This season may be Jimmye Laycock’s last as head football coach at William & Mary, but he isn’t going to spend the next four months reminiscing about his career.
“The emphasis should be on this year, on this year’s team, not on me,” Laycock said at a sometimes emotional news conference Monday at Zable stadium, where he discussed his decision to retire. “That’s the way I’m going to continue this year.”
Laycock, who is entering his 39th season as Tribe head coach, said the announcement of his departure wasn’t the way he planned to leave W&M, where he also played football as a student in the late 1960s.
“This is not the way I wanted to do it,” he said at the beginning of the news conference, which was held in a suite overlooking the football field where he has spent more than four decades as a player and coach. “I wanted to just say, ‘I’m done,’ and take off.”
Laycock, 70, is the country’s longest-tenured active Division I football coach. He owns a 245-189-2 career record entering this season, and his teams have amassed 24 winning seasons, 10 NCAA playoff appearances and five conference titles. He also guided the Tribe to the Football Championship Subdivision semifinals in 2004 and 2009 and has 13 seasons in which his teams finished nationally ranked.
In addition, the NCAA has recognized his teams for academic excellence seven times since 2004.
Laycock, who spent the summer contemplating his future, said announcing his retirement now, instead of that end of the season, was “the right thing to do.”
Laycock reeled three pleasures he is looking forward to experiencing next year instead of preparing for another season.
“I want to go to beach in August, I want to tailgate in September and I want to play in October,” he said. “I’m a man of simple means.”
Laycock, who became head coach at W&M in 1970 after serving three years as an assistant coach at Clemsom University, has seen the team go from practicing at Eastern State Hospital when he first arrived to today training in a state-of-the-art football center named in his honor.
“I feel that William & Mary football is in very good shape,” he said. “It’s poised to continue to move forward and be successful.”
As for his replacement, Laycock said he will leave that decision up to W&M Athletics Director Samatha K. Huge and her staff.
“That’s for the powers that be,” he said. “That’s not mine.”
Over the past 38 years, Laycock has seen 40 of his former sign professional contracts with the NFL, including six drafts picks since 2009. Seven former W&M players were on NFL rosters last season.
Two of Laycock’s former players are head coaches in the NFL: Pittsburg Steelers coach Mike Tomlin, who graduated in 1995, and Buffalo Bills coach Sean McDermott, who graduated three years later. Another NFL head coach — Dan Quinn of the Atlanta Falcons — was an assistant on Laycock’s staff in 1994.
Laycock, who graduated from W&M in 1970, played as a defenseman and quarterback for the Tribe under two legendary coaches: Marv Levy, who went on to lead the Buffalo Bills to four Super Bowls, and Lou Holtz, who piloted Notre Dame to an NCAA national championship in 1988.
Laycock’s first full-time coaching position came at The Citadel in Charleston, South Carolina, as offensive backfield coach under Bobby Ross, who went on to coach the NFL’s San Diego Chargers and Detroit Lions. In 1975, Laycock became Memphis State’s quarterbacks coach, helping guide the team to consecutive 7-4 records.
In 1977, Laycock became offensive coordinator at Clemson, helping the Tigers reach bowl games in each of his three seasons there. Among the players he coached there were quarterback Steve Fuller, who later played for the NFL’s Kansas City Chiefs, Los Angeles Rams and Chicago Bears, and Dwight Clark, an All-Pro receiver for the San Francisco 49ers.
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