Saturday, January 31, 2009

Ropin' a Cowboy?

Josh Martin, #51, is on the far right

Sometimes "decommits" swing Ivy's way.

A week after a highly regarded Yale recruit decommitted and switched over to Miami of Ohio, a Wyoming newspaper is reporting that a defensive end from Colorado who had committed to University of Wyoming is now coming to Columbia. The article kind of leaves out whether he will play football for the Lions, but I suppose that's a given.

Josh Martin is 6"3, and 230-pounds. He had 53 tackles and 10 sacks in 10 games his senior season.

Martin reportedly was "surprised" by the scholarship offer from Wyoming. But the Cowboy coaches told local reporters that he stood out based on their own unique analysis for future potential... whatever that means.

The major scouting websites projected Martin as a mid major Division I prospect.

You can see some pictures of Martin in action here.

Spring Game Announced

Hopefully, you have all seen the announcement on the official CU Website about the Spring Game scheduled for April 18th at 1pm. That should be a fun and informative afternoon and I hope to see many of you there.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Speaking to the Youth

New York City public schools used to produce some of the best college football athletes in the nation. But budget cuts and demographic changes have severely lowered the quality of public school football in the City.

Obviously, there are many exceptions to the rule, including Penn State-bound Stephen Obeng Agyapong, pictured above.

Nevertheless, the young athletes who play sports in the city are to be admired and they got a special treat at an awards ceremony this week where Columbia Head Coach Norries Wilson was the keynote speaker.

It's great to see Coach Wilson making his presence felt in this city, even if PSAL schools aren't recruiting goldmines. It shows character considering the self-serving efforts that so many coaches are guilty of when it comes to their interactions with high school athletes.

The Numbers Game

It's getting crowded in our locker room!

With 18 of our class of 2013 players already publicly announcing that they're coming to Columbia, we're probably way more than halfway to whatever total number of recruits the Lions will be allowed to add this year.

I say that because last year's incoming class was rather large and the Ivy League has all kinds of rules about how many kids you can bring in every four year period.

But if we do bring in about 30 freshmen, that would put our roster total, (as of today), to about 120. For a team that just three years ago was struggling to keep 76 kids on the roster, this is a huge step up.

As much as some of us get excited about freshmen breaking onto the field and making an immediate impact, the best results of our bigger roster should be a starting lineup made up of more juniors and seniors than freshmen and sophomores.

We're just six days away from "National Letter of Intent" signing day, which is a much biggest event for the BCS schools, but it does help Ivy recruits come to their decisions as well. So we should get more names to add to our list in about a week or so. As it is, we're way ahead of previous years, and it seems like the rise of the Internet and the growing general interest in high school recruits is making it easier to find articles or other public reports about Ivy prospects.

Sobering Story

Speaking of publicly-reported recruits, it's important to remember that none of them are set in stone. Yale found that out the hard way recently when prized linebacker prospect Chris Wade changed his mind about coming to New Haven and is taking a scholarship offer from Miami of Ohio instead.

Snobby Ivy Leaguers like us may scoff at Miami as a school, but it is a VERY strong academic institution. In fact, Miami of Ohio is so good academically that Ben Roethlisberger's parents pushed him to go there rather than a lot of bigger football schools because they wanted him to get a strong education.

This is an scary reminder that just because we have more public information about recruits, publicity doesn't equal certainty.

But it's cold outside and we have 233 days until our season starts... so these kinds of stories are what we have to hang our hats on!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Miami Linebacker Heading North

Cypress Bay High School in Broward County, FL

I thought talking about a player from the Miami area might warm us up on this snowy day here in the Northeast.

The Miami Herald's sports blog reports that Cypress Bay linebacker Joe Nathan is coming to Columbia.

The 6"2, 215-pound Nathan was a part of what many pundits considered to be the best linebacking corps in high school football.

Bring us a Rally, Dianne!

Columbia Athletic Director Dr. Dianne Murphy will be in Times Square this afternoon to ring the closing bell at the NASDAQ exchange along with 2008 College Football Hall of Fame inductee Don McPherson.

Dr. Murphy will be there representing the National Football Foundation, as she is the chairperson of the NFF Gridiron Club.

Here's a bit of background on the NFF:

Founded in 1947 with leadership from General Douglas MacArthur, legendary Army coach Earl "Red" Blaik and immortal journalist Grantland Rice, The National Football Foundation & College Hall of Fame, a non-profit educational organization, runs programs designed to use the power of amateur football in developing scholarship, citizenship and athletic achievement in young people. With 121 chapters and 12,000 members nationwide, NFF programs include the College Football Hall of Fame in South Bend, Ind., Play It Smart, the NFF Hampshire Honor Society, the NFF National Scholar-Athlete Alumni Association, the NFF Gridiron Clubs of New York City, Dallas, and Los Angeles, and scholarships of over $1 million for college and high school scholar-athletes. The NFF presents the MacArthur Trophy, the Draddy Trophy, presented by HealthSouth, and releases the Bowl Championship Series (BCS) Standings.

Talk about Good Timing!

The "Buffer" in the News!!

