Thursday, April 05, 2007

Death of a Legend

Eddie Robinson (1919-2007)

Most football fans outside of the South don't know enough about what the late Eddie Robinson meant to the college game over the years. Even people who only briefly met him felt his presence pretty closely for many years. One of those people was Columbia Head Coach Norries Wilson, who talked about his memories of Robinson with the Hartford Courant.

The Courant went on to compare Wilson to Robinson, something that probably humbles the Lion coach quite a bit:

"Robinson's accomplishments on and off the field are not lost on Wilson, who knocked down one barrier after another last year in his first season at Columbia. He became the first black head coach in the Ivy League and the first Columbia coach to win his debut since 1957. The Lions finished 5-5, the first time the program has been at .500 or better since 1996."

Maybe Norries Wilson can become the "Eddie Robinson of the Ivies" and encourage more black players to come to play not just at Columbia, but at all of the eight schools.


At Thu Apr 05, 11:08:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

NW seems to relate equally well to all of his players. He follows the credo that the best player will start, and that no positions are guaranteed. That's why so many talented and hungry first years played this Fall. And that is probalby why he is enjoying a bumper crop of recruits (32 at last count). People forget that in the late 80s, when there was still freshman ball, we had an undefeated freshman team one year. What's my point? That we can recruit talented players. The challenge is keeping them motivated, and part of that process is a perceived sense of fairness. This is something that NW exudes.

At Thu Apr 05, 11:21:00 PM GMT+7, Blogger Jake said...

Exactly! The freshman team went 6-0 in 1987 and 4-2 in 1988. But as varsity players, the remnants of those teams finished 4-26 and 3-27 respectively. I agree that lack of motivation from the top played a big role. Also lack of continuity; the frosh players in '87 and '88 were recruited by Larry MacElrevy's staff but played under Ray Tellier. Finally, lack of depth reared its ugly head too. Two of the big stars of the '87 freshman team were tailbacks Solomon Johnson and Greg Abbruzzese and they both weren't the same after injuries during their sophomore years... injuries that I think would not have happened if they had had some more backups giving them a rest.

But Coach Wilson has already proved to me that he is indeed a great motivator, because last season's team played its best ball at the end of the season. As bad as Columbia has been overall during the past 3 decades, it's saved its worst for the last 3-4 weeks of each season. Bob Shoop's teams went 1-5 in their last two games over his three seasons. Norries has already surpassed that win total with the two wins Columbia picked up to close out 2006.

At Fri Apr 06, 12:39:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know the parent of a player on the undefeated freshman team. He told me at the time -and this person knows his sports-that MacElreavy's last few teams were in the top half of the league in talent. Our problem has consistently been keeping players motivated. I liked Ray a lot but think that he was just burned out by the frustrations of dealing with the administration. Shoop was just a hiring mistake; there were enough warning signs which were ignored. But if NW can get the support of the administration AND the student body, I think we can contend for a title.

At Fri Apr 06, 12:53:00 AM GMT+7, Blogger Jake said...

Larry MacElrevy deserves a lot more credit than he gets for turning the CU program around. The very ugly nature of his firing and the internal coaching war that led to it made it very easy to wipe his memory from the books. But this is the guy who brought in Johnson, Abbruzzese, Werthman, etc. I think he stayed in football as an assistant, but I think he's retired now.


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