He was calling, Bill Mims said, because he didn't know what else to do. Mims is a senior at the College of William and Mary in Williamsburg, Va. He is president of the student association. Although the students and faculty and a lot of townspeople don't want a 30,000-seat football stadium, it is going to be built, probably, and Bill Mims is sure William and Mary will go to hell because of it.
At what point football is a healthy part of a university and at what point football becomes the university, we can only guess. But it does happen. Because the schools won't admit they're in show business and then openly hire entertainer / players, they create a world of hypocrisy with special admission and eligibility rules for the hired hands.
At William and Mary, opponents of the stadium expansion from its present 15,500 seats see the growth as the first step down the road to big-time damnation. They believe William and Mary is in an academic league with the Princetons and Dartmouths. To build a 30,000-seat stadium with $4 million that is desperately needed for faculty salaries would be an obscene act to those believers. Not only that, if you build 30,000 seats, you must win to fill them, and to win you need good players, and only a few good players can pass William and Mary's entrance tests and so, well, soon enough someone will want to lower the school's admission standards and then William and Mary is just another football prostitute.
Overdrawn, no doubt. Some schools fill 30,000 seats without abdicating their educational responsibilities. So it is important here to know that the folks who want to expand William and Mary's stadium are not aiming to be the Notre Dame of the Tidewater.
Both the ruling Board of Visitors and Athletic Director Ben Carnevale say they are simply trying to maintain the school's present standard of football living. To keep up with traditional rivals such as Virginia and Virginia Tech, Carnevale says William and Mary must have 30,000 seats. Those teams have played at Williamsburg only once in the last seven years, Carnevale said, because with only 15,500 seats he cannot pay them enough.
So William and Mary must play those folks at Blacksburg and Charlottesville. Only with an adequate stadium of about 30,000 seats can Carnevale get those rivals into Williamsburg. And if his football program is to compete at the Division I-A level with the Oklahomas and Alabamas -- which is another question of priorities, obviously answered, too, by the board's actions -- he must produce huge income. That income is made with lucrative home games, not the seven road trips a season William and Mary now makes.
Besides, the athletic director said, if there is an expansion of the stadium, it will be financed entirely with private contributions earmarked specifically for that purpose. The Board of Visitors would brook no use of state money or general endowments to build a football stadium.
All of which still leaves Bill Mims frustrated.
"The board knew (at a special meeting called last week in response to growing complaints) that it appears 90 percent of the 400 faculty members are against any stadium expansion," Mims said. "The board also knew that 96 percent of 300 students at a campuswide meeting voted against it, that 14 of the 18 faculty chairmen voted against it and that the Board of Student Affairs is unanimously against it. And yet the board reaffirmed its support for the stadium."
That reaffirmation, Mims said, was "met with cries of anguish and consternation."
Those cries reached a central figure in the stadium controversy: James E. Maloney, chairman of the board of Williamsburg Pottery, Inc. He has been identified as a potential donor of $2.2 million to expand the stadium. Opponents of the expansion say that $2.2 million could be better used to finish a science building stopped in midconstruction.
Maloney said he intended to give some money to the school to lighten the eventual taxation of his estate, but certainly not $2.2 million because he said he doesn't have that kind of money.
But now, he said yesterday, he may not give the school any money for anything. "I didn't care what they used it for, football or something else," he said. The rhetoric and rumors have so disturbed Maloney's family, he said, that, "My son, Fred, has written a letter to the university president telling him to cease and desist the whole project."
Cease and desist may be good advice for the stadium builders, too.
Beyond Carnevale's admitted guesses, there is no evidence 30,000 people ever will show up for a William and Mary game ("There aren't 30,000 people in the school, the city and the county put together," Mims said. Average attendance last year was 14,000.)
If 30,000 came, where would they park in the charming city -- on Patrick Henry's doorstep?
And once you need to win to fill 30,000 seats, where does that lead a college that values academic distinction above all?
In protest of any stadium expansion, students will boycott classes Friday. The faculty this week approved a resolution strongly opposing expansion as detrimental to the whole character of the university.
And how does the Board of Visitors react to the clamoring students and faculty, who want reasonable answers to reasonable questions? The board ignores them. "They won't talk to us," said Cam Walker, an associate professor of history.
Which is the way a football-factory school would do it.