Thursday, April 30, 2009

Yale's Game Changer?

Patrick Witt: Do they grow corn in New Haven?

It looks pretty official that University of Nebraska transfer Patrick Witt will be playing for the Elis at quarterback this fall.

This is a potential game-changer for Yale, which looked like it was going to face some serious problems in 2009.

If Witt turns out to be an All-Ivy caliber player, I think Yale can make a run at the first division, but I STILL don't think the Bulldogs would be championship material. The losses throughout the defense and on the offensive line are too serious in New Haven.

Yale and Harvard tend to try to copy and one-up each other, so I wonder if this news will somehow push the Crimson's efforts to get Andrew Hatch into the lineup somehow. We'll keep watching.

All this transfer news has me thinking about how big news can sometimes have the totally opposite effect than what you'd expect.

In this case, I think a lot of you were as fooled as I was when the NBA started allowing college basketball players to enter the draft en masse about 15 years ago.

I thought the growing number of NCAA tournament teams with no seniors would lead to more March Madness wins for the more-experienced Ivy teams in the draw. What we lacked in super talent, we'd make up for in experience as no Ivy players would be coming out early.

But the result has been kind of the opposite. Faced with the certainty that 2-3 players will leave school early every year, top-level college basketball coaches are stockpiling every recruiting class more than ever before. There are no more stars slipping through the cracks these days.

The situation in football, where fewer players come out early, is also counterintuitive. You'd think the rarer cases of players leaving would lead to less stockpiling, but the opposite has happened. BCS college coaches are hoarding talented players, especially at running back and on the defensive line. The recent dearth of 1,000-yard rushers in the Ivies is directly attributable to this.

But maybe the worm is about to turn once again, and this time in our favor. Maybe, just maybe, some of these "stockpiled" players will begin to realize that they are simply emergency backups at the big schools and could do a lot better for themselves before and after graduation by playing for an Ivy school.

It may be time, or past time, for every Ivy school to aggressively go after transfers with even a hint of the academic credentials they'll need to get admitted.

Perhaps this is happening already, but I'd like to see it happen more. Talented athletes who have the smarts and the grades shouldn't ride the pine in favor of other kids who are just using college as a stepping stone to the pros.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Sanchez to CU!!!

This is not our new QB for 2009

Okay, okay, USC star QB and New York Jet first pick Mark Sanchez was on the CU campus yesterday for a little workout for the news cameras. He was not here to transfer to Columbia. (But he does have another year of eligibility, no?). Sanchez shouldn't be too uncomfortable on Ivy campuses, his brother was a Yale QB and now serves as his agent. I wonder if visiting Columbia was his brother's idea?

Scouting the Enemy, Part 1 of Many

The summary of Fordham's annual spring game offers a few hints of what Columbia should expect to see when the teams square off in 144 days. It looks like we'll see more of the same. Lots of QB John Skelton throwing short passes, and even more of Xavier Martin running the ball as fast as he can.

This figures to be an interesting year for the Rams as they reportedly are moving to a scholarship program for football beginning in 2010. That means all the non-seniors may be auditioning to keep their jobs all season long as they feel the cold stares of scholarship high school stars creeping up on them.

Fordham remains a very hard team to figure out. They stumbled out of the gate in 2006 under new Head Coach Tom Masella, turned into a power in their 2007 Patriot League championship season, and then fell apart in 2008 with the same players and without major injury issues.

Will the real Fordham Rams please stand up?

Perhaps former Fordham offensive coordinator and current Columbia offensive line coach Ed Argast will help the Lions figure the Rams out on the field where it counts on the field on Sept. 19th.

Swine Flu Ground Zero?

Rising junior offensive lineman Carl Constant's high school alma mater is at the center of the swine flu story here in New York.

St. Francis Prep was the first school to report cases of the flu, as it appears some of the students went on a spring break trip to Cancun.

It occurs to me that we are very fortunate that this outbreak is not taking place during football or basketball seasons. If so, some games could have been canceled, especially if there were any cases reported at Columbia or on any of the campuses where the Lions play.

With the hot summer months coming up, my medical sources tell me the chances this virus survives through June are minimal. We should be worrying about something else by the time September rolls around.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Pizzotti's Columbia Connections

Former CU coach John DeFilippo may be the Ivy's best friend in the NFL

2008 Ivy League MVP, (or Bushnell Cup winner, whichever you prefer), Chris Pizzotti signed a free agent deal with the New York Jets on day 2 of the draft Sunday.

One of the new names on the Jets coaching staff explains why: John DeFilippo.

John was an assistant coach for Columbia during the Shoop years and was known for his excellent recruiting skills. He not only had a good eye for talent, he was a fine salesman too. Many of the graduating seniors on the current Columbia team got their first mailings from the Lions in the form of postcards from John DeFillipo.

I'm happy that John has left the crazy place known as the Oakland Raiders organization and is hooking up with the more promising Jets francise under new coach Rex Ryan.

DeFillipo was instrumental in getting ex-Lions Michael Quarshie and Jeff Otis on various Raiders rosters, and now he could do the same for some of the Lions rising stars.

The other Ivies signing free agent deals yesterday were Yale's Bobby Abare (Chiefs), Brown's Colin Cloherty (Colts), and Harvard's Desmond Bryant (Raiders).

Monday, April 27, 2009

Side Lion Line Up

In case you haven't seen it, the free and subscription versions of the SideLion Report on have some good stuff on the Spring Game and spring practice in general.

The free clip shows some great highlights from the game and has some good interviews too.

Ths subscription section, (and really, why haven't you signed up for it yet? It's a necessity for all football, basketball, etc. fans at CU), has some added good sound bites from Coach Wilson about the choices for captains, Marc Holloway's improvement, and more.

It's really a nice added feature to the Web site and worth looking at during the still long off season ahead of us.

Clubhouse Victors!

Meanwhile, while you're on the official athletics Web site be sure to read up on the dramatic one-stoke victory for the Columbia mens golf team as they won their second straight Ivy title today. With the mens tennis and golf teams both winning championships, we may need to build a country club in Morningside Park!

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Limited Damage

Adam Mehrer created the most takeaways for Columbia in 2008 with 4 INT's

In 2007, Columbia finished 1-9 but had just a -4 turnover ratio.

The problem is the Lions' opponents scored 98 points off Columbia turnovers while CU managed just 33 points off takeaways.

That was a big point differential of 65.

I felt this was a major area where the Lions needed to improve in 2008.

And they did... but there's a lot of improvement still needed.

Last season Columbia's turnover ratio actually got worse, falling to -6. But thanks to a fantastic job by the defense, Lion opponents scored just 60 points off turnovers.

To make the defense's achievement more plain, consider this: Columbia turned the ball over 21 times in 2008 and that led to just 60 opponent points. That's less than a field goal per turnover.

Meanwhile, Columbia improved by scoring 38 points off its own takeaways, leaving a much more manageable point differential of 22.

But, bottom line. The Lions will need to create and capitalize off of more turnovers in 2009 to be an Ivy contender.

It starts with interceptions. Columbia's opponents threw the ball a lot more agains the Lions in '08 than they did in '07, but Columbia grabbed fewer interceptions overall. They went from picking off 4.2% of all opponent passes to intercepting just 2.9% of the time. Strip away the five INT's the Lions got against Cornell alone, and you're seeing just too few pick offs from a secondary that was talented enough to do better.

Turnovers are a big part of the game of football, and an inevitable part of college football. Columbia needs to find a way to make them work more in its favor.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Blast from the Past

John Robinson today

Back in early 1987, Columbia football fans were buzzing over how one school's bad fortune was looking like the Lions' good fortune.

SMU, the fabled football power that boasted stars like Eric Dickerson and Craig James in the 1980's, had just been handed the "death sentence" by the NCAA. Numerous recruiting, fund raising, and hair gel violations led to the complete shutting down of the school's football program.

A few weeks later, Columbia began pursuing a promising linebacker from the Mustangs who had the grades to transfer to the Ivies.

His name was John Robinson, and while he had been just a second-stringer for SMU, he had the speed and the size to be a star for Columbia. He had one year of eligibility left, but the transfer went through and Robinson started several games in the 1987.

He ended up with 36 tackles for the season, including two sacks. He did not make the huge impact some expected he would on the field, but he walked away with a Columbia degree in 1989 and survived what had to be some serious culture shock for a kid from Baytown, Texas.

Now, Robinson is back in the news as a strong candidate to become the new athletic director at the University of Houston.

Robinson currently serves as the interim AD at UH.

Good luck John!

We're Halfway There

Zach Hernandez

Today marks day 150 of our 300-day offseason, so 50% of the wait is over.

Yes it is a long time to wait.

Speaking of waiting, the Web site says a highly regarded fullback from New Mexico will be coming to Columbia's football camp this summer as he considers his options for 2010. describes Zach Hernandez as the top fullback in the state going into his senior season. He also plays defensive end.

The site says he has been "in constant contact" with Columbia. Gee, the only people I knew in my day who were in constant contact with CU were the guys who were behind on their meal plan payments.

And now... more Spring Game photos. We have 150 days before we see another game after all.

Mike Stephens makes a great grab

Millie gets great protection

Mehrer gets good position on Knowlin

Alex Gross and Paul Havas

Havas and Mike Stephens

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

T-Ball Review

So, I missed the Spring Game Saturday to be there for my elder daughter Jordan, (just turned six), as she started for her North Bellmore Cardinals T-Ball team in the season opener.

This was her first-ever game. No way was I going to miss it.

Jordan had a great time, collecting three hits - one on a pitched ball and two off the tee - she also collected about 15 rocks in the outfield and somehow stuffed them into her uniform pants. They are now on display in our backyard.

Posing before the game

"Hey, the pitcher is tipping off her curve ball!"

"Coach, I can steal off this catcher, I know it"

"Ump that pitch was RIGHT there!"

Just enough protection for that 12mph fastball

Ready for my ESPN closeup

Little sister Yael takes in the game in her box seat!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Back to Hibernation?

QB Michael Dougherty is gone to graduation

I thought Brown was the best team in the Ivies last year. They had a high-powered passing game, a very good defensive line, and a killer secondary.

It's a shame we don't have tie-breaking rules in the Ivies, because the Bears bear co-champ Harvard in week 2, and I just think it's wrong for a team to have to share a title with an opponent they defeated on the field.

But that was last year, and in 2009 Brown faces some severe losses due to graduation that could be too much to keep the Bears a top the league.

1) Who is coming back and who is lost?

Brown retains a solid core of linemen on both offense and defense. The best overall returning defensive player is David Howard, a 1st team All Ivy defensive lineman. He'll be joined up front by 2nd Team All Ivy James Develin. The offensive line boasts three returning starters, led by 1st Team All Ivy Paul Jasinowski. A fourth starter, Matthew Adkins, could be returning as a 5th year starter because he missed most of his junior year to injury.

The other strength area is at wide receiver, where stars Bobby Sewall and Buddy Farnham return.

But then things look a little, if not a lot, iffy up in Providence. The biggest loss is two-year starting QB Michael Dougherty who was simply fantastic in his time at Brown, (and I still think Head Coach Phil Estes hates himself for not starting Dougherty as a sophomore in 2006 over the interception-prone Joe DiGiacomo). Running wasn't really a focus for the Bears in 2008 or the two years prior, but both veteran tailbacks Dereck Knight and Jon Edwards are also gone.

The biggest loss on offense may be tight end Colin Cloherty, a 1st Team All Ivy menace who could have helped whoever the new QB will be by presenting a nice big target to throw to from time to time.

The defense loses its entire starting linebacking crew, including a big star in Steve Ziogas. 3/4 of the fine secondary also departs, and the big loss there is corner Darrell Harrison.

2) Back to the QB position, who's in the running?

It looks like three sophs with no varsity experience. But if there's anyone in the league who could pull a rabbit out of his and get his team a good new starting QB, it's Estes. Still, it's a stretch to think that his successor will play up to Dougherty's level, at least not right away. Don't be surprised if a freshman gets a chance to start some point this season.

3) Can Brown Surprise?

The Bears might be able to put together a contending team by mid-season, but that will be well after the big week 2 showdown at Harvard. I don't think Brown will suffer the way they did in 2006, when they fell to 2-8 a year after the great Nick Hartigan graduated. But doing much better than 6-4 will be a tough stretch.

Some Spring Photos

More are coming, but enjoy these below:

Game Action

Marcellus Wiley WAS there!

Marcellus Wiley and Steve Cargile '04

Harvard's Not Hurtin'

They don't get much better than WR Matt Luft

Any Ivy champ facing the graduation losses of a Bushnell Cup winning QB, three 1st team and 2nd team All Ivy defensive linemen, and three of the league's top offensive linemen would have a tough time making its case for repeating as champs.

Except for maybe the 2009 Harvard Crimson.

The Harvard football recruiting factory created by Head Coach Tim Murphy is hardly finding the cupboard bare for this coming season. But truth be told, this is looking very much like the weakest Crimson team we've seen in six or seven years.

1) Who's going to play QB?

Chris Pizzotti is looking at his chances in the NFL right about now... so that's the big question in Cambridge as the Ivy football word awaits any news on re-transfer Andrew Hatch, who left Harvard for LSU and now is back on campus. The status of his playing eligibility appears to be a closely held secret. (I know I'm not the only guy who goes onto the Harvard roster Web page daily looking for Hatch's name).

While I don't think Hatch is an all-world passing QB, if he does join the team he will make the Crimson a definite title contender as he would eliminate any disadvantages Harvard will face by having to start a totally new QB.

It would be totally unwise to think that the QB's currently on the Crimson roster aren't going to be ready to play, but we do know that none of them saw any varsity action at all in 2008.

2) Who are the best returning players?

QB aside, there is some real strong offensive firepower returning to Harvard Stadium. 1st Team All Ivy Matt Luft was arguably the best wide receiver in the Ivies last year and he returns. Fellow WR Adam Chrisis wasn't one of the league honorees, but the rising sophomore sure did a number on Columbia last season and he impressed me. Rising junior Chris Lorditch, who grabbed a 76-yard TD pass against the Lions, is also back in the fold. So, the core of the WR corps is basically all returning to help Mr. New QB get settled.

