Thursday, December 02, 2010

Aim High

Just to add more emphasis to the point about how nothing matters more than winning, I thought I’d look at the people who have won Bushnell Cups while playing for teams that didn’t have winning records.

Of the 42 men who have won or shared the IVY MVP award, only five didn’t play for winning teams.

They were:

1974 Walt Snickenberger (RB, Princeton) (1-5)

1975 Doug Jackson (RB, Columbia) (2-5)

1982 John Witkowski (QB, Columbia) (3-11)

1983 Derrick Harmon (B, Cornell) (4-11) *(team had a 3-3-1 Ivy record)

1996 Chad Levitt (RB, Cornell) (5-23) *(team had a winning Ivy record)

Note that the last two of the five, Harmon and Levitt, actually played on Cornell teams that did not have losing Ivy records.

If you take those two out, you see that players on losing teams have about a 7% chance of winning the Bushnell Cup.

More importantly, teams with losing records have a 100% chance of not winning championships.


I agree with the posters who say we should set defined benchmarks for the football team to reach as soon as possible.

Here are my top three in ASCENDING ORDER of importance:

1) Beat Penn and/or Harvard within the Next Two Years

Basing a major goal on defeating just one or two teams can sometimes be foolish because the dominant teams you need to defeat in your league are often a moving target.

Not so much in the Ivies.

Since 1997, the league has been dominated by Harvard and Penn and since 1997, Columbia has a grand total of zero wins over Penn and two wins over Harvard.

It’s hard to believe the Lions will have turned a corner until they can beat the Quakers or the Crimson.

2) A Winning Season NEXT Year

Two straight 4-6 seasons show that Columbia is tantalizingly close to finally posting a winning season for the first time since 1996.

This streak HAS to end now.

Anything else for 2011 has to be considered a failure.

3) Win an Ivy Title by the end of the Decade, AND Do it BEFORE Cornell and Princeton

For the sake of argument, let’s just say Columbia has some kind of unknown disadvantage that gives teams with equal talent a real edge over the Lions.

Whatever that edge may be, Columbia is currently well ahead of Princeton and Cornell in the talent department.

And that means if either one of those teams gets a winning record or a championship before the Lions do, we somehow dropped the ball big time.

So not only must Columbia make this decade the one where it finally ends its championship draught, it must also not allow Cornell and Princeton to come from behind and grab the lead again over the Lions just like Dartmouth has in just two years.

These goals are very simple to understand and not one of them is impossible.

Don’t think so?

Consider these three facts:

-Princeton was 2-8 in 2003 and beat Harvard AND Penn just three years later on its way to an Ivy title in 2006

-Dartmouth was 0-10 in 2008 and posted a winning season THIS year

-Brown was 0-10 in 1992 and was an Ivy co-champion by 1999


At Thu Dec 02, 09:41:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

A follow up on my previous post a while ago.

All season long there has been a clamor for increased strength and conditioning. Now, once again, I think that criticism is misdirected.

When we analyze the 2010 statistics it is apparent that Columbia dramatically out scored their opponents in the fourth quarter. Once again, I do not intend to be disagreeable, but the statistics clearly indicate that Columbia is not "out conditioned". Quite the contrary, I argue that they may be the best conditioned team in the Ivy League when the data of scoring by quarters are analyzed. Columbia rocks in the fourth quarter.

Now the strength issue, it is difficult to come to any statistical analysis from the data provided, other than to say rushing statistics etc.. In those type of categories Columbia was in the middle of the pack. My eye test says they were not up to snuff in the strength department and on line play. Obviously, the Penn game was a litmus test that was failed.

My belief, is that the team starts the games too slow and the reason is that the team is practicing too intensely during the middle of the season to the end. Everything appeared fine until about mid season. Most games I questioned when the real team would get off the bus. Usually there was little liveliness until the middle of the third quarter. My question is if the team and coaching staff are trying too hard. As the season progressed the players legs appeared dead. This team was running on fumes at the end of the season. I wonder if the team is pushing too hard as the season progresses and not backing off the legs later in the season and during the later part of game week? As school gets more involved and the season's hits accumulate this team definitely wore down dramatically. But curiously the team was able to respond dramatically in the fourth quarter. It didn't appear so much as conditioning as their "condition". This was a slow starting stiff legged team at the BEGINNING of games from mid season and progressively increased as the season wore on.

I think this may be the key area to examine in the off season. The conditioning program is fine, the strength program is mediocre and needs improvement, and consider the "condition" of the team as the season progresses and consider resting the legs when indicated. These guys are just trying too hard and at times working against themselves.

