Buddy has good reason to smile
The great weight that helped push Dartmouth football into the depths of the Ivy League over the past decade has been lifted.
I'm talking about the Big Green's brutal schedule.
It is brutal no more.
Year in and year out, Dartmouth shouldered the toughest out of conference slate with annual contests against Colgate, UNH, and Holy Cross. And with each of those games coming in the first half of the season that included games against league opponents Penn and Yale, the Big Green were often looking at 0-5 or 1-4 records for much of the past decade.
But now two of those killer opponents are out of the way. Dartmouth announced yesterday that the league opener will be at Bucknell. Colgate decided to cancel the game against the Big Green to make space for a showdown with Syracuse instead. Dartmouth made a deal to break out of the traditional in-state rivalry game against UNH last year, replacing them with Sacred Heart.
I think this all means Dartmouth goes from having the conference's toughest schedule for the last 10 years to having the easiest slate... at least for 2010.
The news is just the latest case of what I consider to be excellent offseason momentum for the Green which includes:
1) Successfully recruiting high school football sensation Cole Marcoux, a QB who played his home games literally within view of Wien Stadium at Fieldston. You can never be very sure about these things, but Marcoux is considered to be just one jewel in a very strong Dartmouth recruiting class.
2) A new assistant coaching staff that seems to have the players and Head Coach Buddy Teevens re-energized, or at least more aware that they need to perform better... or else.
3) More and more evidence that new Dartmouth President Jim Yong Kim is a serious supporter of athletics and is taking the developments on that front with a real sense of personal responsibility. Kim actually came to campus last year, but I think he's upped the ante in recent months as far as his committment to sports is concerned.
I don't know if all this momentum will translate into a lot more wins for a team that has a grand total of two victories over the last two seasons. But the Big Green really seems like a team going in the right direction, at least in the offseason.
So who has the toughest schedule now?
I hate to say it, but I think our Lions are right out in first place on that score.
Columbia's three out of conference games are all at home. But one of them is against the now scholarship-enabled Fordham Rams. Another is against perennial Patriot League contender Lafayette. The third nonconference game is against Towson, which certainly seems very winnable at this point, but don't forget the Tigers also come in with the power of the "Real Wives of Towson Football" behind them.
But it's the Ivy schedule, and the locale of those games, that really puts the Lions in a tough spot for 2010.
The matchups against Harvard, Penn and Brown this fall are ALL on the road. The fourth Ivy road game is at Yale, where the Lions haven't won since 1996.
Harvard's schedule would be a close second in my opinion, with road games against Brown and Penn, and out of conference matchups against Holy Cross, Lafayette and Lehigh. But the games against a graduation-gutted Holy Cross and Lehigh are at home, and it's hard to shed tears over a Crimson schedule that ends with Yale at home as well.
Penn has its annual impossible game against Villanova to contend with, and Lafayette is on the slate as well. But the Leopards come to Franklin Field for that game, and the third contest is against a struggling Bucknell program. Meanwhile, the Quakers get to host all the other teams that finished in the Ivy's "first division" in 2009: Harvard, Brown and Columbia.
Yale has a home opener against Patriot doormat Georgetown and the Elis host their other two nonconference games against Albany and Fordham. In conference, Yale does have the tough task of taking on Harvard and Brown on the road but Penn and Columbia will be home games.
Cornell has a rough one at home against Colgate, but the Big Red also play weaker opponents Bucknell and Wagner on the road. In conference, things are tougher for Cornell; it plays three of the 2009 first division teams, Columbia, Harvard and Brown, on the road.
Princeton has tough opponents Lehigh, Lafayette, and Colgate out of conference. But the Tigers face Harvard, Penn, and Brown all at home.
Brown's schedule seems pretty even. The toughest nonconference opponent, Stony Brook, is at home, while Rhode Island and Holy Cross are away games. But the key game on Brown's schedule every year for more than a decade has been the showdown with Harvard and this year that game is in Providence.
So here's how I would rate the upcoming season's schedules in order of difficulty: