Yale's Football Coach, Like Vince Lombardi, May Have Padded His Academic Resume

Yale quarterback Patrick Witt's conflict with the Rhodes Scholarship organization this week has also drawn attention to the scholarly credentials of the school's football coach, Tom Williams. So far, the New York Times has devoted two stories—with two reporters working on each—to investigating whether Williams ever was a Rhodes Scholarship finalist himself:

Throughout Witt's decision-making process, which attracted national attention, the quarterback said he leaned on his coach, Tom Williams, for advice. Williams, according to numerous recent reports, had faced a similar situation when he was at Stanford in 1992. In several of those articles, including one by Bloomberg News, it was reported that Williams decided to forgo his Rhodes scholarship finalist interview for a chance to earn a spot on an N.F.L. roster.

"I followed my dream to play N.F.L. football," Williams told Bloomberg News. "I have no regrets about it at all."

But officials with the Rhodes Scholarship Trust said this week that they had no record of Williams ever applying for a scholarship, let alone having to weigh whether to attend a finalist's interview. Williams, whose biography on the Yale Web site says he was a Rhodes scholar candidate, does not appear in the scholarship trust's databases.

Now, according to the Times, Yale has launched "an internal review" to determine whether Williams misrepresented his undergraduate Rhodes status on his resume when he applied for the job of teaching Eli football players how best to play football. Williams's experience at playing and teaching football—he was a linebacker and then an assistant coach at Stanford—is not in question.

As Yale's investigators try to determine whether Williams has the intellectual credentials—and yes, yes, the all-important honesty and integrity—to keep training young men to block and tackle one another, they might want to consult one reference in particular: David Maraniss's When Pride Still Mattered: A Life Of Vince Lombardi. Page 153:

Lombardi, according to the [Daily News] story, "stacks up as just the injection of 'young blood' the Giants seem to need." By this account, he was born in Brooklyn, raised in Englewood and played as a starting guard for three seasons at Fordham. He was said to have graduated in 1937 'after making the Dean's list four straight years' and then gone on for "two years of post-graduate study" at Fordham law school. The article by sportswriter Gene Ward had every fact wrong except where Lombardi was born. It is unclear whether Lombardi himself fibbed about his academic record or merely never corrected the exaggerations and allowed them to become part of his resume, but from then on, most articles describing his school years asserted that he was a cum laude graduate with two years of law school under his belt. Occasionally he was even said to have earned his law degree.