Friday, April 30, 2010

Great Start

Pat Lowery (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics)

As I write this, Columbia's Pat Lowery has just finished a dazzling complete game three-hitter to lead the Lions to a 5-2 win over the Penn Quakers in Philadelphia. One more win in the next three games and Columbia clinches the Lou Gehrig division!


Columbia came back from a 9-2 deficit in game two and won 10-9! That clinches the division and a spot in the Ivy League Championship Series!

High School List Adds Data

The high school database has grown by another six seasons, so we now have a pretty complete list from 1969 through the 1995 season.

Please report all mistakes and omissions you might notice.

And please note the following disclaimers:

-The list is a living thing. It will never be "finished" because a) new freshmen will always be joining the teams from new high schools every year and b) there will always be years from the past where we won't be able to get 100% of the needed information.

-Sometime in the coming weeks, I will split off this list to feature only individual states, regions, types of schools (private vs. public), etc. It will not be this monstrously long list for much longer. But I do want to keep it long for the time being so people can search through for schools or names they know. Use the "Control F" or search box feature in the top left to make things easier.

-When the incoming class of 2014 is announced, (probably next month), I hope to have complete data on the high schools for each of the new freshmen players.

-The biggest reason I'm doing this is to have an indirect, informal and unofficial recruiting tool for the program. As an alum, I can't recruit players directly. Those are the rules. But I think having a semi-complete list of all our feeder high schools over the decades provides a great frame of reference for incoming players and prospective incoming players.

High School Database Project: 1969-1995

**UPDATE**: the list is up to date from 1969-1999! To see it click HERE

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Schedule Shuffle

Buddy has good reason to smile

The great weight that helped push Dartmouth football into the depths of the Ivy League over the past decade has been lifted.

I'm talking about the Big Green's brutal schedule.

It is brutal no more.

Year in and year out, Dartmouth shouldered the toughest out of conference slate with annual contests against Colgate, UNH, and Holy Cross. And with each of those games coming in the first half of the season that included games against league opponents Penn and Yale, the Big Green were often looking at 0-5 or 1-4 records for much of the past decade.

But now two of those killer opponents are out of the way. Dartmouth announced yesterday that the league opener will be at Bucknell. Colgate decided to cancel the game against the Big Green to make space for a showdown with Syracuse instead. Dartmouth made a deal to break out of the traditional in-state rivalry game against UNH last year, replacing them with Sacred Heart.

I think this all means Dartmouth goes from having the conference's toughest schedule for the last 10 years to having the easiest slate... at least for 2010.

The news is just the latest case of what I consider to be excellent offseason momentum for the Green which includes:

1) Successfully recruiting high school football sensation Cole Marcoux, a QB who played his home games literally within view of Wien Stadium at Fieldston. You can never be very sure about these things, but Marcoux is considered to be just one jewel in a very strong Dartmouth recruiting class.

2) A new assistant coaching staff that seems to have the players and Head Coach Buddy Teevens re-energized, or at least more aware that they need to perform better... or else.

3) More and more evidence that new Dartmouth President Jim Yong Kim is a serious supporter of athletics and is taking the developments on that front with a real sense of personal responsibility. Kim actually came to campus last year, but I think he's upped the ante in recent months as far as his committment to sports is concerned.

I don't know if all this momentum will translate into a lot more wins for a team that has a grand total of two victories over the last two seasons. But the Big Green really seems like a team going in the right direction, at least in the offseason.

So who has the toughest schedule now?

I hate to say it, but I think our Lions are right out in first place on that score.

Columbia's three out of conference games are all at home. But one of them is against the now scholarship-enabled Fordham Rams. Another is against perennial Patriot League contender Lafayette. The third nonconference game is against Towson, which certainly seems very winnable at this point, but don't forget the Tigers also come in with the power of the "Real Wives of Towson Football" behind them.

But it's the Ivy schedule, and the locale of those games, that really puts the Lions in a tough spot for 2010.

The matchups against Harvard, Penn and Brown this fall are ALL on the road. The fourth Ivy road game is at Yale, where the Lions haven't won since 1996.

Harvard's schedule would be a close second in my opinion, with road games against Brown and Penn, and out of conference matchups against Holy Cross, Lafayette and Lehigh. But the games against a graduation-gutted Holy Cross and Lehigh are at home, and it's hard to shed tears over a Crimson schedule that ends with Yale at home as well.

Penn has its annual impossible game against Villanova to contend with, and Lafayette is on the slate as well. But the Leopards come to Franklin Field for that game, and the third contest is against a struggling Bucknell program. Meanwhile, the Quakers get to host all the other teams that finished in the Ivy's "first division" in 2009: Harvard, Brown and Columbia.

Yale has a home opener against Patriot doormat Georgetown and the Elis host their other two nonconference games against Albany and Fordham. In conference, Yale does have the tough task of taking on Harvard and Brown on the road but Penn and Columbia will be home games.

Cornell has a rough one at home against Colgate, but the Big Red also play weaker opponents Bucknell and Wagner on the road. In conference, things are tougher for Cornell; it plays three of the 2009 first division teams, Columbia, Harvard and Brown, on the road.

Princeton has tough opponents Lehigh, Lafayette, and Colgate out of conference. But the Tigers face Harvard, Penn, and Brown all at home.

Brown's schedule seems pretty even. The toughest nonconference opponent, Stony Brook, is at home, while Rhode Island and Holy Cross are away games. But the key game on Brown's schedule every year for more than a decade has been the showdown with Harvard and this year that game is in Providence.

So here's how I would rate the upcoming season's schedules in order of difficulty:

1) Columbia

2) Harvard

3) Cornell

4) Penn

5) Princeton

6) Brown

7) Yale

8) Dartmouth

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Defensive Minute Men

2009 was not as injury-riddled as the nightmare injury-marred season of 2007 for Columbia.

But it was still rough as the Lions lost All-Ivy players like Owen Fraser and Alex Gross for most of the season. Then they lost starting both starting corners, Calvin Otis and Kalasi Huggins.

You might remember that the injuries in 2007 led to a 1-9, (0-7 Ivy) record.

But 2009 turned out a lot better despite losing so many defensive stars, thanks to some stellar play by a group of young backups who were instantly ready to fill in.

The first key player to go down was Fraser early in the season opener at Fordham. Most of his loss was shouldered by then-juniors Bruce Fleming and Josh Smith and then-sophomore Chris Groth. Fleming finished the year with 39 tackles and a sack, Smith had 22 tackles and 3.5 sacks, while Groth had 19 tackles and a sack.

The Columbia coaches use a lot of substitutions on that defensive line, and all three of those players would have seen good playing time even if Fraser had stayed healthy, but I thought each of them got a better chance to emerge as the season went on. For me, Fleming's 8-tackle game at Cornell was a key part of that victory.

Smith's two sacks against Yale helped keep the Lions ahead for most of the game in the heartbreaking loss to the Elis.

Groth did not necessarily stand out in any one game, but his absence due to illness in the Dartmouth game proved just how badly Columbia needed him as the Lions really struggled against the run all day.

Players like Shea Selsor, Seyi Adebayo and Will Patterson also got more playing time because of the injuries to others on the defensive line and they showed some flashes of brilliance.

Much of the burden of the injuries to Otis and Huggins fell on then-sophomore Ross Morand. It was a trial by fire that began in the gut-wrenching loss at Lafayette. In emergency service, Morand did a great job as he was picked on mercilessly by the Leopard offense. He was flagged a few times for pass interference, (at least one of those penalties was really bogus), but he also had a big interception and a nice 22-yard return.

Morand, another product of that great Saint Xavier High School football program in Cincinnati, finished the season with four interceptions, 31 tackles and two fumble recoveries. It was a spectacular sophomore campaign, especially for someone pressed into emergency service. Ross looked sharp in the spring game last week as well.

But if I had to choose the one Lion in 2009 who had the biggest shoes to fill and did the best job at it, it would be then-sophomore Evan Miller who replaced All-Everything linebacker Alex Gross right at the start of the same Lafayette game in week four.

