Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Already in the Fold, Part 1

Leon Ivery (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics)

I'm as guilty as the next guy when it comes to getting a little too giddy about incoming freshmen recruits and rising sophomores who might break into the starting lineup.

But I hate forgetting about existing starters or regular backups who usually have an even better chance to emerge as leaders for the upcoming season. I resolve to feature a few of these returning veterans, especially while we're in spring practice mode.

A good case of emerging greatness from the veterans' ranks last year was Ray Rangel. I was always impressed with Ray's work ethic, but I didn't think he could pick up his game as a senior like he did last year.

Before he got injured and lost for the season in the Dartmouth game, Ray was close to a 1,000 yard pace for rushing. And he finished the season with a steallar 5.8 yards per carry average.

So who could be this year's Ray Rangel?

Let's consider the case of Leon Ivery.

Ivery only played in six games in 2009, but his stats and his style were very impressive. He had 232 yards on 48 carries for a 4.8 yards per carry average. Even if you strip away his 75-yard near-TD run against Yale you still get a better than 3.3 yards per carry average for Ivery.

More important than stats, I really liked the way Ivery ran in pressure situations. He especially made some key runs in the season ending wins over Cornell and Brown.

Ivery came to Columbia from the Menlo School in the Bay Area. He had phenominal high school rushing states, but painful bone spurs in his feet pushed him off the BCS recruiters most wanted lists. He excelled on the JV team in 2007 and 2008, but did not play with the varsity until last year.

Is Ivery the kind of back who can carry the ball 20-25 times per game? I'm not sure. And I'm not sure that will be necessary with the depth of existing and incoming talent we have at tailback. But Ivery had an impressive debut for the varsity in 2009 and there's no reason why he couldn't edge out the rest of the field and become a more featured weapon in the Columbia attack.

Extra Credit

Buff Donelli coached all the Lions from 1957-1967

During yesterday's latest installment of my interview with Roger Dennis, he threw out the names of some Lions players of the past that many fans may not be too familiar with.

One was Leo Makohen, a split end/wide receiver who was one of the few Lions given any respect in this preview of the 1966 in Sports Illustrated. Makohen had a solid, but not spectacular season in '66. Like so many of the Lion football alumni from the 40', 50's and 60's, Makohen is now a medical professional. He works as a dentist in Massachusetts.

The other end mentioned in that SI piece was Gerry Zawadzkas, who did end up leading the team in receptions, and he was drafted by hte NFL's Detroit Lions after the season.

But the headliner that year was a sophomore almost no one saw coming. That was QB Marty Domres who took over the starting job at the end of the season. Domres led the Lions to two wins on the final two weekends, beginning with a 22-14 surprise win over Penn.

Jerry Hug '65, was Archie Roberts' first great regular target. Both Roberts and Hug were sophomores who barged into the starting lineup in 1962 and ended up leading the team in passing and receiving, respectively. Columbia went 5-4 that year with a memorable 14-10 win over Yale as a major highlight.

Ed Malmstrom '65, was a standout fullback and linebacker for the Lions. He now manages the health cre investment division for Bank of America. His hometown paper in Kane, PA recently profiled his accomplishments.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Interview with Roger Dennis, Part 4

Old Blue Rugby... A winning tradition

The looonnnng-running interview session with former wide receiving and special teams star Roger Dennis '66 contines today.

Parts 1, 2, and 3 are available: part one, here for part two, and here for part three.

Jake: Buff Donelli was the coach during your career, what are your thoughts about his abilities and do have any favorite stories about him?

Roger Dennis: I have tremendous respect for Coach Donelli. He was an honest man; a man of integrity. I think I was an enigma to him. I was an anti-war, anti-establishment kind of person who had quit college in the middle of my sophomore year, let my hair grow long, and hitchhiked up and down the East Coast.

When I came back to school and wanted to play again I don’t think Coach knew what to make of me. I think he honestly believed that my political views and ‘unusual ways’ would make me undependable as a football player. So he had me running third string when my abilities didn’t warrant that, and I truly don’t know how much I would have played if the guys ahead of me hadn’t gotten injured.

But the point I want to make is that Coach Donelli was just being true to his beliefs; he wasn’t being mean-spirited; he wasn’t trying to punish me for my beliefs. He just didn’t understand who I was and didn’t know if he could count on me as a player. So I respected that.

While I respected and liked him as a person, I believe Coach was too ‘old school’ in his coaching philosophy. He always thought we had to establish our running game, but we really weren’t equipped to do that. With the personnel we had, we should have been primarily a passing team.

Jake: What games stand out the most in your mind, wins or losses, from your Columbia career?

Roger Dennis: Second game of my sophomore year. I played a little in the first game but was slated to play most of this game. I caught the opening kickoff, ran it back to the thirty-something yard line, got tackled right near our bench, heard something go ‘pop’, and my soph season was over. Achilles tendon.

Cornell game in my soph year. Though I sat on the bench in street clothes I’ll never forget Archie Roberts driving us 80 yards in the final minute and nineteen seconds to win this game!

First game after I returned from my year off. I was third string till a couple days before this game; got moved up to second string when Tom Chorba got hurt in practice. Fairly early in the game Captain Ed Malmstrom got hurt and I got the chance to play. I helped us win by catching eight passes for something like 106 yards, two touchdowns.

Rutgers. We lost this game – pretty sure it was 38-35. Ended up with eight catches for 157 yards and two touchdowns. What stands out the most is catching two consecutive ‘TD passes’ from Archie, first 36 yards, then 41, and having them both called back. Ironically Archie and I were the culprits. On the first he stepped across the line of scrimmage as he passed; on the second I flinched a split second early. On the next pass he called for a shorter one – twenty yards across the middle, and we completed that too. I wish I had suggested to him in the huddle to call the same play we did the first two times (our ‘option’ pass), because I believe it would have worked again. (The option pass would end up being a ‘down and out’ or a ‘down and in’. I would run almost full speed straight at the defender till I was about a yard and a half away, then cut/turn one way, cut/turn back, then back again – all sharp, instantaneous cuts. By the second or third turn I’d have a step on the defender and I’d take off full speed in whichever direction had opened up. Archie would see if I was headed left or right and then launch a beautiful right-on-target pass.)

Early in the eighth (Penn) game I hurt my knee, and so I missed the last two games of the season.

First game of my Senior year. We lost to Lafayette by a touchdown. This might sound conceited, but to this day I believe we would have won this game if I had played wide receiver. I was in amazing shape – I was so fast, so strong, so psyched to have an outstanding season. I strongly believe that I would have run at least two passes into the end zone that day if I had had the chance. But Coach Donelli had decided that with Archie gone we were no longer a passing team, and so I was no longer a receiver.

