Few schools feature a better match at the helm of its program than the College of William and Mary has with Jimmye Laycock. In a tenure that now stretches into its fourth decade, Laycock has worked hand-in-hand with the College’s world-class academic tradition to fashion a program that is a point of pride for the campus, alumni and community.
On June 21, 2008, the College dedicated the $11 million Jimmye Laycock Football Center with a ceremony that featured more than 500 friends and alumni of the program. While the building carries his name and stands as a strong symbol of what Laycock has meant to the Tribe, it makes a stronger statement about the school’s commitment to football and the program’s proud tradition. The state-of-the-art center provides the College with one of the finest facilities in the Football Championship Subdivision and, paired with Laycock’s steady leadership, gives the Tribe the necessary resources to compete at the highest level. As the architect of what is easily the most extended run of success in William and Mary’s 121-year football history, Laycock has never compromised academic standards for athletic success, as his program earned recognition from the NCAA in each of the first seven seasons the organization has awarded outstanding academic achievement. When Laycock, a 1970 grad, returned to coach his alma mater prior to the 1980 season, he inherited a program that had won six or more games in a season just four times in the previous 25 years. Few could have predicted that the College would produce more than four times that amount of seven-win seasons over the next 35 seasons.
The accumulated successes, both on and off the field, have led to an era of unprecedented interest and support for his program. In addition to the consistent growth in attendance, evidence of this is illustrated by the $27 Zable Stadium renovation project that began during the offseason. The rejuvenated stadium will provide an enhanced game day experience for both student-athletes as well as Tribe alumni and supporters.
During Laycock’s tenure, the fans at Zable have consistently been treated to a winner on the field, as the program’s mentor ranks fourth in wins among all active FCS coaches and fifth among all active D-I (FCS and FBS) coaches. Laycock also ranks second all-time among conference head coaches in league wins with 100.
Laycock has made the home turf in Zable Stadium into unfriendly territory for opponents as the Tribe has won 70.0 percent of its games (124-53-1) in Williamsburg in the last 31 years. During that impressive stretch, W&M has turned in nine undefeated regular season home campaigns.
Individual accomplishments under Laycock have been plentiful, as he has also tutored 41 players to 115 All-America honors from the William and Mary ranks and has coached 11 Academic All-Americans. Former quarterback Lang Campbell is one of the most honored, as the 2004 season saw him earn the prestigious Payton Award, given annually to the nation’s top offensive player in the FCS ranks, consensus first team All-America honors, as well as the A-10’s Offensive Player of the Year and Scholar-Athlete of the Year. With 12 all-league recognitions in 2014, the Tribe has produced an astounding 220 all-conference selections since 1993. Former All-American running back Jonathan Grimes accounted for 11 of those honors, as he became the most decorated player in conference history in 2011. Former All-American cornerback B.W. Webb nearly matched that impressive when he finished his career in 2012 with nine postseason all-conference honors.
While Laycock has accumulated tremendous success throughout his storied career, some of the highlights have come in the recent past. The 2010 season was especially remarkable for several reasons, not the least of which is that the team finished the regular season as CAA Co-Champions and earned the nation’s No. 2 overall seed for the NCAA Playoffs. Additionally, the Tribe defeated three top-10 teams in the regular season (including knocking off No. 1, No. 2 and No. 8 in the span of five weeks). It reached a school-record No. 1 national ranking in the Nov. 8 Sports Network Poll and went on to finish in the top 10 in the final poll. All of this success came despite the fact W&M was forced to shuffle three different quarterbacks into the starting line-up due to injury. For his efforts, Laycock was named as the AFCA Region I Coach of the Year.
The 2009 campaign was exceptionally remarkable journey for the College’s faithful, as well. The Tribe equaled a school record with 11 victories and advanced to the NCAA Semifinals for the second time in school history. En route to being ranked as high as third nationally in the final polls, the College led the nation in rushing defense by surrendering just 61.14 yards per game - a school record. Additionally, W&M ranked second nationally in total defense (229.79) and scoring defense (12.07), while it ranked third in sacks (3.43) and eighth in tackles for a loss (8.00). Laycock also became part of the exclusive 200-win club as he became just the 13 FCS head coach to reach the milestone with the NCAA Quarterfinal victory at top-ranked Southern Illinois.
Prior to the ‘09 season, the 2004 campaign highlighted Laycock’s resume as W&M established the school record for wins (11), won the Atlantic 10 Football Conference’s (now CAA) automatic NCAA bid, hosted a NCAA semifinal game before a standing-room only crowd at Zable Stadium in front of a national television audience and finished the year with a school-record No. 3 final national ranking. Along the way, a bevy of school single-season records fell; total points (486), total yards (6,044) and home wins (seven), to name just a few.
However, none of these achievements spoke more succinctly to Laycock’s approach than the program’s 100 percent official NCAA graduation-rate report for all student-athletes receiving athletics aid in 2004. This showed W&M graduated all of its scholarship football players who entered the program as freshmen during the 1997-98 school year. The Tribe not only carried the highest graduation rate in the conference, but also was far and away the top figure of any team ranked in the final national top 25 for that season. To prove this lofty number was no fluke, the team repeated the feat just two years later, as the 1999-2001 cohort also graduated at 100 percent.
When looking at the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision, the Tribe’s stellar 214-113-2 (.653) record against fellow FCS foes during Laycock’s career also confirms the success of his formula. The College also boasts a 100-78 mark in league play.
The 2001 campaign stood as a testament to Laycock’s program’s stability, as the team rebounded from a then nine-year low 5-6 record in 2000 to post an 8-4 mark, claiming a share of the Atlantic 10 crown and earning a spot in the NCAA Division I-AA Playoffs.
The 1996 campaign is another prime example of how Laycock has perpetuated a winning tradition within W&M’s rigorous classroom standards, as he led a youth-laden squad to a quarterfinal showing in the NCAA playoffs, a 10-3 overall record (7-1 in league play), the Tribe’s first Yankee Conference Championship (now CAA), and a No. 5 national ranking.
While Laycock has developed a reputation for producing a prolific and intricate offensive attack, as evidenced by the fact that W&M has averaged nearly 400 yards of total offense per game during his 34-year tenure, the long-time head coach has also overseen one of the nation’s top defensive units during the past few seasons. The Tribe ranked second nationally in scoring defense in both 2009 (12.1) and 2013 (14.0), while it ranked sixth in 2010 (16.7).
Prior to the deep playoff runs in recent years, the 1990 season stood as the benchmark for the Tribe program. That season, Laycock was honored by his peers as Coach of the Year in Region II and the state of Virginia for guiding the Tribe to 10 wins and an appearance in the quarterfinals of the Division I-AA playoffs.
That 1990 squad, ranked No. 7 in the final NCAA poll, refashioned many pages in the school record book. W&M led the country in total offense by averaging almost 500 yards per game and claimed the Lambert Cup for I-AA supremacy in the East. Even the Virginia General Assembly passed a resolution commending Laycock’s accomplishments. The Tribe’s 1996 squad led the conference in both total offense and defense en route to earning its own Lambert Cup and ECAC Team of the Year honors.
After some lean years early in his tenure, Laycock’s teams began building respectability among all opponents. After a pair of 6-5 seasons, W&M carved out a 7-4 mark in 1985 and a national ranking of No. 16. The winning ways continued in 1986 with a 9-3 record and a No. 8 final ranking. In that season, the Tribe advanced to the I-AA playoffs for the first time and had three players drafted by the NFL.
Although William and Mary dipped to a 5-6 slate in 1987, the Tribe recovered to post a 6-4-1 overall record in 1988. That memorable season climaxed with a trip to Japan and a 73-3 victory over the Japanese College All-Stars in the first Epson Ivy Bowl. The Tribe returned to the NCAAs in 1989 with an 8-2-1 regular season record.
