Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Presidential Lions

So with Barack Obama now our president it's time for a completely unscientific, but still fun, look at how Columbia football might do under another Columbian in the White House.

I say "another Columbian" because while Obama is the first Columbia College grad to become president, three other presidents have had very strong ties to the university. Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt both attended Columbia Law School and Dwight Eisenhower went directly from the presidency at Columbia to the presidency of the entire nation.

T.R. didn't need no stinking law degree


Let's start with Teddy Roosevelt. Teddy attended the law school in 1880, but left in 1881 to run for the New York State Assembly. During that 1880 season, the Lions went 1-2 with losses to Harvard and Yale, but a win over Rutgers. The great and unforgettable Fredrick Potts was the team captain. (Like you all didn't know that).

During TR's years as president, (and Teddy became president just as the 1901 season began), things started off well. In 1901, the Lions went 8-5 with wins over Rutgers, Penn, and Navy to balance out losses to Harvard and Yale.

1902 was a 6-4-1 season for Columbia with big wins over Rutgers and Navy again.

But 1903 was the best year for the Lions during the first President Roosevelt's tenure. Columbia went 9-1 with six shutouts and only a loss to Yale prevented a perfect season.

The 1904 squad went 7-3 with another six shutouts, but also fell to Yale in a rout. The Elis routed the Lions again for the low point of a 4-3-2 1905 season.

Then tragedy struck, as Columbia President Nicholas Murray banned football after the 1905 season. The reason for the ban was the violence that was running rampant in the sport at the time. The ban would stay in effect until 1915. But Murray's ban was not ignored at the White House. Roosevelt became the point man in reforming the game to make it safer. TR's efforts helped get football back at Columbia, albeit six years after he left office.

So, the total won-lost-tied record for the Columbia Lions with TR as a student and President was a very robust 35-18-1.

FDR, another Columbia "dropout"


Franklin Roosevelt entered Columbia Law School in 1905, but dropped out (never to graduate) in 1907 because he had passed the New York State Bar exam. So FDR was only on campus for the 4-3-2 1905 season.

But the latter President Roosevelt was in office for 12 seasons of Columbia football from 1933 through 1944.

Like TR, things started out with a bang as the Lions went 8-1 in 1933 and won the 1934 Rose Bowl over Stanford, 7-0, on New Year's Day 1934. That 1933 season included a 33-0 win over Penn State and 16-0 shutout of Syracuse.

1934 was another strong season with the Lions going 7-1 with another win over Penn State, 14-7 and a long-awaited 12-6 victory over Yale.

But things started heading a bit south in 1935. Columbia went 4-4-1, but rallied for two season-ending wins against Brown and Dartmouth to avoid a losing record.

There was a brief upswing in 1936 with a 5-3 record, including another 7-0 win over Stanford but 1937-39 were three week seasons in a row with no more than three wins in any single season despite the presence of Sid Luckman on the squad in '37 and '38.

1940 was another standout year. The Lions went 5-2-2 with huge wins over Georgia and Wisconsin, but the actual war years of 1941-44, (though technically the war did not start until after the '41 season was over), were generall rough. No year was rougher than 1943 when a very depleted Lion squad, (due to the war), went 0-8, lost four games by shutout and were outscored by 313-33.

The overall Columbia football record with FDR as a student and a president was 48-54-9.

President Eisenhower leads the cheers at Baker Field, 1952


Dwight David Eisenhower became president of Columbia University in 1948 and served full-time until 1950 when he became the supreme commander of NATO. He really was a campus figure for just the '48 and '49 seasons.

The 1948 team finished 4-5 but did post big wins over Yale, Navy and Syracuse. The 1949 team was 2-7, but did beat Harvard for an early season highlight.

While Ike was in the White House during the 1953 through 1960 seasons, fortunes were not bright for the Lions. There were no winning seasons, but there were some high points including an 8-0 shutout of Harvard in '53, a 13-0 shutout of Yale in '58, and a 44-6 thrashing of Cornell in '60.

The overal record for the Lions with Ike as president of the university and then President of the United States was 22-68.

Barack Obama in his college days


And now for our current president. Mr. Obama graduated from Columbia College in 1983, and he was a student at CU for the 1981 and 1982 seasons. Both of those seasons were 1-9 years, but they were exciting as the great John Witkowski was at the helm at QB. Both of the wins during Obama's undergraduate years were memorable as the Lions beat Penn in '81 by a 20-9 score and then crushed Princeton in the last Homecoming game at the old Baker Field, 35-14.

So President Obama comes into this season with a 2-18 record to build on.

We believe in change.


At Fri Jan 23, 03:35:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jake, you hsould use your influence to get BHO to do the coin toss at Homecoming this year.


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