Evan jumped onto the field that night and recorded 12 tackles, 1.5 for a loss, and a pass break up. He followed that up with 10 tackles a week later against Penn.

None of the remainder of the season's games was quite as spectacular for Miller, but he played his position well enough to keep the outside running lanes contained for opposing offenses most of the rest of the year. He finished with 38 tackles, two for a loss.

Evan went a long way in 2009 to proving he shouldn't just be thought of as "Lou Miller's kid brother." Depending on how well Gross recovers this offseason, he may need to do it again throughout 2010.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Another Shocking Loss

Owen Thomas

For the second time in the less than five year history of this blog, I have the sad duty to report the untimely death of an active player on the University of Pennsylvania football team.

This team it was a captain.

Owen Thomas, a star defensive end who trailed only Columbia's Lou Miller in sacks last season was found dead in his room yesterday afternoon.

I expect the authorities to learn the cause of death sometime soon.

But "cause of death" is never enough in cases like this.

A 21-year-old young man with everything to live for and so much going for him is dead. What "cause" can explain that?

In 2005 when Penn player Kyle Ambrogi died, the first game after that sad event was a Penn-Columbia game at Wien Stadium. It may have been a road game, and Columbia Homecoming, but the crowd observed the most respectful moment of silence I have ever witnessed at a sporting event in Ambrogi's memory.

I never thought I would have to see something like that again.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Draft Results

David Howard

Brown's David Howard was the lone Ivy player chosen in the NFL draft, (7th round, Tennessee Titans).

Howard had a good track record against Columbia in his three games against the Lions.

In 2007 he recorded just one tackle, but it was a tackle for a four-yard loss. Brown won that wild game at Wien Stadium, 30-22.

In the 2008 41-10 Bear rout, Howard had his best game overall against Columbia with two sacks, another shared tackle for a loss and three quarterback "hurries."

Last year, Howard did well with six overall tackles with another 2.5 for a loss.

But you'll recall Howard had some questionable problems this past offseason when he was convicted of simple assault connected with his work as a bouncer. Compared to what so many NFL draftees have on their records, this is nothing.

Five other Ivy players signed free agent contracts yesterday. Three of them were from Brown: Bobby Sewall, Buddy Farnharm and James Develin. Cornell's Bryan Walters and Penn's Jake Lewko also penned deals. Lewko and Sewell join Howard with the Titans, Walters joins the Chargers, Develin goes from Brown to the Browns, and Farnham went to the Bucs.

John Skelton

The other familiar foe for Lions fans who was drafted this weekend was Fordham's John Skelton.

Skelton went pretty high: 5th round for the Arizona Cardinals. Last month, I wrote about Skelton's mixed record against Columbia... including the two TD passes he threw to the Lions' Drew Quinn!

Overall, 19 FCS, (formally Division I-AA), players were drafted this year. But my favorite draft pick from a non BCS-type school has to be Hillsdale College's Jared Veldheer. Hillsdale is a very conservative Division-II school in Michigan that is very popular among parents who want to send their kids to a college that isn't about partying or hating America. It was actually the first college in America to impose a non-discriminatory admissions policy based on race or religion, etc.


#50 Josh Smith's dad has written to tell me that Smith was a high school teammate of Veldheer's at Forest Hills Northern HS. Very, very cool!

Judie Lomax draws another double team

Speaking of going pro, congratulations to Columbia women's basketball star Judie Lomax, who will try to break onto the WNBA Connecticut Sun's roster. Judie is probably the greatest Lion woman basketball player ever and we will miss her. She had an option to return for one more season, but that would have required some juggling as she only had one academic semester left to graduate. We wish her the best of luck.

And continued best wishes also go to the baseball team as it heads into the final four games of the season with a two-game lead in the Lou Gehrig Division. The Lions lead Penn by those two games and the final four games are, of course, against Penn. The home-and-home double set of two doubleheaders begins in Philly on Friday. Two wins in that four game set would clinch the division for Columbia and a spot in the Ivy League Championship Series, most likely against Brown or Dartmouth. The Lions beat Dartmouth for the league title in 2008.

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Shaking off the Cobwebs

Mike Stephens had a great night: 109 yards receiving and he was named co-captain

Even before last night's spring game began, it was a victory for the Columbia football program.

What had to be the biggest crowd ever for a spring game showed up, and that was even though the athletic department was providing a live blog and internet broadcast of the game.

I have a lot of theories about why the crowd was so large and boisterous, but I think the number one reason has to be that the program is seeing a near record number of upperclassmen and more and more players and their families and friends have a real long-term investment in this team.

Oh, and also... the weather was nearly perfect.

As for the game, the old adage about how it takes offenses a little more time to get into rhythm than defenses in football rang true last night. The defenses for both the blue and the white teams looked pretty sharp and ahead of their counterparts on the other side of the ball.

The offenses had a little trouble getting things going with their passing attacks. But the white team was assured victory when QB Sean Brackett and WR Mike Stephens got into sync in the second half. Stephens made some sparkling catches and set up the lone TD of the game, eventually scored by Brian Deveau on a WR end around play.

Stephens finished with 4 catches for 109 yards and he was my MVP of the game.

Obviously, the special rules for QB's running, (one-hand touches counted for tackles and sacks), quashed the offensive powerhouse that is Sean Brackett when he decides to run. At least four big runs were cut short by that rule last night.

And that's okay... no more injuries please!

I was also very impressed with Kurt Williams, who started at WR for the blue team after playing CB his first two years. He has blistering speed and I see him as a factor in 2010. The first play from scrimmage featured a great throw from Jerry Bell that Williams timed perfectly even as he burned his cover man and got great separation.

Owen Fraser looked great most of the night in his first action since getting injured in the 2009 opener at Fordham.

I liked Will Patterson's play as he registered three "sacks" for the white team. Also looking good for the white was Seyi Adebayo.

After the game, defensive lineman Josh Smith and WR Mark Muston were named most improved players for the spring. With Smith, Patterson, Adebayo and Josh Martin emerging on the DL last night, I like our chances to recover from losing two-time 1st Team All Ivy Lou Miller and great outside pass rusher Matt Bashaw to graduation. Chris Groth and Bruce Flemming will also make a difference up front.

David Chao probably had the best night of any of the running backs, making some good cuts and doing a good job of switching the ball from his left to his right hand when the situation called for it. Leon Ivery ran hard, but didn't have much room most of the night.

Nick Gerst had one of the biggest highlights of the night with an exciting and speedy 35-yard catch-and-run from Paul Havas on a screen. You have to think Gerst will be a great weapon on that kind of a play over his next three years. If he bulks up a bit like Ray Rangel did last offseason, look out!

Also looking good from where I was sitting were Ross Morand, Craig Hamilton and Kalasi Huggins in the secondary.

I was also happy to hear the naming of the captains for 2010: Stephens, Matt Moretto, Andrew Kennedy, (who was injued and did not play last night... we really need him to be ready for the fall), and now two-time captain Alex Gross, (also injured since last season and not playing last night).

Some of the other walking wounded were Shea Selsor, Calvin Otis and Ian Quirk

I know I'm leaving a lot of other players' names out, but please check the archive of last night's live blog for those names and some other key details.

Almost There

I'll be heading out in about an hour to Wien Stadium for this year's spring game.

A few things to consider:

-It's been 152 days since the 2009 season ended with a 28-14 win over Brown at home.

-There are 148 more days before the 2010 season kicks off at home vs. Fordham.

-Columbia's first four games are at home, so there will be a 328-day gap between road games for the Lions.

-Tonight's game will feature the supposed first team offense paired with the supposed second team defense vs. the supposed second team offense paired with the first team defense. I say "supposed" because none of this is set in stone.

-I will do my best to get my analysis of the game published here sometime tomorrow.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Spring Game Broadcast!!!

The Rack and Soul Spring Game will indeed be broadcast live on SideLion Pass beginning tomorrow night at 6:55pm Eastern Time.

I have to believe this is the first time Columbia will broadcast the spring game in any way... it may be the first time any Ivy school has provided this coverage live.

