Friday, May 29, 2009

The Journal Gets it Right

Columbia Athletic Director Dianne Murphy and former Lion football great Marcellus Wiley are quoted prominently this morning in a Wall Street Journal article about Ivy sports. It's a great piece that achieves the rare feat of accurately depicting the goals most real Ivy sports fans have. I can only imagine how badly the New York Times would have handled the same story if it chose to care about Ivy sports again.

One surprise, at least for me, in the piece is the revelation that Dr. Murphy is against the idea of a postseason Ivy basketball tournament.

Hopefully, new Ivy League Executive Director Robin Harris will truly be listening to all the good arguments about the future of the league.

Big Things to Watch

Princeton Head Coach Roger Hughes

The first big thing is really BIG. Princeton's list of 31 incoming freshman football players is out today and it includes a 6-7, 325-pound offensive lineman named Charlie Langerhans from Moorestown, New Jersey. That's about as big a freshman recruit I've ever heard of in the Ivies.

Langerhans joins a Princeton squad with the most experienced offensive line in the league, so he may not see any action for a couple of years. But we'll be watching.

Another eye-catching aspect of Princeton's list is the fact that they have one incoming freshman listed solely as a long snapper, Jason Tiemeier from Dublin, Ohio.

This leaves Harvard as the only Ivy that hasn't released its list of incoming freshmen.

But there is news out Cambridge, and it's not of the good variety. Crimson running backs coach Joe Villapiano has been arrested on charges he tried to run down his pregnant ex-girlfriend in his car.

We'll see how this story pans out, but I will be keeping a close eye on the tone of the media coverage as well. I think all of us in the Ivies should hold ourselves to a higher standard, but when others arbitrarily hold us to a higher standard, I get worried.

The bottom line is that no one, not even a linebackers coach at Alabama, should be running over someone with their car. It's not any more or less shocking or unacceptable because it allegedly happened at Harvard. I don't mind the coverage of the story or the outrage connected to it, I just object to the possible excusing or playing down of similar behavior at big-time BCS programs.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Run, Run, Run?

Ryan Kuhn had a banner year in 2005

I've been watching Ivy football for three decades and one of the things I've learned is that no Ivy defense can effectively and consistently stop a running QB... not even a mediocre running QB.

I'm not sure if it's the speed or the size of the average Ivy defender, or something else, but more often than not when an Ivy QB takes off for the open field, he usually finds it.

When it comes down to it, the only thing that stops running QB's are injuries or coaches justifiably worrying about injuries.

Meanwhile, Columbia has much better than a mediocre running QB in Millie Olawale, and he and fellow QB Shane Kelly were the biggest reasons why the Lions did better than double its rushing yardage output in 2008 compared to 2007.

You have to really crunch the numbers to see just how effective the Columbia QB's were at running the ball last season.

NCAA rules really skew the running stats for QB's because all sacks are counted against running yardage and not passing yardage, (yes, you've heard me complaining about this before). So a lot of the "lost running yardage" logged by Olawale and Kelly last season was lost as those QB's were attempting to pass, not run. Actually, I'd say more than 90% of that lost yardage came in passing situations.

But to be conservative, let's say that only 50% of Olawale's and Kelly's lost rushing yardage came from sacks. That would give Olawale a total of 495 rushing yards on 68 carries, (7.2 yards per carry), and Kelly 394 yards on 71 carries, (5.5 yards per carry). Not bad. Okay, let's just say it: that's awesome.

What if Olawale ran the ball 15 times per game? Would he crack a 1,000 yards for the season?

More importantly, would it win games?

The last Ivy QB to rush for a 1,000 yards in a season was Ryan Kuhn of Cornell in 2005. He had future NFLer Kevin Boothe blocking for him and some great talent to go with it, but was he bigger, stronger, and faster than Olawale?

I actually don't think so.

Even with Kuhn, Boothe, and a young Luke Siwula also running for more than 1,000 yards in '05, the Big Red only went 6-4, 4-3 Ivy. (Although most of Columbia's fans would take that record in most years).

We know that you can't win on running alone. Columbia's offense won't get the job done in 2009 without passing the ball effectively. That would be true even if the Lions didn't have Austin Knowlin, who may be the most talented wide receiver in the program's history.

The defense will also have to step it up and continue the progress it made last season to make a run-oriented offense work. It won't do to give up quick scores if your own offense is more of a grind-it-out variety.

And then that injury bugaboo rears its ugly head again. Anyone who saw Millie get helicoptered in the Brown game knows what I'm talking about.

And we don't even know if Olawale will be "the" starter... I haven't seen any publications quoting Coach Wilson saying that Millie is the starter and I am not privvy to that kind of inside info, despite what some may believe.

HOWEVER... I DO know just why the seagulls show up during the 4th quarter at Wien Stadium and not a moment earlier. It's a secret so dark, so evil... well let's just say the Illuminati may be involved, or the people responsible for Tom Hanks' new hair.

But perhaps I've said too much...

Our Best vs. the BCS

Cornell came so close

I watched a lot of Cornell's heartbreaking loss to Syracuse in the NCAA lacrosse national championship game yesterday. Despite the confounding nature of the Big Red's collapse at the end of the game, you have to be impressed with how far the non-scholarship guys from Ithaca went against a slew of scholarship programs like Virginia and Syracuse.

I know lacrosse and football are two very different sports, especially when it comes to team size, but I was wondering: if we assembled an all star team of Ivy football players, how well would that team do against the BCS powerhouses?

On talent alone, I think that all star could hold its own against a Big East, Pac 10, or even a few Big 10 teams, (remember New Hampshire beat Northwestern two years ago and I daresay an Ivy all star team could take UNH at least half the time). But the sticky issues would be overall team size and team depth.

A lot of Ivy players are a bit smaller than their BCS counterparts, which is workable enough at the skill positions, but not so much on the offensive and defensive lines. For example, our Lou Miller was a force as a slightly undersized defensive end last season in Ivy play, but would he be as effective against a Penn State O-line and blocking backs?

And while there is good depth at a lot of the key positions, the dearth of 1,000-yard running backs could be a big problem if our first stringer went down.

But I'm willing to hear what others might think of our chances. Better yet, what would be your strategy to beat a BCS team? Would you choose the current All Ivy roster, or go with a slightly different lineup more geared to victory over stats?

It's a good hot stove, (or in our case, cold air conditioner), league discussion topic.


Saturday, May 23, 2009

Brown and Penn Classes Released

Let's all try to look afraid

Okay, they came out earlier this week, but we were focusing on our own class anyway.

The "experts" all say the Brown and Penn recruiting classes are the best ever. We should all just give up now.

The good news is that that these are the other schools, and we can be a little more free with our comments, (good and bad), about their recruits.

I've decided to lighten things up a bit.

Here are some random thoughts:


Nathan Bernstein OL 6'3" 270 Charlotte, NC

Are you kidding me? A 6-3 270-pound Jewish boy from North Carolina who plays football? Somebody tell me how we missed this kid! I think the challenge of taking classes at Brown while playing football are going to be a breeze for this kid after all that.

Paxti Colbern TE 6'5" 245 Anchorage, AK

Anyone want to tell me the last time we had an Alaskan kid play in the Ivies? Anyone?

Ibeabuchi Jeremiah Oteh DB 6'0" 185 St. Louis, MO

Comes from a great program with a good track record of sending stars to Brown in particular. Might get a chance early. I look forward to mispronouncing his name early and often in the broadcast booth.

Reed Watne DB 6'0" 195 Los Angeles, CA

Boy, there were a lot of defensive backs in this class. This guy may be the best of all of them. He could also be the guy from L.A. who freezes his butt off in Providence in November.


Joe Bonadies 6’5, 275 Leonia High School

Ranked as one of the top 12 high school centers in America. From Leonia? Really? Leonia is kind of a small town. I know it as that place that I get stuck in when I get lost getting to the George Washington Bridge. I also know it as the hometown of a lovely co-worker. She is very nice. Wait, what were we talking about again?

Brandon Colavita 5’9, 205 Washington Township High School

Comes from Ralph DeBenardo's high school... he looks good. Can we just start calling him "Rocky" right now? Please? (Hello, any old-time Detroit Tigers fans out there?).

QB Andrew Holland 6’1, 200 St. Ignatius High School

Super high school program. There are a lot of BACK-UPS from St. I. who have ended up playing impact roles on Ivy teams. This kid started. As an added bonus, he gets to get out of Cleveland for the next four years, (I get to make that joke because I used to live there too. Back off, LeBron).

LB Steve Lias 6’2, 230 Upper St. Clair High School

I think we're all supposed to be afraid of him. Let's refer to him as "He Who Shall not be Named!"

QB Billy Ragone 6’1, 190 Cheshire High School

Columbia was among a number of other schools hoping to get him. Solution: let's find some guy who looks A LOT like him and take that guy to the prom.

Have a great Memorial Day everyone!!!

Friday, May 22, 2009

The New Names

So, there were a few names not on my unofficial list of incoming freshman football players.

Here they are:

1) Gregory Lee 6-4, 280 lbs. defensive lineman

Looks like Greg comes from a smaller program, but he certainly has big size for his position! He's another example of how much the team has become bigger under Coach Wilson.

2) Devan Luster 6-1, 210 lbs. defensive back

Devan comes from one of the elite New England prep schools. He was primarily a WR in high school where he was a super student.

3) Ryan Murphy 6-2, 205 lbs. defensive lineman

Comes from a well-respected Texas program. Seems undersized for a D-lineman, but the recipe that worked for us last year was big, big, big defensive tackles and speedy and slightly smaller defensive ends. Perhaps Murphy fits the latter category, or perhaps he will bulk up. Either way, we're glad to have him.

4) Will Patterson 6-1, 228 lbs. linebacker

I'll have to check to see when we last had a player from South Carolina. Patterson comes from a smaller program, but was good enough to be a state all-star. He seems like a promising addition to our strong linebacking corps.

5) Robert Sigmon, 5-10, 175 lbs. wide receiver

Seems like a very speedy smaller receiver from Florida. Will he run even faster without having to contend with the Florida heat?

6) Michael Williamson 6-2, 185 lbs. wide receiver/punter

Wait, now I'll have to check to see when we last had TWO players from South Carolina! Kudos to Coach Aaron Kelton who recruits the Carolinas. It's been a long time coming for the Palmetto state.


Two names on my unofficial list didn't make the official roster... at least not yet.

The first was James Pizzo, which was not too much of a surprise because he never actually said he was definitely in at Columbia.

Giving me more pause was not seeing Cameron Ross, who just spoke to a local paper last month about how he was coming to CU. Perhaps he will be a walk-on. We will watch out for him and anyone else who wants to join the ranks.

119 Strong!

Speaking of the ranks, if we add these 31 names to the returning veterans the varsity will be 119 strong for 2009. I know that only speaks to quantity and not necessarily quality, but getting the body count up is really a good thing.

Consider that the Lions went through the 2005 season with just 76 players on the roster. This is a 56.5% increase in just four years!

Kudos to Coach Wilson and all the recruiting coaches and assistants who have brought in these players and kept them with the program.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

The REAL List is Out!!!

Welcome to the class of 2013.

Let's discuss...

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Walk Down Memory Lane

Doc, I'm still having bad dreams about the '72 season

Former Columbia footballer John Breeskin is now a Pyschotherapist, (hmm... somehow that seems like a logical progression sometimes), and he's also a blogger. This latest post describes his memories of a delightful evening in New York City, I'm guessing sometime in 1955. (The only year that he was on the varsity that the Lions beat Brown was '55).

And Bruce Wood at the Big Green Alert Blog liked my idea about records that should be broken already at Columbia and he has his Dartmouth version up now.

I Have the List!!! (from 1975)

Times Square 1975, not the place to take recruits

Sorry for the tease, but super life-long Lions fan Walter Day was kind enough to send me more of his Columbia memorabilia this weekend and that package included a decent writeup of the incoming football recruits from the fall of 1975.

In the days of freshmen football, Columbia and the other Ivies would often bring in more than 45 to 50 players per year just to round out the squad.

With numbers like that, the report could only list and discuss a handful of freshmen recruits, and here were some of the names they highlighted:

Bob Burgman, described as the "prized" recruit of 1978, he ended up only lettering with the varsity in '78.

Vic Kaminski, a 240-pound offensive lineman, (that was big back then), from Ohio. He lettered as a junior and a senior.

The two players who did turn out to be big impact players down the road were singled out too and they were running back Pat Britt from Warren, Ohio and wide receiver Art Pulsinelli from Massapequa High School on Long Island.

Britt was an important part of that promising 1978 team that went 3-1-1 to start the season with wins over Harvard, Princeton, and a tie at Yale. He ended up rushing for 545 yards on just 135 carries and scored three touchdowns.

But it was Pulsinelli who was clearly the top prize of '75. He led the varsity in receiving in each of his three seasons with the big boys, puting up his best numbers as a junior in 1977 with 320 yards and four TD's.

Of course, any discussion of the recruiting class of 1975 is really missing a lot if it doesn't focus on that year's BASKETBALL recruits. Two of them, Ricky Free and Alton Byrd became Columbia all-time greats on the court... all thanks to then head coach Tom Penders. Yes, THAT Tom Penders.

Another highlight of this latest package from Walter was a 1972 article in the Daily News offering an in-depth preview of the Ivy football season. That was the year the Lions were favored by just about everyone to win the title.

The piece by Dave Hirshey began with this memorable line:

"It used to be the only things an Ivy League football player needed were 700 college boards, a Brooks Brothers wardrobe, and a name like Rodney Farnsworth Pennington III. No more. Now an Ivy League football player also needs talent."

Hmm... I wonder what Brown's All Ivy wide receiver Buddy Farnsworth would think of all that?

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

My Least Favorite Records

John Witkowski's passing records don't bother me

I love looking through the Columbia football record book from time to time.

I'm not pouring over the data to win at Columbia Football Jeopardy, or to feed my inner math geek.

Actually, I do it for two reasons: 1) I want to be aware in the broadcast booth if and when a Columbia record is about to fall, and 2) I like to remind myself of those Columbia records that are long overdue to be broken.

Breaking some of those older records could really be the key to a great season this year and beyond.

Here are my Top 5 LEAST favorite Lion records:

5) Single Season QB Completion Percentage: Archie Roberts .616, 1963

The great Archie Roberts holds this record, (which requires a minimum of 75 attempts), set during his junior season of 1963 when that kind of completion percentage was pretty high. But now, it's not exactly breathtaking. If a regular Columbia starter at QB breaks that record in the coming years, that would probably mean big-time offensive improvement that season.

4) No HYP Season Sweep

Columbia has never, and that's never in over 130 years or so, defeated Harvard, Princeton and Yale in the same season. Doing so in any given year would probably mean that the Lions are really contending for a title. And sweeping the "big boys" would always be nice.

3) Career Receptions: Don Lewis 176, (1981-83)

Austin Knowlin entered the 2008 season with 118 catches, and I thought he had a really great chance to bust that record last year. But he finished with 39 receptions and his career total now stands at 157 and third on the all-time list. Knowlin can't leap over Lewis and Bill Reggio in the three-year totals, (Reggio has 170), but he should break the overall record this year for sure.

I realize Columbia's offense changed when Craig Hormann graduated. But I dream of Knowlin getting about 7 receptions per game at least.

2) Single Season Receiving Yards: Don Lewis 1,000, 1982

I swear I have nothing against Don Lewis! But it seems like someone should have shattered this record a long time ago. Knowlin came darn close in 2007 with 988 yards, and I can remember 2-3 long receptions that were negated by penalties that would have put him over the top.

1) Best Home Winning Streak at Wien Stadium: 3 wins, 1996-97

It's all about winning, and you want your team to have a real home field advantage. Columbia won a pair of emotional games against Cornell and Brown in 1996 to close out the season and then won the home opener against Towson in 1997. That's the best we've done since Baker Field became Wien Stadium in 1984.

Columbia's home winning streak right now stands at 2 with the victories over Dartmouth and Cornell last year. To break the record, the Lions would have to beat a tough Central Connecticut team in the home opener and then Penn at Homecoming. Achieving that would certainly bring the program to a higher level... at least for 2009.

I like breaking things.

Waiting is Underrated

I just want to clarify my policy on publishing the names and bios of incoming freshmen.

As always, nothing you see on this blog can be deemed as "official" when it comes to information about the team. That tag can only be given to items you see on, the official site for the athletic department.

I will continue to publish links and my own comments about incoming freshmen who have publicly committed to Columbia in published reports in newspapers and reputable Web sites. I do this because I think each individual young man deserves some recognition just for making it this far. It's also nicer to pick them out individually as the news trickles in rather than waiting for the entire list to come out and "hold our applause to the end."

The last time I updated my very unofficial list was last month and you can see it here.

I do not, and have never, published names or info about players I've heard about via rumors, whispers, Vulcan mind-melds, etc.

So, remember that no official "list" of incoming recruits is really out there as far as I know anyway. We'll have time to parse through any added or lost names from my unofficial list when we see the info on

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Yale's List Released

Yale's Freshmen Unveiled!

Yale has released its list of 30 incoming freshmen for 2009.

The list does not include the name of Nebraska transfer QB Patrick Witt, who will come to Yale with three years of eligibility.

Some of the newcomers who caught my eye, especially with Yale's need to replace so many graduating impact players and to adjust to Witt's talents are:

6-3, 205-pound wide receiver John Runk from Anderson High School in Cincinnati.

6-0, 198-pound running back Taylor Stib from Pinnacle High School in Scottsdale, Arizona

And 6-2, 215-pound linebacker Allen Davis from South Grand Prairie Grand Prairie, Texas.

I'm not sure these three are going to make super players by any stretch, but they seem to have good potential considering the Bulldogs' current needs.

Yale comes to Wien Stadium to face the Lions on October 31st.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Crossing Out the Crossovers?

Tim Giel

A talented all-around athlete from Pittsburgh is coming to Columbia to play baseball next season.

He's Tim Giel, and he was also heavily recruited to play football by some of the Ivies and other mid-major schools.

Up until a few years ago, it was not uncommon to see a few Columbia athletes who played both football and varsity baseball, but that era seems to be gone for now.

I would say the biggest reason is the introduction of spring practice, which didn't exist for Ivy football before the mid 1990's. Spring practice always conflicts with the heart of the Ivy baseball regular season.

In any case, congratulations to the baseball team for snagging such a great-looking pitcher.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

The Kindest Cut of All?

The ACC makes a cut

The ACC has just voted to cap football travel squads for league games as a cost-cutting measure.

Don't be surprised if many of the other BCS conferences follow suit.

Believe it or not, this could be a good development for Ivy football.

As I have stated in the past, the loading up of even more top recruits by BCS schools over the past 15 years or so because of more college stars leaving early for the NFL draft has hurt the recruiting talent pool for the Ivies, especially at positions like running back. (Sorry, I realize that was a very long sentence).

Anyway, reduced travel squads might lead to a reduced number of overall players on football scholarships at the BCS schools. That might re-open some doors for the mid majors and the FCS schools.

It could also somehow make things worse if the BCS coaches throw caution to the wind and decide they need to carry even MORE players on their rosters and make the competition for the final 72-player cut even more fierce.

Remember, I don't think the Ivies are starved for talent at all the positions. The league is still producing more than its fair share of outstanding NFL-prospects, especially at the positions where there are a lot of "late bloomers" that are easily missed by BCS recruiters who hone in on 9th graders these days. Many Ivy QB's and offensive linemen have fit into that "late bloomer-turned NFL prospect" category lately.

But I maintain the pronounced decline in 1,000-yard rushers in the Ivies is a direct result of the BCS stockpiling running back talent in a way that they did not do before "coming out early" became the norm for top backs.

Personally, I'd like to see the NCAA go back to some kind of 65 or 70-man rule for ALL games, home or away. (I'd also like to see the NFL ban undergrads from coming out early, but that's a pipe dream). I think there's a chance reducing the number of scholarship athletes on the BCS teams would help everyone. Among other things, it would encourage more students to try to walk on to teams, (does "Rudy" mean anything to you?).