Three of the five starting 2008 offensive linemen, including 1st team All Ivy James Williams and 2nd team All Ivy Alex Spisak are returning. Tight end Jason Miller is gone, but he's replaced by rising junior Nicolai Schwarzkopf who was the #1-rated Ivy recruit in 2007.

The running game in Cambridge hasn't exactly been stellar since Clifton Dawson graduate after the 2006 season, but it hasn't needed to be with Pizzotti throwing like a hall of famer. Nevertheless, experience and hard-working veterans Cheng Ho and Gino Gordon, (Gordon made 2nd Team All Ivy), are back at the running back positions.

On defense there is more attrition, primarily on the stellar defensive line that has been som dominant for what seems like seven or eight years now. Matt Curtis, Peter Ajayi, and Desmond Bryant have graduated. But 2009 team captain Carl Ehrlich is back and I don't expect the front four to be a huge weakness for Harvard in 2009, just not dominant.

The key linebackers, 1st Team All Ivy Glenn Doris and Eric Schultz, are both gone, but Conor Murphy returns.

3/4 of the starting secondary returns, including 2008 Ivy Rookie of the Year Matthew Hanson. But the big star, at least as far as media attention, Adam Berry is graduating.

Harvard's excellent place kicker Patrick Long returns.

3) Can Harvard win it all?

Definitely. A lot depends on the QB and as usual, we'll probably learn all we need to know about the Crimson from their week 2 game against Brown. Harvard lost the game against the Bears by a mere two points in Providence in 2008 and that cost them sole possession of the Ivy title in the end.

Both the Brown game and the matchup against Penn this year will be at Harvard Stadium, giving the Crimson a distinct advantage against the other two teams that look like real contenders at this point of the spring.

But I can't help noticing that Harvard was truly not as strong in 2008 as they were in 2007. And it's hard to argue that the 2009 team will really be better than last year's squad. There's a good argument to be made that the Crimson may fall back into the middle of the pack for just a year or two beginning now.

Tomorrow's quick review/preview: Brown

Buckingham Browne & Nichols & Honors

Xander Frantz

The two Columbia-bound graduating seniors from the Boston-area's Buckingham Browne & Nichols school are being honored by their local chapter of the National Football Foundation. They are Xander Frantz and Steven Grassa. 22 players in all were chosen from the NFF's Eastern Chapter. Frantz and Grassa join rising sophomore Nico Papas who is also from BB&N.

BB&N went 8-0 last season and won the NEPSAC/ISL championship.

New Addition

We have a late addition, (at least as far as we know... he could have signed on months ago), to our class of 2013.

He is WR/CB Cameron Ross from Darien High School in Connecticut.

Our updated, and YET UNOFFICIAL, incoming freshman list is below:

1. Seyi Adebayo, 6'3" - 217, defensive end, Brophy College Prep, Phoenix, AZ

2. Sean Brackett, 6'1" - 195, quarterback, Griswold H.S., Jewett City, CT

3. Matt Bocci, 5'10" - 180, safety, Sacred Heart Prep, Atherton, CA

4. Ian Cummins, 6'2 - 195, wide receiver, St. Xavier High School, Cincinnati, OH

5. Brian De Veau, 6'1" - 200, quarterback, wide receiver, Kinnelon H.S., Kinnelon, NJ

6. Xander Frantz, 6'4" - 260, offensive guard, Buckingham, Browne & Nichols H. S., Cambridge, MA

7. Nick Gerst, 5'8" - 170, running back, Bergen Catholic H.S., Paramus, NJ

8. Steve Grassa, 5'11" - 188, safety, Buckinghham, Browne & Nichols School, Cambridge, MA

9. Greg Guttas, 5'11" - 190, kicker/punter, Serra H.S., San Mateo, CA

10. Dallas Hartman, 6'5" - 235, tight end, Wilimington Area H.S., New Wilmington, PA

11. Ian Hillman, 6'5" - 230, defensive end, Germantown Academy, Ft. Washington, PA

12. Dan Kerrigan, 6'2" - 210, linebacker, Manasquan High School, Manasquan NJ

13. Alec Kosminskas, 6'3" - 286, offensive lineman, Loyola Academy, Wilmette, IL

14. Josh Martin, 6'3" - 230, defensive lineman, Cherokee Trail H.S., Aurora, CO

15. Andrew McHugh, 6'1" - 215, linebacker, St. John's Prep, Danvers, MA

16. Joe Nathan, 6'2" - 215, linebacker, Cypress Bay H.S., Broward, FL

17. Price Pinkerton, 6'1" - 175, wide receiver, Cascia Hall, Tulsa, OK

18. *James Pizzo, 6'2" - 175 wide receiver, Monsignor Farrell, New York, NY*

19. Michael Poage, 6'2" - 290, defensive lineman, Redlands H.S., Redlands, CA

20. Cameron Ross, 5'9" - 165, Wide receiver/cornerback, Darien H.S., Darien, CT

21. Shad Sommers, 6'3 - 275 offensive guard/defensive end, Milton H.S., Milton, MA

22. Chris Thomas, 5'11" - 160 DB/kick returner, Moreau Catholic H.S., CA

23. Anthony Villamanga, 5'11" - 265, defensive lineman, Cypress Woods H.S., Houston, TX

24. Mike Waller, 6'1" - 190, linebacker, Wayne Hills H.S., Wayne, NJ

25. Eric Walker, 6'3" - 285, offensive tackle, Arlington H.S., Arlington, TX

26. Scott Ward, 6'7" - 241, offensive line/defensive line, Newport Harbor H.S., Newport Beach, CA

27. Andrew Weiss, 6'1" - 175, quarterback, Ramapo H.S., Franklin Lakes, NJ

*= Pizzo has publicly said he "hopes" to attend Columbia, which could mean this is not a done deal

Monday, April 20, 2009

Spring Comments

Spring was in the air at Wien Stadium yesterday

So far, I'm getting a slew of good comments on the Spring Game. They are in the comments section of the previous post and elsewhere, but let me list some highlights and consensus impressions in bullet point form below:

-M.A. Olawale is looking big, strong, and good. It appears it was the defense that was helped out more by the 2-hand touch rule on the QB's rather than Olawale as he could have broken through some of those "tackles" had it been a real game. I really think the only way to tackle Olawale is from behind, unless you really gang-tackle him, I don't believe anyone in the Ivies can bring him down when he gets a full head of steam.

-Marc Holloway, looked very good and was named most-improved defensive player of the spring. That's an encouraging sign because the middle linebacker position filled by the graduating senior Drew Quinn may be the hardest replacement for us in 2009.

When Holloway came to Columbia in 2007, I thought he had the best chance of any incoming freshmen to get playing time. I was wrong about that, but I will happily eat my words if it turns out he is the kind of player the long-time powerhouses of this league often feature -- a junior starter who spent his first two years get fine-tuned instead of plugging emergency holes in the varsity lineup. That's the M.O. for teams like Harvard.

-Owen Fraser seems bigger and even better.

-The receivers, led by Austin Knowlin, Mike Stephens, and Taylor Joseph, looked very good. Do I sound surprised?

-Lots of people are excited about the potential shown by tailback Leon Ivery and White team QB Jerry Bell.

-Alex Gross stood out... again, do I sound surprised?

-Kalasi Huggins and Calvin Otis seemed improved at the corners. That's encouraging, because they looked darned good a lot of last year anyway!

-John Seiler, voted most improved offensive player of the spring, looked the best offensive lineman.


I am also very happy to report that permanent captains have been named for 2009. They are M.A. Olawale, Austin Knowlin, Taylor Joseph, John Seiler, Lou Miller, and the only non-senior, Alex Gross.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The End of the Affair

Kieffer Garton brought the end of the Irvin era in Philly

In all his years as Penn's head coach, I never sensed a real weakness in Al Bagnoli. That is, until 2006 when Coach Bags fell under the spell of QB Robert Irvin. Over good periods of the 2006, 2007, and 2008 season, Bagnoli remained seemingly convinced that Irvin was the man to lead his Quakers. He finally broke that spell midway through last year, and Penn looks a lot more like the Penn we've known for most of the last 25 years ever since.

The new sheriff in town is rising junior QB Kieffer Garton, who took over the starting job and showed great prowess as a runner averaging nearly 6 yards per carry. Garton got his first significant playing time in the Brown game in week 7 and then he started the final three games of the year. He didn't turn the Quaker offense into a 30-point-per-game juggernaut, but he provided a shot in the arm that made Penn look like a much better team than they did in the first half of the season.

Penn was also helped down the stretch by the resurgeance of Michael DiMaggio, another rising junior who is back for 2009.

1) Who else is back?

3 out of the five offensive linemen who allowed just 12 sacks and produced a decent 140-yards-per-game rushing attack are returning. But one of the graduating front five was their best in 2008, First Team All Ivy lineman Chris Kovalcik.

The top three pass-catching wide receivers are back in Kyle Derham, Marcus Lawrence, and Tyler Fisher. But Second Team All-Ivy tight end Josh Koontz is graduating.

I think the Quakers will attempt to keep the varied running attack going with DiMaggio and Garton sharing about an equal number of carries, and that will be the crux of the Penn offense. They could do a lot worse.

2) How about the defense?

Coach Bagnoli may have broken his offensive good judgment streak with Irvin, but he never falls down when it comes to crafting strong defensive teams. Penn gave up just 100 points in their seven Ivy games and held all opponents to an average of less than 91 yards rushing per game.

Four of the front five defensive starters are back, including Second Team All-Ivy
Joe Goniprow.

Jake Lewko is back at linebacker, but star linebacker Jay Colabella is graduating.

In the secondary, star defensive backs Britton Ertmann and Tyson Maugle are gone, and only one starter is back. But that starter is First Team All Ivy corner Chris Wynn. It's possible teams will try to test the new secondary with lots of passing... if they get the chance with what should be a great Quaker pass rush.

3) Could Penn win the title?

This looks like the best Quaker team since the 2003 champs. But the offense is somewhat in question, especially if Garton gets injured or DiMaggio's late season push was a mirage. The mostly new secondary could also be a problem, but I can't see that sinking the Penn ship on its own.

There doesn't seem like any team Penn can't beat this season, but the two road contests against Harvard and Brown could be very tough. It's hard to see the Quakers winning both of those games, and they may need to do that to win the title.

Monday's Quick Review/Preview: Harvard


Once again, don't forget the Spring Game tomorrow at Wien Stadium at 9:30am. I am sorry I will not be with you, but my daughter Jordan's first tee ball game is a priority!

I will publish all reasonable comments and observations about the game, but keep it fair. I hope everyone who does go has a great, great day!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Bye Bye Bulldogs

Paul Rice returns, but just about everyone else is gone at Yale

2008 preseason favorite Yale, stumbled out of the gate last year with a loss at Cornell in week 2 and never got their offense going enough to truly compete for the title down the stretch.

The defense was truly great, barely giving up 100 points for the season and keeping the Elis in every game week after week. But the key leader of that defense, linebacker Bobby Abare, is gone to graduation as are an inordinate number of key starters from the last two years.

The offense loses its "Mr. Everything" in RB Mike McLeod.

Throw in a new head coach in Tom Williams, and you have all the makings of a rough transition year in New Haven.

1) Are there any impact players returning?

I think the best overrall returnee is cornerback Paul Rice. With fellow defensive back Larry Abare expected to return as a 5th year player, Yale's pass defense should remain pretty good. On offense, QB Brook Hart is back and while he wasn't spectacular he did avoid making huge mistakes which can sometimes be enough. The entire core wide receiving crew returns as well, including Jordan Forney and H-Back John Sheffield, (who operates more like a WR overall).

But four of the five offensive line starters are gone, making the job for whoever is unlucky enough to try to replace McLeod even harder.

Getting back to the defense, the three key starters on Yale's front five are also lost as is the entire starting linebacking crew, (although to be fair, the Elis only started two LB's in Bobby Abare and Jay Pikerton).

Solid kicker/punter Tom Mante will be back to offer some stability there.

It's not a total decimation to graduation, but it's pretty bad. At least Williams won't have to worry about ruffling too many veteran feathers when he chooses his starting lineup.

2) What has to happen to keep Yale in the first division?

Someone is going to have to run the ball and do it very well. Yale insiders were really high on rising sophomore Alex Thomas a year ago, and they still are but not as much. Again, with a new offensive line to break in at the same time, it's not going to be easy for anyone.

Coach Williams may decide to lean on his experienced receiving corps, but Yale hasn't had to rely on the passing game since 2005 and that was before just about everyone's time on this team.

There will be other QB candidates, but I think Hart will get the starting nod and he's going to have to deal with being the true leader of the offense. He too will need to do that with a new offensive line in front of him.

The defense also needs to pull some new starters out its hat and prove it can be dominant without Abare.

It all seems like a lot to ask of a new coach, new running back, new offensive line, and a mostly new defensive line.

Like Princeton, I think the Bulldogs will be able to beat Cornell and Dartmouth, (those are both home games), but besting Penn, Harvard and Brown seems like a big stretch. The games against Princeton and Columbia, both on the road, will decide whether the Yalies will be a 3rd/4th place team or a bottom dweller. Those games look like toss ups at this early stage.

Tomorrow's quick review/preview: PENN

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

QB Quandry

Who will be the Tiger QB in 2009? Your guess is as good as any.

Princeton came in 5th in the Ivy standings in 2008, leading the second division with wins over Columbia, Cornell, and Dartmouth.

There are some decent arguments on all sides on the question of whether the Tigers will move up, fall down or stay put.

1) Who the heck is playing QB this season?

That's the $64 trillion qustion, (sorry, inflation), right now. Last season Princeton got lucky as first-time starter Brian Anderson, (he actually started one game going into 2008), had a very good year under center. But now he's graduated and the Tigers aren't touting any of his backups the way they promoted him last year during the offseason. And while it's not unusual to have to break in a new starter in college football, it doesn't seem like Princeton has anybody even groomed for the job right now. The school web site portrays the situation as an "open competition," which has a lot of Tiger fans fearing the worst.