Fourth game – versus Yale. Because of injuries I returned punts in this game. Set a single game punt return record, which I believe is still standing. Returned one for a TD, lateralled to Leo Makohen off another punt return for a second TD, and scored the third TD on a run from scrimmage. Helped Coach win his 100th game – 21 to 7. Ivy Back of the Week and All-East for the week. Unfortunately I caught the flu a couple of days after this game and lost the speed and strength I had had for the first four games. So the rest of the year was really a washout for me, because I was not only being played out of position, but I had also lost my edge physically.

Brown game. Last of my college career. Finally, for this one game, the coaches agree to let me play wide receiver. So what do I do? Drop more passes in this game than I think I would have in the entire year if I had been playing the position regularly. I believe I dropped four or five. Very embarrassing. I did manage to catch four, including one for a touchdown – which made my mom real happy. (She said I had promised to score a TD for her.)

Jake: Even with Roberts, the Lions never really challenged for the Ivy title. What was the key ingredient that was missing on those teams?

Roger Dennis: Creative thinking! We were weak in certain areas, and we didn’t play to our strengths. You should build your offenses and defenses around the strengths of your players – if you have a 160 pound scatback and a 230 pound straight ahead power runner don’t keep sending the quick guy inside the tackles and the slower guy around the ends. Well, that’s an exaggeration, but in a certain way that’s what we did.

We should have been primarily a passing team. We had one of the best passers in the country, and we also had quality receivers in Bob Donohue, Jerry Hug, and myself. With some creative thinking we could have devised a blocking scheme that would have kept the sacks to a minimum. Instead of ‘mix it up with pass and run’ we should have mixed it up with different types of passes, or different sets, different formations. I think we could have had a really outstanding offense, which would have kept the defense off the field.

*We should have been a pass first, run to keep them honest, team.

*Archie could have run and thrown on the run.

*We could have gotten the ball to me in the flat and via other short passes, where I could have added yardage with my open-field running ability.

Furthermore, I believe there was a mental piece; a lingering belief, (which most players would not admit to feeling), that we will probably not win. Most guys were probably not even aware of it – it’s not a thinking as much as a feeling. It can’t be a thinking because athletes are not ‘allowed’ to think like that; you always have to think that you’re going to win. But I believe that, over the years, a lot of Columbia guys have had an unconscious (or not) feeling of “I don’t really believe we’re going to win.”

I think that, if we had run the creative, ‘outside the box’ kind of offense that I described above, we would have shared an excitement and a belief in ourselves that would have propelled us to a lot more victories.

I fully got to understand the psychological impact of not really believing in yourselves when, after college, I played rugby for the Old Blue; and the exact opposite feeling was in place! To this day, playing for and being a member of the Old Blue is one of the greatest and most meaningful experiences I have ever had! We were the best rugby club on the East Coast, and we knew it, and the other teams knew it. When we walked onto the pitch, both we and the team we were playing knew we would win. Even in those very rare instances when we didn’t win, we STILL knew that we were going to win!

By the way, the 1961 championship football team, under Captain (and Old Blue founder), Bill Campbell’s leadership, did not have negative thinking. They believed in themselves! They were fully committed to winning the Ivy championship, and they knew they could do it!

The Brighter Side of the Coin

Despite my rant last week about some local groups' unfair opposition to Columbia and Columbia athletics, I'm happy to say a lot of people and businesses in Upper Manhattan are solidly in our corner.

And that brings me to trumpeting the news that local restaurant Rack and Soul is sponsoring this year's spring football game on April 23rd at 7pm.

In addition to the great support from local business, I like the upgrade the spring game is getting. I hope we getmore alumni, students, and just regular fans out to the game.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

Chilly Spring Beginnings

Spring practice kicks off today and it's currently a brisk 42 degrees with overcast skies in New York City.

Good football weather.

In fact it feels like the kind of day we might have in week 8,9, or 10 of the upcoming season.

Let's hope the Lions are playing "meaningful games" in each of those weeks.

Go get 'em guys!

Friday, March 26, 2010

Back to Work

Getting ready to return (Credit: Columbia Athletics)

Spring practice begins for the football team this Sunday. This will be the first time back on the field for the players since the dramatic 2009 season-ending 28-14 win over Brown on November 21.

That's 127 days out of action, and it's too much. The one thing that amazes me the most about Ivy League football is how all eight schools manage to field coherent football programs with just a few weeks of offseason practice. I can only imagine how much sharper each Ivy team would be with the kind of practice time they get at the BCS schools.

Oh well.

With Columbia losing more regular players to graduation than it has since 1996, this will be the most crucial spring practice we've seen in many years. There are a lot of open positions in some key areas.

Usually, the football staff makes a few updates to the roster once spring practice starts, so I'll be looking at the online figures for possible new names and weights.

The big finale for spring ball will be the spring game at Wien Stadium on Friday NIGHT, April 23rd at 7pm.

These are my top 5 big questions going into this practice session:

1) Who will fill the three open slots on the starting offensive line?

2) Is QB Sean Brackett the de facto starter for 2010 or will another signal caller give him a run for his money?

3) Who will emerge as the leading candidates for the open starting wide receiver slots?

4) Is there anyone who can match the pass rushing intensity of Lou Miller, who graduates in May?

5) Will JV rushing star Nick Gerst make a push for a big role in the varsity backfield?

I ask the above questions because I have fewer questions about other aspects of the team.

I like our linebacker corps, especially if Alex Gross can come back from his big injury last season. There is still the nagging question of who will be the leader of the pack for the middle linebacker, or "mike" position, but I like the frontrunners Marc Holloway and Nick Mistretta.

I like most of our defensive line, especially if Owen Fraser can come back at 100%.

The secondary loses Andy Shalbrack, and Jared Morine HUGE losses, but the rest of the starters and super-tested backups return. I'd match our secondary right now against any other unit in the league.

See you at the spring game in four weeks!!!

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Never Again

The planned Campbell Center

As many of you know, Columbia is looking to make some changes and expansions at the Baker Athletics Complex.

The cornerstone will be the new Campbell Sports Center, named for Columbia football hero, head coach, and current Chair of the Board of Trustees Bill Campbell. The Center will significantly upgrade the almost 60-year-old facilities at the Chrystie Field House.

But the spectre of possible community objections was all I could think about after I saw this news report done by my former colleague Becky Spitz at New York 1.

Let me be clear, I think this project WILL happen. Just like the Manhattanville expansion of the campus will happen too. But from what I saw in that report, you can bet a bunch of so-called "community activists" will make this whole thing a lot more expensive and annoying than it has to be.

We all know what happened in 1968 when bogus community groups tried to label Columbia's proposed gym in Morninside Park as a "racist project." If that argument doesn't make any sense to you, it shouldn't. It was a smokescreen for a shakedown by some local homeowners and charlatans and an excuse for a crazed Vietnam War rant by students who were not quite as mature as their predecessors who attended Columbia in more adult times.

The ensuing riots not only killed the gym project, but badly harmed the reputation of the university for years. The athletic teams bore a very large share of the pain for the craziness and it stuck with athletics long after other parts of the school recovered. God bless those students and athletes who went through that and opted to stay or come to Columbia especially in the early 1970's.

This cannot be allowed to happen again. Not to our dedicated student athletes. Not to our dedicated fans. Not to our fellow New Yorkers who need jobs... now.

Columbia's attempts to make an environmentally friendly salt water marsh area at the complex are admirable. But if anyone thinks for one second that it will be enough to placate the so-called green "activists" who stand in the way of any development at any time in America, think again.

That'd better be a union tortoise!

Consider what's happening in California. For years, renewable energy companies have been trying to build a solar farm in the Mojave Desert. Makes sense, right? Wrong! Dozens of lawsuits were filed against every one of these companies because their projects were supposedly threatening a tortoise population that lives in the desert. The animal rights activists were short-circuiting even their greenie allies in a key project.

Except they weren't.

It turns out the lawsuits weren't really being filed by animal rights groups at all... they were really filed by unions who were cheesed off that the solar companies were planning to build their plants with... gasp... non-union labor. It was a shakedown pure and simple. Eventually one company agreed to use union workers and miraculously, all the lawsuits against it went away.

Just. Like. That.

You can be sure that the lion's share of the supposedly "concerned citizens" and small business owners who are objecting to Manhattanville and will certainly give Columbia headaches about the Baker Complex project will really be hucksters and shakedown artists too.

But let's not forget what I like to call the "Nudnik Factor." Nudnik is a great Yiddish word for annoying people who are good for little else than being annoying, nosy, and nit-picky. I submit that the smirking Mr. Ungar featured in the NY1 clip is a definite nudnick just waiting to pounce and slow down this worthy project with one ridiculous complaint after another.

The Audubon Business and Technology Center, better late than never

And just to prove that this isn't just a biased pro-atheltics screed, let me remind everyone what happened with the Audubon Ballroom during my own undergrad years at Columbia.

The once-lively ballroom was in absolute disrepair by the late 1980's. It was a glorified crack den. Then Columbia decided to take the building and turn it into a biotech research facility that would create jobs and improve an obvious blight on the Harlem area.

But not so fast. The university was accused of trying to erase racial history, because the ballroom was where Malcom X was killed in 1965. Students even occupied Hamilton Hall in 1992 to protest this evil plan.

Of course, Columbia won in the end. But the phony protests and arguments delayed the project for years and just when New York City was experiencing the height of its last significiant recession, (1989-1993), those jobs weren't there. However, I'm sure plenty of community leaders made out like bandits as they pushed their bogus grievances. And a few students got to miss class while Hamilton was occupied too. A win/win!

The point is, we shouldn't only be prepared to be annoyed, we should do what we can to pre-emptively dispel the troublemakers and shakedown artists who I can already see swirling around this project.

Columbia is doing the politically correct thing with all these information sessions. And that's what Columbia has to do.

But we alumni and fans can be more direct.

Here's my message to those who plan to stand in the way, once again, of Columbia's well-deserved and long overdue athletic upgrade:

We're On To You.

We're on to the bogus claims of environmental impact.

We're on to the ridiculous claims that you should be compensated $10 million because you'll get 15 fewer seconds of sunlight coming through your rent stabilized apartment windows every day.

We're on to your hatred of all things Columbia, all things corporate, all things that actually create real jobs and bring about positive change.

We won't let you kill or delay a good project just because you can yell words like "racist", "profiteering," and "hegemony" around.

The party's over. Time to get to work.

Rejection Inspiration

Sorry Charlie

As I continue to count down the days until the admissions and rejections letters are received, I see that Columbia figures prominently in a Wall Street Journal article about some famous people who were rejected by their first choice colleges or grad schools.

Richest American Warren Buffett didn't get into Harvard Business School, but he was admitted to Columbia's B-School and prospered because of the lessons he learned from two unique professors there.

Current Columbia President Lee Bollinger was rejected by Harvard as an undergrad, but ended up at the University of Oregon on a scholarship. He later graduated Columbia Law School and the rest is history.

Doctor Harold Varmus was rejected TWICE by Harvard Medical School. He came to Columbia's College of Physicians and Surgeons instead and won the Nobel Prize for studies of the genetic basis of cancer. He is now the president of Memorial Sloan Kettering Hospital in New York.

I think every kid applying to a top tier school this year should read the article to get some important perspective on this whole process.

Marcorus Garrett

New Videos of Speedster Garrett

Incoming freshman running back Marcorus Garrett, (number 25), looks mighty fast in a number of the clips in this new highlight video of one game from last season on YouTube.

He looks good in this video too.

And you can see most of the 2009 season highlights by looking to the right and clicking on all the Pope High School links... just be prepared to be amazed by a lot of what you'll see.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Marcellus on TV... Every Week!

Marcellus Wiley at a Super Bowl party in Miami last month

Cornell isn't the only Ivy League school earning invaluable publicity from sports.

Columbia's Marcellus Wiley '97 has been named the co-anchor of Winners Bracket, which will air on Saturdays on ABC.

Wiley continues to be the first name anyone ever throws out to me when I mention Columbia football. It used to be Sid Luckman or Marty Domres. As much as I love Sid and Marty, it's better to have people identifying with a Columbia athlete from this generation.

And it doesn't hurt that Wiley often tells people that he would never have been given the chance to do TV after his NFL career if it were not for his Columbia degree.

High School Database Update (or tidbit #2)

Today's interesting little bit of info from my continuing Columbia football high school feeder database effort is a small comment about Catholic high schools in America.

It doesn't take a genius to figure out that they're in financial trouble in most parts of the country. And football is suffering because of that.

I've only combed through the rosters from 1969-74 so far, and every time I come upon a Catholic school name I have to search the Internet to make sure it still exists. So far, about 40% of the Catholic schools I've come across have either merged or closed altogether.

As many of my longtime readers know, I am a big fan of the scholar-athletes churned out by the Catholic school football programs. One can only imagine how much better Columbia football and Ivy League football in general would be if these schools remained intact.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

No Fool's Day

April 1st is usually a day for pranks, and bad practical jokes by morning radio dj's.

But 4/1/10 will be a big day for young men like Chris Cooper, the guy a lot of us are pulling for to make it in to Columbia's class of 2014.

Of course, I don't even know the names of any of the people who make the admissions decisions. So consider this for rooting purposes only:

When I originally wrote about Chris last month I alluded to his academic prowess, but I didn't know he was actually one of only 13 Ohio high school students invited to attend and present their scientific research at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science on February 17 in San Diego.

I don't know whether this achievement, coupled with his strong efforts on the football field, tip the scales in Chris' favor. But I do know I'm proud Columbia attracts the kind of kids who want to compete athletically just as much as they do academically.

But speaking of football, Chris gets to play at least one more big game as he'll be a part of Ohio's East West All-Star game on Thursday, June 10.

Cornell... Again!

Cornell is taking their tournament dance to the next level. The 18-point whipping of Wisconsin yesterday has put the Big Red on the front page of dozens of sports sections and they're the talk of the sports talk radio in New York right now.

I also bet they're selling a ton of Big Red shirts, hats, and sweatpants, at stores on campus and online.

We want this to happen for Columbia sports someday soon.

Any Ivy school administrator who still doesn't understand the value of competing in big time athletics must face reality now. Retreating from the athletic arena means retreating from the national spotlight in more ways than one.

For example:

Most of us know the University of Chicago is a fine academic school, (hey, half my family including my dad went there). BUT, that's people like us. When I meet and talk with top high school seniors these days, none of them say they're considering U. of C. Many have never even heard of it.

I chalk that up at least partially to the school's exit from Division I sports eons ago.

Sure, it's still a great school, but it's also notorious for not having much of a social life despite being located in one of America's greatest big cities.


I think not.

High School Database Update

The work continues on the herculean task of compiling the names of all the high schools that have sent players to Columbia football.

I want to clarify that I intend this to be a "living document" with many additions, (and hopefully not too many mistake-forced subtractions), for decades to come.

One reader did ask me about P-G years and how I would account for them. For now, the plan is to include the names of BOTH high schools such P-G players attended when that information is available. Usually, that info is easy to find from 1980 onward. Before that, it's a bit of a dice roll. But again, I encourage non-angry corrections and suggestions as much as possible.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

High School Not So Confidential (Anymore)

Ed Harris: The pride of Tenafly

I've undertaken some ambitious projects on this blog over the years, most notably the 100 Games in 100 Days feature in the summer of 2008 and the 100 Players in 100 Days series in the summer of 2009.

But this new project dwarfs them all.

I have already begun an attempt to catalogue the name and location of just about every high school that has ever sent a football player to Columbia.

It's even harder than it sounds.

Admittedly, I will have some big gaps as I don't have the information available for every season since 1870. Nobody in the world has that information.

But where the info is available I will catalogue it.

And to keep the gaps from being too wide, every former player reading this should please feel free to send me your high school information if you don't see your name or school on the list when I eventually finish this ambitious task.

Now here's the question I'm sure many of you are asking:

"Why are you doing this?!?"

Simple, it's darn interesting and it can be very helpful to understand where our players have come from over the years.

And also, it's fun.

After just a few days of work so far, I feel like I'm getting a lesson in the history of American secondary educaton, American migration, and iconography.

Many of the schools I've catalogued from as recently as the 1980's have been closed, moved, or merged.

Many schools have been renamed to honor modern heroes.

Others have remained strong despite being located in rough urban areas everyone else gave up on long ago.

At my current pace, I hope to have my list completed for everyone to look at and check for accuracy within two months.

Meanwhile, I hope to provide some interesting updates along the way.

Today, I can report that the famous actor Ed Harris did indeed play football at Columbia in the early 1970's. Most of you know that, but you may not have known that Harris camee to the Lions, not from a rugged western state like Oklahoma or New Mexico, but from Tenafly High School in Tenafly, NJ where the football program still fields a decent team most years.

Harris' family eventually moved to New Mexico and he transferred to the University of Oklahoma to study acting and the rest is history.

So far, I have one other graduate of Tenafly HS in the database, and that's Tom Shadek, also from the class of 1973.

Congratulations Cornell!

As I complete this post, the Big Red has just completed a nice beat down over Fran Dunphy and the Temple Owls in the 1st round of the NCAA Tournament.

It's a good day for Ivy League sports.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Yes We Can

Cornell Coach Steve Donahue

With March Madness tipping off today I want to talk a little about basketball.

Cornell Basketball.

Just a few years ago, this program was really nowhere. I remember going to one Columbia-Cornell game at Levien Gym not too long ago where the Big Red almost failed to score 10 points in the first half.

But not only is Cornell in the tournament now, it's won the Ivy title three years in a row. Most experts believe that run will end next year with a big chunk of talented seniors about to graduate, but can anyone really quibble with what the Big Red have achieved?

I'll admit I was one of those people who thought the deck was impossibly stacked against everyone other than Penn and Princeton in Ivy basketball. Without a conference tournament or a break-up of the travel partner system, I didn't think we'd see a "non-P team" with the title in my lifetime. And yet, Cornell has now done it three years running without either of those conditions.

I think every Columbia fan, especially football fans, should take a good look at Cornell basketball right now. The team is living proof that no matter what your history or perceived permanent disadvantages to your program, things can change really quickly with the right group in place.

When it comes to talent and depth, the Columbia football team has already come a long way from where it was even five years ago. The next big step is developing the killer/winning instinct that many of us have talked about before. Judging by the way the Lions played and won the last two games of 2009, there is some reason to be optimistic about that as well.

I don't think too many readers of this blog think Columbia can't win the title because of some kind of supposed disadvantage it cannot overcome. But for those who do, Cornell serves as a reminder of what can be achieved.

An Added Laugh

I had to add this one...

Former Columbia baseball star Fernando Perez, now with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, stars in this hillarious new video about the "tough times" faced by Major League Baseball's minimum wage earners.


Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Spring Preview: Penn

Garton and Penn's Job #1: Stay healthy

Spring practice has begun... at Penn. The defending champion Quakers are the first to start the crucial offseason workouts and their spring game will be on April 10th.
(Columbia's spring game is Friday NIGHT April 23rd).

The Quakers already have some breaking news coming out of their camp. Running backs Matt Hamscher and Bradford Blackmon may move over to defensive side, or at least try to play both ways in the secondary. Hamscher and Blackmon have both battled injuries through their careers so far, but Penn is apparently trying to cover all its bases since its two 1st Team All Ivy corners, Chris Wynn and Jonathan Moore, are graduating.

This is an obvious vote of confidence in rising sophomore running back Lyle Marsh, who also battled injuries a bit last year but was impressive as a freshman in 2009.

But let's face it, defense won the championship for Penn last season. The 2009 All Ivy Defense reads like a Quaker press release. But in addition to the loss of Moore and Wynn, Penn is also graduating Joe Goniprow and Jake Lewko who were also All Ivy 1st Teamers.

I do think Penn will be better offensively in 2010, provided the Quakers avoid the rash of injuries that hurt their offense last year. They have all their starting offensive linemen returning, and three of them were All Ivy. That's a compelling reason to believe Penn will be able to score or at least mount long drives this coming season.

But the defense will almost certainly not be as dominant next season. It'll be darn good, with a bunch of rising seniors making 2nd Team and Honorable Mention All Ivy in 2009, but just not as tough. Considering how close the key wins over Harvard and Brown were for Penn, even a slightly weaker defense could derail the Quakers' chances.

Coach Al Bagnoli pointed out the obvious in an interview this week when he said the Quakers will need to focus on improving the passing game this spring. Other than Brown, just about every Ivy team has been moving away from a pro-style passing game. And it doesn't seem like Penn has the horses to change that trend. If QB Keiffer Garton stays healthy, there shouldn't be too much of a need to change up what worked for Penn last year. The only wildcard is if the Quaker defense really takes a step down and Penn finds itself well behind early in several games and is forced to throw the ball more. I just don't see that happening right now.

A lot of the preparation in this league is based on what the top teams are doing. Harvard has been Penn's focus for years now and the Crimson look somewhat like Penn in that they will also be leaning on rising sophomore Trevor Scales to power the offense in 2010. But unlike the Quakers, Harvard has transfer Andrew Hatch from LSU waiting in the wings to show what he can do against Ivy secondaries. That might be producing a bit of "passing game envy" in Philadelphia.

A QB wildcard is rising sophomore Bill Ragone but he too, seems to be a talented runner with perhaps a little less to offer as a pure passer than a Hatch or a Kyle Newhall Caballero at Brown. I also think Ragone won't play much unless Garton gets injured again.

Another wildcard is the incoming freshmen class, which won't be participating in spring practice of course. But wide receivers and QB's don't usually play as freshmen under Bagnoli. Marsh was a running back and even he needed some injuries to other players to climb the depth chart.

Overall, Penn has to like its chances. Even with the key defenders graduating, this is a very experienced and talented group for a defending champ. If I were Bagnoli, I wouldn't push too hard on creating a deep passing attack and focus more on getting that secondary ready and the linebacker corps accustomed to whoever takes over as their coach.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

A Sad Loss

Matt Bashaw (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics)

Yesterday, I received the kind of sad news that catches you by surprise and you just can't shake it.

Matt Bashaw's father John, a man who was a truly great supporter of Columbia football, passed away suddenly this past weekend.

If you attended any Columbia game from 2006 through 2009, you probably saw John. He was always one of the first fans there, home or away, in his signature Columbia football jersey. Even when Matt was injured and not even dressing for the games, John was there... even on the road.

John always would greet me with a warm smile and plenty of great stories about Matt and the whole team. He had a great sense of humor and couldn't have been more friendly to me and the parents of the other players.

I wish I could offer some words of comfort, but for now all I can think of is how much I'll miss John and how tragic it is that he will miss Matt's graduation in May. Something tells me that on Class Day, John would have been the first one there.

The wake for John Bashaw will be at Higgins & Bonner in Westfield, NJ on Wednesday from 7pm-9pm and Thursday from 2pm-4pm and 7pm-9pm.

The funeral is Friday at 9:30am at St Michael's in Cranford, NJ.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Speed from the Big Easy

Maurice Rothschild: So fast he's a blur

A reader sent me this link to a great video of incoming freshman Maurice Rothschild from New Orleans.

At 5-10 and 165 pounds Rothschild better be fast, and this video sure seems to prove that he is.

The scouts seem to have Rothschild pegged as a cornerback for college play, but every highlight in the video has him playing QB or WR. This, despite the fact that he was his district's co-offensive MVP.

The way Rothschild plays quarterback reminds me a lot of an old Oklahoma star named Jamelle Holieway.

But for Columbia's purposes, Rothschild is one of many members of this incoming class that sure seems to have put an emphasis on team speed. After the 2006 season, improving team size was obviously a recruiting priority, now speed looks to have been a key goal.

And since we don't yet know all the names on the class of 2014 list, who knows what other speedsters might be on the way?

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Saluting Our Veterans

The Marines protect Alma Mater

A couple of additions/edits to my piece yesterday about transfers:

Judie Lomax transferred to us from Oregon State. When I said she came to us from Oregon I was talking literally about the state of Oregon, not the University of Oregon.

Also, there was an important thing about GS that I should have mentioned that makes the school extremely enticing for potential athletes who happen to be veterans.

Since last year, GS is one of a handful of U.S. colleges offering American war veterans free or virtually free tuition. Any verteran who still wants to play collegiate athletics can basically get to school for free at Columbia. That's a big deal in every sense.

This program can really be used to bring some very fine young men and women into the Columbia family and the Columbia athletics family. It would also bring a lot more true diversity to the campus.

Javier Loya and wife Lucinda (CREDIT: Columbia College Today)

A Perfect Half Dozen

Quick trivia question: When did Columbia last have an undefeated team?

Time's up.

The answer is 1987.

Okay, I admit I'm talking about the freshman team from that season that went a perfect 6-0.

But since this team came together while the varsity was still in the midst of its historic 44-game losing streak, it's easy to see why the Friday night freshmen games at Wien started drawing big crowds.

For the record, the Lion Cubs beat Penn 23-12, Princeton 26-8, Yale 21-15, Brown 27-18, Dartmouth 24-17, and Cornell 14-13.

The undisputed star of the squad was Solomon Johnson, who ran for 836 yards on just 138 carries and scored 12 total TD's, (one as a receiver). Greg Abbruzzese looked good in limited duty, but he missed three games because of a concussion.

Bruce Mayhew did most of the work at QB, but struggled with just a .356 completion rate and no TD passes. (As a senior, he would make All Ivy).

The top receiver was Gary Comstock, who would also go on to an impressive varsity career.

Not enjoying the same fate was Scott Hill, who dazzled on defense and special teams. Hill had seven INT's in the six games and threw for one TD and ran for another as the frosh punter. But Hill injured his back in sophomore year and never really contributed to the varsity on the field.

Mike Hull was another star on defense at defensive tackle with some monster games, including an 18-tackle performance against Princeton. He also blocked a late field goal against Cornell to save the undefeated season. Hull got into the mix as a sophomore in 1988, but he was later switched over to offensive line and did not make a huge impact for the varsity.

Javier Loya was a standout linebacker for the '87 Lion Cubs, and he did become a key leader for the varsity as well. More notably, he is now a part-owner of the Houston Texans!

