Monday, December 31, 2007

Baby Lion

A new little Lion has been born! My daughter Yael Amira, (7 pounds 8 ounces... not quite the lineman we need), came into the world Sunday at 1:21pm. She'll soon be ready to join her older sister Jordan at Columbia games.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Year-End Disclaimer Time

Remember this: The lawyers always win

I'm reading more and more stories about the NCAA cracking down on blogs. So, I think it would be best for everyone if I again clarified the purpose of this blog and my status as a quasi-employee at Columbia University:

1) "Roar Lions Roar," (yes, the author IS aware that the fight song title is "Roar Lion Roar," the title of this blog is a deliberate variation on that title), is meant as a site where Columbia football fans and other interested parties can get news about the program, learn the recent and long-term history of the team, and generally talk amongst ourselves.

2) As the creator and sole administrator of this blog, I endeavor to keep certain information as guarded as possible. News about player injuries, potential recruits, etc. is NEVER cited by me unless it has already been published in print elsewhere. Tips and other bits of unconfirmed news found in the "comments" sections are not immediately under my control, but I reserve the right to delete, (on very rare occasions), comments that may be in violation of NCAA rules or are otherwise inappropriate.

*For the record, I can only think of one or two non-spam comments I have deleted in the two and a half year history of this blog

3) Just to reiterate: As I understand it, EVERYTHING you see on this blog is in accordance with NCAA rules even though it is NOT officially endorsed by Columbia University or its Athletic Department. I am a contracted seasonal employee of the University as a color commentator for the football games, but I am not in any way compensated or aided by the school in this Internet endeavor. I do, however, accept advice about this site's NCAA rules compliance from experts both connected and not connected with Columbia, mostly because I generally do not understand those rules.

4) I am not an Internet wizard by any stretch. For example, I still can't figure out how to make this disclaimer a permanent part of the homepage for this site. And I also will miss some things here and there because I am human, a father of a 4-year-old, and working about 12 hours a day at my real job. Anything anyone finds to be annoying or just plain wrong on this site will be corrected as soon as possible and probably was simply the result of my lack of computer ability.

5) Yes, I also write a fair amount of mostly topical humor on OTHER sites and newspapers across the country. I like to inject a sprinkling of humor here once in a while, but this site is not a joke.

6) As my grandfather would say: "Don't be a nudnick!" That's Yiddish for someone who complains about the quality of a free meal or posts annoying comments about some minutiae in a post that really has nothing to do with anything. I think you all know what I'm talking about.

Monday, December 24, 2007

More on Mistretta and a Blast from the Past

The campus of Don Bosco Preparatory School

The Westchester/Rockland County newspaper, the Journal-News, has a nice write-up today on incoming freshman Nick Mistretta. It turns out he's from Nanuet, across the border from New Jersey's Don Bosco high school where he was a captain and a star on two state championship teams.

Nick has some nice quotes in the article and NOW I finally have a good idea about who from Nanuet was visiting this site so often over the past year. If so, I hope this blog had a positive effect on Mistretta's decision to come to Columbia.

You Can Go Home Again

I get a lot of those Google Alert emails when "Columbia" and "football" are mentioned on the Web. And while I got one for this story about former Columbia captain Vince Pelini, it was nicer to get a reminder about it from the Big Green Alert man himself, Bruce Wood.

Anyway, the story about Pelini is actually about his son, who is a top recruit at a number of big football programs across the country. Dad was a 1st team All-Ivy linebacker in 1981, the same year he was a co-captain of the Lion squad. Pellini's three year varsity record was a rough 3-26, but that was probably nothing compared to the adversity he saw growing up in Youngstown, Ohio.

Now his son is a senior at Cardinal Mooney High School in Youngstown.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Jersey Boys

Tim Waller has a lot of star power (CREDIT: The Record)

This is a nice birthday present for me: AP All-State New Jersey linebacker Tim Waller is coming to Columbia. And you can click here to read more about Waller.

Waller comes to us from Wayne Hills High School, a football program that's just as strong and often stronger than Bergen Catholic or Don Bosco.

So once again, we're seeing signs of CU recruiting successes in New Jersey, a region where we MUST get more influence.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Don't Call them Losers (1st in a series)

Wien Stadium was almost new in 1987 (CREDIT:

They say the two biggest lies told in corporate America are 1) "I played a little college ball." and 2) "I served in Vietnam."

The 15 senior members of the 1987 varsity Columbia football team can not only truly say they played college ball, but it must have felt like they had fought in the Vietnam War every time they left the field.

