William & Mary's new digs Print
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Wednesday, 03 September 2008 12:54
NCAAF Headline News

  Mary's beautiful football stadium.
``It really worked out nice, didn't it?'' he says with an almost sheepish smile as he eases into a comfortable chair in the seating area.
After nearly three decades as the successful coach of a program whose facilities didn't meet competitive high school standards, Laycock is still adjusting to coming to work in a building that affords his team all the luxuries enjoyed throughout major college football, and elsewhere.
He's embarrassed, though, that the building bears his name.
``I'm very honored, but very humbled,'' the coach heading into his 29th season said. ``When they decided to do it, it caught me very much by surprise, and to a certain extent to be honest with you, it bothers me.
``I feel self-conscious about it, but it is what it is.''
On a summer weekend that drew the stars of several decades of Tribe football back to campus to see the long-awaited Jimmy Laycock Football Center, the sentiment was that the building is magnificent, and overdue.
Mary,' but `I played for Coach Laycock,''' said David Corley, a record-setting quarterback for the Tribe and four-year starter from 1999-2002.
``You look at guys that played basketball at North Carolina, they'd say, `I played for Dean Smith,''' Corley, the running backs coach, said.
``It's a tribute to what he's done here.''
An even larger tribute is that the $11 million building was funded entirely by private donations. With an exterior of Flemish brick to match the stone used in the adjacent 72-year-old football stadium, the Laycock Center was made to blend in as though it has been there forever.
Tribe players, though, delight in telling otherwise.
John Mitrovic, linebacker for Laycock from 1980-82, recalls asking the coach to see the football facilities during his official recruiting visit.
``He said, `I forgot my key,''' Mitrovic said, laughing.
Months later, he found out why when he arrived on campus.
The locker rooms were musty and tiny, more suitable for storing power tools than football players and equipment. The freshmen had their own space because the locker room wasn't big enough for everyone, and position meetings were held in sweltering, scattered rooms on campus.
``I was like, `What have I gotten myself into?'' Mitrovic said.
John Gerdelman wondered the same thing almost a decade earlier, when the team created a makeshift weight room in an open space under some bleachers, using weights that each of the players had brought from home.
It was conditions like those, the former players all say, that have allowed them to marvel each weekend as they see how the Tribe has fared.
In his 28 seasons, Laycock has guided 18 winning seasons, including a trip to the national semifinals in 2004, and a 182-127-2 record overall.
For the first time under Laycock, the Tribe has had three consecutive losing seasons, and doesn't figure to find the sledding any easier in the Colonial Athletic Association, arguably the nation's best.
Mary's schedule also features four conference games against teams in the top 15 of this week's coaches Football Championship Subdivision rankings.
But Laycock said he's already seeing the benefits of the new building, whose features include a 2,500 square-foot team meeting room, several smaller meeting rooms, and a 3,900 square-foot training room complete with a hydrotherapy room with whirlpool options and a submerged treadmill.
The entire building is networked with a video system that allows players and coaches to narrow their search down when viewing an opponents' film. A linebacker, for instance, can watch just the third-down plays.
``Nowadays in recruiting with the rules, you have very little time with them,'' Laycock said of the talent that keeps a program strong. ``You've got to make a pretty big splash in the time you have. I think this really speaks to commitment, it really speaks to the school taking it seriously.''
The locker room is 4,200 square feet with room for 100 lockers, each equipped with racks where fans blow shoulder pads, helmets and cleats dry.
``This year, we had kids walking into that locker room and you could see them, their mouths dropping. They just couldn't believe it,'' he said.
During a recruiting weekend even before the center was completed, six recruits that were high on Laycock's wish list committed before leaving.
It's just the kind of response donors were seeking.
``It's going to take time,'' said Terry Hammons, a wide receiver from 1991-95 now working in London as a corporate finance attorney and mediator. ``I hope people don't expect it to turn on a dime. But maybe it means there's a little more pressure.''
 

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