Sunday, June 29, 2008

The Towson Two

The Lions go to Johnny Unitas Stadium on September 27

Columbia travels to Towson for the first time ever this season, renewing a rivalry that started in 1997 at Baker Field and resumed two years later also in New York.

The Lions won both of those games in what turned out to be strong defensive performances. I thought I'd highlight those two wins for this weekend countdown games.

Game of the Day (Day 84)

September 28, 1997

Columbia 16 Towson 7

After a week one drubbing at Harvard, the Lions returned home and rode a spectacular defensive effort to a victory.

The key to the game and the turning point was obvious. Late in the first half, with 2nd and goal at the Columbia one-yard line, Towson failed on three straight tries and the half ended with both teams tied at 0-0.

The game saw one of the first big performances by Columbia star safety Chris Tillotson. He often lined up as a wide receiver, and the first score of the game was a 14-yard TD reception he caught from Lion QB Bobby Thomason. The junior Tillotson also had two interceptions and ran back two kickoffs for 69 yards.

Thomason was passing often on the day, throwing 47 passes in all. Three missed Lion field goals made the final score a little closer than it should have been.

Game of the Day (Day 83)

September 26, 1999

Columbia 28 Towson 13

The game provided a lot of exciting moments, beginning with Justin Meadlin's 69-yard punt return for a touchdown late in the first quarter.

But by the second half, Towson's stronger running game had put the Tigers ahead 13-7 before the Lions got rolling.

Sophomore QB Jeff McCall led the Lions on an impressive drive before scrambling away to throw and even more impressive 10-yard go ahead TD pass to John Cavanaugh, (Lion's great QB Mike Cavanaugh's brother).

Columbia scored another TD after a Towson fumble to take a 21-13 lead, and the Tigers fumbled the ensuing kickoff which the Lions returned for the final score.

McCall became the regular Columbia starter and had some decent days in this three years at the helm.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Tad Makes a Splash

Tad was solid in defeat

Tad Crawford '07, impressed most BC Lions fans in the CFL team's 28-18 loss to Calgary Stampeders in the season opener last night. Tad had to start because of another player's injury. Full stats are not so easy to find right now, but by all accounts, Tad was solid.

Just some background: BC was dominant in the regular season last year as Tad made a nice contribution as a rookie. But the Lions fell in an early playoff shocker and didn't even get a chance to play in the Grey Cup Final.

Game of the Day (Day 85)

November 12, 1960

Columbia 16 Penn 6

Today's win from the end of the 1960 season was a Lion win most experts believe was the biggest harbinger of the following season's Ivy title.

It was Columbia's first win over the Quakers at Franklin Field since 1937, and the crowd of 15,800+ never really had any reason to doubt the outcome as the Lions took an early lead. A first quarter safety followed by a quick TD actually gave Columbia more points than they would need all day.

Don Savini scored the first touchdown, (Don's son Durc was also a member of the Lion football team in the 1980's), but missed on a couple of field goal tries, (not many teams used specialty kickers in the early 60's), and Penn later made it 9-6 on a first quarter TD of their own.

But the Lions defense took over after that and when Tom O'Connor scored from the 4 late in the third quarter it was over.

Defensively dominated wins like this one in 1960 would become the norm in 1961 when the Lions walked away with a title. In 1960, they were just a 3-6 team looking to play the spoiler.

86 on 86 (Game of the Day-Day 86)

Sorry Steve, Don Adams is the REAL Agent 86

September 28, 1986

Lafayette 26 Columbia 21

With 86 days left to go until kickoff, I thought I'd focus on the best chance the Lions had to win in what turned out to be a winless 1986 season.

Trailing at home in week 2 against Lafayette by a score of 26-7, the Lions mounted a second half comeback to narrow the gap to 26-21 with 4:54 left on running back John Pennywell's third TD of the afternoon.

Then with 2:04 left to play, Leopard QB Clayton Evans fumbled the ball away at the Columbia 26. The Lions started to march and found themselves on the Lafayette 5-yard line with time for one more play.

But that play turned out to be a sack as QB David Putelo tried a naked reverse and he went down quickly under Leopard defensive back Joe Yanek's tackle.

Two weeks later Columbia came to within 20-14 deficit versus Princeton, but got no closer, making this loss to Lafayette the closest "near win" of the season.

The Lions next REAL win was still two years away.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

That Ivies 70's Show: CANCELED!

Schoelkopf's Look is Changing

Cornell Moves to FieldTurf, Astroturf now Extinct in the Ivies

It had to happen sometime, but the last vestige of the 70's is finally disappearing from the Ivies.

