Friday, August 14, 2009

Many Happy Returns

Columbia is returning the most seniors this football season, (26), than the Lions have had in nine years. Columbia is also tied with Princeton for the most seniors on their 2009 roster.

Here's the league-wide breakdown for 2009 returning seniors:

1t. Columbia 26
1t. Princeton 26
3. Harvard 25
4. Brown 22
5. Yale 21
6. Penn 20
7. Cornell 19
8. Dartmouth 17

Last season's team with the most seniors was Cornell, and while the Big Red's season didn't end the way they wanted it to, they did begin the year very much ready to play with a 3-0 start. The senior presence on that team made a difference in those early games they could win. Against better competition down the road, the senior experience wasn't enough... but it still helped.

While being at the top of the league in this statistic is encouraging for a number of reasons, it just hasn't been the best indicator of success at least for Columbia over the years.

The 1985 Lions had 28 returning seniors. That squad went 0-10 and is generally considered the weakest Columbia team during the 5-year losing streak.

The other two years in recent Columbia history when we had more returning seniors than this year were 2000 and 1975 when we had 27 returnees.

2000 started promisingly at 3-3 with some record-breaking games by Johnathan Reese '02, but the Lions lost their last four, lacking just the kind of emotional stability you'd expect on a veteran team.

The 1975 squad led by Ivy MVP Doug Jackson '76 was 2-7 with nice wins over Cornell and Penn, but the team was hardly a juggernaut.

Meanwhile the great 1996 team had just 17 seniors and the sterling 1971 team had just 14 seniors! The strong 1994 team also had just 14 seniors.

Here's a look at some other years with the number of Columbia's seniors to the right:

1938: 11 (out of 35 guys)

1946: 10 out 39 guys

1960: 11 out of 51

1961: 20 (Won Ivy Title)

1970: 12

1971: 14 (Came in 2nd for Ivy title)

1974: 22

1975: 27

1976: 13

1977: 14

1979: 26

1982: 19

1985: 28 (team went 0-10)

1986: 24 (team went 0-10)

1988: 24

1991: 26 (team went 1-9)

1992: 17

1993: 17

1994: 14 (team had 1st winning season since '71)

1995: 20

1996: 17 (team went 8-2)

1997: 12

1998: 17

1999: 21

2000: 27

2005: 16

2009: 26

Now for the good news. This year's crop of seniors is more about quality, even though the quantity is good. Many of these returnees are starters and team leaders. We have a senior starting QB in Millie Olawale, a senior All-America candidate in WR Austin Knowlin, a returning 1st Team All Ivy defensive lineman in Lou Miller, standout safety Andy Shalbrack, experienced senior leaders on the O-Line like John Seiler and Evan Sanford... the list goes on.

It was the QUALITY seniors in 1996, like Marcellus Wiley, Rory Wilfork, Randy Murff and David Ramirez who made that season work. And I believe there are a decent number of quality seniors like them on this 2009 squad.

Day 36: Bob Paschall '90

Originally from Queens, Bob Paschall came to Columbia in 1986 as a football and wrestling star from New Hartford, NY.

Coach Larry MacElreavy kept him at nose tackle and he became a force in the league with unusual quickness for a 5-10, 245 lbs. guy who could squat 700 lbs.

Bob's best year was his junior season of 1988, where had 76 tackles, six sacks and 14 tackles for a loss. He was named Sports Illustrated's Defensive Player of the Week after the Lions' 31-13 win over Brown to end the season thanks to his 14 unassisted tackles and two sacks. He also made the All Ivy Second Team that year.

Paschall's senior season was marred by injury, but he still contributed to the team in the early part of the season. And my best memory of him was seeing him in line just in front of me as hundreds of Columbia's Jewish students gave blood samples in hopes of finding a bone marrow match for a Jewish college-aged girl suffering from leukemia.


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