How's this for an eerie coincidence? Just a few days after I posted my brief biography of former Columbia Head Coach Aldo "Buff" Donelli, the Buffer's name was injected back into sports headlines all over the world because of something that happened on a soccer pitch in Southern California.

Saha Kljestan's debut goals with the U.S. national team were the most since Donelli scored four in a 4-2 win over Mexico on May 24, 1934, in World Cup qualifying match against Mexico.

A more detailed look at the new connection between Kljestan and Donelli can be read here.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

3 New Names

Buckingham, Browne & Nichols: a new Lion pipeline?

As we get closer to "National Signing Day," (February 4), our list of reported incoming freshmen continues to grow.

Remember, Ivy recruits don't actually "sign" anything, but with all the D-1A recruits signing the national letter of intent by the 5th, the recruits for other schools often start making their verbal commitments.

The headline name for today, (in my opinion), is the very promising offensive guard Xander Frantz from Buckingham Browne & Nichols H. S. That's the same high school that sent us current rising sophomore Nico Papas and another incoming freshman, Steven Grassa. (But we did lose out on getting BB&N QB Mike DiChiara, who has chosen Cornell).

Frantz is graded highly by scouts who expect him to excel on the offensive line, despite the fact that he played on the defensive line as well in high school.

It would appear that Nico Papas' father John has become a good ally for Columbia recruiters. John Papas is the head coach at Buckingham Browne & Nichols.

Scott Ward

Another offensive lineman bound for Morningside Heights is Newport Harbor High School's Scott Ward. Ward is 6"7 and 241 pounds, so he may need to bulk up, but that's a great frame to work with. Ward's commitment has been reported here, a very good web site.

Andrew McHugh

Finally, we have Andrew McHugh, an outside linebacker at Saint John's Prep. School in Massachusetts. McHugh is a native of Swampscott, MA, which was also the hometown of Columbia great Greg Abbruzzese '92.

And Check This Out!

A reader has passed along this link to a video featuring an amazing one-handed grab by incoming freshman wide receiver Price Pinkerton. Pretty amazing.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

"Not Just Fast... Football Fast"

Cascia Hall, home of the Commandos

Price Pinkerton, a WR/DB from Tulsa's Cascia Hall Prep School is coming to Columbia according to His high school head coach says Price is, "not just fast, but football fast." The local paper says Pinkerton chose Columbia over Penn.

You can see his recruitng video here.

(And thanks to certain Penn supporter for giving me the ESPN info!)

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Penn Coaches, 1961

Page 7 of the 1961 Penn-Columbia program features the Quaker coaching staff, led by head man John R. Stiegman. The short bio to the left of his picture emphasizes Stiegman's tenure as an assistant and player under the great Charlie Caldwell.

Caldwell was Stiegman's coach when he played as an undergrad at Williams. Then Stiegman followed Caldwell to Princeton where they enjoyed tremendous success. Stiegman was the defensive coordinator at Princeton until leaving to become the head coach at nearby Rutgers in 1956. He logged a winning 22-15 record with the Scarlet Knights before coming to Penn in 1960.

Mark Bernstein's book, Football: The Ivy League Origins of an American Obsession, details the funny story behind Stiegman's hiring at Penn. He was actually secretly hired by athletic director Jeremiah Ford in 1958, with the agreement that he would not take over until the 1960. Meanwhile, Penn Head Coach Steve Sebo directed the Quakers to the Ivy title in 1959 with a 7-1-1 record!

Sebo was let go anyway!

Not a good decision, as it turned out. In 5 seasons with the Quakers, Stiegman's teams never did better than 3-6 and he finished at just 12-33 at Penn.

Below Stiegman's picture is shot of him and his five assistant coaches, Paul Riblett, Robert Graham, Robet McCoy, Joseph Stanczyk and Warren Harris.

Riblett was a Penn assistant for decades, coming to the Quakers from CCNY where he began coaching under the great early football quarterbacking great, Benny Friedman.

Joseph Stanczyk was a great player for Columbia and a three-year letterman from 1928-30. In 1930, he was the captain of the Lions as they went 5-4 in their first year under Head Coach Lou Little.

The Ivy Football Association annual dinner was last night and by all accounts it was a great success. Columbia's honoree was New England Patriots owner and former lightweight Lion footballer Robert Kraft. A moving tribute to Kraft was featured before he spoke of how athletics at Columbia helped him move on from a very sheltered childhood.

A more detailed account of the evening is coming soon.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

The Curious Case of "The Buffer"

Page 6 of the '61 Columbia-Penn program

Returning to the 1961 Columbia-Penn program, we now find ourselves on page 6 with the Columbia coaches profile.

A short blurb is devoted to Head Coach Aldo "Buff" Donelli. While Buff will never be remembered as much as his predecessor, Lou Little, he is one of the most fascinating figures in the history of American football.

It started in Pittsburgh, where Donelli was a star football, soccer and basketball player in the late 1920's at Duquesne University. He was the captain of the '29 football team, but his years right after college would be dominated by his prowess on the soccer pitch.

"Buff" Donelli as a Duquesne Duke, 1929

In 1934, Donelli made the U.S. World Cup team and scored four goals against Mexico in a qualifying game before netting the only goal against the home Italian powerhouse squad in the first round of the tournament. He was later inducted into the U.S. Soccer Hall of Fame.

Donelli returned to American football in the late 30's and became head coach at his alma mater of Duquesne in 1939, compiling an astounding 29-4-2 record over four seasons.

But Donelli's 1941 season was truly a remarkable year in the history of American sports. While coaching Duquesne to what would be an undefeated season, the local NFL Steelers were struggling at 0-2. Art Rooney made the drastic move to hire Donelli to coach his club even as Buff remained the head coach at Duquesne! Buff would coach the Steelers in the morning during classes at Duquesne University and then the Dukes in the afternoon. The Steelers still lost all five games under Donelli, but he remains the only person ever to coach a college and a pro football team simultaneously. I think we can be confident in saying that's a record that will never be matched or broken.

In 1944 Donelli went to the NFL again, this time to coach the Cleveland Rams full time. This was before the Rams eventually moved to Los Angeles and then to St. Louis. They went 4-6 before Buff decided to head back to the college ranks.

In 1945, he joined Lou Little's staff at Columbia and helped the team complete an 8-1season.

Donelli rejoined the head coaching ranks in 1947 at Boston University. He guided BU to a 46-34-4 record from 1947 through 1956 before being named to replace Little as the head man back at Columbia.

Donelli inherited a Lions team in decline as Little's squads posted losing seasons in 8 of his last 9 seasons, including the last 5 in a row. Buff started out strong with a stunning win over Brown to begin the 1957 season, but the Lions lost 10 in a row before Donelli won another game. However, he did get the pleasure of coaching his son Dick during those tough early years. Dick Donelli started at quarterback in '57 and '58.

Donelli, front right, with his fellow Ivy head coaches, circa 1962

Things started to look up a bit in 1960, when Columbia routed Brown to start the year and scraped together two more Ivy wins to finish 3-6 on the year.

Then came the 1961 season when the Lions combined a killer defense with a varied running attack to eventually tie for the Ivy title with Harvard, a team they beat ON THE ROAD, 26-14 to claim true bragging rights.

After the '61 season, a slow progression downward began again. 1962 would be Buff's final winning season at the helm and he stepped down after a 2-7 campaign in 1966.

Donelli went into almost total retirement after that, taking time off from playing golf only to help promote a PGA tour event in New England.

Buff died in the summer of 1994 at the age of 87. Columbia's weight and conditioning room, the Aldo T. "Buff" Donelli Intercollegiate Weight Room, was donated by Bill Campbell in honor of his former coach.

Al Paul and John Toner

The assistant coaches pictured with Donelli on page are Tony Zullo, Verne Ullom, Al Paul and John L. Toner.

Of course, Paul eventually became the athletic director at Columbia from 1973-1991. While Paul took a lot of lumps for being at the helm during the true nadir of the football program, he also oversaw the dominance of Columbia's soccer team, (a squad that made it all the way to the 1983 NCAA final before losing to Indiana in double overtime), and the successfull integration of women athletes into the program when Columbia went co-ed in 1983.

John L. Toner became a very famous force in college athletics after he left Columbia. He went on to become the athletic director of the University of Connecticut and then NCAA President. The National Football Foundation's John L. Toner Award is given annually to "outstanding athletic directors who have demonstrated superior administrative abilities, especially in the area of college football."

Speaking of Columbia coaching, another coach who got his start on the sidelines with Ray Tellier is moving up the ranks. John Powers has been named the recruiting coordinator at mid-major Ball State.

Powers was first a graduate assistant coach at CU in 1993 and 1994. He returned in 1997 to be the running game and recruiting coordinator. It should be noted that this was the period when Johnathan Reese, Columbia's all-time leading rusher, was recruited and put in the starting lineup for the Lions. In 2000, Reese broke the single season Columbia rushing record with 1,330 yards and 19 touchdowns.

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.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

You Can't Win 'Em All

Mike Pinciotti, one of the big offensive linemen prospects Columbia was looking at, has committed to his hometown school of Penn. According to, Pinciotti originally had his heart set on Rutgers of Penn State, but made the shift to better academic schools at some point last year.

And the Brophy Prep linebacker Mike Tree has reportedly committed to Dartmouth, choosing the Big Green over Columbia and Princeton.

I guess this is as good a moment as any to remind everyone that these prospects are just that, prospects. It's important not to get too excited or dejected about the crop of high school seniors making their football and academic decisions.

And I assume some of the existing players may resent all the attention we pay to guys who haven't even practiced at the college level yet. On the other hand, I think 99% of the readers here understand this and we're just trying to play a little "hot stove league" during our very long offseason. I just hope everyone else takes no offense.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Schedule Released

The mystery is over and we now know the Lions 2009 schedule.

2009 Columbia Football Schedule

at Fordham


10/3 at Princeton

at Lafayette

PENN (Homecoming)

at Dartmouth


at Cornell


The most-asked question was who Columbia would play in week 2 at home to replace Iona, which has discontinued football.

The answer is Central Connecticut State U., a much tougher opponent than Iona for sure. CCSU appears to play at a level of a mid-level Ivy team, but not quite as good as last year's co-champs Harvard and Brown.