I know the trickle down theory is being skewered in our society these days when it comes to economics, but in college football, what happens to the big boys definitely affects us every time.

Big Red's List

Michael DiChiarra will see a lot of familiar faces when he plays Columbia

Cornell released its list of 31 incoming football freshmen today.

First off, because I get paranoid, I am happy to say that none of the recruits we were expecting to come to Columbia were on that list. Hey, it happens.

Here are some other highlights:

-Luke Tasker, the son of former Buffalo Bill great Steve Tasker, will come to Ithaca as a wide receiver.

-Buckingham, Browne and Nichols QB Michael DiChiara, who reportedly was considering Columbia, will join the big Red.

-This is a rare combination: Cornell is bringing in a big defensive lineman who doubles as a kicker! He's Hugh Stewart, who goes 6'5" and 245 pounds.

A number of incoming Big Red freshmen are former high school teammates of current and "expected future" Lions including:

1) Andrew Brown, St. Xavier High school. Former teammate of Lou Miller, Ross Morand, Evan Miller, and Ian Cummins.*

2) Michael DiChiara Buckingham, Browne and Nichols. Former teammate of Nico Papas, Xander Frantz*, and Steve Grassa.*

3) Ian Edelson, The Delbarton School. Former teammate of Matt Bashaw.

4) Nick Lycette, The Menlo School. Former teammate of Leon Ivery.

5) Max Martinez, Belen Jesuit. Former teammate of Greg Fontela.

6) DeMarr Moulton, Linsly School. Former teammate of Sam Cecil.

7) Kurt Ondash, New Canaan High School. Former teammate of Nico Gutierrez.

(*= reportedly committed Columbia recruits by outside sources, not OFFICIAL team members as of now)

Robinson's Resume

Former Columbia defensive lineman John Robinson '89 continues to make his case to get the athletic director job at the University of Houston.

This story in the Houston Chronicle does a better job of laying out Robinson's qualifications and his path to the job.

We wish him the best of luck, (and send some transfers our way when you can, okay?). I put that request in parentheses because it probably violates some draconian NCAA rule.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Top 5 Receivers

Austin Knowlin: One of the best (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics)

So someone on the public Ivy message board has decided to deride our Austin Knowlin, saying he isn't among the top 5 receivers in the Ivies.

I beg to differ, but I'm willing to put up or shut up with my own top 5 list.

But there's a catch. (Get it?!?!)

Some of my top 5 are really too much a part of a total wide receiving crew to fairly separate as individual players.

Hey, it's a team game.

Tim McManus

5) Tim McManus, Dartmouth

Tim McManus wasn't just the most valuable players for the Big Green last year, he was one of the most valuable players in the whole league. Dartmouth may have gone 0-10, but McManus made about every physical and emotional sacrifice to keep that from happening.

And he even was willing to sacrifice some of his receiving stats to play QB when he was needed.

Dartmouth will probably continue to struggle this season, but I expect McManus to put up bigger receiving numbers in 2009.

He led the team in yards and was the go-to guy on just about every 3rd and long or 3rd and goal. As a risin junior, he has a lot of upside. And whoever becomes the starting Big Green QB next season will surely see McManus as his best friend.

Matt Luft

4) Matt Luft (and company), Harvard

Luft may not be as quick or elusive as many other wide receivers in this league... but he doesn't have to be.

Luft is 6'6" and 225 pounds, so even when he's covered, he's not really covered.

But a big reason for his success was the rhythm he established with now-graduating QB Chris Pizzotti and that won't be there automatically with the new QB this season.

Luft also benefitted, and will continue to benefit from his fellow receivers like the very elusive Adam Chrissis and the tough Chris Lorditch, both of whom joined Luft in ripping the Columbia secondary apart when they faced the Lions last season.

But the big question mark is whether Luft and company will remain as dangerous without a QB as talented and tough as Pizzotti.

Knowlin vs. Princeton

3) Austin Knowlin, Columbia

"AK" saw his numbers fall last season, but none of the other top receivers in this league has had to play with three different starting QB's and radically different systems over the past two seasons. And he's the only one of the top receivers with a QB who runs as often and as well as Millie Olawale.

Knowlin's ability to get open, even when everyone in the stadium knows the play is to him, is his best attribute. He's also a great breakaway threat and can often bounce off tacklers despite his smaller size.

Knowlin has some good supporting cast members in Taylor Joseph, Mike Stephens, and Nico Gutierrez, (when healthy, especially in 2007), but he has nothing like the help Luft enjoys at Harvard and the receivers at Brown enjoy.

Knowlin's added role as a killer punt and kickoff returner isn't technically what makes him a great wide receiver, but it helps.

Buddy Farnham

Bobby Sewall

1) and 2) Buddy Farnham and Bobby Sewall, Brown

Buddy Farnham is the anti A-Rod. He puts up huge stats and delivers in the clutch. In the key wins over Harvard and Penn last season, Farnham was the guy who had the big scores at the crucial moments.