At Thu Dec 02, 09:57:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Love CU football, love the Blog, but I don't agree with the goal that we should win a title by the end of the decade. We have a sixth year head coach so that if the building program is going as planned, we should be winning the title or at least trying to by year 6 or 7. What message are we sending to high school seniors and potential recruits if the goal is win a title after they graduate and after NW would have been coach for 15 years! For many of the die hard fans who have been following the team for close to 40 years, going to games has gotten harder and harder cause of all the loosing and that is why most of the fans you see at the games are players parents, etc. Notwithstanding what I said about a title and the fact thatit will have been 50 years this fall since the last one and i have seen 3 winning seasons since I started following the team in 1971, I think the general impress is that the University Administration ans Athletic department is simply not doing enough to get this thing turned around and clearly Dr. Murphy is not holding the coaching staff to a high enough standard. !0 days after what I would call a very troubling second half of the season and we have yet to hear about one change in the coaching staff. From what I understand NW is a great guy and there is no question he has done some good things for the program but after five years, I can't imagine any one associated with the program or any is happy with the results.While I hate to make another coaching change, I fear that if we don't the program is going to hit rock bottom again in a year or two(I mean while it was a great win we barely got past a week Cornell team at home) and then we will forced to make a change like we have done every other time we have looking for a coach in the last 40 years. I think we would be making a much bigger statement about our desire to build a winner if we actually let a coach go after a 4-6 season and we are also bound to get more desirable candidates if we look for a coach at this point to take us to the next level rather than if we are a last place TEAM. I LOVE THE LIONS and it is for this reason why I would like DR. Murphy to consider making a change. Many other Columbia people I know could care less about who the coach is, because they are indifferent to the program are are resigned to the fact that the program is not a winning program.

At Thu Dec 02, 10:06:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Any news on what the plans are for next year for the coach. I assume since there is no vote of confidence despite the spec editorial that Nw might be out there looking for other options the way Joe Jones was so that he can actually resign to take . Any thoughts? BTW, i am huge fan and a huge supporter of NW- he has done a great job over the last few years with recruiting but I also recognize that without a winning season after 5 years, you have very little credibility when you go out and recruit so that recruiting this year is going to be as a whole far more difficult than it was early on in his tenure(we all so how Tellier recruiting classes fell off during the later years). i think we have to recognize that a new Coach would be an instant spike for recruiting i would think.

At Thu Dec 02, 11:54:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Jake, I think your sights are set too low or too slow. Within the next two years, with Brackett, we need to beat both Penn and Harvard and truly be in the hunt for an Ivy Championship. Anything less is failure in my book.

Chen '82

At Thu Dec 02, 06:31:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have communicated with dianne and she has advised me that Norries has her full support. I think she is right about Norries. I also think that our defensive schemes were deeply flawed, and that our very young first year DC did not have a good season. CArm Cozza used to say that he played his best athletes on defense. Of course. Defense will keep you in any ball game. We had plenty of offense this year. Where we fell short was in our complete inability to stop the run or the 10 yard pass to the sideline. And where does it start? With pressure from the DL. We were too small and not strong enough on the DL and we lacked size in our LB corps as well.

At Thu Dec 02, 08:39:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's stop discussing the Columbia coaches who are just fine, in my opinion, and get down to what really counts, which is recruiting. Columbia would have easily won the Ivy League Championship this season if it had a couple more standout players on offense and defense. Not having a really outstanding running back and one or two Austin Knowlins at wide receiver really hurt the offense. Not having a healthy Owen Frazier and a couple of other monster linemen and 230 pound linebackers with speed certainly hurt the defense. Not having a standout kick returner hurt the special teams. For next season the Lions need to recruit impact players at wide receiver, running back, defensive line and linebacker. To win the Ivy League Championship in 2011 Columbia will need seven or eight freshman players or transfers who can contribute immediately. Get those guys and Columbia wins the Ivy.

At Thu Dec 02, 10:22:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I heard the Lions run 2-3 full contact practices during the week, whereas most teams run just one. Maybe they are getting worn down towards the end of the season, as the first poster suggested. Altering the practice schedule and focusing on weight training during the offseason could do wonders for this team.

At Thu Dec 02, 10:51:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Let's hope for a banner recruiting year. This weekend is the first of official on-campus visits so hope for good weather, great hosts (current football players), and inspired coaches and Columbia staff. Columbia and NYC are great selling points. The recruits and parents will get to see Rockefeller Center and other sites. Lets' go Lions!

At Fri Dec 03, 12:11:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No one that I know has ever said that CU was out conditioned. Endurance and hitting wise they are one of the toughest teams around. The legitimate complaint is that CU has been out muscled by some of the top teams.

The strength portion of CU's strength and conditioning program is embarrassingly lame. Silly exercises. Low weight, high rep time wasters. Following the current faddish nonsense. No emphasis on getting really, really strong. There are seniors who have followed the program diligently for three years who are hardly any stronger than they were coming out of high school.

To get really strong you need to lift heavy weights for low rep sets, several times a week. Real strength building exercises like: Front & Back Squats, Power Cleans, Hang Cleans, Dead Lifts, Romanian Dead Lifts, Push Presses, Bench Presses, Bent Over Rows, Pull-Ups and Good Mornings. They do SOME of these exercises but not heavy enough and not often enough.

If you have a professional strength coach, working with college football players for whom year round strength training is mandatory, and your program doesn't routinely increase player strength levels, as measured by the Squat, the Clean, the Dead Lift and the two Presses, by a minimum of 25% to 30% over three years (and this is a low bar), something is seriously wrong. Taking an 18 year old male athlete and making him bigger, really strong and much faster by age 21 is that not hard. It not an accident that Penn has a superior strength program (probably the best in the Ivy league) and a routinely dominant football team. Harvard also has a excellent strength program. The CU's strength program is one of its weakest links.

On the leg wear down factor, CU practices far harder during the season than most BCS or FCS teams. The ones alone run 50 to 60 full speed, full contact, live plays every Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday all season long. This wears out the players legs over time and also doesn't allow any time for injuries to heal.

Early in the season, most Division I teams only go full speed, full contact on Tuesdays. They do less hitting on Wednesday and no hitting on Thursdays. As the season progresses, they hit less and less in an effort to keep the players healthy and their legs fresh.

Think about week eight. At the start of the game, IN TERMS OF LIVE REPS TAKEN, CU's starters had already accumulated 31 games worth of wear and tear on their bodies, 7 actual games and 24 game equivalent practices. IF Harvard practices like most other D-I schools, their starters would have only accumulated, at most, around 15 games worth of wear and tear on their bodies, 7 actual games and 8 game equivalent practices. Advantage Harvard.

At Fri Dec 03, 12:44:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's fine to set goals. The more pertinent question is, how much tolerance do you have when those goals are not met?

Let's say Columbia doesn't beat Harvard or Penn, but has 2 winning seasons in the next 2 years. Will you accept that? How about if Columbia has 2 more losing seasons but beats Penn twice? I think most fans, not to mention the AD, would find that acceptable progress even though the "goals" were not all met.

Expectations are just as important as goals. (I.e. minimum standards that should be met, such that if they are not met we KNOW something needs to change.) What those expectations should specifically be is up for discussion, of course.

At Fri Dec 03, 01:42:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I have never played organized FB and don't know anything about weight lifting. On the one hand, as a matter of common sense I find it hard to believe that we would be doing things that are so different from what other, more successful teams do, e.g., have a lousy strength regime and run 2-3 full contact practices while others run 1 per week, but on the other hand, these are the first explanations that come close to making sense to me of what we've witnessed, i.e., Penn having outmuscled us so obviously this year.
I would be obliged if the folks who address these two issues would at least identify their backgrounds, e.g., former player? Someone with coaching experience at some level?

At Fri Dec 03, 02:27:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The real issue with NW and the coaching staff is that in each of the final four games we were badly outplayed in the first half. And contrary to the comments about our fourth quarter scoring, for the past two years, we've been unable to execute at the end of close games -- except against a game but outmatched Cornell team. We play well in bursts, but too often our best comes only after we've given the game away with poor play.

It's unrealistic to set goals of winning Ivy titles and beating Penn when the issue at hand is how does CU, with a solid roster and a fundamentally sound team, explain half-time deficits of 31-7, 16-0, 10-3 and 28-0 to teams that are comparable (or inferior in the case of Cornell) to us in talent? We scored 10 points total in the first halves of the last four games!

As for winning titles, we lose seven starters on defense and the JV was 2-3. I would hope at a minimum NW would make changes to his game planning, given the disappointing finish to the 2010 season.

At Fri Dec 03, 11:37:00 AM GMT+7, Blogger cathar said...

I've commented before on my dissatisfaction with the quality of our offensive play calling. And some others on this post have made good points about strength, conditioning and the defensive line.

But also put me down as the strongest possible supporter of Norries Wilson. There really is more to coaching than a "mere" winning record, and here Norries is simply outstanding. He does help mold young men, and it would be an honor to play for him. This is especially when compared to the age-driven whimsies of Buff Donelli at the end of his career, or even the days of both Larry McElreavy and Bob Shoop. (Even Bill Campbell, it should be recalled, wasn't so hot when rashly given the head coach job; surely his appointment to that long-ago job was based more on an odd form of Ivy League sentimentalism than on his actual prior coaching experience.)

