i know i have a lot of friends who are Vol, Gator, Tide, War Eagle, Trojan, Bruin, Buckeye, Spartan, Blue Raider, Moc, Aztec, Longhorn, Aggie and many, many other fans to the exclusion of any other athletic program but their particular favorite.
i’m not that way. i root for a bunch of college athletic programs — and root against those that appear unsavory to me in their moral, or lack thereof, to college athletes and their sports — but i have rooted for Vanderbilt for as long as i can remember and by 1962, they became and remain my favorite. Vanderbilt’s vice chancellor for athletics, David Williams, a giant of man with a long and impressive career, announced his retirement from his position in a year from now to return to his love of teaching. i wish i could take a class of his.
When i learned of this, i wrote an email to numerous friends and family who have ties or are supporters of Vanderbilt. Afterwards i received a nice note from Andrew Maraniss, the author of Strong Inside: Perry Wallace and the Collision of Race and Sports in the South. Andrew included his Facebook post about Dr. Williams.
The text of my email and the link to Andrew’s FB post follow:
i am sure many of you are already aware of the vice chancellor for athletics announced today he will be leaving his post in a year and a search for someone to replace him (not) is underway.
i have seen some negative comments about Dr. Williams. i’m not sure why anyone would fault him.
i don’t know David Williams. i have seen him in many presentations and speeches throughout his time as vice chancellor, especially in a session during the 40th class reunion for the class with whom i should have walked across the stage. Every time, i have seen or heard him speak or read his comments on any subject, i have been impressed. But most particularly, the post presentation comments he made at the 40th reunion in 2006. Some yahoo, who obviously had not thought his question through to the end was almost angry when he took the audience microphone. He asked Vice Chancellor Williams why Vandy did not do something Florida did (as i recall it was about having separate athletic dorms) equating that to the athletic record the Gators had, obviously most notably in football and basketball.
Dr. Williams replied Vanderbilt was going to win and win in all sports. That was the goal. Then he added, but “We are going to do it the right way, the Vandy way.” It took me back to my Navy career when, on several ships our watchword was doing things the Navy way, the right way.
Dr. Williams, i’m sure, has had to walk carefully among the myriad of desires of Vanderbilt fans, supporters, and alumni. There were many mines hidden in his walk. He has shepherded Vanderbilt athletics into a realm where it has not been since the beginning of the twentieth century, being respected for its success, and while football and basketball, the latter men and women have not become champions yet, Dr. Williams has made every effort to put them on the right path.
And he has done it all with dignity and a presence that exudes doing it the right way, the Vandy way.
Hopefully, the search will lead to someone who will adequately fill some very big shoes, but i don’t think anyone will ever replace this man who has dedicated himself to the student-athlete and Vanderbilt athletics for so many years.
Thank you, Dr. Williams. You will be missed.
The text of Andrew Maraniss’ post:
I know it has been fashionable for some fans to complain about the state of Vandy athletics, but I’ve never understood it. David Williams announced his retirement today and I don’t think there’s any disputing that his tenure has been the golden age of Commodore athletics, both on and off the field. All four of the school’s NCAA championships have come under his tenure, as have five of Vanderbilt’s eight all-time bowl appearances. Some complain about the comfort of the football stadium, but the facilities for all sports are better than they ever have been, including the indoor football practice field that he built, and Memorial Gym is about to undergo a major renovation. Vandy Athletics has instituted several innovative off-the-field programs, allowing student-athletes to study abroad, participate in more campus organizations and events, and land summer internships, all things that had been ‘impossible’ before. Graduation rates and academic performance remain stellar. Vanderbilt has retained great coaches and the people who work at McGugin are all extremely dedicated, hard-working, and professional, including people like Deputy AD Candice Lee, who not only played women’s basketball at Vandy but earned three degrees there and is recognized nationally as one of the emerging athletic administrators in the country. From a personal standpoint, I recognize that it was David Williams who worked so carefully to ensure that Perry Wallace was brought back into the fold and that his legacy was preserved – and will be celebrated – forever. At a time when it is obvious that college athletic programs are the tail wagging the dog at many universities, Vandy was fortunate to have an athletic director for so many years who understood that’s not how things are supposed to work. I think he always put the well-being of student-athletes first, and has interests far beyond the athletic fields, including books, music, movies, history, civil rights and the law. Here’s wishing David Williams a happy retirement and an acknowledgement from fans how far things have come, all while not sacrificing the values that make us proud to support Vanderbilt athletics.