AKRON, OHIO – Larry Williams, a former pro football player and collegiate athletic director at two universities, was named Director of Athletics at the University of Akron Tuesday morning at InfoCision Stadium.
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Williams replaces Tom Wistrcill, who left during the summer to take a position with Learfield Sports as senior vice president. Williams comes to the Zips from Equity Management Inc. the nation’s largest corporate licensing program which includes marketing, royalties, and branding.
A 1985 graduate at Notre Dame, Williams was an offensive lineman and a two-time All-American. His head coach in South Bend was Gerry Faust, who later was head coach of the Zips as they moved into the Football Bowl Subdivision.
“It is an absolute honor for me (to be the athletic director at UA).” Williams said. “What we have here is a platform. If we can all pull together, (we) can take advantage of the great opportunities here.”
Williams played nine years in the NFL with four teams -- most notably with the Cleveland Browns where he was the starting left guard on a team that won four AFC Central Division titles, five playoff appearances and three trips to the AFC Championship Game.
At the end of his playing career, Williams went to law school and graduated from the University of San Diego in 1992. He then returned to the Midwest, first at Indianapolis law firm of Baker & Daniels, before returning to Notre Dame in sports marketing.
His first athletic director position came at University of Portland, where the Pilots turned the athletic corner in the West Coast Conference, winning a Division I championship in women’s soccer and placing teams into the national rankings in baseball, tennis, and men’s basketball.
From there, he moved onto Marquette University as he oversaw the Golden Eagles move into the Big East Conference. His time there included a resurgence in men’s basketball, reaching the Sweet 16 and then the Elite Eight in consecutive seasons. Several new facilities went up in that period, including a new soccer stadium, as well as a new training center for all student athletes.
Williams inherits an Akron athletic program where the school is facing a $60 million deficit, prompting elimination of the baseball program among other moves. A recent report identified UA as owning the lowest average attendance per game in the FBS, and there have been some rumblings of possibly moving down a division in football to the Football Championship Subdivision (the former Division I-AA). The University has not indicated any move in that direction.
Williams shared his vision of the program at UA Tuesday. It is a “culture based” program based on three core elements.
The first is external engagement – involving all of the community not just coaches, or athletes, but the entire university community to be ambassadors of UA.
The second is fiscal, operational and personal discipline. Every dollar given is precious.
Third, and finally, competitive excellence. “We get to play in front of a scoreboard. Everything we do is measured so let’s embrace that.”
Pending approval by the Board of Trustees, Williams takes over the position on Tuesday September 1, just four days before the Zips begin the 2015 Football season at nationally ranked Oklahoma.