Tom Williams, who interviewed for the Stanford head coaching job after Jim Harbaugh left for the NFL, resigned as head coach at Yale today following an internal investigation into his claims that he was a Rhodes Scholar candidate.
The issue first came to light last month in the wake of several articles about Yale senior quarterback Patrick Witt, who was wrestling with the decision to play in his final game against Harvard or pursue a Rhodes scholarship with an interview that same day. Several news outlets reported that Williams struggled with the same decision, but that wasn't quite true. According to his bio on GoStanford.com, Williams graduated with honors as a history major and Rhodes Scholar candidate in 1992. But the New York Times reported that the Rhodes Scholarship Trust had no evidence that Williams applied for the prestigious scholarship.
When questioned about the claim, Williams initially said that he had applied for the scholarship but withdrew his candidacy soon after, and therefore had not faced the same decision as Witt. "No, I didn't get as far as he did," Williams said.
Williams, who captained Stanford's 1992 Blockbuster Bowl team and was a former teammate of Cardinal head coach David Shaw, has since admitted that he didn't even apply for the scholarship. He issued the following statement today:
"I wish to clear the record. 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.' I considered the opportunity, sought advice and was encouraged to apply by faculty members and my coach Bill Walsh, but I did not apply."
Yale went 16-14 during Williams' three-year tenure, but 0-3 against rival Harvard. Williams will probably be best remembered for an ill-fated decision he made late in the fourth quarter of his first loss to the Crimson. With the Bulldogs leading 10-7 and 2:25 to play, Williams called for a fake punt on fourth-and-22 from the Yale 26. Williams took the blame for the bad call after Yale failed to convert and lost 14-10.
As it turns out, the fake punt was only the second worst decision Williams made at Yale. I'd like to think that Stanford would've done the same fact-checking that the New York Times did before they considered hiring Williams. The fib probably wouldn't have come to light unless Andrew Luck or another Stanford player was trying to decide between taking the field against Cal or pursuing a Rhodes Scholarship, but that's beside the point. It's a sad end of the road in New Haven for the former Stanford star and assistant coach, but he should find another opportunity, probably as an assistant, somewhere in due time. Just ask George O'Leary.
Moral of the story: mentioning that you were encouraged to apply for a Rhodes Scholarship is good fodder for a cover letter, but don't be untruthful in your resume.