For 125 years, Williams and Amherst have competed for bragging rights on the gridiron. This year, the storied annual football game will feature the usual anticipation, but with one key difference: For the first time, “the Biggest Little Game in America,” as the event is known, will feature an African-American head coach on the sidelines.
Aaron Kelton, who coached in the NFL and the Ivy League before coming to Williams this year, is the first African-American head coach in the prestigious Division III New England Small College Athletic Conference. On Saturday, his undefeated Ephs square off at Pratt Field, in Amherst, against the Lord Jeffs, who have suffered only one loss this season.
Rivalries aside, in an article in USA Today, Kelton, who played football at Springfield College, says race matters—at first.
“I recognize that I may be paving the way for someone else,” says Kelton, who was Columbia University’s defensive coordinator before coming to Williams. “But now I’m just a football coach, and that’s how I play it. Hopefully I can make a statement that there are a bunch of talented coaches of color out there who just need an opportunity.”
In the end, though, what Kelton really wants is to win on Saturday. “From the first moment I accepted the job, people were talking about Amherst,” Kelton told USA Today. “We put a lot of emphasis on tradition here, but our focus will be on the field and to hopefully have one more point than they do at the end.”