W&M to open 2020 football season at Stanford

On the job less than six months, William and Mary athletic director Samantha Huge is taking Tribe football to a place it’s never been. Literally.

W&M and Stanford announced jointly Thursday that they will play Sept. 5, 2020, at the Cardinal’s home in Northern California. The contest will be the season-opener for both.

“The game will help share the William and Mary brand around the nation, and align us with a Stanford program that we see as the gold standard for a university that does it the right way,” Huge said in a statement. “We share a commitment for athletic excellence without compromising the high academic standards of our respective universities. I am thrilled with the opportunity to provide our student-athletes, alumni and fans with the incredible experience of taking on one of the nation’s best football programs in an amazing setting.”

Tribe football has never ventured to California, and the only longer trips in program history were to the 1988 and ’92 Epson Ivy Bowls in Yokohama, Japan, and Tokyo. W&M’s most-recent far-flung game in the regular season was in 1951 at Oklahoma.

“Playing games against high-profile (Football Bowl Subdivision) competition like Stanford is an important part of the experience for our players,” Tribe coach Jimmye Laycock said in a statement. “This agreement is a strong statement of the commitment we are making to providing our players with a first-class experience, and I am confident it will also be an asset in our recruiting efforts.”

Stanford, 5-2 entering Thursday night’s game at Oregon State, is headed for its ninth consecutive winning season, the last seven under David Shaw as the head coach. The Cardinal has won at least 10 games in six of the last seven years and produced signature talents such as Andrew Luck, Christian McCaffrey and, this season, Bryce Love.

Stanford has played only two Championship Subdivision opponents in the past 10 years, Sacramento State in 2010 and Cal Davis in 2014. But Huge worked for Cardinal athletic director Bernard Muir at Delaware and Georgetown, and Muir was among those who recommended her for the William and Mary position. That connection made the game happen.

W&M has played a FBS opponent each of the last 19 seasons, almost all of those games a reasonable drive from Williamsburg. But Huge said in August she wanted to broaden the geographic scope if she could find like-minded institutions willing to play.

Stanford certainly qualifies. The Cardinal and Tribe annually rank among the national leaders in NCAA academic metrics such as the Graduation Success Rate and Academic Progress Rate.

William and Mary’s future FBS opponents also include Virginia Tech next season and Virginia in 2019 and ’21.

Games versus FBS schools also provide a financial windfall for FCS athletic departments. William and Mary is guaranteed $625,000 for the Stanford contest.

Teel can be reached by phone at 757-247-4636 or by email at dteel@dailypress.com. For more from Teel, read his blog at dailypress.com/teeltime and follow him at twitter.com/DavidTeelatDP.

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