Injuries played the biggest role in the fact that the '87 frosh never lifted to Lion varsity to winning seasons in the next three years. But they were the biggest reason the losing streak finally ended the following year.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Manhattan Transfer

Lomax wins top honors

Congratulations to junior Judie Lomax for becoming Columbia's first womens basketball player to win the Ivy Player of the Year award. Lomax led the league in scoring, rebounding and steals.

As a lot of Columbia football fans point out, Lomax is a transfer who came to Columbia in 2008 from Oregon. They point that out to me because they generally would like to see more transfers come to Columbia football too.

The trouble with that is "recruiting" or luring student athletes at other schools is strictly, strictly forbidden. Basically, when you see a kid coming to an Ivy League school it's usually because that kid was recruited by an Ivy before he or she made the original college choice. I believe that was especially the case with Lomax.

But what Columbia and other schools can do is create a friendly atmosphere for transfers. I think Columbia has that already.

In our case it might be nice for sports fans, (including a lot of people who read this blog), to remind everyone that athletes can sometimes find a great new start in the General Studies school, etc. I know a lot of our armed services veterans with tremendous athletic ability might be interested in GS.

Other than GS, there are other great avenues that make transferring to Columbia a great option. Football standouts like Galen Snyder, Wade Fletcher, and many, many other football stars over the past 25 years serve as great examples of this.

Let me be clear, the talent level on this current Columbia football team is off the charts in comparison to most of the Lion past. But consider what Clifton Dawson, (transfer from Northwestern), did for the already talented Harvard Crimson in the mid 2000's. Think about what guys like Andrew Hatch will do for the Crimson next year. Yale may have been burned a bit at time by Nebraska transfer QB Patrick Witt last season, but he certainly has great talent and a quick release. If he can get his head together, he could help save that team next season.

But the overall point is, no team in the Ivies can afford to appear to be "too good" for potential transfers. Princeton's essential ban on all transfers almost killed the Tigers completely as they entered the year with an incredibly shallow bench at a number of key positions... especially QB.

Don't let this happen to you.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

A for Effort

Chris Cooper and former Bengal great Anthony Munoz

I recently read a great editorial by George Will that advises parents to praise children for their efforts in school, not their intelligence. And I wholeheartedly agree.

That brings me to the story of Chris Cooper from Turpin High School in the Cincinnati area.

Cooper was a standout leader and super hard worker in the classroom as a student and on the football field as an offensive lineman.

It doesn't appear Cooper was quite good enough to get recruited by Ivy League teams, but he dreams of coming to Columbia and perhaps trying to make it as walk-on on the football team.

Effort is really the most important quality for young people in and out of the classroom. I salute Chris Cooper for achieving and exemplifying that principal in his life.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Skinny on Skelton

Skelton was erratic in his games vs. the Lions

Fordham QB John Skelton is still getting a lot of attention from the NFL Scouts. Columbia's Austin Knowlin even helped Skelton out, (and hopefully turned a few heads himself), during a recent workout for the scouts at Fordham.

My take on Skelton has always been that he's a great kid with a lot of talent, but what the NFL guys like the most about him is his size. He's 6-5 and 241 pounds and in today's NFL, that's what the coaches want to see.

How did Skelton do in his four years against Columbia?

He did some limited duty in his freshman year of 2006 in a game Columbia won by a 37-7 score. Skelton was three of seven for 29 yards and an INT which was returned for a 41-yard TD by Drew Quinn.

Skelton played the whole game at QB the following year, but barely passed the ball at all as the Rams used a brilliant run-heavy game plan to rout the Lions 27-7. Skelton was just four of 15 for 51 yards while running backs Xavier Martin and Jonte Coven combined for nearly 300 yards on the ground.

In the 2008 29-22 win over the Lions, Skelton was 22 of 29 for 285 yards. But he also threw two INT's, (one for another pick six by Quinn), and no TD passes.

Drew Quinn caught two TD passes... from John Skelton!

Last season, Skelton let it all hang out in the thrilling 40-28 Columbia win. He went 25 of 47 for 383 yards and four TD's. But he also threw three INT's, one of which was returned for a TD by Jared Morine, and another one that was nearly returned for a score by Alex Gross.

Skelton certainly showed a lot of ability in his four games against the Lions, but you can see why some NFL scouts are questioning his decision making. He'll certainly have to cut down on the interceptions to make the big time, but we surely wish him the best!

Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Scouting, Spring, Sophomores

This is what scouting looks like today

Still at 30

Big Green Alert's Bruce Wood clears up a big question many of us had about recruiting going forward for Ivy football.

It turns out the recruiting period for the month of May was indeed canceled by the league, but the number of incoming frosh each season remains at 30, (or an average of 30 over every four year period).

I'm not sure what impact shortening the recruiting period will have on Columbia or the Ivies. I assume it means taking trips to visit recruits during that period is banned, but does it also curtail emailing and calling kids? Bruce included a link to the NCAA rules on this matter, but I am not smart enough to understand it exactly. Please feel free to check it out and let me know if you get it.

Looking Ahead to Spring, Day 2

A lot of you continue to weigh in on guessing who you think will be the break out players at Spring Practice. Remember those practices begin in about three weeks and the Spring Game is set for Friday NIGHT April 23rd at 7pm.

One reader guessed that QB Sean Brackett and OL Jeff Adams would be the Most Improved Players... but with Brackett winning an Ivy Rookie of the Week award at the end of 2009 and Adams getting 1st Team All Ivy honors, I don't think there's enough room for improvement there to make the "splash" I was alluding to. But that would be something if those two top players improved so much that they really deserved the award next month. For Adams, I think he would need to go from top tackle in the league to sure-thing NFL 1st or 2nd round draft choice!

As for Brackett, I've been combing the record books lately to see if he will be the most battle-tested starting QB in Ivy history since the league eliminated freshman football in 1993. Brackett had four starts during his freshman year, and I can't find any evidence any other freshman QB has had as many starts with the varsity. (Again, you have to couch this as being "since freshman football was elminated in 1993" because right after WW II, freshmen were allowed to play for Ivy varsities).

I have to agree with the readers who believe the new impact players will emerge from either the wide receiving or offensive line corps. With all the losses in those areas due to graduation, the odds seem to favor someone emerging from those slots.

But we'll take emerging players at any position and please keep your ideas and predictions coming!

Wit's Sophomore Season

Getting back to rising sophomore QB's with tons of talent, the most talented QB of the modern era for Columbia was John Witkowski. Because freshman football was around in his day, Witkowski couldn't have any varsity experience going into his sophomore season of 1981... and who knows how much better he could have been had he been given that chance?