Cornell is ripping out its old school Astroturf surface and replacing it with FieldTurf. At one time, Columbia, Penn and Cornell all used those hard-as-concrete artificial surfaces that so many players and fans hated. Well I should say "most players," because a lot of running backs preferred the old Astroturf because it really gave you killer traction and speed when natural grass could slow you down. In fact, a lot of pundits at the time attributed Ed Marinaro's successes to Cornell's new turf that was installed in time for Marinaro's super senior season of 1971, (he ran for 1,881 yards in nine games!).

Columbia's Astroturf-to-FieldTurf transition was a little strange. Just when everyone in sports was moving back to natural grass in the late 80's and 90's, Columbia made the move from grass to Astroturf, (actually I believe the surface was officially called "Omniturf"), for the 1995 season. To be fair, this newer brand of artificial turf was easier on the players and generally more cushioned than old school Astroturf. But the reasons for the switch at Columbia were many. First and foremost, the cost of maintaining a natural grass field at New York City labor costs was getting prohibitive. Second, Title IX requirements were forcing Columbia to add women's lacrosse and field hockey teams and creating a field that they could use along with the football team in the same weekend was a big plus.

But in 2005, former Head Coach Bob Shoop's insistence on switching to FieldTurf became a reality. The fact that Columbia made the switch that most athletes prefer well earlier than schools like Princeton, Harvard and Cornell was impressive.

This leaves just Yale and Brown as the only schools without FieldTurf, (Penn's surface is officially not FieldTurf but it is a FieldTurf clone), and they are sticking with natural grass for now. It will be interesting to see if this difference gives them an advantage or a disadvantage to deal with in the coming years.


The Columbia Athletics homepage is again going with that cool countdown clock to the beginning of the football season. There's something about that clock that is mesmerizing. (I'm not kidding)

Game of the Day (Day 87)

Nov. 20, 1971

Columbia 24 Brown 6

Anyone who remembers the Lions' 1971 season will tell you all about the cliffhanger games that seemed to be the norm week after week. But the final game of the season provided a much needed break for Columbia's cardiac-challenged fans.

The 5-3 Lions would have been heavily favored, but starting QB Don Jackson injured his knee in practice and did not play. Sophomore Glenn Erickson started in his place and overcame a slow start to help the Lions win.

But the real stars were Columbia flanker John Sefcik and linebacker/kicker Paul Kaliades. With the Lions trailing 6-3 in the third quarter, Sefcik made a diving catch of an Erickson pass in the end zone seconds after another nice grab to set up the TD.

Kaliades, who already scored 5 points on a 31-yard field goal and two PAT's, returned a 4th quarter interception for a touchdown and kicked another PAT to finish with 12 points.

Another star was sophomore Rich Manfredi, who ran for a 43-yard touchdown in the third quarter to make it 17-6.

The overall Columbia defense was dominant, holding the Bears to just 80 rushing yards on 45 carries, (1.7 yards per carry), and Brown completed just 13 of 32 passes.

The win capped the Lions' first winning season since the 1961 championship year. They wouldn't get another better than .500 season for 23 years.

Let the Predictions Begin

The College Sporting News is out with its preseason picks for the Ivy League.

Here's how it looks:

1. Harvard
2. Yale
3. Brown
4. Penn
5. Dartmouth
6. Cornell
7. Princeton
8. Columbia

Should I be worried that this prediction doesn't look all that bad to me? I'll get to the Lions being picked last in a moment, but I too plan on picking Harvard, Yale, Brown and Penn as my top four when I release my detailed picks later this summer.

Unless something changes, Harvard looks like the team to beat with a great offensive line, experienced QB and overall strong defense.

Yale has a shot because of star running back Mike McLeod, but the Elis have lost a lot of stars on the offensive and defensive lines.

And Brown is everyone's favorite to surprise after last season's offensive explosion.

I am surprised by how low they placed Princeton and how high Dartmouth ended up, but you never know how hard these guys work on picking the Ivies after the first 2-3 teams.

As far as Columbia's last place prediction, well you have to expect that after going 0-7 last year. Plus, any team starting a new QB is always a little suspect and Columbia will need to do that this season. Of course, it's always nice to surprise people and the Lions certainly have the opportunity to do that in 2008.

Game of the Day (Day 88)

November 4, 1951

Columbia 21 Cornell 20

Yesterday, I highlighted Columbia's thrilling one-point upset win over Cornell in 1950. Well, the Lions did it again a year later in Ithaca. This time the final score was 21-20.

Once again, an extra point that wasn't played the biggest role in Columbia's victory. Big Red kicker Bill Kirk simply missed the PAT after Cornell had stormed back from a 21-7 fourth quarter deficit to make it 21-20.

But Columbia still needed an interception by Ben Mione a few minutes later to truly ice the game in front of 21,000 very cold fans at Schoelkopf Field.

Some of the other Lion stars were Wes Bomm, who broke Bill Swiacki's career receptions record with seven grabs on the day.

The Lions won despite being outgained 383-273 from scrimmage. Columbia also lost two fumbles, but made up for it with three interceptions, including the game-clincher.

And the unsung heroes were the snow removal crews from the city of Ithaca. The entire field and most of the stands were covered in heavy snow before the game, but the snow plows quickly made the field playable.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Time for Our Close-Up

The Versus Network, (the people who grabbed the NHL Stanley Cup Finals broadcasts a few years back), will be airing five Ivy football games this fall including the Harvard-Yale game.

It's hard to get solid bit of information on the other four games that will be televised. We won't know for sure until the official league schedule is released, but keep an eye open for more on this and the possible changes the Versus deal could make to kickoff times.

Jake's Take: Versus may be a bit obscure to the non-hockey fans among us, but this deal gives the Ivy more national coverage. Last season, we were down to just three games on YES and Columbia was not a part of those games. Of course, I'd still love YES to cover some games as well. The more the merrier.

Selective Memory

Former Columbia head basketball coach Armond Hill is one of the assistant coaches under Doc Rivers with the world champion Boston Celtics. Hill was a star player for the Princeton Tigers in the early 80's and after his short NBA career, he came back to assist the legendary Pete Carril in Princeton.

But his Columbia years were completely expunged from this press release from the folks at Princeton late last week.

No respect.

Game of the Day (day 89)

Today's game is the 1950 upset win over Cornell at Baker Field. The heavily favored Big Red took a 19-13 lead on a touchdown with 12:31 left in the 4th quarter, but the Lions blocked the extra point and then grabbed a Cornell fumble four minutes later at the opponents' 36-yard line. Seven plays later, Howard Hansen ran it in the end zone and Al Ward's extra point was good.

Cornell did drive it all the way down to the Lions 24 after the kickoff, but two straight sacks by Bill Malone, (the same guy who blocked the extra point earlier), ended the threat and the game.

The pundits of the day blamed the upset, (Cornell had been a 14-point favorite), on the heavy rain. But the 20,000 fans in the stands who were thoroughly soaked by the final gun didn't care. Among those fans were 27 members of Columbia's 1934 Rose Bowl championship team who were honored at halftime.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Games of the Day (Day 94, 93, 92, 91, 90)

I may not see one of these for another few days

I will be travelling for the next few days, so blogging may be a bit of a challenge.

Just in case, I'm leaving some quick summaries below to keep up with my goal of marking 100 different Columbia football until the start of the season.

Day 94 and 93: Doug's Greatest Hits

Yesterday's post about the Nov. 15, 1975 win over Cornell in Ithaca made me want to highlight the two other truly great games in Doug Jackson's Columbia career.

First was his 33-carry, 194-yard rushing performance in the 1975 28-25 Lion win over the Penn Quakers at Baker Field. After an 80-yard TD drive capped by a 2-yard Jackson score, the Lions made it 14-0 after a 50-yard Jackson TD dash on their next possession.

Another Jackson TD in the 2nd quarter gave Columbia a 21-7 lead, but the Lions almost blew it with a number of 2nd half turnovers. After Penn closed to 21-19, the rare-throwing CU QB Mike Delaney ran off tackle for a 31-yard TD to ice the game in front of 4,125 fans.

Second,(Game 93), is another game from 1975, the Lions surprisingly close 35-30 loss to the Harvard Crimson at a chilly Harvad Stadium on October 11th. 11,000 fans showed up for that one, though they seemed more engrossed with their transitor radios as they were following Game 1 of the World Series playing at Fenway Park a few miles away, (the Sox won that game, 6-0).

Jackson burned the Crimson for 179 yards and two TD's on 36 carries that day. After falling behind 35-17, the Lions stormed back to 35-30 and had a chance to take the lead with a few minutes left in the game when they face a 4th and 1 from the Crimson 11. But Delaney bobbled the ball and fell for a two yard loss. The Lions did get one more chance when they took possession at the Harvard 40 with 1:24 left, but they didn't get another 1st down.

Making Columbia's efforts even more impressive was the fact that Harvard eventually won the Ivy title outright that season after tying with Yale in 1974.

And you all know what happened to the Red Sox, right?

Game 92: Ray's First Win

Ray Tellier's achievements as Columbia's head coach from 1989-2002 were many. But it all started with a tough 25-19 road win over the Big Red in 1989.

The big star of the game was junior QB Bruce Mayhew who completed 24 of 39 for 276 yards and 2 touchdowns. Senior tight end Matt Less, one of many great Columbia tight ends in the last 30 years, caught 8 of those passes for 123 yards and a touchdown.

The win was especially sweet because it came a week after an agonizing loss, even by Columbia standards, to Dartmouth at Wien Stadium. The Lions blew a late lead to fall to the Big Green 13-12 and seemed destined for a winless season.

A funny postscript to this game was a piece in the New York Times a month later about the notes some readers attach to charitable donations to the Times' Neediest Fund:

A note with a $10 check from Dr. and Mrs. Alfred V. Sloan Jr. of Manhattan said simply, ''Please accept the enclosed in honor of: Columbia-25, Cornell-19.''

The reference was to the Columbia University football team's sole victory of the season - on Nov. 12 - and only the third victory since 1983. ''I was so elated, I said let's celebrate,'' Dr. Sloan said, ''This was a particularly tough game and Columbia shouldn't have won it.''

Dr. Sloan, who has been attending Columbia games since 1933, explained that although he did not go to the school, he came from a true-blue Columbia family. ''My mother got her bachelor's degree from Teachers' College in 1919, my father got his M.A. in 1915 and his M.D. in 1916. My son, who got his B.A. in 1985, is now working for his master's at Teachers' College.''

Game 91: Ray's Last Win

Fast forward 13 years and we have one of Tellier's most exciting wins as a coach, and it would be his last. The Lions beat eventual Patriot League champ Fordham at Wien Stadium 13-11 in a game televised nationally on the YES Network.

The Lions' Nick Rudd made a 37-yard field goal with 10.5 seconds left to play.

Fordham had blocked Rudd's 29-yard field goal attempt with 2 minutes 38 seconds left. But the Lions went 40 yards in 7 plays, including converting a 4th and 10 play to set up Rudd's game-winner. The win put the Lions at 1-0, but they would finish the season 1-9.

Game 90: Middle of the Road

Tellier won 42 games as Columbia's head coach, which means win #21 versus Lafayette in 1996 was the mid-point of his success.

The game was played in a virtual monsoon, and Columbia held on for a 3-0 victory and was 5-0 on the year after the win.

Matt Linit kicked it through the shaking uprights from 24 yards away with 9 minutes 54 seconds left in the fourth quarter.

The wind was coming in gusts of 40 miles an hour off the Harlem River and carrying sheets of rain with it.

The Lafayette field goal kicker, Brian Menecola, missed attempts of 52, 49 and 35 yards.

Columbia's winning score came thanks to some good Tellier strategy. After a 14-yard punt return by Roy Hanks to put CU on the Lafayette 33, defensive star Marcellus Wiley, moved to right halfback, and he broke a 19-yard gain to the Lafayette 11. Columbia inched up a few more yards before Linit's kick.

The real shocker of a game in those conditions was that Columbia had no turnovers!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Before the Tan... (Day 95)

"I'm not only the president of the George Hamilton fan club... I AM George Hamilton!"

Any way you measure it, George Seifert had a stellar NFL coaching career. As a head coach he won two Super Bowls and went 10-5 in the playoffs. As an assistant, he was the unsung force behind the underrated San Francisco 49er defenses that were actually almost as great, (if not greater), than Joe Montana and that exciting offensive attack.

But before those glory days, Seifert labored as the head coach during some of the darkest days in Cornell football history.

Robert Kane, the A.D. who hired Seifert in early 1975, described it like this:

"The NCAA had recently penalized the athletic department twice in four months for recruiting and management violations, the (university) president was being portrayed as anti-sports, the football staff had been without cohesive leadership for several months because of personal problems of the head coach (Jack Musick, who was fired Nov. 20, 1974), and three assistants had left for other positions. Thus what little recruiting that was done was woefully ineffective. We were, in reality, the pits."

Columbia's situation was not much better when the two teams met in Ithaca on November 1, 1975. The Lions were 0-5, losing each contest by an average of more than 19 points per game. But they did have Head Coach Bill Campbell, then in just his second year at the helm, and one of Columbia's greatest all-time players in Doug Jackson.

Cornell was 1-4 and the weather was very cold, but in a sign of just how much things have changed in the Ivies, there were 11,000 people in the stands for what promised to be a stinker of a game. The attendance at last season's Columbia-Cornell game in Ithaca was 3,369.

For Jackson and the Lions, it would be far from a bad day. The eventual Ivy Player of the Year ran the ball 23 times for 146 yards and three touchdowns. QB Mike Delaney, who never had to throw too much as long as Jackson was in the lineup, completed five of eight passes for 71 yards including his only TD pass of the season.

The Lions' defense did a great job too, led by senior DE Will Horton who ended the day with four sacks.

And there was a special teams highlight as well. After Cornell scored first to take a 7-0 lead, Dexter Brown returned a kickoff 87 yards Cornell 1-yard line before Jackson took it in on the next play.

Then Jackson and the Lion defense took over.

When the gun sounded, the final score was a stunning 42-19 in Columbia's favor. It was the first win for the Lions at Schoelkopf Field since Campbell was a player in 1961 and the first Ivy win for the Lions in more than two years. Columbia beat Seifert and Cornell at Baker Field a year later, 35-17. Seifert was fired soon after that 1976 loss.

A decade or so later both Seifert and Campbell would be at the top of their games, but in the Bay Area. Seifert was rising as the man behind Bill Walsh with the Niners, while Campbell was out of football but becoming a star in Silicon Alley as the founder of Intuit.

One could argue Seifert's tough years at Cornell were the best thing that ever happened to him. After he was fired, he vowed to remain an assistant coach forever. So when he went to work at Stanford, he was more than ready to learn under Walsh. And it was Walsh who would lead Seifert to glory time and again, before he finally handed the 49er head coaching rheins to Seifert in 1989.

But no one would have predicted that kind of a bright future for Seifert on that cold November day in 1975. Who could have?

Midnight at the Oasis (Day 96)

10/15/83 may have been Carm Cozza's worst day at Yale

Today's game is the last Lion win before the epic 44-game, (46 without a win), losing streak that engulfed the mid-1980's on Morningside Heights.

The Lions began the 1983 season 0-4 after big losses at "home" to Harvard and Penn and close losses on the road to Lafayette and Princeton. Of course, all of Columbia's games were really road games that season as Baker Field's old wooden stadium had been demolished and Wien Stadium was under construction.

In week 5, the Lions went on the road for real to visit a Yale Bowl where they hadn't won since 1961. The Elis were in the midst of a stunning decline, coming in with a record of 0-4 themselves and reeling from a 42-7 loss to Boston College the week before where the Eagles had frankly taken pity on the Bulldogs by game's end.

Yale had won at least a share of the Ivy title in 1979, 1980 and 1981, but they fell below .500 in 1982 for the first since 1971 and 1983 would be a low point in Coach Carm Cozza's career.

Perhaps the most surprising thing about the game was not that the Lions won, but HOW they won. Using a single-back fullback like the Washington Redskins with John Riggins, Columbia actually brought a ground attack to compliment QB John Witkowski's usual heroics. Witkowski finished the day 20 of 27 for 259 yards and two TD's, but Lion fullback Mike Goldman had the game of his life carrying the ball 30 times for 120 yards in the eventual 21-18 victory.

After that brief trip to the winning oasis, Columbia began to wander the desert. The Lions would not win again for almost 5 years, and wouldn't beat Yale at the Bowl for 11 more years. Yale finished the 1983 season a shocking 1-9, but righted its ship in 1984 to go 6-3.

But on one October day in 1983, all was right in Columbia's world.

Monday, June 16, 2008

More Praise for Tad

One good thing about the long spring and summer lay off for Ivy football fans is it gives us a chance to focus on former Ivies now in the NFL or CFL.

Tad Crawford's INT return for a TD in the B.C. Lions recent preseason game is getting more ink today in the Canadian papers.

One has to wonder if Tad can improve over the next few years and then take a crack at the NFL?

A Long Strange Trip it Was

Kirby Mack was Columbia's last great fullback

Today's game goes back just 10 years to 1998 when the Lions made their first trip to the West Coast since 1934.

The Lions went all the way to the Bay Area and beat St. Mary's 20-17 thanks to a TD by fullback Kirby Mack and a solid performance by Mack's cousin Jonathan Reese who was a freshman that year.

Here's how the New York Times told the story.

All Star News
Incoming freshman receiver Rafael Lopez wil play in today's 12th annual East-West All-Star Football Game in Van Nuys. The game will be broadcast on tape sometime this week or next on L.A.'s "City Channel." Lopez will wear #42.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Game #3 (Day 98)

Prosper was always Mr. Excitement when he had the ball

Continuing with the theme of rare bright spots in otherwise darker times, I thought I'd focus on the biggest win of 2005.

An extremely small, (just about 75 players), Columbia team took on Fordham to start the season at Jack Coffey Field. For the seniors on this year's team, it was their first game as Lions. And they started their careers with a thrilling victory.

My write-up of the game from 2005 is here.

Almost three years later, remembering the game now is bittersweet. Prosper Nwokocha's great performance still stands out, but so does the memory of my aching butt after sitting on Fordham's aluminum bleacher seats for so long, (must remember to bring a cushion for next year's game).

And in other news...

Tad Crawford '07 returned an interception for a touchdown in the B.C. Lions preseason loss to Saskatchewan.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Game of the Day: (Day 99)

Turbo Tax is a lot easier to use than the 4-3 Defense (CREDIT: Columbia College Today)

Today, Bill Campbell is known as the founder of Intuit and the chairman of Columbia's board of trustees. A generation or two ago he was also captain of Columbia's last Ivy championship team in 1961.

But between his life as a corporate success and player, he labored as Columbia's head football coach for six seasons from 1974-79. These were frustrating years for the Lions, as they never seemed to be able to build any momentum despite the players' enthusiasm for their coach. Non-athletes loved Campbell too, as he was always a visible presence on campus.

The brightest days of Campbell's coaching career came in the early weeks of 1976 and 1977. The Lions started both of those seasons at 2-1 before hitting long losing streaks.

In '76 the big win was at Franklin Field in week three. Penn was a few years away from its resurgence, but the Quakers were looking for revenge after falling to Columbia 28-25 at Baker Field the year before.

Things didn't look good at the start as the Lions committed two costly turnovers and trailed 10-0 at the half. Worse yet, Columbia's starting running back Bruce Stephens was stricken with an early head injury and was out for the rest of the game.

But then backup tailbacks Paul McCormick and Jay Hickey took over. McCormick did the hard work, gaining 101 yards on 25 carries. But Hickey got the glory scoring two TD's, one on a 37-yard run and the other on a 14-yard gainer, to give the Lions the 14-10 lead midway through the fourth quarter.

From that point on, the defense took over. Fresh off leading the baseball team in the late spring to an Ivy title, captain and defensive back Ed Backus kept the Quakers in check and preserved the second half shut out for the 14-10 victory.

The happy Columbia lockeroom after the game was filled with heroes. But the players decided to give the game ball to Coach Campbell.

Columbia would not win another game at Franklin Field for 20 years.

Friday, June 13, 2008

100 Games in 100 Days

Witkowski's best days at CU didn't always end with losses

I always like to note the 100 day mark before the new season begins. Today is that day, but I'd like to do more than just a countdown.

For the next 100 days, in addition to the usual updates on the team and league news, I'll highlight 100 different games in Columbia football history. Some will be games I attended, others ones I misses, and a lot will be contests that took place before I was born.

Today's game in focus was a bright spot in the great career of Columbia quarterback John Witkowski. The Lions beat Princeton on homecoming 35-14 as Witkowski threw for four touchdown passes.

Princeton was actually a decent team that year. The Tigers went 3-4 in the Ivies with wins over Cornell, Brown, and the eventual league champion Penn.

It was the last game Columbia would win in the old Baker Field.

Here's how the New York Times covered the game 26 years ago:

Columbia Topples Princeton
Columbia ended a 10-game losing streak spanning two seasons with a 35-14 homecoming victory over Princeton at Baker Field yesterday. The game featured four third-quarter touchdowns by the Lions, among them the longest scoring pass of John Witkowski's career and the team's first touchdown of the season on the ground. Columbia improved its record to 1-3 and Princeton dropped to 2-2.

Witkowski's 52-yard pass to Bill Reggio came early in the quarter with Princeton leading, 14-7. Two and a half minutes later, the Lions scored again, on a 1-yard plunge by Jim McHale, his first touchdown of the season.

Columbia's 21-14 lead swelled before the period ended. Witkowski, a junior, connected two more times, on a 12-yarder to Don Lewis that was followed by Miro Lovric's first missed extra point in 16 attempts, and a 20-yarder Reggio that was followed by a 2-point conversion. Passes for 4 Scores

In all, Witkowski passed for four touchdowns, including three to Reggio, who tied a school game record with 12 receptions. The game was the 52d in the rivalry, which began in 1874. The Tigers have been dominant. Heavy clouds parted by late morning to spill sunshine on those enjoying tailgate picnics in the parking lots, greeting old friends in the blue and white tents adjacent to the football field or watching the Columbia soccer team beat Princton, 2-1.

The spectators, limited to those sections of the crumbling Baker Field stands that have not been deemed dangerous, arrived expecting a high-scoring contest. In its first three games Columbia allowed 131 points and scored 70; Princeton allowed 94 and scored 86.

Most of the action for both teams had been in the air. Witkowski, who last week moved ahead of Paul Governali and Sid Luckman on the Lions' career passing list, had thrown for 783 yards. Brent Woods, the Princeton quarterback, had 869. Both Try to Run

In the first quarter, though, both teams tried to establish a running game. Neither was successful. After Columbia had taken the lead for the first time this season, the teams went to the air. The Lions went in front with 1 minute 30 seconds remaining in the first period when Witkowski completed his 10th touchdown pass of the season and fourth to Bill Reggio. The 9-yarder capped an 80-yard drive.

The touchdown was set up by McHale's 4-yard run from the 17-yard line on fourth down, when Columbia eschewed a field-goal attempt. Lovric kicked the extra point.

Princeton retaliated early in the second quarter, when Woods threw a 20-yard touchdown pass to Kevin Guthrie. Chris Price's kick tied the score at 7-7.

