Thursday, September 07, 2006

The time that Doug got married

Coach mixes media, matrimony

July 26, 2002


"Presenting Dr. and Mr. Williams," the preacher said, to uproarious laughter. So ended the most unusual of Grambling State University football news conferences - one where head coach Doug Williams got married to an Atlanta dentist in Las Vegas.

The occasion, at least originally, was the announcement of a new Las Vegas game on the football team's schedule. The Silver Dollar Classic pits the Tigers against another historically black college, Tennessee State.

Both coaches came out and talked a little about the September game. Nothing unusual there.

"We plan to bring an exciting offense and a charging defense," said Tennessee State coach James Reese. "Even though they're the No. 1 team in the nation, we're still going to show up."

Again, the friendly crowd laughed.

Both coaches were presented keys to the city. Everything was in order.

A representative from the Las Vegas Visitors and Convention Authority spoke about the game's economic impact.

"We estimate," said Rob Powers, "a nongaming impact of $12 million dollars from this game."

Then a reporter asked Williams about taking over the Grambling program from Eddie Robinson, the winningest coach in college football history.

"If there was a time to go in behind Eddie Robinson, I felt like that was it," he said. "The time to go in was when the team was down." In 1999, Williams brought the Tigers their first winning season in five years.

"We felt like we were in a rebuilding stage. It wasn't going to be a quick fix," Williams said. "We tried to go with young guys so we could keep them around longer - and give them an opportunity to get a degree."

Many of those players - having won two consecutive conference championships - have now graduated. Williams talked about losing 13 starters in 2002.

So far, so good. But someone had heard rumors about possible wedding plans.

"Are you going to get married?" a member of the national press asked.

"If she hasn't ran out yet," Williams said, laughing again. "We are going to get married today."

Then a preacher - hastily called and unsure if there was even a ring - performed the ceremony before a quieting crowd. Reese was best man.

When Williams stumbled over unfamiliar vows - missaying "all my worldly possessions I thee deed" - the friendly crowd again broke into good-natured chuckles.

"Come on, now," he said, shyly.

Details about Lisa Judge, the new Mrs. Williams, were sketchy. In fact, members of the sports information office at Grambling didn't know about the event until Friday.

Williams admitted to hatching the plan the week before. As for young Lisa, "she was a little reluctant to do it at a press conference," he said. "At first, she told me `no.'"

But, the more they talked about it, the more Williams said it seemed right.

"When people found out I was coming to Vegas to get married, several of them told me they had, too. It's a good place to get married, I guess."

Later, a reporter asked about honeymoon plans.

"We've been honeymooning for about the last two months," Williams said. "It's time for me to go to work right now."

That work includes preparations for this newest GSU showcase - which, like the Bayou Classic, is more than simply a football a game.

Much of the presentation centered on the cultural pageantry associated with these games - including dances, reunions, stepshows and the mythical Battle of the Bands.

A special video was presented, detailing the history of both historically black colleges - including Williams' consecutive SWAC championships and the win in last year's Bayou Classic.

The press conference was 20 minutes late getting under way. Williams and his fiancée stopped after their plane arrived in Las Vegas to change clothes.

The Silver Dollar Classic is set for Sept. 21 at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas.

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