In his first start in the '81 opener at Harvard, Witkowski dazzled with a 19-for-33 performance, but he also had three killer interceptions in the 23-6 loss.

He stumbled even more against Lafayette the following week with four picks, but then he looked a lot more seasoned in week three as he threw his first TD pass and only one INT in a 20-9 win over Penn at Baker Field.

The struggles continued for Witkowski the rest of 1981, as he finished with 18 interceptions and just four TD passes. But as he exploded for a record-shattering junior season, it became clear to a lot of Columbia fans that had Witkowski been able to play as a freshman with the varsity, it's very possible he would have had three sparkiling seasons instead of just two.

Ready for Spring?

Holloway parlayed a stellar spring into a starting linbacker role (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics)

We're about three weeks away from the start of Spring Football Practice and that's a good reason to get us all thinking about who might emerge as a promising star for the fall.

Last year, John Seiler and Marc Holloway were named the most improved offensive and defensive players of the spring, respectively.

I'd like to throw the question out to the readers:

Who do you think will be the respective "M.I.P's" this spring?

Remember this is all conjecture, and for entertainment purposes only.

(In other words, don't tell us your guesses are based on some kind of "word on the street"... save those sources for stock tips).

The best case scenario would be that we get a list of 10-15 frontrunners in our minds, and they all excel in practice and we end up with a big tie for the honors.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

More on Carter...

It seems like Marquel Carter was being heavily recruited by schools like Cal, Stanford and even Michigan State. They mostly saw him as a DB, while UNH liked him as a QB.

But after all that attention from the FBS schools, Carter got his transcripts into the Ivies, specifically Columbia, Dartmouth, Yale, Harvard and Princeton.

That's when things apparently changed.

Remembering Connie

Connie Maniatty and Dianne Murphy (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics)

The memorial service for Connie Maniatty '43CC, was moving, fun, and most of all, educational.

First off, let me list some of the notable people I saw there:

From the football alumni there was Bill Campbell, (of course), Marty Domres, Marcellus Wiley, Don Jackson, Joe Cabrera, Ted Gregory, Tom O'Connor, Chris Della Pietra, and many, many more.

Just about the entire current football team was there along with most of the assistant coaches. The players acted as ushers and sang a few choruses of Roar Lion, Roar! as everyone filed out of St. Paul's Chapel.

Also there were former Columbia President Michael Sovern, former Athletic Director John Reeves, and recent graduate and basketball legend John Baumann.

All of us there learned a lot more about Connie from the great array of speakers. I learned he wasn't only a benefactor for the football team. It turns out all Columbia sport teams owe a debt of gratitude to Connie and he was particularly a major driver behind making sure Columbia's womens teams got the support they needed.

A framed Columbia football jersey with the name "Maniatty" and the number 43 stood at the front of the chapel as the speakers told us about Connie. Here are some highlights:

Bill Campbell

"When I left coaching at Columbia, I felt like I let Connie down. But he never stopped contacting me, never stopped supporting me."

Dr. Dianne Murphy

"Every May, Connie would call me on the phone and say, 'So Dianne, how are you going to spend my money this year?'"

Ted Gregory

"The first time I met Connie he came over to me once and said, 'if you had hit that Cornell quarterback any harder, they would have been picking him off the field with a stretcher!' He was always that direct."

Susan Remmer Rysewic

"I always found it funny that the only place you could get a beer at a Columbia game was in the lounge named for Connie and my dad. Because Connie never took a drink in his life!"

The music, provided by soloist Emily Drake and pianist Michael Skelly, was very beautiful and always pitch perfect in the music-friendly chapel.

And, most importantly, I thought the mood during the service and the reception afterward was properly festive as we all indeed celebrated the life of a man who gave us all something for which we should be grateful.

Friday, March 05, 2010

Two New Names

Marquel Carter

I have a lot to write about yesterday's memorial service for Connie Maniatty, but let me bring you news of two new incoming freshman and get back to that later.

First we have a truly extraordinary young QB from the Los Angeles area, Marquel Carter of Culver City High School. Carter is a gifted student who speaks fluent Japanese .

On the field, he threw for nearly 2,500 yards and 27 touchdowns, adding 12 tackles and three interceptions on defense. Marquel was recruited by Nebraska, Utah and received offers from Princeton and Cornell. And a University of New Hampshire website claims he verbally committed to UNH earlier this year. As some readers have pointed out, when we can attract players from what has been one of the best FCS programs in the country, it certainly feels good.

Some of the recruiting websites I've seen project that Carter will play as wide receiver in college.

Second, we have wide receiver Tyler Kirkland from Orlando-area Lake Highland Prep. Here's a look at Tyler's recruiting video and you can see a nice picture of him here.

Here's the new list:

