Thursday, February 28, 2008

Welcome to the 7th Century

Coming Soon: Crusader-Free Hours in Harvard Square!

Okay, maybe I'm only posting this because we're playing Harvard in basketball this Friday night... but Harvard's gym is now off-limits to men for six hours per week in order to accommodate Muslim students who want "women-only hours." Judging by their won-loss record, I guess those were the six hours that used to be the time reserved for the men's basketball team practice.

But in all seriousness, are they kidding? Imagine if an Evangelical Christian group or an Orthodox Jewish group of women demanded the same courtesy at Harvard or Columbia... believe me, they would be laughed out of town.

Funny that these kind of accommodations can be made, but we can't get a postseason bball tournament or a playoff game for football.


Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Jeff's Last Words... (sort of)

Today's New York Times has a short profile and look back on Jeff Orleans career.

Unfortunately, this is the key paragraph:

"Orleans does not see the league’s model changing anytime soon. He dismissed talk of a conference basketball tournament and said the sacrifices required to upgrade Ivy football were simply not worth it."

Again, I think Orleans has not been a disaster by any stretch. But this reluctance to make any substantive change is disappointing. Contrary to what Orleans says later in the article, such changes would not make the Ivies look like the Big Ten.

And a funny side note: the Times uses the same picture of Orleans with Dianne Murphy that I used in my blog piece about him last week. Apparently pictures of him are harder to come by than I thought.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Hall of Fame Recommendations

Columbia is asking for nominations as it prepares to name new members to its athletics Hall of Fame. The deadline is March 17.

Here's a look at the inaugural members of the hall of fame.

I don't want to deluge people with a long list, but I have a few football suggestions, (and if any of you agree please feel free to nominate them as well).

Heritage Era

Eugene Rossides, class of 1949

I had the pleasure of interviewing Rossides at halftime of the Yale game last fall and it was great to hear how sharp he is in every way. Rossides was the QB for some of the greatest Columbia teams of all time, including the 1947 team that stunned Army.

Modern Era

Marty Domres, class of 1969

Domres dominated a good portion of the passing record book for more than a decade. He went on to a solid NFL career. He also made for a great halftime interview that we did during the Penn game last season.

Des Werthman, class of 1993

Longtime readers of this blog know about my longstanding admiration for Des.

Jonathan Reese, class of 2002

Holds the all-time rushing record and he did it in tough circumstances on teams that never won more than 4 games in a season.

And while I'm at it, I have two basketball nominations as well.

Modern Era

Buck Jenkins, class of 1993

An electric player in every way. I saw him play during my own undergrad year and never forgot him.


Jack Rohan

Next to Lou Little, Jack Rohan was the greatest coach in Columbia athletics history. In addition to basketball, he even led the golf team for years.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

The American Dream: 2008 Version

Rafael Lopez, right, with his brother and his mom (CREDIT: L.A. Daily News)

Incoming freshman Rafael Lopez's family, (his dad is a mechanic and his mom is a cleaning woman/housekeeper), is profiled in this article in today's L.A. Daily News.

I love these kinds of stories and thank God for athletics at Columbia, because without it, they would be even fewer and further between.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Dollars and Sense

Will Cornell's Finances Sink the Big Red?

Something is happening in the Ivy League that already seems to be changing things for all the athletic teams.

After years of relative parity when it came to financial aid packages for athletes and everyone else, some Ivy schools are now proving to be "more equal than others" when it comes to how much money they're offering potential students and potential student athletes.

According to this article in the Cornell Daily Sun, the Big Red are bearing the brunt of this new paradigm with Columbia somewhere in the middle, and of course Harvard, Yale and Princeton at the top. (With Cornell's men's and women's basketball teams both on top of the league right now, this seems a little alarmist... but overall I think it's a good argument).

The elephant in the room is the spectacular new tuition procedures Harvard and Yale have already adopted that max out yearly tuition at 10% of a student's parents' annual income. The schools with huge endowments are the only ones who can offer this, and just about all the Ivies have a pile of cash. But with Cornell's semi-state school status, it's endowment is not as large as it could be.

Columbia's endowment is impressive by any standard, but the costs of operating in New York City may keep it from offering that 10% income-based tuition plan. Or would it? I'm in favor of the Manhattanville expansion 100%, but not all the new buildings and other expansions you've seen in the past at Columbia and other schools have really been necessary. And when you realize that so many new projects at major schools are directly the result of private donations, the need to use the endowment to start reducing tuition becomes more obvious.

Here's my rant: Instead of lauding these schools for finally lowering tuition to a reasonable rate we should be screaming at the top of our lungs about how all of this is about 30 to 35 years overdue! Universities should not be allowed to sit on billions and billions of tax free dollars while they charge huge tuitions to people who basically end up borrowing the money from the taxpayers to pay those tuitions.

