Diamonds in the Rough
Jeff Otis in his 1st Collegiate start, at Fordham, 2003 (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics Department)
Former Lions quarterback Jeff Otis '05, had a tremendous 2003 season and established himself as the best passer at Columbia since John Witkowski. Columbia finished 4-6 that year and looked primed for a great 2004 season.
It didn't happen. Otis' best target, Wade Fletcher injured himself in the pre-season. missed a few early season games, and Columbia never really recovered. The result was a 1-9 season that left a lot of us scratching our heads.
But the top players from that '04 team have distinguished themselves as NFL prospects. Otis, who has spent his post-Columbia years in the Arena League and NFL Europe, has just been signed by the Oakland Raiders. He'll join his former Lion teammate Michael Quarshie and QB coach John DeFillipo, who I assume had a lot to do with this signing decision. Wade Fletcher made a gallant attempt to make the New York Giants last pre-season and fell just short.
Of course the obvious question is: how could a team with so much NFL talent and near-NFL talent do so poorly in Ivy League competition? A big part of me would just like to blame all of this on former Head Coach Bob Shoop and leave it at that. But I think the biggest culprit was, and is lack of depth.
No one can deny that Columbia has had its share of superstar players over the last 35 years. They include people like Witkowski, Des Werthman, Jonathan Reese, Marcellus Wiley, etc. But Columbia only has two winning seasons to show for themselves in this period. And that's mostly because the Lion roster is routinely too small to really compete or make the mosts of its top assets. Actually, roster size has been an issue for Columbia since the 1920's.
And this should all act as a reminder as to why CU absolutely needs to make keeping the roster at or above 90 players a priority this year and in the future. I don't envy the coaches this added job of team continuity. But it must be done.
I've been travelling across the country a lot these last few days, so I've avoided commenting on a terrible opinion piece in the Columbia Spectator that bashed the athletic department and the recruiting/admissions process. I'm glad I didn't get a chance because I'd rather spend my time publicizing the great rebuttal by Jon Kamran, also of the Spectator, that came out today. Kamran really tears the original screed apart journalistically. In fact, I'd like to invite him to come to speak to my journalism students at NYU! My congratulations to him.
And finally, check out the faster-loading trailer for THE LEAGUE, a new movie about Ivy football written, directed and produced by Columbia football alum George GianFrancisco '88.