The Tribe is well represented in the pro ranks, as seven former Tribe players were on NFL rosters in the summer of 2015: R.J. Archer (Seattle Seahawks), Jerome Couplin III (Philadelphia Eagles), Jonathan Grimes (Houston Texans), Mike Leach (Arizona Cardinals), Sean Lissemore (San Diego Chargers), Tre McBride (Tennessee Titans) and B.W. Webb (Pittsburgh Steelers).
Since 2009, W&M has produced five NFL Draft picks - a figure that leads the CAA and ranks second nationally in the FCS. Additionally, the impressive total ranks third in the state of Virginia (behind only Virginia and Virginia Tech). McBride became the most recent selection last spring when he was drafted by the Tennessee Titans in the seventh round. Webb was a fourth round selection by the Dallas Cowboys in 2013, while Tracy (sixth round, New York Giants) and Lissemore (seventh round, Dallas Cowboys) were both drafted in 2010. One-year earlier, 2008 team captain Derek Cox was selected in the third round of the 2009 NFL Draft by the Jacksonville Jaguars.
In addition to the draft picks, 15 Tribe players have signed free agent contracts after their senior season since the conclusion of the 2004: Lang Campbell (2005, Cleveland Browns), Dominique Thomspon (2005, St. Louis Rams), Adam O’Connor (2007, Carolina Panthers), Drew Atchison (2008, Dallas Cowboys), Mike Potts (2008, Pittsburgh Steelers), Grimes (2011, Houston Texans), Gottlieb (2011, Detroit Lions) and Marcus Hyde (2011, Washington Redskins), and Couplin (2014, Detroit Lions).
In addition to producing a number of professional standouts, a number of Laycock’s former players have gone on to accomplish tremendous success as NFL coaches. The most prominent of those is Mike Tomlin (‘95), who became the youngest head coach to win a Super Bowl in NFL history when he guided the Pittsburgh Steelers to the title in 2009. Sean McDermott (‘98) currently serves as the Carolina Panthers Defensive Coordinator, while Alan Williams (‘92) is the Detroit Lions defensive backs coach and recently held the title of defensive coordinator for the Minnesota Vikings. Additionally, Michael Clemons (‘87) was one of the CFL’s most explosive players after a brief stint in the NFL and currently holds the position of Vice Chair for the Toronto Argonauts.
As a 1970 graduate of the College, Laycock played football under two gurus of the game. For three years, he learned the details under the watchful eyes of Marv Levy, the legendary former head coach of the Buffalo Bills. In his last season, Hall of Fame coach Lou Holtz schooled Laycock in the finer aspects of psyche and motivation. As a sophomore, Laycock was a starter in the defensive secondary, but he was soon switched to quarterback where he completed 96 of 218 career passes for 1,366 yards.
Laycock’s first full-time coaching position came at The Citadel as the offensive backfield coach under Bobby Ross, who went on to coach the NFL’s San Diego Chargers and Detroit Lions. In 1975, Memphis State tabbed Laycock as its quarterback’s coach and he helped the Tigers to consecutive 7-4 records.
In 1977, Laycock traveled to Clemson to serve as offensive coordinator for three years. During his tenure, he helped the Tigers fashion records of 8-3-1, 11-1 and 8-4. Clemson played bowl games in each year, defeating Ohio State 17-15 in the 1978 Gator Bowl. At that time, Laycock coached two-time All-ACC performer Steve Fuller, the Tiger quarterback who later played in the NFL, and Dwight Clark, an All-Pro receiver for the San Francisco 49ers.
A native Virginian, Laycock played football, basketball, baseball and golf at Loudoun Valley High School, where he won 12 letters and has since had his number retired and been inducted into the school’s Athletics Hall of Fame. Laycock was also inducted into the Hampton Roads Sports Hall of Fame in the fall of 2010.
Laycock is married to Deidre Connelly, a sports psychology consultant at the College. They have three children: Michael, a 1st Lt. in the U.S. Army; Mimi, a 2014 graduate of W&M, teaches for Teach for America in the Baltimore, Md., school system; and James, a senior at Longwood University.
Laycock’s daughter Melanie is married to Doug Johnson and is a school administrator in Atlanta, Ga. The couple has two daughters, Grail (5) and Nolan, who was born last winter.