Mayor David Briley says Vanderbilt University’s trailblazing athletics director embodied the spirit and optimism of Nashville. David Williams died unexpectedly today, just a week after retiring. He had planned to continue teaching at the law school.
The longtime leader was nicknamed “The Goldfather” for overseeing teams that won four national championships during a 17-year tenure. He was also the first African-American athletic director in the SEC.
At his retirement announcement, Williams defended the idea of the collegiate student-athlete. Those in his program maintained a collective 3.0 GPA for more than a decade.
“You got to make people around this university understand that academic success and athletic success is not mutually exclusive. You can have both of them. And then you have to go out and prove it.”
The Tennessean reports Williams collapsed while at a restaurant with family and friends near Vanderbilt this morning.
The Detroit native and father of four also served the university as a vice chancellor, general counsel, and law professor.
Vanderbilt’s Chancellor Nicholas Zeppos says Williams stood tall on the national stage and left an “immeasurable” impact on Nashville.