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Yale Football Coach Williams Steps Down Amid Rhodes Inquiry

Yale Football Coach Williams Steps Down Amid Rhodes Inquiry
Yale University football coach Tom Williams watches the action during a staged tennis exhibition at the Yale Bowl in New Haven, Connecticut, on Aug. 24, 2009. Photographer: Jim Rogash/Getty Images for Sony Ericsson WTA Tour

Yale University football coach Tom Williams resigned amid an inquiry into whether he lied about being a Rhodes Scholarship candidate while attending Stanford University.

Yale, based in New Haven, Connecticut, started looking into the discrepancy after officials of the Rhodes Trust found no evidence that Williams applied for the scholarship upon graduating from Stanford in 1992, the New York Times reported last month.

“I considered the opportunity, sought advice and was encouraged to apply by faculty members and my coach Bill Walsh, but I did not apply,” Williams said today in a statement.

“I am extremely proud of my academic, athletic and coaching career,” Williams said. “If there was confusion created, I take full responsibility.”

The discrepancy about his academic history emerged as a result of stories about Yale quarterback Patrick Witt, who withdrew his application for the Rhodes Scholarship last month because the interview interfered with his final college game against Harvard University.

Williams told Bloomberg News in an interview on Nov. 8 that he was a Rhodes finalist in 1992 as a senior at Stanford. He said he skipped his interview to attend a free-agent tryout with the National Football League’s San Francisco 49ers.

“I followed my dream to play NFL football,” Williams said in November. “I have no regrets about it at all.”

NFL Experience

Williams, who turns 42 tomorrow, took over as Yale’s coach in 2009 after two seasons as a defensive assistant with the National Football League’s Jacksonville Jaguars. The first black football coach in school history, he had a 16-14 record in three seasons at Yale.

He was captain as a senior of Stanford’s 1992 team that won a share of the Pacific-10 Conference championship and graduated with honors as a history major, according to his biography on Yale’s athletic department website. Williams is also listed as a Rhodes Scholar candidate and a member of the 49ers’ practice squad in 1993.

The Rhodes Scholarship, awarded by the trust, is the oldest and one of the most prestigious international graduate scholarship awards, granted each year to students who display outstanding intellect, character, leadership and commitment to service. Recipients are given the opportunity for postgraduate study at the University of Oxford in England.

“I wish to clear the record,” Williams said in offering his resignation. “On the Rhodes Scholarship issue, I was encouraged to apply by the Stanford Fellowship office, which identified me ‘as the kind of student who demonstrates the intellect, energy and commitment that the Rhodes selection committees seek in their applicants.’”

No Contract

Williams also clarified his NFL playing experience today, saying he participated in a three-day tryout camp with the 49ers during the spring of his senior year.

“I did not sign a free agent contract with the 49ers or participate in their summer training camp for signed players,” said Williams.

Yale had a 5-5 record this season, ending with a 45-7 loss to Harvard. Yale Athletics Director Tom Beckett called Williams a “dedicated teacher and coach” in accepting his resignation and said the school will immediately begin a search for Williams’s successor.

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