And this is an offense that needs a shot in the arm. Princeton struggled to average about 18 points per game overall and less than that in the Ivy contests. All the key 2008 receivers, with the exception of the promising rising junior Trey Peacock, are also gone.

2) Are the other position situations as scary as the QB slot?

Absolutely not. There are a lot of reasons to be optimistic thanks to a decent amount of very good returning players, especially on defense.

2/3 of the starting D-line is gone, but after that the defense remains mostly intact. The big stars are guys like Scot Britton, Cart Kelly, Steven Cody and Wilson Cates. The high-powered Brown Bears were the only Ivy team to crack the 30-point threshhold against the Tigers in 2008. So they have that going for them.

The offense brings back 2008 Ivy League rushing leader Jordan Culbreath and 3/4 of a starting offensive line that is probably the most experienced group in Ivy history. It's going to be a lot easier for the Tigers' new QB to get comfy with a supporting cast like that. There are a lot of Ivy teams that would be happy to get a starting tailback with HALF the yardage Culbreath put out last season.

3) Can Princeton Surprise?

I think the Tigers could be a 4-3 team in the league with a few good breaks, but better than that is a stretch. Getting lucky with a brand new QB, new receiving corps, AND mostly new defensive line is really asking too much. And if Culbreath gets hurt or suffers statiscally for whatever reason, Princeton could be fighting to stay out of the basement.

The bubble games for the Tigers are the home contests against Columbia in week 3 and Yale in week 9. I think Princeton can beat Cornell and Dartmouth, but will have a very rough time edging Harvard, Penn, and Brown, (all on the road). If they can beat the Lions and Elis, then the Tigers will go 4-3 and climb into the first division. A split, and they stay where they are. Get swept, and it's bottom feeding time.

Tomorrow's Quick Review/Preview: YALE

In the Wilderness

The Big Red have a rough road ahead for 2009

Now for a quick look at the 7th place team in the 2008 Ivy League, Cornell.

I know the official Ivy standings had Cornell and Columbia tied for 6th, but Columbia beat Cornell head-to-head... enough said.

1) What happened to Cornell last year after that great 3-0 start?

Live by the bomb, die by the bomb. The Big Red used a short and long passing attack to squeak by Bucknell, Yale, and Lehigh in exciting fashion to start the year, but then opposing defenses got the message and started to defend the pass in earnest. The result was a 1-6 record the rest of the way and Cornell QB Nate Ford ended the season with a whopping 19 interceptions.

2) Are any of the big name 2008 stars coming back for '09?

With the exception of rising seniors Chris Costello and Bryan Walters, not really. Cornell has just 21 returning seniors this season compared to 33 in 2008. The Big Red needs a new starting QB, a lot of new starting wide receivers, three new starting offensive linemen, three new starting defensive linemen, three new starting defensive backs, and two new starting linebackers. That, my friends, is decimation. Of all the Ivy teams, Cornell is really feeling graduation losses the most, and this was a 7th place team even with all of that senior experience in 2008.

I know there are a lot of people who think the speedy Stephen Liuzza will be a great starting QB this year. But honestly, if he were "all that" as a passer/runner wouldn't he have been given the starting job by now? Nate Ford had a great arm, but he threw way too many interceptions not to make the Big Red coaches at least want to try someone else under center. My take is that Liuzza makes for a better receiver who can occasionally drop back and pass. I don't think he can be the 60-minute starter at QB for Cornell.

2) Are there any reasons to be optimistic?

I still like the Big Red's home field advantage at Schoelkopf, making their home 2009 games against Columbia and Bucknell a lot more winnable. I also think the change in personnel on the field will force Cornell to run the ball more which could work nicely with the experienced, if unspectacular, Randy Barbour coming back. Barbour's fans have long complained that he hasn't been given enough carries. This may be the year he gets to prove them right.

3) Can Jim Knowles Survive?

I think he may be in the most trouble of any Ivy coach right now. Cornell's new-found good national sports buzz thanks to basketball and lacrosse success is making the weaker programs like the football team stick out like a sore thumb. After intially pumping the football team with some excitement in 2004 and 2005, Coach Knowles seems to have fumbled his best chances to move up in the standings. The biggest problem is winning, or should I say losing, on the road. The Big Red haven't won a road Ivy game since 2005. Even Columbia has beaten an Ivy foe away from home more recently than that.

4) Why are you so harsh on Cornell?

I thought Cornell would come in last place in 2008, and after that nice start they played like a last place team and just barely avoided the cellar. Now the team that looked like the weakest in the league in '08 seems a whole lot weaker coming in to 2009. It's hard to give them the benefit of the doubt.

Tomorrow's quick review/previer: PRINCETON

Monday, April 13, 2009

View from the Bottom

Rapp, Williams, and Dete... all gone in 2009

Dartmouth begins its spring football season today, and that makes this day as good as any to begin my quick look back/quick look ahead assessment of the Ivy football teams.

Note that this is not the kind of in-depth preseason predictions and analyses I usually work up every August. This is more of a "where are they right now?" type of thing.

I'll do these in reverse order based on the 2008 standings. So again, let's start with Dartmouth.

1) Looking back, did Dartmouth deserve to go 0-10?

At this time last year, I was super impressed with then rising-senior RB Milan Williams. I thought he could lift the Big Green into the middle of the pack in the Ivies. But he was banged up, (again), a bit this past year, and the offensive line was just obliterated by injury.

Of course, it's hard to say anyone "deserves" to go winless for an entire season. We Columbia fans know how hard that is, and it doesn't get any easier no matter how often it happens to your team.

But for a proud program like Dartmouth to literally hit rock bottom, it must be especially difficult. The Big Green still have the most Ivy titles under their belt since the league was formed in 1956.

However, this is not about what going 0-10 feels like. It's about whether Dartmouth was really that much worse than all of its opponents in 2008.

The rough answer is: yes.

The numbers don't lie. Dartmouth's points allowed total was almost three times as much as the Big Green scored all season. That's something very reminiscent of the losing streak years at Columbia when the Lions' opponents tripled, or almost tripled the Columbia output in '85, '86, and '87 -- those were all 0-10 seasons. Compare that to the last 0-10 team in Ivy history, the 1992 Brown Bears, who were "only" outscored by a little more than double their offensive output that year. In other words, this was just a very overmatched Big Green team week in and week out.

Dartmouth's two best chances for 2008 wins actually came on the road. They had a good chance to beat the Lions in Columbia's eventual 21-13 win, (that 8-point final deficit would be the closest loss of the year for the Big Green), and they tested Penn at Franklin Field in what turned out to be a 23-10 defeat to the Quakers.

Other than that, it wasn't even close. And don't bother looking at the stats pages for relief, you won't find it there.

The worst stat? The Big Green averaged less than 44 yards rushing per game. I don't care if you have Dan Fouts, Charlie Joiner, John Jefferson and Kellen Winslow in your passing attack, you can't win with running like that.

The defense wasn't much better, allowing a whopping 231 rushing yards and 220 passing yards per game.