You can sign up for SideLion Pass by going to the home page and clicking on the SideLionPass icons on the left.


Draft Day Podcast!

James Williams of Harvard could be drafted tonight or tomorrow

I was recently interviewed by the "NFL Draft GM" Website about the Ivy prospects in the pro draft.

You can listen to the interview here.

The interviewer really wanted me to focus on graduation Brown WR Buddy Farnham, but I think the Ivy player with the best chance of getting drafted is OL James Williams from Harvard.

I was also able to slip in some mentions of Columbia players of the past and present like Steve Cargile, Austin Knowlin, and M.A. Olawale.

Spring Game Tomorrow Night!!!

Don't forget the Rack and Soul Spring Game is tomorrow night at Wien Stadium beginning at 7pm.

I have not yet heard if the game will be available on streaming video, but stay tuned.

High School List Grows

I've only been able to add FOUR more years to my high school database project, but the list now stands at 21 total years worth of varsity rosters and most of the freshmen rosters from those years as well.

To see the list, click HERE.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Respecting our Elders

After making some noise as a junior in '09, Augie Williams is one of several seniors who hope to truly roar in '10

I've spent a lot of time lately scrutinizing every detail of every Columbia Lion varsity football roster since 1969.

Okay, I do that all the time... let me clarify:

I've been spending a lot MORE time lately scrutinizing every detail of every Columbia Lion varsity football roster since 1969.

It's all because of my ongoing goal of documenting the names of every high school that sent players to Columbia football. (My next update to "THE LIST" should be tomorrow or Monday).

Anyhoo... all this extra roster study really shows you some undeniably strong trends in the history of this program. And one of those trends is the fact that most years, the number of juniors and seniors on the varsity squads is embarrassingly small.

Try some of these years for example...

1969: A total of 36 juniors and seniors vs. 40 sophomores.

Final Won-Lost Record: 1-8

1976: A total of 40 juniors and seniors vs. 46 sophomores.

Final Won-Lost Record: 3-6

1983: A total of 48 juniors and seniors and 54 sophomores.

Final Won-Lost Record: 1-7-2

1986: A total of 47 juniors and seniors and 49 sophomores.

Final Won-Lost Record: 0-10

Now let's look at the upperclass-sophomore breakdowns on the most successful Columbia teams of the last 40 years:

1971: A total of 47 juniors and seniors and 47 sophomores.

Final Won-Lost Record: 6-3

1994: A total of 43 juniors and seniors and 27 sophomores.

Final Won-Lost Record: 5-4-1

1996: A total of 38 juniors and seniors and 29 sophomores.

Final Won-Lost Record: 8-2

2006: A total of 36 juniors and seniors and 27 sophomores.

Final Won-Lost Record: 5-5

This year's squad should have 57 returning juniors and seniors and 35 sophomores.

I like that ratio and I think it bodes well for the Lions' chances in 2010.

But while each of the best three seasons noted above all avoided having sophomores as the majority of the team, note the difference between upperclassmen and sophs was not too large in 1996 and it was dead even in 1971.

In other words, more experience alone won't win Columbia any games.

But it helps.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Sophomores Galore!

Okay, this is not the Lions of 2005... but it was a small squad!

It may be just an intrasquad game, but I know I'm excited to finally get back to watching football at Wien Stadium just three days from now.

The Rack and Soul Spring Game kicks off at 7pm.

Moving the contest under the lights and getting the Rack and Soul sponsorship are both great developments that I hope will help make the game an annual party-like event for the fans.

I'm also excited because I'm willing to bet that a record number of incoming freshmen football players and their families will be in attendance for the game. (So let's make sure to all be on our best behavior).

The forecast is still holding steady. We're expecting clear skies and temps in the low 50's or high 40's at game time. During the day, it will be much warmer with temps in the 60's.

Sophomore Mania!

Sophomores usually make up the largest contingent of any class on an Ivy varsity football squad. But this year's sophomore group is larger than I can ever remember.

An eye-popping total of 35 sophs jam the Lion roster right now. Assuming Columbia takes in the usual number of 30-32 freshmen this year, we will have probably the first sophomore class that's bigger than the freshmen class ever in Lion history.

By comparison, the junior class is 30 men strong. The seniors number 27.

And not all those sophs are inexperienced at the varsity level.

They include the young man who finished 2009 atop the Columbia depth chart for QB's, Sean Brackett. And Brackett was more than just a little impressive in his four starts as a freshman last year. Brackett enters 2010 as the second most experienced rising sophomore QB in the Ivies since freshman football was abolished in the Ivies in 1993. Only Dartmouth's Josh Cohen in 2005 started more games as a frosh than Brackett did last year. And Cohen only won one of his starts, while Brackett won two.

Brackett will obviously carry the flag at that position for his class. And we'll see a lot of Brackett Friday night.

Defenders Seyi Adebayo and Will Patterson return with good real-game playing time under their belts.

Kickers Greg Guttas, Michael Williamson and Dean Perfetti are certainly battle-tested.

Other than that, the sophs are a big X factor. Friday night should clear up some of the questions we have about this super-sized class.

Of those 35, 7 are defensive linemen, and there are 6 DB's and WR's each. Playing the mathematical odds, you'd have to say the sophomores at those positions have the best chance of breaking into the lineup.

But the speedy Nick Gerst at RB is going to be squarely in the fans' focus, as he has his many... well, fans. Gerst will have to start proving he can compete at the college level despite his smaller size.

I don't know if any of this year's sophomore offensive linemen are a potential Jeff Adams for 2010. Remember, Adams was a 1st Team All Ivy left tackle as a soph in 2009. Someone from this class will need to emerge either this year or next year on the offensive line.

But for long-time Lion fans, this year's spring game will represent what seems like an embarrasment of riches. The numbers are astounding: 92 returning veterans on a squad that had just 76 total players five years ago. 57 of those 92 are juniors and seniors, another impressive number for a team that has often seen massive defections between sophomore and junior year.

Numbers alone won't make Columbia a winner in 2010... but they will sure help.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Changing Places

We've had some news come out of spring practice about some position changes for a few of our players:

-Brian DeVeau is now working out with the wide receivers

-Malcom Carson is now on offense

-Kurt Williams goes from the secondary to wide receiver

I am willing to bet there are more changes, and perhaps we will see all the players in action in their new slots this Friday night.

Speaking of Friday, right now the weather forecast is looking good with temps in the low 50's around game time.

Getting back to position changes...

Over the last 15 years or so, a decent number of Columbia players have successfully switched positions from one season to the next.

What's interesting is that the most successful position switches have come from players who were already very good at their original position. To help the team, most of these guys made the change despite already establishing themselves elsewhere.

Here are some of the most notable position switches in recent years:

Kirby Mack

2000: Kirby Mack, Fullback to Linebacker

After transferring from the University of Virginia, Mack made 1st Team All Ivy as a fullback in 1998. The following year, Mack had knee surgery and was not at full strength.

Then for the 2000 season, Coach Ray Tellier switched Mack to linebacker and he had a super year. He finished with 56 tackles, nine for a loss, three sacks, and two interceptions.

Once again, Mack was named 1st Team All Ivy.

Steve Cargile

2003: Steve Cargile, Wide Receiver to Safety

Cargile was a very productive receiver for the Lions in his first two years with the varsity. He even had seven career TD receptions to his name.

But Columbia's all-time interceptions leader Phil Murray, graduated in 2002 and Coach Tellier wanted to make sure the secondary didn't suffer too much.

He switched the 6-1, 190 lbs. Cargile to free safety and it worked like a charm.

Cargile was a force in 2003, leading the team with 99 tackles while also grabbing two interceptions.

Cargile made 2nd Team All Ivy but more importantly, the position switch made him a legitimate NFL prospect. Cargile has been on the rosters of four or five pro teams since graduating in 2004.

Uche Osadebe (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics)

2006: Uche Osadebe, Defensive Tackle to Offensive Guard

There wasn't much to be happy about for the 2005 Lions. But Uche Osadebe was one bright spot as he earned Honorable Mention All Ivy honors.