And Farnham keeps in the family as the son of Brown all-time great receiver Mark Farnham, class of 1980.

Bobby Sewell is equally "clutch" and his ability to line up almost anywhere on the line of scrimmage and move around a lot before the snap drives opposing defenses crazy.

Some of Farnham and Sewell's shine might wear off this season with a new QB at the helm, but what they've accomplished in two varsity seasons already has made them Brown legends.

Unless Head Coach Phil Estes pulls a Nick Hartigan clone out of a hat this summer, expect Brown's "Killer B's" to rack up big stats again as receivers and as runners on trick plays and reverses.

Honorable Mentions

Bryan Walters, Cornell

Walters is a better kick returner than a receiver, but he's dangerous and often gets open down the sideline. He's another player who will have to cope with a new QB this season.

John Sheffield and Jordan Forney, Yale

Another tandem that works better as a team. Neither one really knocks your socks off alone, but together they should give Yale's new starting QB a decent weapon this fall.

Friday, May 08, 2009

All Americans

Lou Miller may get a shot to play on Sundays (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics)

Sorry for the lack of a posting yesterday, but Jordan had her tonsils out and while she is 100% fine, I needed to be there for her. Now I am surrounded by ice cream and ice pops... it could be worse.

Kudos to Austin Knowlin and Lou Miller for being named to the 2009 Football Championship Subdivision Preseason All-American team.

It's interesting that Knowlin was singled out as a punt returner only. While it's great that he's making an impact at that position, Lions fans would love to see his receiving totals move back up to his great sophomore numbers as well. But yards are yards and touchdowns are touchdowns, and we'll take them anyway we can get them.

The group that made the team also notes Miller as an NFL draft prospect, presumably as a linebacker.

The only other two Ivy players on the team were both from Penn. They were defensive line standout Joe Goniprow and kicker Andrew Samson.

McKissick to Mississippi

Late breaking news from Texas tells us that a former Dartmouth commit who may have been looking at other Ivies has actually signed on with Jackson State.

Mississippi is a long way from Hanover in more ways than one, but we wish the young man the best of luck.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

The Right Recipe

Marcellus Wiley (top) and Rory Wilfork made a fearsome pair in 1996

They've been naming All Ivy football teams ever since league play officially began in 1956.

In all that time, Columbia has enjoyed the labors of more than one returning 1st Team All Ivy defensive player a grand total of one time.


It happened in 1996 when two-time, (and eventual three-time), 1st Team All Ivy linebacker Rory Wilfork teamed up with Marcellus Wiley, (who was a 1st teamer in 1994 before taking 1995 off), who was the Ivy's dominant defensive lineman of the era.

The result?

The Lions roared out of the gate at 6-0, finished 8-2 and were generally regarded as the best Columbia team in more than a generation.

2009 will mark the second time in history that the Lions have two returning 1st team defenders. They are senior Lou Miller and junior Alex Gross.

Like Wiley and Wilfork, they are one defensive lineman and one linebacker. And while
I don't see them as being as inhumanly dominant as Wiley and Wilfork were, Miller and Gross provide a very good reason to be optimistic about the defense.

Joining them on "D" is an unusually strong supporting cast of other stars including Owen Fraser on the D-line, the experienced Corey Cameron at linebacker, and Andy Shalbrack in the secondary.

In a more fair world, Shalbrack would be a returning 1st Team All Ivy as well, but he has another year to impress the opposing coaches.

Of course I'm leaving out a lot of names, but this sure seems like the best defense Columbia has had since 1996.

I'm only worried about two things: 1) the loss of Drew Quinn at MLB and 2) the secondary's issues with the deep ball last year.

But I am comforted by the fact that we seem to be stacked at linebacker with the return of Gross and Cameron and the emergence of players like Marc Holloway and Nick Mistretta. I also hope that Matt Moretto will be back at his 2007 level after getting injured last season.

As for the deep ball, remember that the talented starting corners last season were Calvin Otis, then a soph and Kalasi Huggins, a frosh. They are great athletes who I know will get better with the more experience they have now.

And as much as that 1996 defense was great, the offense was... well, not so good. This year's defense may be not as dominant at the '96 Lions, but the offense is definitely more potent. If it can improve as much as the defense did last year from 2007, watch out!

Facebook Fun!!!

For those of you who are Facebook users, I can recommend a few pages you might like to check out.

First, we have the "I was at Columbia for 'The Game' -October 8, 1988" page. Lots of good memories there.

Second, I found former Head Coach Larry MacElreavy's Facebook page just today. He'd love to hear from some of his former players, by the way.

There are more pages that are perfect for Columbia football fans, so have some fund with the search bar.

And no, Facebook did not pay me for these plugs!

Get Your Tickets Now!!!

Speaking of things that are perfect for Columbia football fans, they've put the season ticket package up for sale on the Columbia Athletics Web site and there's a good sense of urgency here for real fans.

If you buy by June 15th, you'll get the invite to the coaches' pre-season dinner event in August. I went last year, and it was really great. It was a unique opportunity to chat with the staff, AND a lot of former Columbia football players showed up too, so you can't lose... unless you end up talking to me.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Who Needs Helmets?

Seamus Kelly, foreground, is a rugger

A local high school running back with stunning statistics is not going Ivy after all. Thanks to a reader who noticed this piece, we now know that Catholic League all-star Seamus Kelly isn't even looking to play football.

Instead, Kelly will play rugby at Cal Berkeley, where that team has a storied and great tradition.

I know it probably sounds like sour grapes, but the truth is that we haven't really seen a star college football player come out of the NYC Catholic football league, (CHFL), in a long time. I'm not sure that Kelly would have made an impact at Columbia.

That's too bad, because Catholic schools from other parts of the country, namely Ohio, Illinois, and California, have sent us a lot of recent stars and other solid players recently. That includes some good looking prospects coming to the class of 2013.

This begs two questions:

1) Why has high school football across the New York City area fallen on hard times? We don't even see many BCS recruits from Long Island anymore.

2) Would a star high school player from NYC bring in the crowds to Wien Stadium? Has New York become a "football soft" town when it comes to schoolastic sports, or could the local tabloids create a mythical hero New Yorkers would keep following into college?

Please comment away!

Top 5 Moments

The week 8 win over Cornell provided 2 of the top 5 highlights of 2008

I just switched to Verizon FIOS from Cablevision.

We did it to save money and to get my own station, FOX Business Network, which is still not available on Cablevision.

But there was an added bonus to all this that I was not expecting...

I now get The NFL Network!

My marriage may be over.

Anyway, The NFL Network has a "Top 10" series running right now that's pretty good. They have a bunch of half hour specials featuring their picks for "Top 10 Rookie Seasons" and "Top 10 Bad Weather Games," etc.

10's a pretty big number, but I have been inspired to follow suit with some "Top 5" lists.

Let's start with:

Top 5 Moments of 2008

5) Austin's 1st TD

Austin Knowlin didn't have as many catches and TD's as a wide receiver in 2008 as we would have liked. But the acrobatic TD catch and run he orchestrated at the end of the first half of the season opener against Fordham was a big season highlight.

The score put the Lions ahead 22-14 at the break and made it look like there was nothing Columbia couldn't achieve. At least in Knowlin's case, we know that's true.

4) Columbia Comes Back

In the Homecoming classic against Princeton, Columbia fell behind the Tigers by a 21-10 score early in the 3rd quarter.

But the Lions mounted a fine comeback, going 71 yards on seven plays on the ensuin possession to make it 21-17. Then the defense put together two three-and-outs in a row, handing Columbia the ball at the Lion 49 after that second defensive stop.

It took nine plays, but when Jordan Davis finally got into the end zone with 10:35 left in the 4th quarter, the Lions had a 24-21 and the momentum.

It didn't last, and Columbia eventually lost. But the roar from the crowd when Davis scored the go-ahead TD was a good inkling of what's to come if the Lions continue to improve.

3) No Score for You!

Columbia jumped out to a 7-0 lead over Cornell in week 8, but things started going downhill in the second quarter and it looked like the Big Red would grab the lead going into halftime.

But looks can be deceiving.

Facing a Cornell 1st and goal at the Lion 3. After an incomplete pass, Big Red QB Nathan Ford rushed to the one before being stopped. With 43 seconds left in the half, Cornell called time out. Then they came out of the time out with a QB sneak into the middle that went nowhere, thanks to a tackle by Phil Mitchell. Hoping to catch Columbia off guard on 4th down, Ford called a quick snap and attempted the exact same play, but Alex Gross and Lou Miller pushed him back to the 2 and the ball went over to the Lions on downs.

For a defense that showed a marked improvement in the middle for 2008, this was the high mark for the entire season.

2) Millie Shakes things Up

Columbia's lead over Dartmouth had dwindled to 14-13 and it the momentum was going all in the Big Green's way, when the Lions took over from their own 19 with 1:38 left in the third quarter.

Columbia replaced Shane Kelly at quarterback with Millie Olawale, and the momentum shifted again. Olawale led the Lions down the field on a brilliant drive that he finished off with a quick run right up the middle for a 10-yard touchdown. That put Columbia back in control and the 21-13 score held up until the final gun.

Olawale finished the game with 52 yards on 8 carries and was 7-for-7 passing. He started the remaining four games of the season and had some brilliant flashes in that period.

1) Austin Ices It

A week after ripping off a 76-yard punt return for a TD that made things interesting against Harvard, Austin Knowlin repeated that feat with another 76-yard punt return for a score in a much more crucial situation against Cornell.

Columbia had a paper-thin 10-7 lead midway through the 4th quarter when the Big Red had to punt from their own 37. Knowlin made the catch, a couple of nice moves, and then got down the east sideline for the score.

The touchdown sealed the deal in a game where the Lion offense blew a number of opportunities to put Cornell away in the second half.

The 17-7 win was the more impressive of Columbia's two wins of the year, and it served notice that Knowlin can be a very dangerous weapon even when he's not a wide receiver. Don't be surprised if he breaks off a few more returns for touchdowns in 2009.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Roger Dennis Interview Part 2

Hamilton Hall: Home of the Core Curriculum

Roger Dennis was flattered by that memory I posted yesterday about him and he kinldy passed along his answer to question #2, (of about 10).