Princeton next scored on the ground, however. Woods muscled through the line midway in the period for a first down, and then went over from the 1.

Columbia lost an opportunity to tie the score before halftime. James Witherspoon intercepted a pass at the Lion 17. Columbia, on the strength of three passes, marched to the Princeton 22. But a holding penalty and two sacks forced a punt, and the score remained 14-7.

Then Columbia broke out in the third quarter, and also throttled a Princeton scoring threat. Withowski, asked wht the team had done right in recording its first victory in more that a year, replied ''Almost everything''.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Farewell to "The Todd"

The media guides were Todd's handiwork

A very important name in Columbia football for the last 14 years is leaving Morningside Heights. It's associate athletics director Todd Kennedy. Todd is moving on to a new job as senior editor of corporate communications for Citigroup.

If you've come to enjoy and rely on the stories about Columbia games on the athletics website, or all the great stuff that appears every year in the football media guide, then you have Todd Kennedy to thank.

Todd worked under three different head coaches, two different athletic directors, and wrote and researched well over 500 different football players in that time. He came to Columbia in 1994, the beginning of the best 3-year period in Lions football in more than a generation. The following 11 years weren't always so rosy, but Todd handled things really well every time.

Todd is being replaced by Darlene Camacho, a very familiar and friendly face at Baker Field. I believe I first met Darelene in the press box back in 1991... but my memory is hazy sometimes from those days, (I was a college student then after all).

*UPDATE: I have now been informed that Darlene was not at Columbia in 1991. Like I said, my college years are kind of hazy.

Please join me in saying a fond farewell to Todd and a warm congratulations to Darlene.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The City's New Game?

Hey, did anyone catch the score of the Columbia-Fordham game?

New York Giants QB and Super Bowl XLI MVP Eli Manning is fronting a new effort by the National Football Foundation's Gridiron CLub to boost interest in college football in the New York City area.

Eli's dad Archie is a long-time active member of the NFF, and he said it best:

"We all know, the New York media market is heavily dominated by professional sports, and a concerted effort to promote college football in the area will be challenging at first. However, with the many leaders and CEOs in New York who had formative experiences on the college gridiron, we believe we'll rally significant support for our efforts. College football has provided so many opportunities for my family, and Eli and I are certainly happy to be a part of this unique initiative. "

I was very happy to read that Columbia athletic director Dianne Murphy was at the event last week kicking off the efforts, along with Rudy Guiliani; CBS The Early Show Anchor Harry Smith; Rutgers Head Football Coach Greg Schiano; Arena Football League Commissioner Dave Baker; executives from ESPN and CBS; 1992 College Football Hall of Famer and former NFF Chairman Ron Johnson; 2008 College Football Hall of Fame inductee from Syracuse Don McPherson; athletics directors Bob Mulcahy of Rutgers and Francis McLaughlin of Fordham.

I have a lot of friends who are rabid sports fans who never lived anywhere other than New York City. I always have trouble convincing them that they haven't seen anything until they go to a key Big 10 football game, or an SEC rivalry game, etc. It's intense and New York City is missing out on creating its own traditions... or should I say "recreating them?" Columbia and Fordham are responsible for a lot or early college football lore, and if the media gets behind these unique student athletes, we can do it again.

Friday, June 06, 2008

All Stars in My Eyes

I always enjoy going to those high school football all-star games in the early summer. Just eight minutes from my house is the Empire State Challenge at Hofstra. It was a great game last year, and one of Columbia's current players, offensive lineman Carl Constant played for the New York City team.

This year, I don't see any Columbia recruits on the roster yet but Penn's incoming tight end Luke Nawrocki and offensive lineman Gregory Van Roten are on the Long Island squad. They both went to Chaminade high school with incoming Columbia safety Chris Paruch, who may pop on the all-star roster in the coming days, (that tends to happen).

The game is the night of June 24th, which is a Tuesday night and kind of tough for me to attend this year. But I will try.

Of course the Empire Challenge is a nice event, but the REALLY big high school all-star game is the Texas High School Coaches All-Star Game July 29 at the Alamodome. Incoming Columbia frosh Jerry Bell will be playing in what may be the first time any Ivy-signee will go under center in that game. It's quite an achievement for Bell and Columbia either way.

Incoming freshman defensive lineman J.D. Tyree is playing in the Virginia all-star game on July 4th. I'm not sure about the official title for that game.

If anyone else knows of future Columbians playing in any all star games, let us know in the comments section or email me.

Fashion Statement

As a season ticket holder, I received a free t-shirt in a mailing from the athletics department a week or two ago. It's got the words "Already on Board" on the front and the 2008 season schedule on the back.

I wear it to the gym a lot here at FOX and I think it gets a few second looks.

Then again they could be just be staring at my butt.