Those young men went a collective 0-30 in their three years on the varsity. They not only never tasted victory, they often came so agonizingly close that it must have felt like losing an armed conflict week after week.

And they were not given the luxury of losing in private. As the Lions neared and eventually broke the record for most consecutive losses, the media attention and presence grew at game after game.

We know how the story ended on the field for those players. But what happened after that? 20 years after that final 30th straight loss on a cold day in Providence, Rhode Island, I've set out to talk to the 15 men who were the seniors on the 1987 Lions.

The results so far?

Almost every one of them is a success in a way that exceeds the average financial and career success of even the typical Columbia graduate. And it is for that reason -- the chance to demonstrate the value of adversity and the value of participation in Ivy League sports no matter what the result -- that I have decided to tell their stories. One by one. For as long as it takes.

Full Disclosure: I intend to publish excerpts from this project on this site, in the hopes of making it into an actual book one day. Would it sell? Well, that would be nice, but the idea is to embark on a worthwhile project and if you try to start to write a book with sales in mind, you'll probably fail.

For now, I just want to mention the names of each one of those seniors from the '87 team. They have our admiration always.

Michael Bissinger (Captain)

Joseph D’Angelo

Kurt Dasbach (senior year only)

Philip Fusco

George Gianfrancisco

Hugh Giffords

Michael Lavelle

Nicholas Leone

John Miller

Anthony Natola

David Putelo

Richard Ritter

Paul San Filippo

Matt Sodl

Sean Wright

Another Lead...

QB Dustin Taliaferro has offers from mid-majors and three Ivies (CREDIT:

Dustin Taliaferro was a star quarterback for Roswell High School in Roswell, GA. He was recruited by some big schools, but now seems to be leaning toward the Ivies and Columbia is in the running along with Penn and Dartmouth.

Here's an article about the talented Roswell squad and the interesting tidbits about Taliaferro are near the bottom.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Probable New Lion

Likely Lion Nick Mistretta (CREDIT:

The Newark Star-Ledger is reporting that Nick Mistretta is indeed coming to Columbia, I just don't have any other confirmation right now.

Here's a profile of Mistretta from Scout.Com

Here's how the Star-Ledger profiled him yesterday:

"A leader on both sides for the team that finished No. 1 in the Star-Ledger Top 20, won the Non-Public, Group 4 title and was 12-0. He was a huge part of the offensive line as it helped backs to 2,536 yards rushing and quarterbacks to 1,576 passing. As a linebacker, he had 52 tackles and two interceptions."

Jake's Take: At 6"2 and 215 lbs, it's possible Mistretta will somehow become an offensive lineman for Columbia, but I'm thinking he may fit better as a defensive lineman right now.

Either way, it's great to get someone from a great Catholic High School program like Don Bosco. Hopefully, he'll be the first of many more.

Friday, December 14, 2007

In Our Sites

Jeff Adams is standing in the back row, furthest to the right (CREDIT: Chicago Sun-Times)

Thanks to the anonymous poster yesterday who alerted us to possible recruit Jeff Adams, a big 6-foot-8 270-pound offensive lineman from Lyons Township high school in suburban Chicago, (LaGrange to be exact). Here's a link to an article about his play on the basketball court.

Combine him with recruit Brendan Mulheran from Lincoln-Way East High School, and it looks like the Columbia coaches are making headway recruiting in Chicago-area. Lots of great Lion players have come from there, including Des Werthman.

Adams seems like the perfect prospect for the offensive and maybe even defensive line. Let's hope he chooses Columbia over Akron and Vanderbilt.

More ink on Adams:


Thursday, December 13, 2007

What Happened?

The Harvard D-line stuffs another runner (CREDIT: Harvard Athletics)

Enough time has passed to take a more reasoned view of the 2007 Ivy League football season. We'll be hashing and re-hashing the Columbia season on this site for the next nine months or so, but right now I want to start at the top. And in 2007, we had a surprise team at the top in the Harvard Crimson. The Crimson won the title despite losing Clifton Dawson to graduation and Yale's seemingly inveitable march to an undefeated season. They did it by handily beating the Bulldogs right on their home field.

How did this happen? How could a team that just lost an all-world running back and was later forced to start a backup QB in mid-season win it all?