I am dismayed, however, that Spectator has gotten up on its little hind legs and demanded a coaching change. I view this, nevertheless, as a semi-positive. It shows that its staffers care enough now about football, which has traditionally rarely been the case at our student daily, to be so dumbly partisan. Much worse, in my opinion, was Mr. Gupta's follow-up column in Spec seemingly also attacking the players themselves for their lack of success (while also endorsing Spec's current editorial stance that Norries should go ASAP). I can only view Gupta's nonsense as impassioned but wrongheaded. Well, I say to myself, at least he cares about the team. That alone is nice to realize, however mistaken he otherwise seems to be about our football program.

At Fri Dec 03, 01:00:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Columbia's strength program is first class. The coach teaches proper routines including those practiced by the Penn strength coach some here seem to like.

Football players generally train with relatively lower weights and higher reps (as compared to body builders) in order to develop muscle conditioning because football is an endurance sport. But the term "relatively" is relative. The weight typically used does increase strength. An example, the NFL combine tests number of bench press reps at 225 lbs not single rep maximums.

The more important point in the whole bigger stronger discussion is eating. Muscle growth requires consuming far more calories than a normal diet. Without getting too complicated, 6 meals a day is considered the norm albeit not the same size meals as those who eat three times a day.

In my humble opinion, the best thing the school could provide the team is a training table. That would allow the coaches to monitor eating and weight gain, which translates into muscle growth and the size so many here discuss.

As an example of how other schools approach this, at one prominent FBS school I visited with my son the training table meals are color coded according to weight gain or loss. The result is the player is put on a diet that supports his development goals established by the coaching staff. Along with that are protein powders and other supplements practically falling off the shelfs.

Combine proper eating with an already solid strength program and the team will get the desired results. It really is that straight forward.

At Fri Dec 03, 06:36:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent comments on our poor first half performances. I think that we come out very tight offensively during the first half. Brackett always seems to come alive in the second half. It's almost as if he plays better from behind, or that a switch is flipped.

At Fri Dec 03, 06:36:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As far as the JV games go. They don't play their best palyers the entire game. They constantly rotate the players on defense and offense to get the young players reps. If they kept their best players in the whole game the JV would have been 5-0 this year. I know I was at 4 of the 5 games. There is an abundance of hidden talent on that JV team and there will be many that will make a huge contribution to the varsity team in both the spring and next fall. Unknown names soon to make an impact.

At Fri Dec 03, 08:21:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One more point on Brackett versus Ragone: Brackett's stats FOR NOVEMBER ALONE are comparable to Ragone's for his entire 9 game season (Ragone was suspended for a game). Ragone isn't going to win the Bushnell, but I am still outraged that he is a finalist and Brackett is not.

At Fri Dec 03, 08:37:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I know WE all want winning records, but again, we are not the only school that is in this situation. Duke is 67-182 (27% winning percentage) from 1987-2008 under 6 coaches. The only winning coach was Steve Spurrier with a 60.3% winning percentage. It is not always the coach, but also the will of the administration at elite academic schools to want to win. Bill Walsh was 17-17 in his three years at Stanford, and look at what Jim Harbaugh is doing.

For those that advocate a coaching chage, what miracle working coach will come to Columbia? Until the Administration places a priority on winning (without changing the academic requirements of admission), the students actually attend games, and the facilities are upgraded (Campbell), what does Columbia have to offer over other Ivy Leaugue schools?

Thanks to the Big Green Alert, here are the average home attendance for the 2009 season and FCS ranking:
(3) Yale 21,245
(29) Harvard 10,701
(30) Penn 10,600
(43) Princeton 8,178
(50) Cornell 7,177
(63) Brown 6,034
(90) Dartmouth 4,103
(91) Columbia 4,027

Excluding Dartmouth due to its remote location, each team in much smaller cities averaged at least 150% of Columbia's attendance. Most of the players played in front of larger crowds in high school.

Let's focus our energies on the administration and attendance, unless you beleive there are very successful coaches just itching to get the Columbia position.

At Fri Dec 03, 09:10:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Bollinger should start attending home games. For 1.7 million a year that's the least he could do.

At Fri Dec 03, 10:54:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Attendance is a chicken and egg problem. People won't go to see endless losses but the program won't get better unless recruits know there are fans who care. That's why the Homecoming loss to Dartmouth hurt. We had a nice crowd and a chance to show off an improved team, and we couldn't get the win.

However, I would point out that Brown turned around the program without much in the way of student or fan support. Good coaches make a big difference.

At Sat Dec 04, 12:28:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does the President of the University really never attend any home games?

As a former player, i have had first hand sightings of President Rupp taking the subway to attend CU home games. Love him, hate him, or is nice to see that support from the top at the games.

I realize that the President of a University has many responsibilities and that there are also other athletic teams with home games...but it would be a shame if he couldn't make at least a couple home games a season.

I also think the fire in the recent comments here is a good thing. It shows that there is a growing number of CU football fans out there that want positive changes and outcomes. 5-5 or 4-6 just isn't good enough anymore.

At Sat Dec 04, 03:28:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To the poster who thinks that the football strength program is first class, you couldn't be more misinformed. The conditioning portion of their program is excellent, however the strength portion of the program is totally inadequate for a Division I football team. The weightlifting routines they do would be fine for sports like basketball, baseball, volleyball and field hockey but just don’t cut it for football, especially for the OLs and DLs.

You stated in your post that, “Football players generally train with relatively lower weights and higher reps (as compared to body builders) in order to develop muscle conditioning because football is an endurance sport.” I personally know many D-1 football strength coaches and they would laugh at this assertion. Strength training for sport has nothing to do with bodybuilding. It is laughable to even mention the two things in the same sentence. Plus you clearly know nothing about body building. Bodybuilders train by doing an extremely high number of reps with relatively low weight compared to their max lifts. They train for muscle hypertrophy not max strength. They do dozens and sometimes hundreds of reps targeting just one muscle group at a time.

Football is NOT an endurance sport in any way, shape or form; marathon running is an endurance sport. Football is an explosion sport. Players explode off the ball and go hard for 6 or seven seconds and then get a 25 or 30 second rest. To be explosive you have to be really strong relative to your body weight and, to state the obvious, you need to be really strong to engage with another player and push him around or knock him down. Football players should be able to full back squat at least two times their body weight.

Football players should not train with higher reps and lower weight if they expect to get strong. I am sorry but you don't seem to know anything about strength training. To get really strong, you need to train with singles, doubles, and triples (with some fives thrown in occasionally) at high percentages (70% to 90%) of your max. You need to go heavy and often.

The proof is in the pudding. Penn out muscled our guys on the field from top to bottom. Their athletes aren't any better or bigger than ours but they dominated the line of scrimmage (and the game) because they were stronger. Their program emphasizes getting really, really strong, ours does not. We do low weight, high rep nonsense, they do not. Their seniors are routinely much stronger than they were when the showed up as freshman, ours are not. They are a dominant team and we are not. CU has the talent to be a great team; we just need a great STRENGTH program to help make that happen.

At Sat Dec 04, 09:03:00 AM GMT+7, Anonymous Anonymous said...

These posts have been great and show the genuine interest out there in the football program. The bottom line is most of would try to make more time , bring the kids, etc if we have a consistent winner. I don't care who the coach is as long as we can win. I do agree however with the one post that talked about the Dartmouth game- the one game I attended. while i don't like to put to much importance to one game, i think that if we won in front of a big Homecoming crowd, and finished 5 and 5 instead of 4-6, there would not be nearly as much talk about replacing the coach and we could have pointed to some progress from the year before. it was only one game but it left a bad taste for myself and many other people i attended the game with, i.e.,same old columbia football team. It looks like the coach is coming back, which is fine, but now he is on the hot seat, meaning he has to go 5and 5 next year or even 6-4 to survive. You hate to get to that point but next year there will really be pressure on the coaching staff to deliver. The Duke example is interesting but they have a fantastic basketball team and in fact their basketball team has contributed to the overall success and reputation of the University. The fact of the matter, right or wrong, when people think of Columbia athletics, they think of our losing football program. My hope and i think i speak for the many readers of these posts that that will change starting next year! 1996 was 14 years ago- we are ready for a winning season!

At Fri Dec 17, 08:50:00 PM GMT+7, Anonymous Douglas A Jackson said...

My name is Douglas A Jackson In 1979 I started coaching football for one reason and one reason only, and that was to be the head coach at colummbia. Ther is no question in my mind that i can make columbia a winner. I was at penn when we won four ivy league championships in a row . I was part of that, i saw how we did it, and i could do it again, if given the chance. I can't do any worse than the previous coache's. When columbia wont,s to win they will hire me. untill then they will continue to lose, because i know what it takes to be a winner. I over came polio as a kid and graduated from an ivy league school with a learning disability dyslexia.How can i lose i am a master of overcomig obsticles.I can turn columbia into a winner if given the chance. Whatever the mind can believe and percieve the mind can achieve.


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