2) Is there good reason for some optimism?

Some of the freshmen pressed into emergency duty did pretty well last year and they should provide some needed experience for 2009. Rising sophomores Connor Kempe at QB, Austen Fletcher on the O-line, Nick Schwieger at RB, and corner Shawn Abuhoff will be seasoned nicely for 2009.

The incoming freshmen recruits look to be at least a good-sized bunch. Pushing Dartmouth around on the line of scrimmage won't be so easy this year or at least by 2010.

Also, the two opponents Dartmouth came closest to beating in 2008, Columbia and Penn, will both be visiting Hanover in 2009 where home field advantage could tip the scales in the Big Green's favor.

And finally, it does seem like Head Coach Buddy Teevens is fighting for his job. Another 0-10 or 1-9 record and he's probably gone. Teevens is not the kind of guy who takes things lying down. He's a doer, and his enthusiasm should boil over to the rest of the team somehow.

3) Is there a reason to be pessimistic?

There are quite a few.

Freshmen experience is nice, but it doesn't always translate into solid improvements in the following years. If I had to guess, guys like Fletcher and Abuhoff will get better, but I'm not so sure about Schwieger and Kempe, (but I would put Kempe as a better bet than Schwieger right now).

One good thing about youth is that it brings a lot of healthy enthusiasm to the table. The problem is, with the Big Green's murderous early season schedule, the team seems to run out of emotional gas after going 0-5 or 1-4 year after year in the 1st half. Colgate, UNH, Penn, Holy Cross and Yale are still the first five games of the year on 2009 calendar.

While Penn is an early home game, the Quakers seem to be a much better team than they were in early 2008. As for the Lions, they could have easily lost last year's game at home against Dartmouth, but in retrospect it should have been more of a rout. The Big Green's only TD came after a terrible call that should have resulted in a Dartmouth turnover. The battle on the line of scrimmage was really controlled by Columbia, and a gimme field goal attempt or two by the Lions was botched. That 21-13 final score could have easily been more like 27-6.

But more troubling than the schedule is the dearth of real stars at the key positions right now. Rising junior WR/QB Tim McManus, (he's probably going to stay at WR this year for the most part), is the big exception, but none of the other receivers, running backs, QB's, or defenders grab much recognition. Pete Piederman at safety looks like their best returning defender, while guys like Ian Wilson, Andrew Dete, Joe Battaglia, and even Ryan Muttalib are lost to graduation.

I just don't see how 2009 can be anything but another rebuilding year in Hanover.

We'll check back again in August to see if anything's changed.

Tomorrows "Quick Review/Preview": CORNELL

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Forgotten All-American?

Lou Little's best students became coaches themselves

Ask even the best long-time Columbia fans to name the greatest players under Lou Little, and most will probably forget to name Frank Sniadack who made several All-American lists as a star center on those great Lion teams of the mid-1940's.

The best of those teams was the 8-1 squad of 1945 that also featured Eugene Rossides and Lou Kuserow. Sniadack was already a star in the 1944 season, when he as named to the all-star Blue team in the old "Blue-Gray" postseason game.

Sniadack went on to become a legendary high school football coach in his own right at Killingly High School football in Connecticut. And later this month, he will be inducted into the New Britain Sports Hall of Fame.

Sniadack coached for just seven years, but in that time he won three state titles and back-to-back undefeated seasons.

If he's not too busy, maybe he can give some of the current Columbia offensive linemen a few pointers!

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Lancing the Knights

The Lions are looking to repeat as champs

I'm in the pre-Passover rush toda, so I just wanted to say:

Congratulations to the baseball team for its impressive 9-1 thumping of Rutgers at Rutgers yesterday! It definitely looks like the Lions have the inside track to winning the Lou Gehrig Division and getting back into the Ivy League Championship Series which they won last season.

Wednesday, April 08, 2009

Working Title

Owen Fraser leads a promising crop of rising sophomore linemen (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics)

The Steel Curtain.


Purple People Eaters.

Orange Crush.

The Fearsome Foursome.

The New York Sack Exchange.

Those are the most memorable nicknames of the greatest defenses, defensive front fours actually, in NFL history.

You have to be really, really great to earn nickname status. You need guys like "Mean" Joe Green. Bob Lilly, Carl Eller, Lyle Alzado, Deacon Jones, and Joe Klecko.

You need to cast fear into the stomachs of opposing quarterbacks, frustration in the minds of running backs, and excitement in the hearts of the hometown fans.

Ladies and gentlemen, with some of the best returning defensive lineman in the Ivy League I think the 2009 Columbia front four may indeed be "nickname worthy."

The group is headlined by the 2008 Ivy League sack and tackle-for-loss leader Lou Miller. The 1st Team All Ivy rising senior makes things easy for sportswriters and announcers as we can simple say "it's Miller time" every time he makes a play. But we're looking for a nickname or a calling card for the whole unit.

After Miller we have rising sophomore Owen Fraser, who not only grabbed a rare starting slot for a freshmen linemen in 2008, but he finished with Honorable Mention All Ivy honors. Fraser showed remarkable speed for someone with his size and he really helped plug the middle, especially against the run.

I don't know who the other leading contenders for that starting front four are right now. As I wrote last month, there's a lot to like about Chris Groth, Matt Bashaw, and a good many others.

If the front four ends up being as good as I think it will be in 2009, we will really need a great nickname.

Here are some potential monikers, feel free to comment or add your own:

1) Monsters of Morningside

2) The Blue Wall

3) Columbia Crush

4) The Front Four-Point-Oh

(get it? Like a perfect GPA in that the four guys make sure the opposing offense gets zero points.)

5) The Sack Pack

6) The Broadway Beasts

Okay, now it's your turn.

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

I'll be seeing you... a bit later

It's hard to believe we're already about halfway through spring practice.

It'll also be hard for many of you to believe that I won't be able to attend the spring game... again.

The schedule change, (the game is still on April 18th, but now at 9:30am), conflicts with a very important event for me:

My daughter Jordan's FIRST EVER TEE BALL GAME!!

No way I'm missing that as she is so excited to get out there and play.

I am really sorry to miss the important scrimmage for the second year in a row, but have you seen my girls?

I will welcome appropriate comments about the game from those who can attend, and there will of course be a summary from the official athletics web site.

I wish I could clone myself someday. Until then, I belong to my girls.

Saturday, April 04, 2009

Rain Training & Ivy Press Box Review

It's a rainy day in NYC

The returning veteran Lion footballers resume practice today in a rainy New York City. And perhaps the best part of practice will be getting more used to the rain.

Rainy weather has for some reason become more common on football Saturdays here in the Northeast over the last two years.

The 2007 and 2008 seasons saw more rainy game conditions than sunny ones for the Lions.

Some of the roughest games over the last two years:

1) Dartmouth 2008

Probably the strongest winds I've ever seen at Wien Stadium. I thought the goalposts were coming down two or three times.

2) Towson 2008

The heaviest consistent rain at Columbia game that I have ever seen, (with the possible exception of the 1990 home game against Cornell). There were several puddles on the field and play had to be halted in the 1st half for 45 minutes because of lightning.

