The University of Virginia snubbed Jimmye Laycock nine years ago. Don't expect a correction now.
In many regards, Laycock was and is the Cavaliers' model football coach. His William and Mary program wins games, entertains fans and transforms young men into college graduates.
This Laycock has done for 30 years despite paltry resources, menacing competition and unyielding standards.
Moreover, Laycock has never been happier, and not merely because his team has advanced to a national quarterfinal Saturday at Southern Illinois. He's healthy, surrounded by family and makes more than his fair share of birdies.
Oh, and he works in the Jimmye Laycock Football Center — statue pending.
Yet if Virginia approached him regarding its coaching vacancy, Laycock would listen.
Assemble a top-flight staff? Recruit effectively? Match wits against Frank Beamer? Reach out to fans, donors and students?
Laycock, a 1970 William and Mary graduate, believes he could. With good reason.
"I've got a pretty good track record here," he said Tuesday.
"Pretty good" doesn't begin to describe. This is the Tribe's eighth playoff appearance since 1986 — the '92 squad would have qualified, too, had the school not opted for a postseason junket to Japan instead — and Laycock can X and O with the best.
Would his innovative offenses translate to the ACC, or even the NFL?
"Easily, no doubt," Pittsburgh Steelers coach and former Tribe receiver Mike Tomlin said at the Laycock Center's dedication last year. "It's fundamentally sound, first and foremost. Coach remains on the cutting edge of moving the football and lighting up scoreboards."
But Virginia is unlikely to call, and Laycock knows why.
At 61, he's older than the prototypical candidate, and he hasn't recruited at a major-conference program since 1979, the last of his three seasons as Clemson's offensive coordinator.
That absence in no way precludes next-level success — Jim Tressel coached Youngstown State for 15 years before taking over at Ohio State. But Virginia is not Ohio State.
The Cavaliers just concluded a 3-9 season, their worst since 1982, and have lost 10 of their last 11 games against Virginia Tech. Unless Virginia athletic director Craig Littlepage has an Amarillo Slim side, he's unlikely to gamble on a coach such as Laycock.
Nine years ago, however, Laycock wasn't risky, and the Cavaliers weren't in dire straits.
George Welsh had just been nudged into retirement after 19 years, the last 14 of which included nary a losing record. Laycock was 52, and before a 5-6 hiccup in 2000, William and Mary had enjoyed eight consecutive winning seasons.
The other ideal candidate was former Virginia assistant Tom O'Brien, an extraordinary recruiter whose catches included Tabb High All-Americans Terry Kirby and Chris Slade. O'Brien had just completed his fourth season as Boston College's head coach.
But then-athletic director Terry Holland deemed O'Brien and Laycock politically untenable.
O'Brien was linked to Welsh, and many donors wanted fresh blood.
Laycock was connected to Jim Copeland, a former William and Mary and Virginia athletic director. Copeland had infuriated many of those same donors by publicly revealing the fund-raising arm's improper loans to athletes — a subsequent NCAA probe led to probation for Virginia and the resignation of NCAA executive director Dick Schultz, Copeland's predecessor as the Cavaliers' AD.
(Holland's respect for Laycock resurfaced five years ago when, as East Carolina's athletic director, he inquired of Laycock's interest in coaching the Pirates. Laycock declined, and Holland hired Skip Holtz.)
Hindsight suggests that either Laycock or O'Brien would have fared better at Virginia than did Al Groh, chosen after a search that initially targeted high-profile assistants such as Florida State's Mark Richt, Penn State's Jerry Sandusky and Virginia Tech's Bud Foster.
O'Brien became Boston College's winningest coach — seven consecutive bowl victories highlighted his tenure — before moving to North Carolina State, where he just completed his third season with an upset of North Carolina. Laycock remained in Williamsburg, guided the Tribe to the 2004 national semifinals and shepherded the drive to upgrade the program's facilities.
Meanwhile, Groh lasted nine seasons at Virginia, his alma mater, and left the program in worse shape than when he arrived — three losing seasons in four years speak to the challenges ahead.
Laycock could probably repair the damage and would jump at the opportunity — such is the lure of a like-minded institution that offers a national stage and seven-figure salary. But Virginia's hunt will turn elsewhere, and Laycock will resume life as a William and Mary icon.
There are worse fates.
David Teel can be reached at 247-4636 or by e-mail at email@example.com. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/teeltime.
Saturday's game WHAT: FCS quarterfinal.WHO: W&M (10-2) at Southern Illinois (11-1).WHEN: Noon. TV: MASN.Online For more on Virginia's coach search, visit dailypress.com/ virginiacoach.5 reasons W&M still is playing Melinda Waldrop breaks down the top reasons why the Tribe's season continues under coach Jimmye Laycock, left. Page 2 Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun