Tuesday, December 30, 2008

A Little Hollywood Magic

Let me tell you a football story!

If you haven't yet bought your copy of the excellent documentary, 8: Ivy League Football and America, you can by clicking here for the the "8" Web site.

As I've written before, once you get the DVD you should make sure to check out the "bonus features" section that includes a great and funny speech by Brian Dennehy about the 1957 season opener at Brown.

Dennehy's story about how Columbia won that game in such exciting, and humorous, fashion had me wondering if maybe some of the story was embellished... maybe just a little bit.

Well, upon further review, it appears Dennehy's account was about 99% true! I don't want to give away all the funny and surprising aspects of the story, but I will say that Columbia did indeed beat Brown on a 4th quarter field goal by Rudy Pegoraro. The only slight error was that Dennehy said the Lions were trailing 21-19 before the winning kick, when the score was actually tied at 20-20 before the 23-20 win... but I'm willing to give him that little bit of poetic license.

Another highlight of the game was the fact that it was coach Buff Donelli's first game at the helm and his son Dick Donelli was a big hero with two TD passes from his QB position and two picks from his safety position.

Despite the encouraging win to start the '57 campaign, Columbia would not win again that season and only scored another 31 points in the remaining 8 games. Brown was favored by many to win the league in 1957, but the week one loss was hard to overcome. The Bears finished up 5-4 on the season and 3-4 in the Ivies.

A Connecticut Calling

UConn's offensive coordinator position is open once again now that Rob Ambrose has taken the head coaching job at Towson. So a reporter at the Hartford Courant is openly wondering if Norries Wilson will go back to Storrs to get his old job back. What was the reporter's ultimate answer? A very clear "no."

8+ 8 = Winning Season?

Every college team undergoes the tough loss of graduating seniors from year to year. Columbia football will be no exception with the graduation of longtime key stars like Drew Quinn, Jon Rocholl, Jordan Davis, Mike Brune, Ralph DeBernardo, and Phil Mitchell, among others.

But if senior linebacker Corey Cameron gets 5th-year status from the league, then the Lions will be returning an unusually high eight defensive starters and eight offensive starters in 2009. Among those 16 returning starters are four all-Ivy players and several other seniors who have been basically starters since they were freshmen.

The biggest holes to fill will be at middle linebacker, where Drew Quinn has ruled the defensive roost. And Columbia fans learned how dangerous losing a key player at that position can be after Adam Brekke graduated and the Lions struggled to plug up the middle properly in 2007.

It's not clear just how much Columbia will miss Phil Mitchell, who had very strong 2006 and 2007 seasons but seemed to drop off in 2008. I say SEEMED because Mitchell still drew a lot of double teams and clearly freed up other defenders to make plays. But the emergence of Lou Miller and Owen Fraser on the D-line is more than a little encouraging.

Incidentally, Miller is back with the wrestling team this "spring," (I love how we get to call this second semester "spring," when only about two weeks of the semester is actually spring), and he placed third in the Wilkes Open in Pennsylvania.

The entire secondary and all the key reserves in the defensive backfield also return. Critics will point to Columbia's 7th-in-the-Ivies finish in overall pass defense and scoff at that returning squad. But that would be a mistake, because what those stats don't tell you is that the Lions were passed on much more often in 2008 because of the tremendous improvement in Columbia's run defense. Only Brown, Harvard and Yale faced more pass attempts this season than the Lions.

The stats also don't show the incredible talent displayed by corners Calvin Otis and Kalasi Huggins, and backup corner A.J. Maddox.

At safety, Andy Shalbrack had another great season that unfortunately defied what you see in the stats for the most part. Adam Mehrer had something of a breakthrough season.

Columbia's offense did not accomplish the same levels of improvement posted by the defense when it came to scoring points. But the marked improvement in the running game was encouraging. Three of the starting offensive linemen do return as does the entire wide receiving corps and the entire starting backfield with one exception, (Jordan Davis).

I have no idea if the Lions will use the option offense more or less often in 2009, but either way, the team will have more experience when they do use that strategy and that helps a lot.

A bigger question is who will get the most snaps at QB, and that will be something I'm sure we'll be debating here for much of the next nine months.

But the number of returning starters on a team that showed a marked talent improvement, if not a marked improvement in overall wins, is very encouraging right now. Does this put undue pressure on these returning players to perform? Maybe, but that pressure doesn't come from here and probably would never match the pressure these scholar athletes put on themselves every day.

So as much as this part of the year is spent focusing on our incoming recruits, let's not forget that it's our returning players who are more likely to make a difference on the field in 2009.

Luckily for us, that number of returning players is bigger than it has been in many, many years.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Holiday Recognition

Welcome Shad!

A lot of local papers choose this time of year to give updates on the status of their former high school stars playing in college. The Dayton Daily News published this short piece about 1st Team All-Ivy linebacker Alex Gross today, it includes the interesting tidbit that he was offered preferred walk-on status at Northwestern.

That promising defensive tackle/offensive guard from Milton High School in Massachusetts, Shad Sommers, is indeed coming to Columbia. Once again, the Lions seem to be getting bigger, which is something you can't sneeze at after seeing what Owen Fraser did for us this season.

Incoming tight end or possible defensive lineman Dallas Hartman has been named to the Pennsylvania Class AA all-state high school football second team on offense. As anchorman Ron Burgundy might say: "That's kind of a big deal."

Yale Still Looking

The last man standing in the Yale head coaching search has decided to stay in the BCS world. Steve Addazio is going to be the offensive coordinator at Florida, where he's been the offensive line coach for the last few years.

Just in case anyone in New Haven is interested, (and who knows?... the way the Elis are getting turned down left and right), I am NOT a candidate for the job.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Big News!

Redlands High School, home of the Terriers

Big news... with the emphasis on "big." 295-pound defensive lineman Mike Poage is coming to Columbia. It looks like we beat out Army to get him.

Poage has been a defensive star since he had to step into the starting lineup at Redlands High School midway through his sophomore year in 2006.

Great Memorabilia Site

Here's a great Web site/blog that has great pictures of old college football programs and other items every day.

I guess you find something you like here, go on eBay, and buy yourself a nice gift.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

No Towson

Towson will stay out of Wien Stadium this year

We're still a few weeks away from the official release of the 2009 football schedule, but 2008 opponent Towson already has its schedule printed on its Web site and Columbia is not on the docket. Towson's schedule is still an interesting read however, as the Tigers are taking on Big 10 member Northwestern and FCS powerhouse University of New Hampshire.

So, I still have no idea which two non-conference teams other than Fordham will be on our schedule in 2009.

Speaking of Fordham, the Rams had a very disappointing 2008 season overall and Patriot League sources tell me some of Head Coach Tom Masella's assistants are on their way out. So far, no official annoucement from Rose Hill.

And still no news from Yale. With Christmas just two days away, I think you have to assume the Elis won't be able to name a new head coach until after the new year. The jury is out on how this will effect the team and the rest of the league on the field next year.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Recruiting and Hoops

I couldn't get to The Garden for the two Columbia basketball games there this weekend, but I enjoyed watching them on MSG on the DVR. Without stars Patrick Foley and Asenso Ampim, the Lions performed admirably, coming away with a good run in the first game against eventual chamo Virginia Tech and then winning the consolation game against Marist.

The women's team is up against NC State at home today beginning at 12:30, and it should be fun to see how the Lions match up against ACC competition on the women's side.

No News in New Haven

We are still in the most crucial period for class of 2013 recruiting, which makes Yale's inability to hire a new head coach by now more and more of a red flag. I can't imagine why things are delayed up in New Haven, but I can't believe this is the way they planned it. Stay tuned.

Waiting For...

I know most of you are intent on more recruiting news, but I am also excited about getting the info on the football team's official schedule for 2009. In the past, that schedule has usually been released the second week of January. I'm very curious about our out of league schedule other than the opener with Fordham.

Again, stay tuned.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Two More Gets

Andrew Weiss

Yes, I did forget to mention that Ramapo QB Andrew Weiss has also decided to come to Columbia. Weiss is also a punter, which may or may not help him get on the field faster in the coming years. So again, we seem to be making a stronger recruiting presence in northern New Jersey than in the past.

This Andrew Weiss is not to be confused with last year's prospect also named Andrew Weiss and also a QB, but he was from MAINE and did not end up at CU.

The defensive line prospect I mentioned a few days ago, Anthony Villamagna from Houston, has also decided to come to Morningside Heights.

Some readers have asked me how many of these players I've mentioned are official "early decision" students and how many aren't. The answer is that I honestly don't know, and I don't know if it's helpful to try to find out as recruiting in the Ivies can be a very fluid thing. We don't require our athletes to sign letters of intent like they do in the BCS.

Yale Latest

Both Holy Cross skipper Tom Gilmore and UMass Head Coach Don Brown are now out of the running to take over the top job at Yale.

Since we're talking about another school, I'm not as wary of speculating a little about what's going on in New Haven.

At first glance, and based on some reports in the New Haven Register, it would seem that one or two of the school's top choices spurned Yale's offers. That particularly seems to be the case with Don Brown.

At the very least, a delay beyond Christmas will start to hurt the Elis as this is really the height of recruiting season and uncertainty usually hurts recruiting.

On the other hand, even a late announcement can be helpful if it turns out Yale brings in some kind of superstar no one was expecting.

But at least it's comforting to know that there is at least one industry where there is a healthy hiring atmosphere for job candidates!

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Second Time's a Charm?

Ian Hillman, #66

Wayne Hills High School linebacker Mike Waller has made a verbal commitment to Columbia. If his name sounds familiar, it should. His older brother Tim was also about to come to the Lions last year, but decided to go to Georgetown in the end.

Joining the younger Mr. Waller is defensive end Ian Hillman from Germantown, PA. Apparently, Hillman fell in love with New York City. It's nice to know this city still holds that allure.

Tighten Your Cleats?

Is this your college loan officer?

The deepening economic crisis and the effect its having on university budgets is becoming more troubling every day.

Throw in the Bernie Madoff scandal, and you have actual panic in some circles here in New York.

It does not appear that the Madoff scam has touched Columbia in any direct way, but a member of the Columbia College Board of Visitors, J. Ezra Merkin, has been accused of actively funnelling money to Madoff from the OTHER BOARDS he served on, including New York School which sued Merkin on Friday over this. Merkin's lawyer says he'll fight the suit vigorously.

The question for us here is whether this economic downturn will hurt Ivy football and or Columbia in particular? Could it actually help?

The obvious argument for those who say it will hurt us is that a financial squeeze on more Americans will dissuade kids from taking offers at non-scholarship schools like the Ivies. No one wants to take on more debt right now.

But it could go the other way as well. The scholarship schools will also get hit hard, especially the state schools. So there may be fewer scholarships to go around and some of the better prospects may not get free rides at non-Ivy schools anyway. If that's the case, a lot of players would presumably choose to come to an Ivy because they aren't getting a scholarship elsewhere anyway.

Also, many FCS/D-IAA schools may discontinue football, expanding the field of potential recruits for everyone else.

Obviously there are some good arguments to be made either way. But history is really of no help here. The last deep recession in this country was 1982-83, and the nature of the Ivies is just too different to use those times as a meaningful comparison.

In the short run, some may suffer. We know that Dartmouth's West Stands improvement project at Memorial Field has been put on hold.

Lineman on the Hook?

Quality defensive linemen are becoming quite a rarity in the Ivies, and that's what made Owen Fraser's addition to the team and Lou Miller's emergence on the D-line so valuable in 2008.

A strong-looking Houston area high school star on the defensive line is Anthony Villamagna and he has Columbia on his list of possible schools.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Gilmore to Yale?

Headed for New Haven?

Several reports indicate that former Bushnell Cup winner and current Holy Cross head coach Tom Gilmore is one of the two or three finalists for the top job at Yale.

Gilmore was also a well-respected assistant coach at Columbia under Larry MacElreavy in the late 1980's. He came to Columbia right after wrapping up his stellar career at Penn.

To give you an idea of how good Gilmore is, many former Lion football players have been fans of his for years and have publicly lobbied for Gilmore to return to Columbia in the years when our head coaching job was vacant.

I don't want to set off any panics, but it is my humble opinion that Gilmore would be a big score for the Elis. He has gone from being mostly known as a defensive guru, to being flexible enough to put together a potent offensive attack as well.

I expect Yale to make its announcement by Thursday, Friday at the latest. Stay tuned.

Back to the Possibles

The avalanche of published "commits" to Columbia seems to be dry for today, so I'm back to talking about possible recruits.

Today, we go to Northern California where wide receiver where Novato High School wide receiver Jake Davis has Columbia among his possible 2009 destinations. He's also on Stanford and UC Davis' radar.

Monday, December 15, 2008

But Wait... There's More!

Brian DeVeau

The hits just keep coming fast and furious.

Kinnelon High School QB Brian DeVeau is coming to Columbia. But it sounds like he will play another position.

More Names

Nick Gerst

NorthJersey.com is reporting that Bergen Catholic running back Nick Gerst is coming to Columbia.

You can see Gerst's highlight video here.

The PA Football News Web site reports that a good-sized tight end from the Wilmington-area school, Dallas Hartman, is also in his way to Morningside Heights.

Here's a litte more info about Hartman from a local publication.

Another player on our radar, but also a lot of other schools' radars, is Brent Caprio from Mainland High School in South Jersey.

In Case You Missed it...

Former Columbia halfback, and favorite target for Archie Roberts , Roger Dennis, made a comment this weekend on a post I wrote over the summer. To save you some clicking time, here's what he said about his career with Roberts:

Many thanks for the kind comments; I sure enjoyed teaming up with Archie and wish Coach (Buff) Donelli would have allowed me to play receiver in my Senior year, the year following Archie's graduation. Coach felt we were no longer a passing team. In my opinion we would have had a more successful season if I had stayed at receiver.

Archie was from Holyoke, Mass., and attended Deerfield Academy. BTW, he was also an outstanding basketball player, and if I remember correctly he played one season of B-Ball at Columbia too, probably as a frosh.

Enjoyed reading all this; thanks much.

Roger Dennis '66

Hopefully, we'll hear more from Mr. Dennis in the future.

I also just found this link to a great Sports Illustrated article about Roberts where Dennis is also mentioned.

Movie Magic

Erik Greenberg Anjou, the director of 8: Ivy League Football and America, was a guest at Chez Novak this Friday night. He was kind enough to drop off my copy of the just-released movie DVD.

In the bonus section, there's a great speech given by Brian Dennehy, who also narrates the film, that at first brings laughs and then some tears. It's a great, great speech and should be required viewing for all Columbia fans.

I also have to say that watching the film again in the comfort of my own home, as opposed to the uncomfortable grand ballroom of the Yale Club where the film premiered was much, much better. I think documentaries shown in traditional movie theaters may also be a bad mix, and showing them in non-theater settings is tougher.

I'm grateful the folks at the Yale Club were nice enough to host the event last spring, but for those of you who were there, I suggest buying the DVD and watching it in your living room.

Click here to order your copy of 8.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Possible Prospects

With an emphasis on the POSSIBLE, these are some possible prospects for Columbia football according to Scout.com.

You HAVE to take these names with a Lot's wife-sized pillar of salt because there is very little independent confirmation of this stuff.

Last year at this time, the number of names I had from Scout.com was about 20 and only two ended up at CU.

But I also believe that the kind of high school athletes who are good enough on the field and in the classroom to even have a shot at the Ivies deserve recognition.

Enjoy your own research:

Shad Sommers

Anthony Stroffolino

Eddie Houghton

Brock Morris

Anthony Greco

Mike Poage

Taylor Malfenant

Jack Templeton

Mike Tree

Eric Walker

Chase Kriza

Brent Seals

Seyi Adebayo

Mike Pinciotti

MacIan Epley

Friday, December 12, 2008

Winner's Brackett

Sean Brackett stretches for a score (CREDIT: Norwich Bulletin)

One of the top-rated high school quarterbacks in Connecticut is coming to Columbia. Sean Brackett is described as an elusive scrambler with a keen sense of what it takes to win.

Here's another story about Brackett's exciting final high school football game.

Fraser Gets Hometown Props

Freshman star nose tackle Owen Fraser is featured in an article about several upper Hudson River-area high school students who have "made good" as college athletes this year.

The same paper has another piece today about a female track star from Monticello High School who is also coming to Columbia. And one of the reasons why she chose CU was our school colors!

I knew the light blue would come in handy sometime!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Someone New, Someone Old

Loyola Academy sends us a player

An offensive lineman from Des Werthman's high school, (Loyola in Wilmette), is coming to Columbia.

The Glencoe News reports that Alec Kosminskas, a two-year starter for Loyola, made an oral commitment to CU over the weekend.

Kosminskas was selected to the all-Chicago Catholic League Blue Division first team as a senior left tackle and was also named to the academic all-state team this year.

Kosminskas is listed as 6-foot-2 and 286 pounds.

Dan Mullen talks with Tim Tebow

Another Day, Another Feather in Tellier's Cap

Less than two weeks after former Ray Tellier protege Chip Kelly was named future head coach of the Oregon Ducks, a man who coached under Tellier in the mid-90's has been named to the top spot at Mississippi State.

Dan Mullen was wide receivers coach at CU in 1996 and 1997, getting the most out of a squad that wasn't very big or very fast, but had to step up to make up for a very weak Lions running attack.

Mullen goes to Mississippi State from Florida, where he has been the offensive coordinator and is credited with developing possible Heisman winner Tim Tebow. It's not clear if Mullen will head to Starkville before the BCS champsionship game versus Oklahoma on January 8th.

Many long-time Columbia fans have talked a lot about how Tellier was consistently able to attract some of the best assistant coaches in all of football during his tenure, and events of the last few weeks seem to prove that to be true.

Latest on Yale Search

Sources tell me the folks in New Haven have cut the list of candidates to replace Jack Siedlecki down to seven. They also say a decision will be made by the end of next week.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Brave New World?

Bagnoli, Murphy, and Estes: Ivy football's 10+-year men

Am I the only person who thinks we're about to see more big changes in the coaching world of Ivy football?

Yale is already looking for only it's third head coach in 40 years.

There are reports that Harvard's Tim Murphy is actively being recruited by other schools, (more than usual I mean... this is kind of an annual occurrence).

How much longer do Dartmouth Head Coach Buddy Teevens and Cornell skipper Jim Knowles have?

And all this is happening as the schools all deal with a lot less operating money lying around.

On paper, it seems like that could be the perfect recipe for a lot of young assistants, (presumably ones without big salary demands), rising to head coaching spots in the Ivies in the coming years. By "young" I mean real young... like 35 years old or younger.

Of course, one has to pour some cold water on all of this by looking at some other pieces of evidence that point to coaching stability in the league.

I doubt that Murphy, for example, is leaving Harvard... maybe ever. Harvard, and every Ivy school as well, is a great place to be when you're a coach with young kids. When Harvard played Columbia here last season, Murphy's youngest daughter, who I guess is junior high age, quietly sat in the pressbox and did her homework, (how do you RAISE kids like that, by the way? My oldest daughter at 5 is already a pressbox gadfly... not that I haven't encouraged that), and my guess is that Murphy stays in Cambridge for at least another 9 or so years until that young lady has graduated.

Buddy Teevens may be a bit on the hot seat after going 0-10 this season, but I think he's got another year to turn things around. And by "turn things around," I mean get the team back to 3-7, which is certainly possible for 2009.

Jim Knowles is also under some scrutiny now after posting some good seasons in his first years as coach, but then seeing his team fall back to the cellar once again. On the other hand, Knowles is still a popular former player and he can point to the tremendous turnover among his assistant coaches as an excuse for some of the backsliding in Ithaca.

Roger Hughes is amazingly going in to his 10th year at Princeton, (seems like he was the "new kid on the block" just yesterday), and while some fans may not be happy with what seems like some serious recruiting holes, (NO backup QB's and hardly any backup RB's in 2008), he's close enough to the surprising 2005 season and the 2006 championship season to feel safe for now.

I don't think you can say any other Ivy coach is in any possible "trouble" right now.

But things change. And so far, the decade of the 2000's has been historically quiet when it comes to Ivy League head coaching turnover. If you include Yale's impending head coaching change, this decade has seen only seven head coaching changes. Both the 90's and 60's saw eight head coaching changes, the 70's saw eleven, and the wild 80's witnessed 12 turnovers. (Both Penn and Columbia switched coaches three times each from 1980-89, and Cornell and Princeton switched twice... although Princeton's second switch was due to the sudden death of Ron Rogerson after the 1986 season).

What's even more interesting is that since the 1960's, each decade had no more than two schools make no head coaching changes. But so far through nine years of the 2000's, four schools have stood pat, (Brown, Harvard, Penn, and Princeton).

So it would seem logical that someone other than Jack Siedlecki is about to go sometime soon for either good reasons or bad ones.

But one could also look back at the last few years and surmise that mediocrity is now more acceptable in the Ivy coaching ranks than ever before. Now I take Columbia out of this discussion because it's made two coaching changes since 2000 and because of our weaker record historically.

If this were 1988 or 1978 instead of 2008, would an 0-10 Buddy Teevens not be getting fired? Would Jim Knowles be safe for next year? I'm not sure, but I hope the answer isn't somehow related to the fact that some Ivy presidents and alumni are less interested in winning football than they were years ago.

If Siedlecki's ouster had something to do with alumni or administrative dissatisfaction over wins and losses... I actually would have to say that's a good thing overall. We don't want our league, or any team in our league, to start excusing mediocrity even in relative terms. Siedlecki had a great overall winning percentage, but Yale alumni have traditionally demanded better than a .333 winning percentage over Harvard and Siedlecki could not deliver that.

On the bright side, if some of our most successful coaches like Murphy or Phil Estes at Brown get plucked by BCS program schools or the NFL, that's VERY good for Ivy's reputation overall. I say someone should call Murphy and ask him to "take one for the team" and accept a job elsewhere. (Okay, that's self-serving since Murphy is on such a hot streak right now against Columbia and everyone else... but every little bit could help).

So watch the situations at places like Cornell, Dartmouth and Princeton next year at least as closely as you're watching the coaching search at Yale right now. What does or doesn't happen to the head coaches at these schools will be very telling about what is and isn't expected in our league.

Get Ready to Buy!!!

I don't care how much you're cutting back this Christmas or Hanukkah... you MUST buy the Ivy Football lover in your life the "8: Ivy League Football and America" DVD this holiday season.

The DVD goes up for sale online TOMORROW at the "8" Web site.

Don't miss out!

Also, if you're in the Boston area and are a Princeton fan, you should know that on Thursday, December 11 the Princeton Club of New England will host a screening of the film at the Harvard Club of Boston. That's 374 Commonwealth Avenue, Boston, Mass. Dick Kazmaier and other Tiger football greats will be in attendance. For more information, contact Andrew Hoffman at ahoffman@publiccounsel.net.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Hoosier Target

Ingram snags an interception, and no, that's not a Rutgers game!

Indianapolis-area senior Michael Ingram from Richmond High School is considering Columbia, Harvard and Princeton with visits to each campus.

Ingram knows about turning football programs around as his team posted its first winning season since 2002 this fall.

Since we lose Indiana natives Jon Rocholl and Mike Brune to graduation this spring, it would be nice to get someone from the Hoosier state back on the roster for 2009.

Big Green Head Start?

Bruce Wood's Big Green Alert Blog reports that Dartmouth has ALREADY named its team captains for 2009. They are Tim McManus and Peter Piderman. It's an interesting move, and in sharp contrast to Columbia who used team captains in 2008 and did not "officially" elect team leaders until after the season.

Monday, December 08, 2008

The REAL Awards

Austin Knowlin's teammates looked past the bare stats

The football team held the actual, official awards dinner last night and the honorees were:

2008 Columbia Lions Varsity Football Awards

Phil Fusco Award: Gary Mesko (Sr., WR)

Maniatty-Remmer Unsung Hero Award: Chad Musgrove (Sr., Student Assistant)

John J. Cirigliano Ironman Award: Corey Cameron (Sr., LB)

Lou Little Coaches Most Improved Award: Corey Cameron (Sr., LB)

Ken Germann Freshman Award: Owen Fraser (Fr., DL)

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

Most Valuable Offense: M.A. Olawale (Jr., QB)

Most Valuable Defense: Alex Gross (So., LB)

Sid Luckman Most Valuable Player Award: Austin Knowlin (JR., WR) and Alex Gross (So., LB)

Campbell-Murff Captains Award: Mike Brune (Sr., OL), Drew Quinn (Sr., LB), Jordan Davis (Sr., RB)

Jack Armstrong Outstanding Offensive Lineman: Mike Brune (Sr.)

I was happy and interested to see Alex Gross singled out so many times, as well as Austin Knowlin. It appears Knowlin's teammates realized his diminished receiving stats were not his fault and he still impacted the team in a significant way game after game.

I was also happy to see three players being named official captains for 2008. I wonder if the same three guys named at the end of the season would have been named by the players after the spring game. Probably the answer is "yes," but I can't be sure.

I guess my biggest surprise was not seeing Lou Miller's name after any of the major awards. But he has been honored a lot by the Ivy League in recent weeks, so I can't think he feels slighted in any way.

Yale News?

We're right in the thick of the key recruiting season as a number of prospects get set to make their college decisions.

And that's why I expect to hear the news that Yale has chosen and hired a new head football coach well before the end of the year.

And yet, I still haven't heard any reports of plausible names or negotiations out of New Haven so far.

I do think it might be good for the league if Yale gets some kind of big name. Any added media attention would help right now, and since big names don't necessarily creat success on their own, there's no reason to believe Columbia would suffer on the field against the Elis because of it, (in fact there's just as much likelihood that going up against a big-named coach could make things easier for a time for Yale's opponents!).

Here's a question: When was the last time an Ivy team with a winning record had to look for a new coach for the following season?

The answer is kind of mixed. The last time an Ivy team with an overall winning record and a winning record in the Ivies had to switch coaches was 1997 when both Brown and Cornell, (Brown was 7-3 and 4-3 Ivy under Mark Whipple and Cornell was 6-4 and 4-3 Ivy under Jim Hofher), had to find new coaches. Things worked out really well for Brown under new coach Phil Estes in 1998, as the Bears went 7-3 and 5-2 for a second place Ivy finish. Cornell took a big step back in the first-year coach Pete Mangurian, who went 4-6 and just 1-6 in the Ivies.

Looking at Ivy records only, Cornell's Mangurian guided the Big Red to a 5-2 Ivy record in 2000, (5-5 overall), and left at the end of the season.

The point is, Yale is coming off a 6-4 overall/4-3 Ivy season and winning Ivy teams rarely have to replace their coaches. Just looking at record alone, you'd expect a lot of coaches to be knocking down the door to get a shot to lead the Elis. But a close look shows that Yale is dealing with the reality of serious graduation attrition for the coming year. Mike McLeod, Bobby Abare, and so many other big name stars on this team are donning caps and gowns in five months time. It would appear that 2009 will be a rebuilding year at Yale no matter what. Of course with those kinds of expectations, maybe that's the kind of atmosphere a new coach craves.

Here's another good trivia question: Columbia won its last two home games of 2008. When was the last time the Lions won three or more in a row at home?

The answer is 1996-97, when Columbia won its last two home games of 1996, (Cornell and Brown), and then won the '97 home opener against Towson. The only other time Columbia won three in a row at Wien Stadium was in 1994 when the Lions beat Lafayette, Princeton and Cornell.

Of course, these are just Wien Stadium records. The Lions had many long winning streaks at the old Baker Field stadium before getting their new digs in 1984.

Friday, December 05, 2008

The 2008 Jakeys!!!

The celebs gather for the 2008 Jakeys!!!

Welcome ladies and gentleman to the fabulous Kodak Theater in downtown Los Angeles!

The red carpet is out for the long line of A-list celebrities gathering here tonight for the 1st Annual Columbia Football Jakey Awards!

There's Brad and Angelina walking in with Des Werthman.

Oh, and is that Samuel L. Jackson getting Jamie Schwalbe's autograph?

Well enough star gazing it's awards time!

Let's join our host, Billy Crystal!!!

Who were you expecting, Chris Berman?

Billy Crystal: Okay, okay, let's get on with this, I need to make this snappy because Lindsay Lohan is parking my car.

But seriously folks welcome to the Jakeys, even though I know you're all just here to try to meet Matt Fox. Here's a guy who won 2 games in his whole Columbia varsity career, and he still gets two hit TV shows and a ton of movie roles. That's as crazy as giving the guys on Wall Street a $700 billion bailout... oh wait, we did that!

But let's get started with our first award, "Freshman/Rookie of the Year."

The nominees are:

Owen Fraser, DT

Kalasi Huggins, CB

A.J. Maddox, CB/Special Teams

Owen Fraser, 2008 Jakey Freshman/Rookie of the Year (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics)

BC: And the winner is... OWEN FRASER!!!

Okay, big fella. Enjoy that award and get back to Carman Hall in time for the next unnecessary fire drill.

Now, it's time for our big musical number. We wanted to have the Columbia University Marching Band join us for that tonight, but they were asked to leave every commercial flight from JFK to Los Angeles.

Instead, let's welcome Columbia alumnus and the guy I see every few years when we both use the same hair stylist... ART GARFUNKEL!!!!

Bozo the clown called... he wants his hair back

BC: Thank you, thank you, Art. That rendition of "Who Owns New York" to the tune of "Bridge Over Trouble Water" was touching. But remember, there's only one "O" in Columbia, buddy.

Okay, let's get to the our second award, "Sophomore of the Year!"

The nominees are:

Alex Gross, LB

Adam Mehrer, S

Ian Quirk, OG

Zack Kourouma, RB

Calvin Otis, CB

Alex Gross, your Jakey-winning Sophomore of the Year (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics)

BC: And the winner is... ALEX GROSS!!

Alex, congratulations! Hey, you already had the most tackles in the Ivies this year, you didn't need to clothesline Art Garfunkel... but thanks for doing that anyway.

Okay, we're moving right along here. But now is the time that we get the explanation on how the votes were tabulated from the accountant guys. So, let's give a listen to former Arthur Andersen executive, and the guy who was in charge of the Enron account, David Duncan!!

Look what kind of work I have to do now

DD: Thanks Billy! It's great to be on national TV now that what we did at Andersen and Enron is like a drop in the bucket compared to those dopes on Wall Street.

Anyway, all the votes for the Jakeys were carefully tabulated by me and my friends Jeff Skilling and Andy Fastow. Luckily, Jake was the only one voting, so even we couldn't screw that up. We did try to sell his votes on the credit default swap market, but that blew up in our faces.

But rest assured, Jake's votes were counted accurately.

BC: Thanks David. Now back to the awards. And this is a big one, "Junior of the Year."

The nominees are:

Lou Miller, DE

Austin Knowlin, WR/Special Teams

M.A. Olawale, QB

Evan Sanford, C

Taylor Joseph, WR/LS

Andy Shalbrack, S

Lou Miller is getting ready for wrestling (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics)

BC: And the winner is... LOU MILLER.

Lou is not here tonight because he's already training for wrestling this spring. But accepting this award for him right now is a guy who plays a Columbia student on the big screen. Please welcome the Amazing Spider-Man... Tobey Maguire!!!

Enjoy this moment Tobey, because this might be the closest you ever come to actually getting an award on this stage.

Okay, we're ready for the older kids. It's time for the "Senior of the Year!"
The nominees are:

Drew Quinn, LB

Mike Brune, OL

Ralph DeBernardo, OL

Jon Rocholl, K/P

St. X Strikes Again! (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics)

BC: And the winner is... DREW QUINN!!

Hey that's three straight winners from Ohio and the last two from St. Xavier High School! I'm having visions of being punished by nuns and I'm not even Catholic!!

Okay, this is the time in the program when we run that silent clip showing all the important people who died in the last calendar year. But since this ceremony is going for laughs, we'll just remember recently-retired/fired/whatever Yale Head Coach Jack Siedlecki. Let's have a moment of silence. Okay, I guess not.

A moment of silence for Jack?

Moving on... let's name our 2008 Jakey award winner for "Offensive Player of the Year."

The nominees are:

M.A. Olawale

Austin Knowlin

Evan Sanford

Olawale sparked the offense in both CU wins (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics)

BC: And the winner is... M.A. OLAWALE!!!

Sorry, it's taking Millie a little while to get onstage because everyone in the crowd is asking him about his knee. That's okay folks, you'll just have to wait on that one, injury news is top secret around here.

Now, let's meet our nominees for "Defensive Player of the Year."

Lou Miller

Alex Gross

Owen Fraser

Drew Quinn

Accepting on behalf of Lou Miller...

BC: And the winner is... LOU MILLER!!!

That's the second award tonight for Lou, and Tobey Maguire is having a little trouble holding two Jakey statuettes at once. Time to hit the gym there, Spidey!

Now, we have one of my favorite awards, "Most Improved Player."
The nominees are:

Ray Rangel

Lou Miller

Mike Stephens

Zack Kourouma

Adam Mehrer

BC: And the winner is... LOU MILLER!!!

Oh, Tobey Maguire is getting a hernia carrying all these trophies for Lou Miller. I think we need to ask someone stronger. How about Columbia alum Maggie Gyllenhaal? Thanks for coming Maggie. Can we get a doctor to look at Tobey please?

She's stronger than she looks

And now the big one. MVP for 2008.

The nominees are:

Lou Miller

Alex Gross

M.A. Olawale

Austin Knowlin

BC: And the winner is... LOU MILLER!!!

WOW!! Four nominations and four wins for Lou Miller ladies and gentlemen!!! It's a clean sweep. Hey, Maggie Gyllenhaal is not only carrying all four Jakey statueettes for Lou, she's also got Tobey Maguire in her hands without a problem. Let's have a hand for this super lady!!!

Good night everybody!!!

A Tale of Two Ivy Recruits

Spencer Keith (CREDIT: Rhonda Sharp)

Two talented student-athletes are getting some attention in the newsmedia this week. They come from very different places and backgrounds, but they may both end up playing football in the Ivy League.

The first is a phenominal, (at least statistically), quarterback from Arkansas named Spencer Keith.

In 13 games, he has 68... that's right 68 TD passes! He's also thrown for 5,074 yards and run for six touchdowns.

He goes to a private school called Pulaski Academy, a respected institution in the Little Rock area. Keith is also a superb student and says he wants to play at an Ivy League school, despite getting interest from SMU and of course, Arkansas. Don't worry, he is also reportedly being contacted by "all the Ivy League schools."

He even has his own web site!

Patrick Jolicoeur is the smiling young man on the left

And then there's Patrick Jolicoeur, from Brockton High School in Massachusetts. The middle linebacker is also a standout student.

He too is looking to play Ivy League football next year.

Spencer Keith and Patrick Jolicoeur. Two kids from very different places, playing two very different positions. But they're both good examples of the hard work that goes in to even getting a chance to play football in this league.

Thursday, December 04, 2008

The Highest Honors

Rioters don't make Academic All-Ivy teams

I talk a lot about football and academics on this blog, but sometimes I forget that the athletes at Columbia truly are students first.

So that's what makes the three football players who were just named to the Academic All Ivy team that much more impressive.