3) Marist 2007

The rain kept looking like it might let up... but it really never did. Luckily for the Lions, their offense didn't let up either in a 31-7 Columbia win.

4) Yale 2007

Very ugly and rainy conditions dominated the 1st half. It did get a little better in the second half, but still a rough day for the fans.

5) Brown 2008

No rain, but easily these were the coldest game conditions the Lions have faced since the 2003 snow-dominated game at Cornell. Thank God for the delicious hot soup they gave out liberally in the Brown Stadium press box.

Which brings us to another discussion...

I'm worried about ruffling a few feathers league-wide with my take on the press boxes and amenities at our opponents' stadiums, but what the hey?

I do realize that the food and other comforts offered to the journalists in press boxes are just a courtesy. So I don't want to appear like an ingrate. I really do appreciate whatever I get in these press boxes, but I think everyone loves reviews.

And again, what the hey?

But first, this is as good a time as any to remind all readers of the disclaimer that accompanies every post on this blog. The opinions expressed every day on this blog and especially today belong to Jake Novak and only Jake Novak. Any anger these posts create should be directed at me and me alone. Go ahead. But I warn you, I'm pretty sure I can take it. Remember, I once lived in Cleveland.

First off, let me give a shout out to our own home of Wien Stadium. We have the only press box that serves a halftime AND a pre-game meal, (the pre-game meal is actually a series of bagels and muffins, but NEW YORK bagels. Need I say more?), and the elevator service and completely closed-in area make things very comfortable for everyone involved. People may say they hate New York City traffic and parking, but no one in the Ivies who covers Columbia games dreads Wien Stadium once they get settled into our press box. No one.

Okay, now let's look at the other schools in alphabetical order:

1) Brown Stadium

Truly a tale of two stadiums. The press box is awful, period. And the people who do most of the complaining are the Brown employees! (They did so non-stop last November). The decaying wooden structure is a little scary, and let's not even mention the bathroom.

BUT, the folks at Brown can make a very good case for having the best and most appropriate food in the Ivies. The sandwiches, the cookies, and that much needed delicious soup are worth every splinter and other indignity their press box has to offer.

2) Schoelkopf Field, (Cornell)

This is a very, very nice facility, it has cozy broadcast rooms and a completely closed-in structure to keep that biting Ithaca wind off your face.

The food? Eh. Totally forgettable and not easy to get to as they keep it in a corner of the floor that leads to bottlenecking. But they also had soup that was good. Still, I think I'm bringing my own food next time.

3) Memorial Field, (Dartmouth)

Certainly a friendly atmosphere, but I was a little afraid climbing the steps up there and again, let's not mention the bathroom. The food was not that great and also not plentiful enough. I realize Hanover, NH is supposed to be rustic, but come on. I'm not sure if the press box has been rennovated since 2007, but I don't think so.

UPDATE: Bruce Wood informs us in the comments section that a rennovation has been planned, but so far no dice.

4) Harvard Stadium

It's a hike to get up the stairs to the press area, but it's not a scary hike on narrow rickety steps like Dartmouth, so I actually enjoy the workout, (I always take staircases two steps a time... you should too). The food is pretty forgettable... in fact, I really can't remember what I ate at Harvard this past season. That's bad.

5) Franklin Field (Penn)

As the kids say these days: OMG. This has to be the worst place for anyone covering a game through and through. I can honestly say the make-shift looking scaffold where they seat the media is frightening. It had the quaint quality of allowing all the cold air in, but blocking out the sun completely. The result was I froze thru a 55 degree day. And here's the kicker: NO FOOD! Thank God the Penn game this season is at home. (Is there a building inspector in Philly I can forward this to?)

6) Princeton Stadium

Well, this is nice... very nice. The newest Ivy football stadium has great broadcast booths, pretty good food, and just great amenities all around. Forget what you hear about Harvard and Yale... Princeton has the money. I mean the REAL money.

7) Yale Bowl

It's a chilly open air press box impossibly far from the field, but the food is plentiful and pretty good. I've been lucky enough to only be there on nice weather days, I can imagine things getting really dicey on windy, rainy Saturdays.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Interview with Roger Dennis '66, Part 1

Roger Dennis, 2nd row first on the left, at his 40th High school reunion

Several months ago, former Lion halfback/wingback Roger Dennis stumbled across this blog for the first time and did us the great favor of leaving a nice comment.

Since then I've established a nice correspondence with Roger, who was Lion QB Archie Roberts' top passing target during the 1964 season. Roger's greatest statistical day at Columbia came in a 38-35 loss in '64 to Rutgers when he broke the then-school record for receiving yards with 157. Roberts also broke the school record for passing yards that day with 320. Dennis was also a heck of a punt returner.

Imagine my surprise when I learned that Roger was born and raised in my current home town on North Bellmore, New York, (on the South Shore of Long Island). It turned out we had a lot in common.

But Roger's story, especially his post-Columbia years, is very very different from the average ex-Ivy League football player's experience. Lest anyone think I am always a right wing zealot, I am more than happy to present his fascinating story that includes a little "counterculture" as they used to say. And Roger is no hippie-turned-stock broker... as you will see.

Because Roger has been so kind as to go into great detail with his answers, I am going to present this interview in several parts.

Let's start from the beginning:

Jake: Describe your high school career and how it led you to playing at Columbia.

Roger Dennis: When I entered high school (tenth grade) I was the best athlete in the sophomore class (at least), was probably in the top ten percent academically, was shy but pretty highly respected; popular even with my shyness because of my athletic/academic achievements, and the fact that I didn't have a superiority thing.

I respected and got along with students from all the academic tiers, and also the 'hoods' (the closest thing we had to an 'outlaw' element), though I'm not aware of any drugs or crime stuff going on with these guys. And most of the drinking was done by the athletes, especially the footballers. But I didn't drink. When I got to be a junior and senior and was invited into "Da Crew," the football fraternity, whenever I showed up at that week's party, the joke was "Roger's here; bring out the milk."

I only played JV football during my sophomore year, though I surely could have contributed to the varsity and probably was better than their starting tailback.

Mepham High School in North Bellmore, like Princeton, was one of the few teams that still played a Single Wing offense. I played JV basketball and was pretty good; averaged double figures. I played varsity baseball as a shortstop, but there were at least five or six of my fellow sophomores who deserved to play varsity baseball before I did.

Junior year I was the best player on the football team and senior year I was best or second best. We had a kid named Bobby Porfidio who was a great athlete; by then he was definitely the best athlete at Mepham and was probably one of the top five or ten athletes in all of New York State. As a 5'3" 140 pounder he played second string wingback behind a senior who was nowhere near as good as he. He was a state champion wrestler at maybe 125 lbs, and he was a great baseball player. Although he was so short many of us felt he was major league material.

As a soph I had no idea what an Ivy League school was. My background was working class/lower middle class, and nobody in my family had ever gone to college, period. I was a very proud American, thrilled by the values that the USA stood for - liberty and justice for all; and I had not yet realized I was a Conscientious Objector. So when I was a sophomore I set my sights on going to West Point; I felt I should serve this country that I loved so much. I was so proud of 'America' that, all throughout high school, I stood up when the National Anthem played, even when I was alone in my living room watching Mickey Mantle and the Yankees on TV! When I graduated from Mepham I gave a speech about how we should all become great citizens of this great country. (What a different speech I would have given a year later, but I'm getting ahead of myself here.)