As a Columbia alum whose parents and grandparents sacrificed tremendously to send me to college at what is now less than half the annual costs faced by today's students, I am very grateful. But unless Columbia and the other schools can match the 10% plan, the Ivy League will disintegrate both as an athletic and an academic conference. The schools that cannot make tuition more affordable will become the 21st century versions of Bennington, Swarthmore, and all those other schools that basically cater to the rich and have basically dropped competitive athletics.


I figure that even if all 4,000 or so students in Columbia College are paying full tuition, (which of course they are not), we're talking about $120 million per year coming into the school that would be cut back significantly if Columbia adopted the "10% solution" like Harvard and Yale.

But let's say Columbia set aside 10% of the endowment, ($600 million), and let's say that money is put in an interest bearing savings account, (if such things exist for that amount of money), with just a 4% annual interest return on that money. That's $24 million right there. To make up the addition $96 million, I know I would be happy to pledge at least $1,000 a year in additional donations to Columbia in return for the reduced tuition promise to current and future students.

But again, Columbia College is SURELY not taking in the full-freight tuition from all its students. Instead of that $120 million, it's probably more like $80 million in undergraduate tuition revenue. And just to have more fun with math, let's say the average family income of current Columbia students is $150k. That would mean that even under the "10% solution," the school would be taking in roughly $60 million in tuition revenue anyway!

So, take that $20 million "loss" from going to the 10% solutions and, subtract the $24 millon from endowment interest, and now you're talking about a $4 million annual surplus!

And what about the kind of money that could come back in spades from happier and more successful alumni?

The money is there, it's time to use it to make a real difference.

The fact that it would help athletics is just the icing on the cake.

Jeff Orleans is on the Clock (CREDIT:

New Leadership on the Way

Ivy League Executive Director Jeff Orleans has announced he's leaving office in less than 18 months. Now is the time to campaign hard for a replacement who will make the following issues a priority:

1) Creating some kind of league-wide rules on financial aid for athletes in order to make sure the richer schools don't extend the lead they already have in sports.

2) Sending the Ivy football champion to the FCS playoffs and establishing an 11th regular season game.

3) Postseason conference tournament for basketball.

4) Relaxation of some of the most restrictive rules governing practice times and other schedules. (Not an elimination, but Spring practice could be extended a week and summer training camps should also be longer for football).

Commenters can feel free to add their major platform issues as well.

But all of us should make sure the true fans of Ivy sports get our voices heard about who we want in the leadership position. This is not a joke, die hard Ivy sports fans are some of the best donors and devoted alumni in the country. People who do not care whether competitive Ivy sports live or die should not be allowed one iota of influence in this decision-making process.

Here's my sketch of who would make an ideal candidate:

1) A former Ivy basketball or football player who has made a nice fortune in his/her post athletic career and thus would not be cowed by the "powers that be."

2) A former Ivy athletic director with keen knowledge of what the students, fans, and administrators need to succeed.

3) A former U.S. Senator or state Governor who knows that "rules" mean squat if they p*ss off your top donors.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Tad Gets Some Company

Quarshie Treks North

Tad Crawford '07 had a breakthrough rookie season in the CFL with the B.C. Lions, and now one of his old teammates is set to make a big impact as well.

Michael Quarshie '05 has been signed by the Toronto Argonauts and I expect him to start immediately. Quarshie had been with the Oakland Raiders for the last two seasons, but injuries and other factors kept him off the field.

Hey, you gotta love a pro football league that starts playing in July!

"Let's bring it in for Bobby" UPDATE

Bobby Ray and his Wife Claudia (CREDIT: BALSFUND.ORG)

I'm happy to say that many of you have already donated a considerable amount to Bobby Ray's ALS fund. Below is the text of the post I first wrote almost exactly a month ago.

The sentiments are all still very true:

I received some very sad and yet also uplifting news this afternoon. Former Lion footballer, Bobby Ray '90, has been diagnosed with ALS, or Lou Gehrig's Disease. Yes, the disease that is named for Columbia's greatest-ever athlete has stricken another Lion.

But the uplifting news is that Bobby is not giving up, and so many of his former teammates are working to raise money for Bobby's efforts to get treatment abroad, (where certain stem cell-based treatments are government-approved).

Bobby's teammates' efforts are impressive, and we all know how close-knit and dedicated to one another the Columbia football players from the late 1980's are. As one of them put in an email to his fellow players: "Let's Bring It In for Bobby"

But this is one battle they should not be fighting alone.

PLEASE take the time to visit and donate to help Bobby here.

As fans, I think it would be a great thing to let Bobby know we care for and are praying for him, even though we may have never known him personally.

No one gets left behind.

Now is the time for the Lions to truly roar.

