As West Virginia University and William & Mary prepare to face each other this week, it seemed the perfect time to let Rene A. Henry delve into the history of the series.
He is a Charleston native who graduated from William & Mary and became that school’s sports information director for 1952 and 1953 before taking the same job at WVU from 1954-56.
Henry, who has written nine books including “The Iron Indians” about the 1953 William & Mary football team, likes to tell the story about a flight delay WVU experienced at the Newport News airport following a 20-6 victory in 1954, the first meeting between the two teams.
“The legendary William Dent ‘Bill’ Evans, editor of The Fairmont Times, was on the phone with his office because there had been a coal mine explosion,” he recalled. “Before the takeoff, coach Art ‘Pappy’ Lewis walked up the aisle to Sam Huff and said, ‘There’s been an explosion in Jameson No. 9. The pilots are in contact with everyone at home and we’ll let you know when we hear anything.’”
As it turned out, if the tragedy had happened one hour earlier, Huff would have been the only surviving male on either side of his family, for all the males had been down in the mine an hour before the explosion.
Huff grew up in the mine’s company town.
William & Mary coach Jimmye Laycock is beginning his 34th season at the school, second only to the University of Albany’s Bob Ford among active FBS or FCS schools.
Laycock played in four games against WVU from 1966 to 1969, including the 16-16 tie in 1967, the only game of the 16-game series WVU has not won.
Henry points out that Laycock played for a pair of pretty good coaches, a fellow named Marv Levy and another with West Virginia roots, Lou Holtz, each a Hall of Fame coach.