Coach Wilson's strong ties to the state of Connecticut and the recruiting strides Columbia is making there may have both played a big role in this scheduling decision. But I don't really have the inside story.

I guess I was half-hoping we would see a new opponent in week 4 other than Lafayette. But I am looking forward to revisiting the Lafayette broadcast booth, complete with the cool replay monitor and pretty decent food!

And for those of you looking for some real changes in the order of our games and in the faces of our opponents, I hear you. But remember that the Ivy League is a league that's all about tradition, and change for the sake of change isn't going to happen.

I am happy that the Lions are once again facing a schedule with no "easy wins" right off the bat. I thought Columbia played right up and right down to the competition every week until the Brown game. Playing better opponents should help the coaches forge a better team.

Harvard and Hatch

Ivy football followers are buzzing about former LSU starting QB Andrew Hatch coming back to Harvard where he began his college career a few years ago.

I openly admit that if Hatch were coming to Columbia, I'd be pretty excited too. But objectively, I'm not sure anyone should be handing the 2009 championship trophy to the Crimson just yet.

This is a MUCH tougher league than most people, even our own people, give it credit for. One talented athlete does not make for a championship, especially on a Harvard squad that needs to be more concerned about its 2009 defense anyway.

There's also no guarantee that Hatch will start, let alone be a real impact player. But whoever does start for the Crimson will have such an embarrassment of riches with wide receivers and big tight ends, that I doubt even Tom Brady would make Harvard's passing attack less formidable.

In other words, Harvard was going to be tough regardless of the QB. I don't have a problem with anyone who wants to complain about the great break the Crimson is getting right now... but that's realling baying at the moon.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Campbell to Cupertino?

Bill Campbell

With Steve Jobs announcing his decision to step down for at least six months due to medical reasons, speculation is running rampant about who will take over as CEO. One leading Apple analyst says Columbia Board of Trustees Chairman and former football great Bill Campbell is a good bet.

The fact that one of the world's leading companies would look to Campbell in its desperate hour speaks volumes about the man. He deserves congratulations even if it doesn't happen.

"Women Have to Work Harder"

Columbia athletic director Dianne Murphy is quoted prominently in the lates issue of Diverse: Issues in Higher Education.

Most of the readers here know that I'm not exactly a bleeding heart type, but Dr. Murphy makes an excellent point when she says: "athletics is one of the last bastions of male dominance," and, "Women have to work harder."

No doubt they do. I do have to say that whatever successes or failures Murphy has had in her tenure at Columbia, at least I don't see her gender playing a role in either. I haven't heard even the harshest critic, (of which there seem to be very few anyway), say gender was a factor. But being a woman AD is just not easy.

Speaking of female AD's, Dartmouth's AD Josie Harper has announced she is stepping down. She oversaw some major improvements to Dartmouth's physical plant, even as the football and basketball teams declined overall.

Gehrig in his Columbia days

Hollander's Story

Now back to history and we look at page 5 of the 1961 Columbia-Penn game program and the historical piece written by legendary sports writer and historian Zander Hollander. The topic was the 1922 Columbia-NYU game played right on the Columbia campus on South Field. One of the Lions stars in the game was Lou Gehrig, but he was ejected just minutes into the game for slugging the NYU quarterback.

The game was one of the controversial sporting events of the 1920's, and not because of Gehrig's ejection. NYU was awarded an early TD when the Violets blocked a punt and fell on the loose ball... but the ball had already bounced out of the end zone. It should have been a safety, but at the time the score was 7-0, NYU. Columbia only scored 6 points in the game and the final on the field was 7-6 in favor of the Violets.

A DAY LATER, the ref admitted his mistake and the final score was amended to 6-2 in favor of Columbia. NYU never accepted the revised score.

Hollander's writing is great and fun, even though he's recounting historical events not many fans could have remembered in 1961, (however, I realize that in 1961, 1922 was 39 years in the past while in 2009, 1961 is 48 years ago!).

I hope to find more articles by Hollander in other vintage Columbia programs.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Leaning to Us?

Mission Hills, Home of the Grizzlies

This report in Riverside, California's North County Times says standout running back Eddy Sihavong is "leaning toward Columbia."

In addition to putting up some record stats for Mission Hills High School, Sihavong has overcome some adversity in his life as he had to transfer to Mission Hills from St. Augustine High School after his family's Rancho Bernardo home burned down in the 2007 wildfires.

Something tells me playing Ivy League football won't seem so hard after all that.

Back to History

Moving on with the page-by-page look at the 1961 Columbia-Penn game program leads us to pages 2-3 and the pictures of the top Columbia and Penn admnistrators.

On page 2 we have Columbia President Grayson Kirk and Penn President Gaylord Harnwell. On page 3 we see Columbia College Dean John G. Palfrey and Columbia College Associate Dean John W. Alexander.

Grayson Kirk's sad ending to his Columbia career masks a meteoric rise from a very modest upbringing to the highest levels of academic and government service. He left Columbia after the 1968 riots, but continued to hold prominent positions in public life. He died in 1997 at age 94.

Gaylord Harnwell served as Penn's president from 1953-70. He was a prominent physicist and held many top advisory positions with the U.S. military even while he served at Penn. He died in 1979.

John G. Palfrey was Dean of Columbia College from 1958-62 and was a law professor. He left his top post at the college to join the Atomic Energy Commission from 1962-66. He also died in 1979 of cancer, he was just 60. Palfrey is often remembered by college alumni as the guy who told them during freshman orientation that "guidance and help are available, but maturity is expected." (I think a college administrator saying that today might get sued and fired... but not necessarily in that order).

The only member of this triumvirate without strong military ties was John W. Alexander, associate dean of Columbia College through much of the 1960's. (But Alexander did serve in the Navy during World War II). He was a sociology professor and a career expert on education. Beyond Columbia, Alexander worked for the American Friends Service Committee to help desegregate schools. He died in 2006.

I think it's interesting that today's football programs usually just include a little bit of info about the school presidents and athletic directors. Deans have been pushed out of the picture, which is possibly a result of the fact that there are so many different undergrad schools now at each Ivy college. I suppose you could not include such a page in the program without a picture of the deans from Barnard, Engineering, General Studies, etc. in addition to the picture of the dean of the College. And that is kind of a shame since Columbia College dean Austin Quigley is now in his 14th year in that job, which HAS to mean he's very popular in this day of relatively short tenures for top academic administrators.

Page four has the pictures of Columbia's athletic director Ralph Furey and Penn AD Jeremiah Ford II.

Furey was a major figure at Columbia for 44 years. He came to Columbia as an undergrad in 1924 from Brooklyn Prep High School. He became a star football and baseball player, just missing a chance to play both of those sports with Columbian Lou Gehrig who had already moved on the Yankees by the time Furey joined the varsity. Furey did go on to become the football team's captain in 1927.

Furey was the freshman football coach and director of all freshman athletics for many years before becoming athletic director in 1943.

Furey was the first president of the Eastern College Athletic Association in 1947, a precursor to the Ivy League, and many consider him to have been one of the leading forces behind the formation of the league in 1954, (Ivy play didn't start until 1956).

Furey left Columbia in 1968, another apparent victim of the '68 riots. He died in 1984 in Colorado at the age of 81.

Obviously, there's a lot more to write and remember about Ralph Furey and I hope to continue to get great info about him in the comments section.

Jeremiah Ford was also a pioneer in the formation of the Ivy League. His participation was a little bit more of a big story, because just a few years before the Ivy agreement, Penn was making a play to become a major college football power and TV revenue machine under then-university President Harold Stassen.

(If you want to understand just how big Penn football was in the late 40's/early 50's, and what convinced the school to forget the "big time," you MUST buy a copy of 8: Ivy League Football and America, by clicking here for the the "8" Web site. The Penn story is covered extremely well in the film).

Ford also played baseball and football as an undergrad at Penn through 1931. Then Penn coaching legend George Munger hired him to head freshman athletics and coach the freshman football program in 1938. He left three years later to teach at an exclusive high school in Rhode Island, but came back in 1953 to help make the athletic transition at Penn work after sitting on the executive committees of the NCAA and ECAC, and heading the Ivy League Administrative Committee.

Ford and Munger had a falling out over Penn's athletic "demotion," but Ford's side won the day.

Ford died in 1997 of Alzheimer's Disease at the age of 87.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Comedy Linebacker

Mike Tree

Columbia is among four Ivy schools who have reportedly made an offer to Brophy College Prep lineback Mike Tree. Tree comes from the same high school as rising Lion junior lineman Brandon "Moose" Veldman. is reporting that Tree visited Princeton last weekend and is going to Dartmouth this weekend. There's no information on whether he's headed to visit Columbia or Brown, in the coming weeks.

But Tree is already to jump into the New York City comedy scene. He's the star of a series of YouTube sketches he and his friends at Brophy produced called "Campus Linebacker." They're a takeoff on the "Office Linebacker" Reebok commercials from a few years back.

Rich Skrosky

Coach Skrosky Promoted

Former Lions offensive coordinator Rich Skrosky has been made a top assistant at Elon College in North Carolina. Skrosky was a popular figure in the Columbia football program, and he was the only one of Ray Tellier's assistants to make the transition to Bob Shoop's staff. We wish him well.

Page one of the 1961 Columbia-Penn program

Now back to our page-by-page look at a vintage piece of Columbia football history: the 1961 Columbia-Penn game program.

The first page of text in the program sets the scene for the game and was written by the program's editor, Philip J. Burke. Burke was a prototypical "sports information director" of his time, but I believe he only handled football for Columbia, starting in 1960. I don't know much about how Burke came to Columbia, but I know he left the Lions in 1965 to do public relations for the old Roosevelt Field Raceway on Long Island, (now it's just a mall), and then got his call to "the show" as a PR director for the New York Rangers. He died in 2000 at the age of 85.

The top of the page features two small inset pictures. On the left, we have an "in action" shot of running back Tom Haggerty, one of the leading heroes of the '61 squad. Haggerty came into the game with 482 yards rushing and a gaudy 5.3 yards per carry average. He also had 9 TD's through 7 games and one two-point conversion.

The small picture on the right is of the Lion statue in front of Chrystie Field House.

Also on the top of the page is an interesting note that the game that day would be the 557th intercollegiate football game for the Lions. That brings us back to the question of just how many games Columbia has played since 1870 and when exactly was our 1,000th game.

If the Penn game was game #557, then game 1,000 was the 2008 season opener against Fordham. I mistakenly thought it was the game against Dartmouth in late October.

Having more than 1,000 games in the history of your program is pretty impressive, but the way the BCS loads up the schedules these days most big-time programs will soon be playing 1,000 games every year.

Now I don't like to speak ill of the dead, and I'm sure Mr. Burke was a totally fine man, but I'm not the biggest fan of the copy he wrote to set up the game. It's a kind of a flowery piece hinging on the title of a hit song from the late 1950's called "Now is the Hour." It's a very general look at the successful 1961 team, giving most of the credit to Coach Donelli and his staff.

I guess it's likely the piece is just dated; something that may have been better appreciated by a 1961 audience. Today's fans are stat and personality obsessed, and other than a deliberately modest listing of the graduating seniors on the team, there is little a modern fan can sink his teeth into.

But the style reminds me of the little set-up voiceovers Howard Cosell used to do for Monday Night Football. If you take the copy from Burke's piece and put it in Cosell's excited voice, it kind of works.

On the bottom of the page, we have a tale of contents on the right and some publication information on the left. We learn that Burke's associate editor was Bill Shannon, who is often referred to as a "Columbia historian," but I don't know what his official titles were. The pictures were taken by an "M. Warman." (A reader tells me he was named Manny Warman and he took the official pictures for Columbia for many years).

The program was peddled for national advertising by Spencer Advertising and published by Robert W. Kelly Publishing. Both companies are now defunct.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Holy Grail

1961 Penn-Columbia program cover art

Okay, okay, not quite. But a treasure trove of vintage Columbia material has found its way to me from one Walter Day... the same "angel on my shoulder" who had the program from the 1961 Columbia-Princeton game delivered to me in the radio booth during Homecoming last October.

Walter was never a Columbia student, but his father was class of 1924 and he often took Walter and his twin brother to football games starting in the late 1940's.

I'll tell more of Walter's story as we go along, but just get used to me thanking him for these very generous gifts that I hope my readers will enjoy as much as I am.

The latest mailings from Walter have included more programs, and other publications that I will cherish forever. They are all a unique look inside a very different time for Columbia football, the Ivy League, the NCAA, and America in general.

I thought the best way to share all of this great material and my thoughts on them would be to look at the key parts of each of these items, sometimes page by page.

I thought I'd start with what I consider to be the crown jewel in this collection, and that's the program from the 1961 Penn-Columbia game at Baker Field. This would be the game that would clinch the Ivy title for the Lions, (technically a tie for the title, but we'll get back to that later), for the one and only time since the league was officially formed in 1956.

For those of you dying of suspense about the actual details of the game, you can read a synopsis here.

But let's start with the cover of that program, (see above). It features some cover art of two players vying for a football, one wearing Columbia's colors and the other in Penn's all-red jersey of the time. (Notice how Penn has really de-emphasized the color red in just about all of its team uniforms in the last 30 years or so. Penn used to really favor that color over the blueish hue the Quakers wear now). Neither one of the images was meant to potray an actual Lion or Quaker, (we know that since no Penn player actually wore the #18 that we see on the player's jersey and helmet), and the Lions #88, Marc LaGuardia '62 was not a starter.

The inset picture is of captain Bill Campbell standing tall at the Lion statue just outside the Chrystie Field House. Call me old-fashioned, but I liked the old days when each team had just one captain. No one in 1961 could have predicted that Campbell would go on to become a Lion head coach, big-time sillicon valley entrepreneur, and chairman of the Columbia board of trustees. Or maybe they could have. Campbell's leadership abilities, and his strong identifiable figure on campus, led a lot of people to predict great things for him.

On the bottom left corner there is a picture of the '61 Lions in action against Cornell, not a bad turnaround considering the fact that the Cornell game was just two weeks earlier and the much slower pace of publishing 48 years ago.

Below Campbell's picture is the "In this issue" teaser promising a story called "Okay, Who Won It?" by none other than the great Zander Hollander.

Now if any of you are over the age of 30 and you still have never heard of Zander Hollander, I feel bad for you. That's because in the days before the Internet or ESPN, Hollander's big, fat paperback preview books for the four big pro sports were THE most coveted things for fans to get their hands on.

Above is a picture of his 1986 MLB preview book. Man, these things are so much fun to read even now. Sometime in the late 1990's, they stopped publishing them. I assume because the Internet was making the information they carried a little outdated too quickly.

I never knew that Mr. Hollander had any connection with Columbia until I saw this program, but it appears that he contributed some exclusive content to the football programs for a few years in the 1960's. As far as I know, he was never a Columbia student but he is still alive, if not exactly working full-time. I'll take a closer look at the article he wrote for this program in the coming weeks.

The final item of interest on the cover is the price of the program: 50 cents! Before you wax poetic about how much less expensive things were in the old days, remember that Columbia football programs have been FREE for the last two years, (I think the top price they ever reached was $3 before they made them free in 2007), and that if you adjust for inflation, 50 cents in 1961 would be about $3.43 today. So, Columbia actually beat the inflation-adjusted price by 43 cents even before the gracious gesture of slashing the price entirely.

On the inside cover we have an ad for Rheingold Beer. In 1961, the beer industry was still a mostly local business. This was before Miller and Anheuser Busch pushed everyone else out. Rheingold was very much a New York City beer, and the company learned at a very early point that sponsoring sporting events was an obvious perfect fit for a beer company. It became the first really-recognizeable sponsor for the New York Mets and became the team's "official beer."

What's odd about this ad is that it's set at a very un-New York City square dance. Perhaps the woman in the ad, Janet Mick, who was "Miss Rheingold 1961," was from the West. I do know that Mick was considered a shoo-in for the customer-voted-in title because of her uncanny resemblance to Jackie Kennedy. Mick went on to become a flight attendant for American Airlines.

The whole "Miss Rheingold" contest was ended in 1965 and the company also went out of business in 1976. A new version of Rheingold Beer was introduced in 1999.

Suffice it to say that beer ads no longer appear in Columbia sports programs. I'm not sure, but I think that would be against NCAA or at least Ivy League policy. But if you think beer ads are questionable, wait until we get to the cigarette ads in this program. Let me just say they are VERY questionable and for reasons that go way beyond health hazards!

We'll get to page one and more of the program in the coming days. Anyone with any memories that can fill in any of the blanks so far, please feel free to comment.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Tom's Future

Talking about Tom

Not all the talk about race and college coaching is worth listening to, but Ed Daigneault gets it exactly right in this piece about Yale's new coach Tom Williams.

It's nice that he also points out that Columbia Coach Norries Wilson has brought the Lions back to respectability, which we may not be entirely clear in the won-lost record, but is entirely clear on the field of play where Columbia outplayed at least half of its Ivy opponents in 2008.

Ivy fans know that while Yale may have the richest alumni and most storied football history in the conference, things can still go bad in a hurry in New Haven.

The Elis went from perennial contenders in the 60's, 70's and 80's, to chumps in the 1990's. Columbia beat Yale four years in a row from 1994-97, and not all of those teams were the Lions' best.

While Jack Siedlecki's tenure was not totally fantastic over the years, he seemed to be getting much, much better in his final three years.

Williams will be taking over a team that will be losing just about all its best players to graduation. That should actually help in his first two years, as knowledgable fans will realize this and not set the bar too high.

From a Columbia standpoint, I would look at recruiting in the state of Connecticut as a possible measuring stick. With Coach Wilson's strong CT ties, the Lions have been grabbing more and more strong recruits from right under Yale's shadow. If that keeps happening, it may mean the Eli program is really in decline everywhere else as well.

George Seitz, RIP

I have recently been informed that 3-year letter winner George Seitz '56, died last week. Sadly, I do not know much about his playing career, except to say he played on Lions teams that twice beat Harvard.

Anyone who has more personal or gridiron info on Mr. Seitz kindly comment below or email me.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Kickoff Specialist on the Way

Greg Guttas (CREDIT: Serra High School)

Bay Area kicking phenom Greg Guttas is headed to Columbia this fall. News of his decision to commit is buried in this article in the Palo Alto Daily News. Just about all of his high school kickoffs have resulted in touchbacks, going about 70 yards apiece, (which is important because his high school conference kicks off from the 40), and many of them almost going through the opposing uprights!

Guttas is also a punter, known mostly for good hang time on his boots. I haven't been able to find out any details about his abilities as a field goal kicker, however.

This brings the number to 13 incoming freshmen that have publicly announced they're coming to Columbia to play football in 2009. At this point last year, we only knew about 5 such incoming freshmen, so we are way ahead of the game.

Knowlin Recognized

Austin Knowlin has been named an honorable mention team member for The Sports Network's All-America team. He was specifically recognized as a punt returner.

The announcement reminds me that when I first saw Knowlin play, he most reminded me of Towson grad Dave Meggett, who was a classically undersized "scatback" for the NY Giants and a dangerous punt returner as a pro. I get the feeling that Knowlin could make for a decent NFL prospect in that same type of role.

Searching for Bud Corn

For 25 years, Belmont "Bud" Corn '34, was the P.A. announcer for football at Baker Field. He was a total professional, but also displayed a sense of humor from time to time and that made him a beloved figure from 1936 until 1961. His final game at the mic was the contest against Penn that ended with a huge Columbia win that clinched the Ivy title.

Bud had to quit because his business was starting to demand too much time and travel. You see, Bud was the leading commercial display artist in the world, and with the 1964 World's Fair set for New York, he needed to get started on the many requests for his design services.

It's a great story, but I have one problem. I don't know what happened to Mr. Corn next. Well, I know he continued to be a success at his business and that he had at least one daughter who was married in the late 1960's... but that's it.

Could Bud Corn, who has to be at least 90 years old today, still be alive?

I have tried to track down nonegenarian Columbians before. Last summer I found Sid Luckman's favorite receiving target, John Siegal '39. (He was also a teammate of Sid's with the Bears).