Friday, February 15, 2008


Craig Hopes to Get to the Next Level

Craig Hormann is not saying goodbye to football. This video provides a few details on how he's training for an NFL tryout.

We all wish Craig the best of luck.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Here's more of the Beef!

Guess which one of these kids is the offensive lineman (CREDIT: Chicago Sun-Times)

That very good-looking prospect from outside Chicago I wrote about two months ago is coming to Columbia after all. Jeff Adams is a 6'8" 270-pound offensive lineman who turned down some good offers to become a Lion.

Good choice, Jeff!

Two New Names

Peter Batesko was a 3rd Team All-State Defensive Back (CREDIT:

Today, we have news of a couple of decent-sized incoming freshmen, pushing our confirmed class of 2012 to 17.

First is Peter Batesko, a 6'3", 205 lb. WR/DB from Red Bank Catholic High School in New Jersey.

Second is DE/WR, (not a very common combination, but it seems to be possible), J.D. Tyree a 6'4" 208-pounder from Martinsville High School in Roanoke, Virginia.

So here's our list so far, and I think we're probably well ahead of where we were at this time last year with more than half of our recruited class known.

1. Jerry Bell, 6'2", 206 QB, Corpus Christi, Texas, Ray H.S.

2. Peter Batesko, 6'3" 205 WR/DB, Red Bank Catholic, Red Bank, NJ

3. Sam Cecil, 6'2", 250 OT/DT, Linsly School, W.Va

4. Alex Cornish 6'1", 210 LB, Fredrick, Md

5. Will Claunch, 6'2" 225, LB Florida

6. Christian Daniel, 6'4" 195 WR, Canyon H.S., Calif.

7. Owen Frazer, 6-1. 300 NT/OG, Trinity-Pawling, Newburgh, N.Y

8. Ryan Hazlett, 6'3", 210, QB, New Jersey

9. Rafael Lopez, 6'4", 235, TE, Calif

10. A.J. Maddox 5'9'' 183 DB, OLB, RB, H-Back/Slot Lakeview Central HS, Garland, TX

11. Nick Mistretta, 6'2", 225, LB, Nanuet, N.Y., Don Bosco Prep, N.J.

12. Evan Miller, 6'210" LB, St. Xavier, Cincinnati, Ohio

13. Ross Morand 6'1", 180, St. Xavier, Cincinnati, Ohio

14. Kevin Mulhearn, 5'11", 185 S, Lincoln Way H.S., Illinois

15. Nico Papas, 6'1", 235, Buckingham & Nichols, FB, Cambridge, Mass

16. J.D. Tyree, 6'4", 208 Martinsville, Roanoke, VA

17. Kurt Williams, 6'0, 190, DB, Don Bosco Prep, N.J.

Shane Kelly: Two More Years

It appears the mystery of Shane Kelly's actual class placement has been solved. The Columbia football roster has moved all the returning players up to the 2008-09 class except for Kelly, who is still listed as a junior.

So as I expected, the leading candidate to start at QB this coming season is good to go for yet another season after 2009 if all goes well.

Of course, Kelly doesn't have the starting job yet. I just give him the "favorite" designation because he has the most experience of any of the returning players.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Texas Twister

A.J. Maddox hopes to be the rarest of weapons in the Ivies: a legitimate speedster (CREDIT: Lakeview High School)

Thanks to the anonymous poster who listed our publicized, (in local media), list of incoming freshmen in the comments section in the previous post. Here is that list for those of you who missed it:

1. Jerry Bell, 6'2", 206 QB, Corpus Christi, Texas, Ray H.S.

2. Sam Cecil, 6'2", 250 OT/DT, Linsly School, W.Va

3. Alex Cornish 6'1", 210 LB, Fredrick, Md

4. Will Claunch, 6'2" 225, LB Florida

5. Christian Daniel, 6'4" 195 WR, Canyon H.S., Calif.

6. Owen Frazer, 6-1. 300 NT/OG, Trinity-Pawling, Newburgh, N.Y

7. Ryan Hazlett, 6'3", 210, QB, New Jersey

8. Rafael Lopez, 6'4", 235, TE, Calif

9. A.J. Maddox 5'9'' 183 DB, OLB, RB, H-Back/Slot Lakeview Central HS, Garland, TX

10. Nick Mistretta, 6'2", 225, LB, Nanuet, N.Y., Don Bosco Prep, N.J.

11. Evan Miller, 6'210" LB, St. Xavier, Cincinnati, Ohio

12. Ross Morand 6'1", 180, St. Xavier, Cincinnati, Ohio

13. Kevin Mulhearn, 5'11", 185 S, Lincoln Way H.S., Illinois

14. Nico Papas, 6'1" 235, Buckingham & Nichols, FB, Cambridge, Mass

15. Kurt Williams, 6'0, 190, DB, Don Bosco Prep, N.J.

One highlight in these names is A.J. Maddox who, according to his high school website, runs the 40 in 4.4 seconds! He played a lot of positions this past season, but primarily was used as a defensive back. Obviously, there's a lot of places where a speedster like that can fit in at Columbia.

