It Was 17 Years Ago Today (Almost)...
The date of Saturday's game at Lafayette is October 8th, 2005. 17 years to the day that Columbia ended its record 44-game losing streak with a 16-13 win over Princeton at Baker Field. As much as I'd like to talk about that wonderful rainy day, I'd rather talk about where we've gone in the generation since that historic win.
Columbia Football, 0-10 Never Again!
The above comment was etched into a cement sidewalk block near the John Jay side entrance to the university at 114th Street when I was an undergrad. I always assumed it was written by a football player who had played on the '88 team. So far, that prediction has been true. Since we finally broke through with not one, but two whole wins in 1988, CU has never been worse than 1-9. Of course we've been 1-9 a whopping 5 times since then, but you have to realize that during the entire 1984, 1985, 1986, and 1987 seasons Columbia was rarely even CLOSE to winning a game. The two closest calls came near the end of the 1987 season with a missed field goal at home against Dartmouth as time ran out and a horrific late fumble against Brown in Providence for the season finale. For the most part, the 44 losses were all routs. Even in Columbia's worst 1-9 year, (which was probably 1989), the Lions were close to winning at least 3-4 games.
1994-96, The Magic Years
Not only did Columbia post a 16-12-2 record during these three seasons, but it really seemed that the tide was turning for Columbia football for good. These years coincided with the resurgence of dormant programs at Northwestern and Wisconsin, so it seemed like the weaklings were all fighting back. It wasn't to be for Columbia, but it was nice to watch this exciting team do special things like shock Penn two years in a row, (1995-96), finally beat Harvard after 16 straight losses, win three homecoming games in a row, (they would stretch the streak to 5 in '97 and '98), and feature four legitimate stars in Marcellus Wiley, Rory Wilfork, Bart Barnett, and Mike Cavanaugh.
The End of Parity
In the 1980's and through most of the 1990's, the powerhouse teams in the Ivies changed from year to year. You rarely saw one team compete for the title for more than 3 years in a row. But for the last 6 years, Harvard and Penn have made this a two-team league for the most part. It's weird to see this happen in a once-competitive league and while dynasties can sometimes help raise interest, they act as a drag on fan support after a while. I see this happening in Major League Baseball, and I don't want it to happen in Ivy football. Someone, most likely a Yale or a Brown, needs to do what it takes to knock the Crimson and the Quakers off this perch before it's too late. I guess it would be asking too much to have Columbia help in that effort at all.
The Fans Get Angry
Thanks to the VOY Ivy Sports Board, the real anger Columbia football fans have about the perennial losing is finally being heard across the Ivies. It's clear the campus newspaper reporters read the board, and probably some coaches and university officials too. I don't remember the fans being this upset in the years immediately following the end of the losing streak. Perhaps this is a good sign, and the administration won't be able to think that the alumni really don't care about football anymore.