Anyway, Miss Clark, my guidance counselor, called me into her office one day and introduced me to Ivy League schools. I liked what I heard and decided to set my sights on going this route.

I was not happy with what was happening in the classroom now that I was in tenth grade. I had little interest in the curriculum, and the teachers were working our butts off. Hours and hours of homework, following strenuous sports practices and a long walk home. The kicker was that even with all this work I was still doing badly academically - I had like a 78 average. Even with the weighting system they kept telling us about, I knew that wasn't going to get me into any Ivy League school. Luckily, I didn't have parents who were going to threaten suicide or heart attacks, or disown me, if I didn't 'reach for the stars' academically. My father left when I was four and was out of my life. My mom trusted me to make my own decisions.

So I made a very important decision: I would drop out of the advanced classes. I knew I could maintain a high 80's average in the Regents track - and do so with a lot less homework and a lot more sleep. I also figured I would probably be elected class president and student council president, and be in the Key Club, and get various other awards and honors; and I expected to do well athletically. Since I was highly respected by almost everybody, I also figured I'd have real good reference letters. So if I could score well on the S.A.T.'s I figured I'd have a good shot at the Ivies. The principal tried to talk me out of leaving the advanced track, but my mind was made up.

It worked out just as I had envisioned. I scored above 1370 on the S.A.T.'s. I made second team All-County halfback in the now-defunct Long Island Press and didn't even get Honorable Mention in Newsday. I think they were both wrong; I think I would have picked myself third team or Honorable Mention. Surely Newsday was wrong to totally ignore me. I was recruited by all the Ivies except Penn and Yale - never could figure that out but didn't lose any sleep over it. I applied to four of them plus Colgate as my safe school. Despite the fact that they recruited me worse than anybody, Columbia was my first choice with Princeton second. I liked the idea of being in New York City, I had a Regents scholarship which I could use at Columbia but not Princeton. I didn't know how good I was and figured my chances to play would be better at Columbia, and I wanted to be closer to my girlfriend back home. Princeton appealed because of the campus, the name, it was still pretty close to home, and they played single wing. But when all was weighed out, I wanted Columbia.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Another Player from St. X

Ian Cummins with his parents

Cincinnati-area high school powerhouse St. Xavier, the same place we got stars like Drew Quinn and Lou Miller, is sending us another player.

Wide receiver Ian Cummins is on his way to Morningside Heights. Cummins battled some injuries in his senior season and so he ended up falling below the radar in the recruiting battles.

Here's a little more info on Cummins from his senior profile.

See our UNOFFICIAL updated recruit list below:

1. Seyi Adebayo, 6'3" - 217, defensive end, Brophy College Prep, Phoenix, AZ

2. Sean Brackett, 6'1" - 195, quarterback, Griswold H.S., Jewett City, CT

3. Matt Bocci, 5'10" - 180, safety, Sacred Heart Prep, Atherton, CA

4. Ian Cummins, 6'2 - 195, wide receiver, St. Xavier High School, Cincinnati, OH

5. Brian De Veau, 6'1" - 200, quarterback, wide receiver, Kinnelon H.S., Kinnelon, NJ

6. Xander Frantz, 6'4" - 260, offensive guard, Buckingham, Browne & Nichols H. S., Cambridge, MA

7. Nick Gerst, 5'8" - 170, running back, Bergen Catholic H.S., Paramus, NJ

8. Steve Grassa, 5'11" - 188, safety, Buckinghham, Browne & Nichols School, Cambridge, MA

9. Greg Guttas, 5'11" - 190, kicker/punter, Serra H.S., San Mateo, CA

10. Dallas Hartman, 6'5" - 235, tight end, Wilimington Area H.S., New Wilmington, PA

11. Ian Hillman, 6'5" - 230, defensive end, Germantown Academy, Ft. Washington, PA

12. Dan Kerrigan, 6'2" - 210, linebacker, Manasquan High School, Manasquan NJ

13. Alec Kosminskas, 6'3" - 286, offensive lineman, Loyola Academy, Wilmette, IL

14. Josh Martin, 6'3" - 230, defensive lineman, Cherokee Trail H.S., Aurora, CO

15. Andrew McHugh, 6'1" - 215, linebacker, St. John's Prep, Danvers, MA

16. Joe Nathan, 6'2" - 215, linebacker, Cypress Bay H.S., Broward, FL

17. Price Pinkerton, 6'1" - 175, wide receiver, Cascia Hall, Tulsa, OK

18. *James Pizzo, 6'2" - 175 wide receiver, Monsignor Farrell, New York, NY*

19. Michael Poage, 6'2" - 290, defensive lineman, Redlands H.S., Redlands, CA

20. Shad Sommers, 6'3 - 275 offensive guard/defensive end, Milton H.S., Milton, MA

21. Chris Thomas, 5'11" - 160 DB/kick returner, Moreau Catholic H.S., CA

22. Anthony Villamanga, 5'11" - 265, defensive lineman, Cypress Woods H.S., Houston, TX

23. Mike Waller, 6'1" - 190, linebacker, Wayne Hills H.S., Wayne, NJ

24. Eric Walker, 6'3" - 285, offensive tackle, Arlington H.S., Arlington, TX

25. Scott Ward, 6'7" - 241, offensive line/defensive line, Newport Harbor H.S., Newport Beach, CA

26. Andrew Weiss, 6'1" - 175, quarterback, Ramapo H.S., Franklin Lakes, NJ

*= Pizzo has publicly said he "hopes" to attend Columbia, which could mean this is not a done deal

Seitz Mystery Solved

Action from the 1953 Harvard-Columbia game at Baker Field. Columbia won, 8-0

Program from the 1953 game

Almost four months ago, I reported on the death of 3-time CU football letterman George Seitz '56.

At that time, I was unable to say much about his career.

But thanks to a long-time friend of Sietz who saw this Web Site, I now have some details.

Michael Bamberger writes:

"I noticed your note about George Seitz, the Columbia football player. Geroge died on December 31, 2008, at age 74. He was a truly kind soul, but it's easy to imagine his joy at beating Harvard! His football experiences, at Cardinal Hayes High School and for Lou Little's teams at Columbia, were central parts of his life. He was an all-Ivy two-way end, tall and slim and fast. He also rowed crew. After Columbia, he received an MBA at NYU and had a long career as an engineer with a special interest in plant constructions, most notably for Avery Label. He lived most of his adult life in Hacienda Heights, near Los Angeles, and is survived by two sisters and a brother, his wife, Rosanne, four children and five grandchildren. He drank tea from a Columbia mug and always knew when Columbia won. As I went to Penn, we would sometimes talk about George Munger and Franklin Field. He loved watching the college and pro game on TV, but never encouraged his two sons to play. The game cost him too many teeth, but provided him with many good memories. Thank you for your interest in George--he was a mensch"

We wish George's friends and family all the best.