They are:

Alex Gross, LB Economics Major (3-time 2008 Jakey Award Nominee)

Lou Miller, DL, History/Economics Major (4-time 2008 Jakey Award Nominee)

Phil Mitchell, DL Biology Major

Columbia and Harvard were the only schools with three football players on the team. Everyone else had two or just one.

These guys and the other athletes from Columbia and all the other Ivies who made this academic team are a credit to their generation.

I can't think of any other group of students who bring anywhere near as much honor, pride, and sheer entertainment to their fellow students and alumni year in and year out.

Some of us may really swell with pride when students protest a war or something... but honestly, what kind of commitment does that take?

Face it, no one is pressed into serving and representing their schools as much as the athletes. The fact that criticism of the worthiness of these young men and women is even tolerated by anyone at any Ivy school is totally unacceptable.

But the time crunch these student-athletes deal with keeps them from being able to speak out more on campus, run for student office, etc. Thus, they are underrepresented in the campus and external news media time after time. And that's a shame, because I am often just plain ashamed and embarrassed every time someone sticks a mic in front of a Columbia student's face these days. Some of the things some of the kids said during this current debate about bringing the ROTC back on campus have been downright laughable.

49% of the Columbia student body did vote in favor of returning the ROTC to Alma Mater, but that was way down from more than 60% in 2003. The campus media, and many others somehow made the ROTC referendum, (that was non-binding anyway), about gay rights instead, which appears to have been a brilliant political maneuver by anti-military elements who successfully made the ROTC vote about something else. (For example, one of the current students who portrayed himself as an aggrieved gay man was actually a member of the radically anti-military SDS).

Of course 49% in favor is probably not a bad number when you consider that if the faculty were asked to vote, it probably would be 80-90% against ROTC. And when you consider that the current students HAVE to sit and listen to these professors for several hours per week and rely on them for good grades, these young people are showing a decent amount of independent thinking!

I'm not really sure how this can be even debated among sane people. Columbia gets federal funds and benefits, and has benefitted repeatedly for years, from the sacrifices made by our armed forces. To force off campus the handful of Columbia students who seek to give back to their country while finding some way to reduce the huge costs of attending this school is shameful and possibly insane. To do so to "protest" the "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" rules is almost a joke... especially when the U.S. military is currently confronting the world's most violent and murderous anti-gay regimes in the history of the planet. What's next? Will we exclude the military because we don't like the color of its uniforms?

It was the athletes who stepped up in 1968 and risked their safety to protect several Columbia buildings from the student rioters, (when will THEY be given the same recognition as the rioters by the way?). It's the athletes who follow strict rules of public respect and conduct that most American college students abandoned years ago. And it's the athletes who bring more honor and cash flow back to their schools as alumni than any other group.

Anyway, something tells me that the large majority of our student-athletes have not fallen victim to this insanity, or the insanity of professors who wish for "a million Mogadishus." And I echo the comments made on this blog by documentary filmmaker Erik Greenberg Anjou, who talked about how our athletes must find a way to become more visible and audible on campus as campus leaders. They must do so not to save athletics, but to save the schools themselves.

Wednesday, December 03, 2008

Connecticut Prospect

Billy Ragone plays offense, defense, and does the kicking!

The QB of a good high school football program in Connecticut has narrowed his college choices down to Penn and Columbia. Billy Ragone is described here as a very good overall football player who will probably play a position other than QB at the college level.

Chip Kelly

Big Promotion for former coach

Another one of Ray Tellier's proteges is moving up in the coaching ranks.

University of Oregon offensive coordinator Chip Kelly, who spent two years with Columbia coaching the linebackers and safeties in 1990-91, will soon become the head coach for the Ducks. Kelly was once the head coach at the University of New Hampshire as well.

Many long-time Columbia football fans have pointed out the large numbers of Tellier's former assistants who have made amazing strides in getting big time coaching jobs at the college and pro levels. Kelly is another example, and perhaps the most impressive since his first coaching work came at Columbia right after his graduation from UNH.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Back Story

SU's former Head Coach Paul Pasqualoni has a good eye

The New Britain Herald has a good story about high school stars from the past and present in Connecticut and it includes several paragraphs about how Austin Knowlin became a football player.

It turns out Knowlin caught the eye of a certain FBS coach and that started him on the path from basketball to football.

The story is another brief example of how long-term success is often just a stroke of luck. I suggest reading Malcom Gladwell's new book, Outliers, for more insight on that.


I'm still taking ideas and nominations for the 2008 Jakey Awards. I'm also still on the fence about doing a prediction-like "Most Likely to Emerge" award, but it does seem like we have a decent number of nominees now for all the other categories.

Replacing Jack?

I have no idea who's in the running for the Yale head coaching job, but I think it might be fun to find out who or what we all think would make the best kind of Ivy League football coach.

In my mind, the best guy would be someone who has had good success at the FBS or even NFL level, but has become disgusted with the greed and even criminality, (Pacman Jones and Plaxico Burress anyone?), that seems to be growing in "big time" sports. There have been some Ivy coaches who have come from bigger-time football, but none have been head coaches, save for one or two who were HC's, but failed to gain winning seasons.

I would have loved to see someone like Joe Paterno 15 years ago step down from Penn State to finish his career at an Ivy. But maybe that's just me.