1. Joey Andrada WR 6-3 190 lbs. Piedmont HS (Piedmont, CA)

2. Marquel Carter QB/DB 6-0 200 lbs. Culver City Senior High School (Culver City, CA)

3. Hunter Coleman TE/OL 6-4 230 lbs. Loyola Prep (Shreveport, LA)

4. Paul Delaney P 6-3 200 lbs. Loyola (Palatine, IL)

5. Duncan Dickerson OL/LS 6-2 245 lbs. Cypress Falls HS (Houston, TX)

6. Lou DiNovo WR 6-0 185 lbs. LaSalle Institute (Albany, NY)

7. Mike DiTommaso CB 6-0 185 lbs. Seton Hall Prep (West Orange, NJ)

8. Brian East LB 6-3 205 lbs. Carmel HS (Carmel, IN)

9. Luke Eddy K 6-2 200 lbs. Worcester Academy (Worcester, MA)

10. Tyler Feely K/P 6-0 155 lbs. Jesuit HS (Tampa, FL)

11. Hamilton Garner TE 6-5 230 lbs. Duluth HS (Duluth, GA)

12. Marcorus Garrett RB 5-10 177 lbs. Pope High School (Marietta, GA)

13. Joe Ghergurovich OL 6-3 245 lbs. Glastonbury HS (Glastonbury, CT)

14. Eddie Hitchcock LB/FB 6-0 200 lbs. Cretin-Derham Hall HS (St. Paul, MN)

15. Tyler Kirkland WR/DB 6-0 180 lbs. Lake Highland Prep (Orlando, FL)

16. Dylan Leonard OL 6-3 281 lbs. Ola High School (McDonough, GA)

17. Brad Losee DE/TE 6-4 235 lbs. Eastview HS (Apple Valley, MN)

18. Griffin Lowry RB 6-0 215 lbs. University HS (St. Louis, MO)

19. Mark McClain WR/S 6-2 195 lbs. Upper Arlington (Upper Arlington, OH)

20. Zack McKown TE/LB 6-3 220 lbs. Fork Union Military Academy (Fork Union, VA)

21. Nick Melka DE 6-2 230 lbs. Benet Academy (Lisle, IL)

22. Jeremy Mingo WR/CB 6-0 180 lbs. Firestone HS (Akron, OH)

23. Chris Mooney TE 6-3 230 lbs. Walton HS (Marietta, GA)

24. Joe Raimondi OL/DL 6-4 255 lbs. Hampton HS (Allison Park, PA)

25. Chris Rapka QB 6-3 200 lbs. Cardinal Gibbons HS (Ft. Lauderdale, FL)

26. Maurice Rothschild CB 5-10 165 lbs. Warren Eastern HS (New Orleans, LA)

27. James Valerias WR 6-1 185 lbs. Gonzaga College HS (Washington, DC)

28. Sam Williams RB 5-10 175 lbs. Baylor HS (Chattanooga, TN)

Thursday, March 04, 2010

Paying Respects

Connie Maniatty

I'm off to the memorial service for Columbia legend Connie Maniatty today, so no blog posts until later tonight when I hope to recount some of the highlights.

Revisionist History

Do you remember us Cliff? We remember YOU!

Penn's longtime linebackers coach Cliff Schwenke is retiring from football after 35 years on the sidelines.

There is no denying that Mr. Schwenke was a great coach and that he molded many great linebackers at Penn over the last 11 years.

But there is apparently something he, and/or Penn is denying.

You see, Cliff Schwenke spent two years coaching at Columbia. In fact, he was the head freshman football coach for two seasons, 1977 and 1978.

In '77 the frosh team was 2-4, with big wins over Lafayette and... Penn. In '78, the team went 1-5, routing Laffayette and barely losing to Penn in the season finale.

But his resume on the Penn website, (see link above), not only doesn't list those years at Columbia, but it claims he was at Boston College and Holy Cross in 1977 and 1978! And people do remember him on Morningside during those seasons.

Now let me offer one possibility, (because I don't like accusing people... or even people in the Penn athletics dept. of lying), could Mr. Schwenke have coached at BC and Holy Cross and Columbia at the same time? I suppose it's remotely possible, kind of like a "Big Love" for football... but I just can't believe it.

It seems a little more likely that Schwenke or someone in the Penn athletics department decided that two years at Columbia wouldn't look good. I suppose the scores of former Columbia assistants now coaching at big-time colleges and NFL teams don't count.

I know my readers don't need any more reasons to be angry at Penn. And I've said many times on these pages that the Quakers deserve bragging rights over us until the Lions can actually beat them. But this "omission" is beyond the pale.

As for Schwenke himself, the fact that he spent two years working under the great Bill Campbell would look good on his resume now. Too bad no one will know that.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

But do they have a Snooki?

The Real Wives of Towson Football

Is this the beginning of the next reality hit? Maybe on ESPN? Check out this blog created by the wives of the Towson University football coaching staff called "The Real Wives of Towson Football!"

There are some good posts on this blog, and not many punches pulled about what it's like to be married to a college football coach. These guys better be on their best behavior, or it will get in this blog!

I'm sure many of the Columbia parents and coaches' wives will find a lot to relate to in this blog. As a fan, I note that one of the wives is expecting her first child on this September 25th... the same day of the Towson game here against our Lions. Best of luck to her... on the baby that is!

Vidushan Nadarajah

I don't know if this young man from Staten Island can play football in college, but he's a great student and an inspiring story of a foreign kid who fell in love with American football.

Young Vidushan Nadarajah won this year's Andrew Barberi Scholarship Award, and he has applied to Columbia, Harvard, Cornell, Penn and Brown among others.

Ray Tellier

I received some great emails and comments yesterday about my posting on the geographical origins of Lion football teams over the years. As many of you pointed out, Ray Tellier was not the FIRST Columbia coach to branch out from just the Northeast and/or the Ohio area with recruiting. But I will say he was the first to do it very successfully and with consistency.

In case anyone is wondering, here are the New York area representations on the best teams at Columbia over the last 40 years:

1971 (6-3 record, 2nd place Ivy League)

Total Players (Varsity Only): 94

Total Players from NY/NJ/CT Metro Area: 34 (36.1%)

1994 (5-4-1 record, first winning season since '71)

Total Players: 112

Total Players from NY/NJ/CT Metro Area: 15 (13.3%)

1996 (8-2 record, 2nd place Ivy League)

Total Players: 109

Total Players from NY/NJ/CT Metro Area: 18 (16.5%)

2006 (5-5 record, first non-losing season since 1996)

Total Players: 92

Total Players from NY/NJ/CT Metro Area: 14 (15.2%)

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

New York, New York

Midwood Field, Brooklyn

Not a week goes by that I don't get an email from a reader asking about whether Columbia is picking up some New York City recruiting prospect or another.

A lot of this curiousity comes from fans who believe a real New York high school star could jam the stands at Wien Stadium... and there's a good argument to be made for that.

But I think a lot of the questions come from fans who remember when the Columbia Lion football roster was packed with kids from the Metropolitan area year after year.

Here's how much that has changed over the last 40 years:

1969 (Complete varsity roster and and partial freshmen roster -- 1969 complete frosh roster not available, so I was only able to count sophs on 1970 varsity roster)

Total Players: 132

Total Players from NY/NJ/CT Metro Area: 50 (37.8%)

1979 (Varsity and Freshman players)

Total Players: 128

Total Players from NY/NJ/CT Metro Area: 61 (47.6%)

1989 (Varsity and Freshman players)

Total Players: 148

Total Players from NY/NJ/CT Metro Area: 44 (29.7%)


Total Players: 105

Total Players from NY/NJ/CT Metro Area: 18 (17.1%)


Total Players: 117

Total Players from NY/NJ/CT Metro Area: 26 (22.2%)

The was a slight increase in New York-area players from the early 70's through the mid 1980's. But since then the decline has been sharp, with the exception of the last few years where Norries Wilson and his staff have really beefed up the number of Connecticut-area recruits.

The biggest move away from a strong emphasis on Metro-area recruits came under Head Coach Ray Tellier, who was not only the first Columbia coach to truly make recruiting a 50-state, multi-national enterprise... he was really the first Ivy football coach to do it. Since Tellier was also the only Columbia head coach to produce more than one winning season since Buff Donelli, it's hard to argue with his approach.

And it's always been my contention, that Columbia's best chances for gaining ground in the Ivies are in the road less travelled.

The funny thing about that is our own backyard of New York City and Long Island are becoming the road less travelled as the general perception is that the best high school football days are behind us.

Maybe so, but it only takes one or two very talented high school diamonds in the rough to change a college's fortunes.

So keep your eyes open New Yawk!


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