It is being billed as the "Biggest Little Game in America," and for good reason.
When Amherst travels to Williams's Weston Field for tomorrow's football season finale, the teams will have some high-powered company in the form of broadcast teams. In addition to the NESN crew for the ECAC Game of the Week with Tom Caron and Andy Gresh in the booth and Ashley Adamson on the sideline, ESPN's "College GameDay" will be there for the pregame, from 10 a.m.-noon, marking the program's first visit to a Division 3 school.
Offensive-minded Williams, which was 8-0 a year ago, has won five straight after stumbling out of the gate. Defensive-minded Amherst is 4-3 and has a two-game losing streak. But it's one of those great rivalries where a win for either team can make their season.
"Obviously, we're pretty excited," said Amherst coach E.J. Mills. "The Amherst-Williams game is always a special thing. Certainly, it's the last game for our seniors, but the 'College GameDay' thing has obviously added a nice little twist. It's certainly, I think, a great thing for both our schools to be represented on a national level like that."
Williams coach Mike Whalen said they're getting a taste of what it's like to be in the spotlight and although time-consuming, it's a bonus for the schools.
"Obviously, with NESN doing the game, it's always a big game," said Whalen. "Certainly with the rivalry, it's always a huge rivalry. For both these schools to be the first Division 3 schools on ESPN's 'College GameDay,' it's a huge honor. I think our players and our coaches are excited that people from all across the country are going to get an inside look at these two great schools and these two great football programs and what they have to offer. So it's going to be a special day for all Williams and Amherst people alike."
With some rivalries, there can be animosity. No such situation exists between Mills and Whalen. "We go back a long way," said Whalen. "If a kid says to me he wants to go to Amherst, the first thing I tell him is, 'Hey, you're going to get a great education and you're going to be well coached,' and that's the way I feel. It all starts with the foundation that we have and the respect we have for one another's program."
As much as the matchup means to the coaches, it's also revered by the players.
"This Williams team, as a senior, is kind of the game that defines your career," said Amherst strong safety Rob Grammer. "When you look back at the game, when you look back on your career at Amherst, you'll always look back at this game. People will always ask, 'Did you beat Williams?' And that pretty much defines your career. So it's really special to be a part of this rivalry and to go out there and play your last game against your most fierce rival is a really special feeling."