Up and coming:

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, June 26, 2002

TSU Athletic Director Johnny Williams discusses Trojan football with Troy Rotary Club


Sports Editor

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The Troy Rotary Club welcomed Johnny Williams on Tuesday and program host Ken Vaughan used a familiar phrase to introduce the Troy State Athletic Director.

"Hereeeeeeee’s Johnny!" Vaughan said, doing his best Ed McMahon impersonation in front of the 51 rotary club members in attendance.

And Williams, like Johnny Carson, did his best to keep the TSU supporters entertained.

He said he was told long ago that public speaking involved having a theme to talk about.

"That, and don’t move your hands a lot when you talk," Williams’ joked.

His theme on Tuesday was "credibility."

"What we’ve tried to do throughout the years is gain credibility for our program," Williams said.

Williams said Troy State recently inked a deal with Adidas Sports to supply athletic wear for all of the university’s sports teams. The deal guarantees over $100,000 of free merchandise and even more national exposure because as Williams puts it: "kids today, are big on logos." TSU is also close to signing a three-year contract with ESPN for the rights to broadcast the Trojans’ football games

Things are moving quickly at Troy State these days. Even the expansion to Memorial Stadium has been moved up, with construction set to start next month. Originally scheduled to begin following the 2002 football season, workers will start removing the Jesse H. Colley Track around Richard M. Scrushy Field and dismantling the stadium seating on the east side. Williams said temporary stands will be erected in the north endzone, allowing a seating capacity of 14,000 for this fall’s home football games.

By the time construction is finished next year, Memorial Stadium will seat over 30,000 people with an added 27 luxury sky boxes and a new 10,000 square-foot building on the west side. The building will house a press box, weight room, sports medicine facility and student services learning center for Troy State athletes.

Williams said of the 27 sky boxes, 20 are already committed.

"13 of those are new supporters of our program. Maintenance of these sky boxes will be handled by a private firm and the suites will be able to be used throughout the year, not just during football season," he said.

Future phases of construction involve a new scoreboard and a surround sound system for the entire stadium.

"My goal is to make coming to Troy State football game an event," said Williams.

Last season, Troy State’s football program started its Division I-A transition year by stepping on the big dog’s porch. A porch that belonged to the likes of Nebraska, Maryland, Miami and Mississippi State.

"A week before we were to leave for Nebraska a little, old lady stopped me outside Park Memorial (Methodist Church) and said ‘Johnny, I really do pray for this team. I hope they don’t get hurt,’" recalled Williams.

The Trojans didn’t win, but they hung tough with the ‘Huskers. Then, Troy State totalled 24 first downs on eventual No. 1 Miami, more then any other team during the season, besides Florida State.

Seminoles’ head coach Bobby Bowden, who was in town last week for a football camp, paid Williams and the Troy State coaching staff a complement.

"He said, ‘Johnny, we watched the tape of ya’ll against Miami and ya’ll were one of the top three teams we watched play them," said Williams.

After trips to Lincoln and Miami, playing in the relatively small, southern town of Starkville was nothing to Troy State. The Trojans upset a down-trodden Mississippi State team 21-9 in mid-October.

"By the time we got there, we were like, ‘hey, this is like Brundidge. We can play here,’" joked Williams.

The Trojans open their 2002 season on Aug. 31 in Lincoln, Neb. For ticket information call 1-877-TSU-TICS.