Jimmye Laycock Has Built Himself a Legacy at William & Mary

By Zach Berman
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, September 2, 2009

WILLIAMSBURG -- When Jimmye Laycock accepted the job as football coach at William & Mary in 1980, he received some advice from Pat Dye, who was soon to take over the head coaching job at Auburn:

"Go there like you'll be there forever," Dye told him, "but get out of there the first chance you get."

At the time, it seemed like sage advice. William & Mary, Laycock's alma mater, had won six or more games just four times in the previous 25 years, and he inherited facilities so poor that the team shuttled to a nearby mental institution to practice on its grounds. Zable Stadium's locker rooms were so small, freshmen changed in a separate annex. The building lacked air conditioning, and positional meetings were conducted in the same room at the same time in the thick Virginia heat.

Laycock now has an air-conditioned corner office in an $11 million, 30,000-square-foot facility that was privately funded and bears his name. Looking back recently on Dye's advice, and with the disdain of a modest man forced to speak about himself, Laycock deadpanned: "Maybe I ain't smart enough to figure the second part out."

On Saturday, Laycock, 61, will begin his 30th season at William & Mary with a game at Virginia. Among division I or I-AA coaches, he trails only Penn State's Joe Paterno, Albany's Bob Ford and Florida State's Bobby Bowden in terms of tenure at one school.

Laycock never climbed the coaching ladder. Instead, he built his own legacy at a program he loves nestled in a community he appreciates. And those who know him identify the same reason: He fits. At the nation's second-oldest university in a town dedicated to preserving the past, the football coach has never left.

"Jimmye Laycock is synonymous with William & Mary," said Troy Keen, a former running back who is a vice president with Wells Fargo Securities. "It's hard to imagine one without the other."

He could have ascended to programs with more prestige, better facilities and larger budgets. Boston College offered Laycock its head coaching job in 1990, and Laycock even accepted the post before phoning the athletic director at 5:20 the following morning to turn it down. He wasn't prepared to leave home. The job instead went to Tom Coughlin, who later coached the New York Giants to a Super Bowl title.

Laycock interviewed for Maryland's head coaching vacancy in 1991 and declined offers from Duke and Southern Methodist, among others. He once even passed on an overture from Maryland Coach Ralph Friedgen, then the San Diego Chargers' offensive coordinator, to coach quarterbacks in the NFL.

He emphasizes he has no regrets, although he has wondered what might have been had he followed a traditional coaching path and moved up that ladder. But Laycock abruptly banishes the thought, because who knows what would happen, he says. He could have been fired from the next job, or left on his own.

So he stayed and guided his acclaimed offenses in small-conference games that were often relegated to regional radio. As a result, Laycock is seldom discussed among the game's legendary coaches.

"He should be. He really should be," Friedgen said.

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