Here we go!

Jake: What was the atmosphere, academically, socially, and athletically, when you arrived on campus in 1961?

Roger: What I saw academically was a group of individuals going to classes, most of them trying to get the highest grades possible, most not interacting much with their classmates, very little interaction with or concern about the world outside campus.

There was very little sense of community. Since I was immediately playing football there was some degree of community built in that way, but most of us as frosh were focusing on keeping up with the classwork amidst the high time and energy commitments of the sport, and dealing with, (or denying, or some combination thereof), a whole new set of feelings. As I know community now, the football team was somewhere in between community and a group of individuals who shared a common purpose and were trying to fit in and be accepted and hopefully win a starting berth.

But our views are so influenced by what we carry into a situation that maybe the sense of 'not-connectedness' that I describe here was more a reflection of my own homesickness - which was bad for about six months - and my shyness, fears, aloneness, lack of holistic development as a person.

As for the students who joined various activities, like WKCR, Spectator, etc., I have no idea what kind of social atmosphere they did or didn't experience. I guess those who joined fraternities had a much greater sense of community. I was invited to pledge both the football frats, Beta Theta Pi and Alpha Chi Rho. I decided to pledge Beta, made it into I think the second day of Hell Week, and then quit after deciding that "This pledging stuff is way too childish for me". I never pledged "ChRho," but over the years became friendly with most of them and was probably a sort of honorary member there. In fact, for an entire semester, the ChRro guys let me sleep on a couch in their basement; this because I lost one of my scholarships when I quit school for a year, (starting in the spring semester of my soph year).

So I think both academically and socially there was a disconnect. But again, Jake, it's real hard to answer this because of my own biases. I’ve just never been very into books, so my perceptions are really colored by this. I think some people got really turned on by the Core Curriculum stuff, but I didn't. I found myself reading these "revered" books and saying to myself “I don't know what the hell they're talking about, because I haven't lived enough Life to have a perspective to compare this with, a frame of reference.”

So I would put the books down and go out and do life.

As for athletics, when I first got on campus there was a buzz because of Billy Campbell and the varsity football team. This was the year – finally – that Columbia was going to be really good. And it turned out they were. So that was fun. (But it would have been more fun if freshmen were allowed to play varsity during those days, so I could have been a real part of it.)

And it would have been great if this kind of football success happened more often than once every few decades.

Friday, May 01, 2009

A Word from the Ladies

Some of Columbia biggest football fans live here!

Let's face it, this site is a little too male-dominated. We know there are lots of female Lions fans out there and we want to hear from them more often!

Luckily, I did get one great email yesterday from an alumna who fondly remembers my long-running interview subject, Roger Dennis.

She writes:

"I am in the middle of preparing some remarks for my Barnard College 40th reunion, and one of the comments has to do with a freshman year incident involving Roger Dennis.

Just for fun, (and not having thought of Roger Dennis in eons), I googled Roger and came across your Roar Lions Roar feature on him. I decided to just email you and let you know that from my very limited perspective, Roger Dennis was an incredibly nice guy. Here's my response to a question regarding humorous incidents at school (sorry it's a little sketchy, but I haven't thought about this for 44 years!):

It happened within the first few days I was on campus. One evening I went with a group of girls to check on the coffee place on the Columbia campus (not surprisingly, I can’t remember the name – was it the Crypt?). While there, a few older boys came along and started chatting with us on the steps (I think it was closed).

One in particular, caught my interest and he and I talked for a while. The next day I met a guy at a mixer who was in the Columbia Band and he invited me to come with him on the band bus for the first football game of the season up at Baker Field. I had been in the high school band and had spent many an hour practicing marching formations and music. I had a pretty good idea how bands were supposed to operate at sporting events, but I was pretty surprised to learn that the band had not practiced even once before this game. I wondered how that would translate into the half-time show. I can still remember how surprised I was to find out that the Columbia band just ran from one hilarious formation to another – no marching required – and that the commentary sounded like a comedy routine, and a pretty raunchy comedy routine at that. I seem to remember a condom formation, but maybe that was another game involving Yale???

At any rate, the halftime was hilarious. The biggest surprise of the day, however, was finding out who the star football player was for Columbia – none other than Roger Dennis, who had been so nice to me on the steps of the coffee place. I had no idea that he was a star player! A few days later I went out for the first time with Jay, a Columbia Junior, who would be my boyfriend for the next two and half years. Jay, who never missed a football game, was shocked the first time we encountered Roger, who said hello to me, while walking on Broadway! (“That was Roger Dennis, the Roger Dennis… how do you know him?”)

I enjoyed Columbia football all four years I was at Barnard and often took my students to games at Baker Field in the 70's after I started teaching in Washington Heights.

Best regards and looking forward to the next installment,

Linda Greene (Linda Krakower, Barnard College, 1969)

I long for a time when our football players will be recognizeable on campus to just about everyone again.

Perhaps, perhaps.