Super speed, like well-sized linemen, has become a true rarity in the Ivies. But conversely, even those very undersized players who have great speed, like Columbia's Travis Chmelka '04, can make a huge impact when they would be too small at the BCS level to get a chance. Maddox looks like he might be able to contribute right away as a spur linebacker, sealing off the edges as the Lion defense works to bolster its weak middle from 2007.

Happy Days

What a glorious weekend it was for Columbia sports. The men's and women's fencing teams swept to undefeated Ivy League titles. The men's and women's basketball teams won all four games they played combined against Penn and Princeton. And there are even rumors that Roar-EE finally got a date with the female lead in the Lion King.

But seriously, I think the athletic department has to be pleased overall with how the spring semester sports season is going after what was a disappointing fall on many fronts. I say that because there have been so many years in the recent past when the football team's more-publicized failures have been just one part of a larger puzzle of frustration at CU. It seems to me that AD Diane Murphy has strengthened the prorgam overall and that will shake into football soon enough.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

If You're Paying Attention...

New Names, New Faces

By now, I'm sure most of you have read about how Tim Waller is actually not coming to Columbia this fall. I urge you all to read the very forthcoming comments from Tim's father in the comments section beneath the previous post.

Also please check the comments section for more info on some of the new recruits who are coming in, including Sam Cecil an offensive lineman, linebacker Will Claunch, DB Kurt Williams, and DE/LB Alex Cornish.

A Little Perspective

The dream to play college football is intense for thousands of kids across this country. This story shows how sometimes that dream can get away from some of them and how hard it is to admit it.

We should all remember how lucky the kids who play at Columbia and every other college are. I'm sure just about all of them know, but we should always remember that.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

A Word of Caution

It was the winter of 2002, and I was a morning news producer at the now-defunct business channel, CNNfn. The big news at that time was the growing number of earnings reports scandals. Every day, it seemed like another company was forced to admit it fudged its numbers. There were criminal investigations and indictments, angry investors, and political outrage.

One February morning, we were told by our bosses to keep hitting the earnings scandals with guest after guest. I did as I was told, presenting the viewers "expert" after "expert" who basically promised our viewers that most earnings reports were 100% myth, a waste of time, B.S. with a capital "B."

Just as another one of our guests was preaching that message, I got an urgent call in the control room. I was ordered to immediately break in to this interview for... wait for it... an earnings report! So after making the strong case that all earnings were crap, we interrupted everything to give the viewers a heaping new portion of crap.

I was reminded of that silly incident yesterday when I realized some of the much-ballyhoed freshmen recruits from last year are now not even on the team. This does not mean we should not smile a bit when we hear about hot recruits. God knows it helps the offseason pass by more quickly. But we should not forget that these kids may not even be on the team a year from now.

This is not a slam on the character of these young men who have already achieved a lot by getting decent high school grades even as they remain committed to football. But I would just ask all of us to take even the best recruitment news with a grain of salt.

That way, when I break into a discussion about some of our now "missing" players with some news about another hot recruit, it won't seem so silly.

Hanging with Chad

Welcome Back! (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics)

Columbia's pass defense for 2008 just got 100% better as Chad Musgrove has returned to the roster. Chad was having an outstanding junior season in 2006, when he suddenly left the team for what had to be personal reasons.

Musgrove is a very fast and good-sized cornerback who goes a long way to help replace the graduating JoJo Smith and Eugene Edwards.

But the very talented linebacker Justin Masorti is missing from the roster... at least for now. Justin actually missed spring practice last year as well due to some non-football issues. One can only hope he'll return when it counts in the fall once again.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Another Lion Success Story

Kieth Cockrell (Courtesy Detroit Free Press)

Former Lion footballer Kieth Cockrell '83, (yes that is K-I-E-T-H and not a typo), has been named president of Bank of America's Michigan division.

I can't imagine the challenges facing a bank in what's become the foreclosure capital of America. But anyone who played Columbia football in the early 1980's certainly knows how to face challenges.

It's amazing how many former Columbia football players take on even tougher challenges in business, medicine, and the military.

I'm starting to believe all that stuff about "character-building" we hear so often but don't really listen to enough.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Here's the Beef

No, Rafael Lopez isn't exactly a lineman, but he was one of the most talented Ivy-eligible blocking tight ends available in this year's recruiting class, and we got him. Hopefully, he will have the strength to make a difference in Columbia's outside running game.

Southern California is starting look like a recruiting gold mine for the Lions again. That's a good sign, because the last time the Golden State was so well represented on the CU roster, it was the glory days of the mid-1990's.