which last Thursday won the Bowl Championship Series title game — was too tempting for Addazio to turn down. Coordinators at major programs like Florida can make upward of $400,000 per year. More importantly, such a position can be a stepping-stone to a top head-coaching job like the one Mullen landed, which will earn him $1.2 million per year.
Two of Meyer’s previous offensive coordinators also went on to prominent head coaching positions, at UNLV and Bowling Green, and Addazio acknowledged as much when he accepted the position on Dec. 27. (He is now reportedly a leading candidate for the head coaching vacancy at Boston College.)
“Coach Meyer’s track record obviously speaks for itself with his previous coordinators,” he said.
Addazio’s choice let Yale to its second choice: Tom Williams.
In part as a result of Addazio’s decision, Yale’s search took longer than anticipated. But Yale officials scoffed at the notion that the University was struggling to find a replacement to Jack Siedlecki, pointing to the veritable flood of resumes that crashed down on Ray Tompkins House within hours of the former coach’s resignation. They stressed that Williams was not the “last candidate standing,” as the New Haven Register at one point referred to him.
While reports in the local media implied that the University was spurned by three coaches before moving onto Williams, that was not the case, according to the sources. Rather, the Jacksonville Jaguars assistant was the school’s second choice after Addazio, and a close second at that, they said. In fact, Williams was actually the top choice for the student-athletes on the search committee.
There was one more wrinkle. While the University received permission from the Jaguars to interview Williams, a source said Williams did not want to be seen as abandoning his players mid-season, and as a result would not consider the Yale vacancy until after the Jaguars played their season finale Dec. 28. While Yale officials had said they hoped to have a coach in place by New Year’s, the source said it was clear Williams was worth the wait.
Among the others considered for the position were University of Massachusetts coach Don Brown, who last week accepted the defensive coordinator position at Maryland, and Tom Gilmore, the coach at Holy Cross, both of whom eventually withdrew their names from consideration. And while some news reports implied that they were Yale’s top choices ahead of Williams, that was not the case, sources said. Neither coach was offered the job following their interviews, they said.