The answer is basic, easy, and boring: line of scrimmage. Of all the teams Columbia played in 2007, none controlled the lines of scrimmage better than Harvard. The defensive line that posted legendary numbers in 2006 stayed almost as strong this year, and the offensive line actually got better, especially when it came to pass blocking. The result was a team that was able to control its destiny in play after play, drive after drive, and game after game.

Yale was a great team, with the best weapon in the league in Mike McLeod, but they did not have a great offensive line. It was good, possibly one of the 3-4 best in the league, but not good enough to stop Harvard's front four. And that's what cost them the championship, not McLeod's late-season injury, and not Yale's lack of a real offensive weapon through the air.

Yale faced another team with a very good defensive line earlier in the season: Penn. And the Bulldogs very nearly, and maybe should have, lost that game that went to triple OT. The Harvard coaches watching film of that game must have felt extremely confident they could beat the Bulldogs by playing to their strengths.

What does this mean to Columbia? A lot. It's been mentioned over and over again, but the Lions will not contend until they improve their offensive and defensive line play. The successful teams of Columbia's recent past had either a very good defensive or offensive line or both.

In 1996, Marcellus Wiley proved a dominant force on the defensive line while the late Randy Murff anchored a scrappy offensive front. Result: An 8-2 record.

Last season, Darren Schmidt and Todd Abrams had outstanding senior seasons and then-sophomore Phil Mitchell emerged as a rising star. Result: One of the best defenses in the league and a respectable 5-5 record.

The Ivies have increasingly become a league that can be divided into two groups: teams with good offensive and defensive lines and those without. The number of teams with good front lines has been shrinking steadily for years now, making big and fast players an even rarer commodity than they were before.

Columbia cannot use smoke and mirrors to overcome this problem, and I'm sure the coaches know that and aren't trying to avoid the true need for big guys up front.

Harvard met that need in 2007, will Columbia or anyone else in 2008?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

No Room for Athletes at Yale

Keeping the Dogs Out

It's taken me a while to get to this, but I was distressed to see that despite probably boosting the total size of its student body, Yale is not alloting any of those new slots to athletes.

This is a bad move. Athletes at just about every college, Ivy or not, tend to be the most loyal and generous alumni. I hope the Yale alums go into revolt over this and other schools get scared out of making the same move.

Here is a piece about this in the Yale Daily News. (Thanks Don)

Even if two new residential colleges increase the number of freshmen filing through Phelps Gate each August, the number making the early-morning trek to Payne Whitney Gymnasium will probably remain the same.

University President Richard Levin said Yale College will most likely not admit more recruited athletes if the student body expands, although no official conclusions have been made as yet. Levin said athletes are already well-represented in each incoming class, and the University would use additional spots in each freshman class to increase opportunities for students who do not “represent special interests.”

“We have an awful lot of [applicants] who come with no special constituency — not legacies, not athletes — and that’s the pool we’re hoping to expand most when we get larger,” Levin said.

But many in the athletics community — including administrators, coaches and athletes — said the current number of recruits supported by the admissions process is too small and two new residential colleges may present an oportune moment to grow their numbers.

In the class of 2011, just under 200 admitted athletes matriculated out of the approximately 1,300 incoming students, Director of Admissions and Financial Aid for the Athletics Department Fritz Rodriguez said. This makes athletes roughly 15 percent of the freshman class, a statistic comparable to other classes, he said.

“There’s been a number of concerns and debate about whether a disproportionate amount of admitted students are athletes,” Rodriguez said. “Some in the academic world say yes, and as someone from athletics, I would obviously disagree.”

The admissions office allows the Athletics Department to support a certain number of athletes in the admissions process each year, but support does not guarantee acceptance, Rodriguez said. Neither the admissions office nor the Athletics Department disclosed any numbers, but he said the “dynamic” number changes from year to year, depending on the applicant pool and the current rosters of various varsity teams.

Rodriguez said it would be disappointing if the number of prospective students that the Athletics Department could support in the admissions process remained stagnant despite an increase in the student body, especially because he does not think the quality of the recruits would not be affected.

Athletics Director Tom Beckett and Dean of Undergraduate Admissions Jeffrey Brenzel said discussions on how the composition of the student body might change have not officially begun and could not comment on the effect of new residential colleges on athletic recruitment policies.

Coaches said the limited number of supported prospective student-athletes poses difficulties in filling rosters and ensuring that all recruits will be able to contribute athletically. One varsity coach who asked to remain anonymous said the limited number of recruiting spots means there is little leeway for recruiting mistakes. Coaches cannot afford for a recruit to underperform athletically, he said.

