Former Williams Head Coach Recalls Weston Field's HistoryBy Phyllis McGuire
Special to iBerkshires
09:58PM / Friday, November 29, 2013
Williams coach Dick Farley recalls his first years at Weston Field, which is undergoing a renovation.
WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — The Williams College Ephs and Amherst College's Lord Jeffs squared off against each other on Nov. 9 at Weston Field in what was not only the final varsity football game of the season, but the last game ever played on the field's grass surface.
The long-anticipated $22 million Weston Field renovation and reinvention project was scheduled to start the following week, and installing artificial turf on the football field is included in the project.
Aware that Weston Field would be different in a number of ways when it reopens in September 2014, Williams alumni from near and far have been sharing their memories of the Field, through athletics.williams.edu.
For Richard Farley of Williamstown, memories of Weston Field take him back 40 years or so.
"When I came to Williams in 1972 to be the head coach of track and winter sports, and assistant football coach, the football field was the same as it is today, except the sidelines were switched," the College Football Hall-of-Famer said earlier this month.
"Weston Field had football in the fall, was down in the winter and had baseball and track in the spring."
Farley said he found coaching two sports "very consuming." He had both men and women athletes in a complicated program; track was 20 to 25 events each season with 75 to 100 athletes. Football was eight games and about the same number of athletes.
"It was a lot of time away from family obligations," he said. "I was not there for my wife and our kids. Missed their birthdays ... ."
When Farley, who played two years for the San Diego Chargers, started at Williams, his wife, Suzanne, would go with him and help prepare the cinder track for use.
"We were newlyweds and I wanted to be with my husband," she said.
"The cinders were burned coal that had to be brought from the college's heating plant," Farley explained. "I raked and rolled the track and filled the divets — otherwise it would have washed away. It was a labor of love."
Farley remembers when the baseball field at Weston was inside the track.
"It was unique. We couldn't have baseball and track at the same time."
The wooden grandstand built in 1901 — one of the oldest in the county — was used for baseball games and track until 1987 when both sports were moved to another section of Weston Field, leaving the grandstand obsolete.
"The Bobby Coombs baseball field was moved to Cole Field (in 2004) to make room for the Renzi Lamb hockey and lacrosse field," Farley said.
As for the grandstand, over the years it "fell apart" and there was talk of disposing of it, Farley recalled. "But, Bob Peck, the athletic director, had it refurbished.
According to the Nov. 2, 1999, edition of the college's newspaper, The Williams Record, when Peck announced he was retiring after serving Williams 29 years as athletic director, he gave the funds to "renovate" the grandstand as a parting gift to the college.
The college named it Peck Grandstand in his honor and it was moved to the 50-yard line of the football field.
"The grandstand will be moved again," said Farley, referring to the execution of the Weston Field project.
Around 25 years ago, the one-third mile cinder track became part of history.
"[The late} George Steinbrenner backed putting in an eight-lane, state-of-the art track," said Farley, now age 67. The new track was named after Anthony Plansky, who had been a longtime track and field coach at Williams.
As it happened, Farley had decided to give up coaching track to become head football coach.
"I questioned his decision," his wife said. "After all those years of raking ... the cinder track, it seemed that he should [enjoy] the new track."
Farley's decision, however, would be instrumental in taking the Williams football team to new heights.
With Farley as head football coach from 1987 to 2003, the Ephs had 16 winning seasons, including five perfect seasons.
"I am fairly proud that in my tenure we never had a losing season," said Farley. "And we never lost a game in Maine - Bowdoin, Bates and Colby."
Three of the games that stand out in Farley's memory pitted Williams against their legendary rivals Amherst.
On Nov. 8, 1997, the Ephs defeated the Lord Jeffs with a score of 48-46.
"It was a thriller. A last-second victory," said Farley. "I agree with alumni that it was one of our best games!"
Two years earlier, both Amherst and Williams came into a game undefeated.
"It was probably the best team I had," said Farley. The score was 0-0 at the end of the game. "There was no overtime then."
Torrential rain had turned the field into "pudding" and none of the players could maneuver on it. "It was a quagmire," he said
Overtime was introduced to college football in 1996, and on Nov. 10,2001, the storied rivals played what would be their first overtime game.
The game was tied at the end of regulation play. Then Eph freshman Tyler Shea scored in overtime, resulting in a win for Williams 23-20. "That was another of our best games," said Farley.
No matter how a game ended, the head coach would be upset when he came home, his wife said. "A victory, of course, was good, but Dick always felt there was room for improvement."
Farley's record was 114-19-3. For the past seven years, he has been the assistant track coach and coordinator of club sports at Williams.
In 2006, when Farley was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame, he said, "It goes to show you what can happen when you have a great assistant coach and great kids to work with."