In any event, check your mail for the shirt. It went out to evert season ticket holder. And it's a good reason to become a season ticket holder in the future if you're not already. I don't think season tickets for 2008 have gone on sale yet, but check back on the athletics web site regularly and buy them ASAP. The more season ticket packages sold early, the more leverage we have with everyone from advertisers to student social groups.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

One Who Got Away?

Isaac Serwanga is a Tiger (COURTESY:

Princeton's list of incoming freshmen is out and it includes Isaac Serwanga, a wide receiver from California reported that we had our eyes on. This DOES NOT mean we lost this recruit, it could mean we passed on him, but he is going to Princeton.

So now that we have all eight schools' lists, we can make some statements about the class of 2012, right? Wrong. It's just too early to tell who will pan out as a real star one, two or three years from now.

But the good news we can report now is that interest in Ivy football, at least from the players' level, is still as strong as can be. Smart and talented young athletes are not passing us by en masse, and that's encouraging.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Dead Head Ground?

Did the Dead ever take this act 102 blocks uptown?

We interrupt this long-running discussion about football to ask all the readers a question:

I have a 50-ish co-worker who swears up and down that he saw a Grateful Dead concert at Baker Field sometime in the early 70's. Now I know the Dead played the Columbia campus during the student riots in 1968 and Central Park in 1969, but this guy insists it was in the beloved old football stadium on 218th Street.

Can anyone confirm this?

And don't worry, I'm not a Dead Head. I do really like about 6-7 of their songs and went to one concert of theirs in 1995, but that's about it.

Penn and Harvard Lists Out:

Both the Crimson's and the Quakers' incoming football freshmen lists are out today. At first glance, I don't see any names on either list that were also on our wish list. I will need to do more research, but it's interesting that Harvard took no one from the New York or New Jersey area. Penn's list has a lot of New York/New Jersey/Philly area recruits as usual, including four from my backyard on Long Island.

This leaves Princeton as the only school in the Ivies that has not yet released its incoming freshmen football list. This strikes me as odd since Princeton usually does everything so early and its well-funded athletic department is also first class all the way most of the time.

Defending My Title?

I've been nominated again by the L.A. Press Club for my Schmooze or Lose comic series for "Best Editorial Cartoon." Last year I won the award, so I'm hoping to repeat the title.

I write this comic every week and it's illustrated by the incredibly talented John Hazard from

Here's a list of all the nominees in all the categories, mine is D4, "editorial cartoon."

If you'd like to be put on an email list to receive "Schmooze or Lose" each week, email me at

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Hall of Fame, Take 2

Canton and CU have something in common: Sid Luckman

I was very gratified to see the names of the great athletes named to the latest class of indcutees to the Columbia Athletics Hall of Fame.

Long-time readers will remember that I asked for everyone to support a number of former Columbia greats back in February. Three of those names made it: Eugene Rossides, Marty Domres, and Buck Jenkins. That's a pretty good average, so I am very happy.

I interviewed Rossides and Domres at halftime of the Yale and Penn games respectively, and they were both great talkers. And I can still hear former CU P.A. announcer Alex Oberweger's voice echoing the: "Buck Jenkins for threeeee" call that became such a standard at Levien Gym.

The question is whether any current, or very recent Columbia stars will ever end up in a hall of fame class. Recent graduate John Baumann has an outside shot, especially if he makes the most of his chances to get into Major League Baseball. Austin Knowlin could do it too if he makes the most of his final two years at CU and beyond.

Reunion Buzz

The Weekend's Reunion Celebrated the 40th Anniversary of the '68 Riots... but more alums may have preferred to talk about the '68 basketball champs more attention

This past weekend was reunion weekend on campus, and by all accounts, the sports teams were big topics of discussion just about everywhere you might have listened.

Now I don't think anyone learned any "inside" information, but the point is the best alumni are the ones who show up to these events... and by "best," I mean the ones who give money and are willing to help in many other ways. And these are the people who are also very interested in and supportive of athletics and football in particular.

At 37 years of age, I'm not very old in the big scheme of things. But I am old enough to have seen a lot of beloved organizations and community groups die off. A common denominator in every failed group has been that the hierarchy decides to do something it knows its biggest supporters aren't that wild about.

I'm all for diversity, but I sometimes wonder if the drive for diversity is a real detriment to unifying traditions like athletics. My proudest moment at Columbia was on graduation day when I walked up and down the campus with my family and every few yards, a fellow student from a totally different background stopped to say hello and congratulate me. My support for athletics played a big role in the fact that I befriended such an eclectic group of students from glamour sorority members to future Rabbinical students. Again, I wonder if students today have that same opportunity.

But I am encouraged that the truly essential Columbia alumni almost all love athletics and want to see it enhanced in every way. Let's make sure they don't remain the "silent majority."