“The numbers are nowhere near what we want,” he said. “We’re at a disadvantage because our numbers are low compared to other [schools] in the [Ivy] League.”

In order to support all the athletes on Yale’s 35 varsity teams, the Athletics Department would need to be allowed a larger number of supported recruits, Rodriguez said. Although some athletes are admitted outside the recruitment process, administrators, coaches and athletes said there are students for whom recruiting can make a difference between admission and rejection.

But Beckett said if the overall student population increased, he would not view the issue as a matter of admitting a certain number of athletes, but as maintaining Yale athletics’ philosophy.

“It’s the idea of being an athlete at a school that combines both top-level athletics and academics,” he said. “There are only a handful of places where you can have one without sacrificing the other, and we want to attract students who have talents in both areas.”

Harvard Associate Director of Athletics Sheri Norred, who serves as the liaison between the athletics department and the admissions office, said the number of athletes needed to field a quality athletics program is related to the number of sports that are sponsored by the institution, not to the size of the undergraduate population. The number of athletes is regulated by the Ivy League for all eight Ivy institutions. Unless the number of varsity sports were increased to accommodate interests on campus as a result of a larger population, there would be no need to increase the number of recruited athletes, she said.

“Even with the hypothetical [situation] of an increased student population, I wouldn’t envision significant changes in athletics recruiting,” Norred said. “Student-athletes are held to the same academic standards as the general student population … so there would not be any change in the opportunity for gaining admission.”

Levin said the committee investigating the potential expansion’s effects on student life has not specifically addressed athlete recruitment, but has instead focused on needs for more fitness center space and intramural fields.

“Those seem to be the main issues at the moment with respect to athletics,” Levin said. “We are not considering expanding the number of varsity sports or anything like that.”

Athletes have varying perspectives on how a larger student population should affect recruiting.

Jennie Hansen ’08, captain of the women’s crew team, said the number of supported athletes seems to have declined over the past few years, which has made it more difficult for athletes to get recruited to Yale because the field has become more cut-throat across the country. She said reducing the number of spots available for support could push good athletes to other schools and put Yale coaches at a disadvantage.

“The number of athletes needed for each team is probably the coaches’ call but if there is a demand from the coaches to get more athletes in, the administration should listen,” she said.

Hansen said she hopes that coaches would be allowed to support more athletes to maintain the current composition of the student body. A higher number of athletes accepted each year would increase the quality of athletes on each team by including a higher number of good recruits, she said.

Several athletes who play on varsity teams but were not recruited said it would even make sense to keep the number of supported recruits the same because coaches are given only the minimum they need to support recruits. One such athlete said her team is given 10 recruits each year, and that they do not need more than that. Another athlete said it would be fair to keep the number of athletes constant even with an increase in the overall student population as Yale would still attract the same pool of student-athletes.

Rodriguez, coaches and athletes all stressed that being an athletic recruit is like any other skill that makes students unique, and coaches’ recognition of talented students helps athletes stand out in the admissions process.

Chuck Hughes, the president of the admissions consulting firm Road to College, said athletes get “tremendous tips” from their coaches during the admissions process. He said students recruited by coaches are often accepted as long as they meet admissions standards. Because of this, he said he thinks it would be fair if the number of recruits remained the same even if the overall student population increased as athletes are already supported in the admissions process.

Hansen said there will always be a stereotype of athletes having lower grades and test scores than those who do not play sports, but she does not think Yale admits athletes who cannot keep up academically.

“I think that non-athletes probably imagine that recruits are automatically in to a school, but that is not the case,” she said. “We go through the same admissions standards and there are many high-level athletes that don’t get in.”

The Yale Corporation is scheduled to vote on whether to build two new residential colleges in February. If constructed, the colleges will be located on Prospect Street.

Former CU BBall Assistant Hits Milestone

St. Andrew's, (Palm Beach, FL), boys basketball coach John O'Connell won his 400th game on Monday.

He was an assistant coach at Columbia University in the early 1980's when his college coach advised him to move down to the high school ranks so he could learn to be a head coach.

In Case You Missed it...

Austin Knowlin: Your 2007 MVP

The annual Columbia football team awards were announced at the team dinner last night. Here's a quick list of the winners:

2007 Columbia Lions Varsity Football Awards

Phil Fusco Award: JoJo Smith (Sr., CB)

Maniatty-Remmer Unsung Hero Award: Thomas Weldon (Sr., FB)

John J. Cirigliano Ironman Award: Craig Hormann (Sr., QB)

Lou Little Coaches Most Improved Award: Mike Partain (Sr., C)

Ken Germann Freshman Award: Alex Gross (Fr., LB)

Special Forces Award: Jon Rocholl (Jr., P/K)

Most Valuable Offense: Austin Knowlin (So., WR)

Most Valuable Defense: Phil Mitchell (Jr., DE)

Sid Luckman Most Valuable Player Award: Austin Knowlin (So., WR)

Campbell-Murff Captains Award: Craig Hormann (Sr., QB), Drew Quinn (Sr., LB), JoJo Smith (Sr., CB)

It's hard to quibble with any of these choices. I would say that for Mike Partain, the "most improved" award may have been a career-long nod as opposed to marking his performance from 2006 to 2007. Some commenters have made the point that tailback Ray Rangel could be considered the most improved Lion over the past year.

Basketball Saturday

The Columbia men's basketball team didn't look too great in their loss to Lafayette Saturday, but I did enjoy getting back on campus, I ended up doing an impromptu radio interview with Jerry Recco at the half. Anyone listening probably heard my daughter Jordan trying to talk to me during the first part of the interview!

But during the chat, I did get to remind listeners that the next several weeks will be fast and furious as we start to get more info about incoming freshman football players.

Saturday, December 08, 2007

2 Down...

Lincoln Way East HS, home of the Griffins... and Brendan Mulheran

Thanks to a commenter to the previous post, we've enjoyed a 100% increase in our number of known incoming freshmen.

So far we have:

1) Nico Pappas FB Buckingham Browne & Nichols School, Massachusetts

2) Brendan Mulheran, LB/FB Lincoln-Way East, Illinois

Lincoln-Way East is a perennial national power in high school football. I'm not sure, but it appears Mulheran was a senior in 2006, so it's possible he took a P-G year somewhere. At 5"10, 180 pounds, he seems like the perfect fit at free safety or spur linebacker in the CU system.

One that Got Away... Sort of

A talented kicking prospect from Northern Virginia, Ronnie Shaban, won't be playing football at Columbia, but he's still coming to Morningside Heights to play... soccer. Oh well, it's certainly not a total loss.

I expect to see a total of 28 officially recruited freshmen by the end of May, so we have 26 names and more than five months to go.

Back to Round Ball

I'm looking forward to seeing the men's basketball team in action again today at home versus Lafayette. Hopefully, I'll be able to get out of Levien Gym without spending more than $20 on goodies for my daughter!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Hello, Neighbor!

Alex Rivas, (left), is Nassau's top high school footballer (CREDIT: Newsday)

East Meadow is the town next to my home of Bellmore, and it's also the home of Nassau County's best football player, Alex Rivas. Rivas has won the Thorp Award and Columbia is one of the schools actively recruiting him.

Rivas is one of those combination fullback/linebackers you often see at the high school level. Hopefully, the Columbia coaches will persuade this smart young man, (1300 on his SAT's), to become a Lion.

High School Confidential

I'm a little late with this info, but Drew Quinn and Lou Miller's high school, St. Xavier, won another Ohio state football championship last week. Thanks to Ed Quinn for passing this info along.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Recruiting Opportunity?

Patchogue-Medford, home of the Raiders

I have NO IDEA what this young man's grades are, but there could be an overlooked lineman prospect for Columbia to check out from Long Island.

Jordany Diejuste was named the best lineman, (he played tackle on offense and defense), on Suffolk County, but he's only been recruited by Marist and Stony Brook because he missed his junior year with an injury.

Basketball Jones

It was a nice win for the Lions mens basketball squad last night at Wagner, the same team that had already beaten Yale and Brown this season. Player of the Year contender John Baumann had 29 points.

Please Weigh In

And I'M STILL taking your nominations for the following 2007 Columbia Football team awards. Thanks to all of you who have already made your choices in the comments section.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Giving Credit

(CREDIT: Columbia University Athletics/Ben Shyman)

I'm back after a short trip to the Midwest and I'm in an adventurous mood. So, I'd like to ask my readers for their nominees for the "First Annual Readers Choice Columbia Football Awards":

1) Rookie of the Year

2) Offensive Player of the Year

3) Defensive Player of the Year

4) Special Teams Player of the Year

5) Most Improved Player

6) "Comeback"* Player of the Year

7) Team MVP

*= awarded to the player who returned to, or exceeded, the high level of play he achieved in a season previous to 2006.

Let me hear from you as we look to acknowledge our outstanding young players.