Mr. Siegal was nice enough to take my call, but sadly he was too hard of hearing to be a part of any kind of interview. That was a real loss for Columbia fans old and young. I certainly wish him the best.

But if any fans reading this know anything about Bud, I'd appreciate hearing about it... even if it's just a memory you might have about his voice over old Baker Field P.A.

You can't let history get away from you.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

More on Sommers

Shad Sommers

The Milton Times has a little blurb with more info on incoming Columbia freshman Shad Sommers.

The piece says he was also recruited by Cornell, Harvard, Brown, Boston College and UNH. Whoa.

And here's some video of Sommers from YouTube.

Yale Gets it's, (3rd, 4th, 5th?), Choice

Tom Williams

The Hartford Courant is reporting that Yale has hired Jacksonville Jaguars assistant Tom Williams as its new head coach.

The paper says he will be formally introduced tomorrow at 2pm.

At 38, Williams is the latest in the trend of younger coaches being hired at all levels of football over the last few days.

While he comes directly from the Jaguars and played briefly in the NFL, the overwhelming majority of his experience is at the college level. He started coaching under Bill Walsh at Stanford where he was also a player during the Cardinal's last glory days of the early 1990's.

(The last real purely NFL-bred Ivy coach was Columbia's Jim Garrett. I'm not sure we'll ever see that kind of coach getting hired again).

Most media reports say at least three other Yale choices turned down the job, and we'll probably never know the real reasons why.

In any case, we welcome Mr. Williams to the Ivy world and wish him luck against everyone but Columbia.

Monday, January 05, 2009

Doing Mitzvahs in Church!

St. James Church in Danielson, CT

Lots of people mis-translate the Hebrew/Yiddish word "Mitzvah" in English as "a good deed." Actually, the literal translation is "commandment," but since we're all commanded to do good deeds as much as possible, the two words have become a bit synomous. And that's a good thing.

I bring this up because it appears a couple of good deeds, that may not have seemed like good deeds, but more like welcome obligations, seem to have brought incoming freshman Sean Brackett to Columbia for next season.

According to Ron Coderre's piece this weekend in the Norwich Bulletin, Head Coach Norries Wilson first learned about Brackett from a local pastor just after Wilson spoke at the funeral of local athlete Phil Larrow... who was Wilson's wife Brenda's uncle.

Speaking at your wife's uncle's funeral is a real mitzvah, and so is pointing out a good athlete and student to someone who might be able to help him get into a good school. As the Talmud says: "One Mitzvah leads to another Mitzvah,"... even in Church, (or should I say "especially in a Church?").

Slingin' Sammy Baugh was Sid Luckman's greatest rival

Luckman's Memory Evoked

With the recent death of NFL great Sammy Baugh, there's a lot being written about Baugh's long-running rivalry with Sid Luckman. One of the more extensive pieces I've seen lately is this one by Gordon White, a former New York Times sports reporter who is now living in North Carolina.

The article doesn't say this exactly, but it's a good argument that modern football really was born at Columbia. Luckman was using the T formation successfully at Columbia and that's why George Halas grabbed him. When the Bears used Luckman in the T formation for the first time in the NFL Championship, Chicago ended up beating Baugh's Redskins 73-0.

For all the talk about Yale's Walter Camp and his invention of modern football rules, there should be more discussion of Lou Little and Sid Luckman and the gift they gave pro football... which is the nation's #1 sport by far much because of its varied T formation offense.

Friday, January 02, 2009

Pelini Family Affair

Husker Coach Bo Pelini has a lot of Columbia family ties

Matt Sodl emailed me to point out that Nebraska Head Coach Bo Pelini, who guided the Huskers to a 26-21 win in the Gator Bowl yesterday, has a lot of family ties to Columbia.

First off, one of his Nebraska assistants is his brother Carl Pelini, who played two years for the Lions before eligibility issues and other hurdles convinced him to quit football and transfer back home to Youngstown State.

But Bo's older brother Vince Pelini '81, was a 1st Team All Ivy linebacker for the Lions and deservedly so. In late 2007, I blogged about Vince's son Mark, who plays at Cardinal Mooney high school in Youngstown and is highly-regarded offensive lineman prospect. I mistakenly identified him as a senior in 2007, but he is actually a current junior and will be a senior for the 2009 season.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

Just One More...

As we all know, our Lions finished 2-8 in 2008 despite playing very well in a lot of close losses where we were "this close" to grabbing great victories.

I know we want to see as many wins as we can every season, but if a magic genie came out of the bottle and gave you just one chance to turn one loss from this past season into a win, which one would it be?

For me, the answer is pretty simple: Princeton. Winning that game in front of the big Homecoming crowd would have meant so much to so many people.

It would have been our first Homecoming win since 2000.

It would have put us two places higher in the Ivy standings.

I know beating Harvard, Brown or Penn would have been more "impressive," but a win against the Tigers would have reaped the most tangible rewards.

As it is, we did get two solid Ivy wins over Dartmouth and Cornell and showed all the signs of having at least the basic tools to compete for the first division in 2009.

Have a happy new year everyone!