Then new Head Coach Norries Wilson took over and he saw a serious code red situation on the offensive line needed to be addressed.

He brought Osadebe over to the offensive side of the ball, and while he did not make it back to All Ivy status, he provided some much needed strength for the unit.

Marcellus Wiley

1994: Marcellus Wiley, Tailback to Defensive End

Certainly the most successful position change at Columbia in the last 25 years was future NFL All Pro Marcellus Wiley's switch from offense to defense in the mid-1990's.

Much of the change was due to Wiley's body size; he just continued to grow and grow through his first two years at Columbia.

But Wiley still led the Lions in rushing his sophomore year, so the switch was not without risks.

But no risk, no reward. Wiley dominated at his new position, earning five sacks and making 1st Team All Ivy. After taking '95 off, Wiley came back for a senior season where he was once again 1st Team All Ivy and had 17 tackles for a loss, including 6.5 sacks.

Saturday, April 17, 2010

Guide to Getting to the Game (Spring Edition)

I just want to again compliment the great job Darlene Camacho and the athletic department is doing with the live blogs of spring practice. Darlene has a tough job in not only keeping track of a lot of stuff, but she also has to make sure she isn't giving out the kind of information the coaches are trying to keep close to the vest right now.

I can tell you from personal experience that's not easy.

If you missed yesterday's live blog, the transcript is still available if you click the "live blogs" link I have provided above.

Based on some of the questions I saw on the blog, it's definitely time to republish my quickie guide to going to games at Wien Stadium.

Remember that the spring game this Friday is a NIGHT GAME, so there are some key differences to remember.

1) I would say free street parking will be harder to find than on the typical Saturday late morning/afternoon. You may not realize it, but the Baker Complex is located in a residential area, (you can even see some detached homes... in Manhattan!... from the stands), and the local residents like to find their spots and park their cars on the street for the weekend.

But as Darlene mentioned, there are a lot of parking garages that are inexpensive, especially along 10th Avenue near the complex. And consider yourselves lucky, because these lots just weren't there a couple of years ago. I would say their emergence has been one of the top 5 best new things about watching Columbia football over the last two decades!

Anyway, the rest of the guide is below. You'll have to decide for yourself if you want to take the subway from campus, (which I highly recommend if you're in a group of people because it's still the fastest way to get around New York City). And you'll also have to choose where you want to eat, (I lean in favor of eating near campus, but you'll see you have choice around the stadium as well).

Also, if you are a parent of an incoming freshman player, please email me at and I will get you in contact with the mom of one rising senior on the team who has brilliantly and kindly organized parents' tailgates and their general correspondence for a few years now. She is a wonderful person, period.

The sign of my salvation

The following is my annual guide to getting to the game that I publish every year in the days before the football home opener. This is the modified Spring Game version:

Step one: DON'T PANIC

Getting around New York City, and Manhattan in particular, is all about your state of mind. If you're an overly aggressive or too passive driver, you will either drop dead of a tension-induced stroke or become the victim of a panic attack, respectively. The city is fraught with double-parkers, Kamikaze cabs with no regard for life and limb, and people who routinely make right turns from the left lane.

But fear not! The road to the Baker Athletics Complex is filled with special advantages and other options that can make the whole experience livable, decent, and fun even.

The key to avoiding disappointment, dyspepsia, and dismemberment is to LEAVE YOURSELF A LOT OF TIME.

Baker or Morningside: Make Your Choice Now

Before we talk about getting to the actual game by car, ask yourself where you'd really like to keep your car. Do you want to park it up at the very tip of Manhattan, or do you want to keep it near the Columbia campus where you can spend a very pleasant morning and late afternoon/evening before and after the game? This is not exactly a rhetorical question, as there ARE things to do and see not far from Wien Stadium... but it's not exactly a culinary hotbed, in fact it's quite residential, (in the Baker Field neighborhood of Inwood there are actually a few houses... detached houses in Manhattan!). There are new choices lately. Just over the Broadway Bridge north of the stadium there's a strip mall with an Applebee's and a Starbucks!

You can also park very close to the stadium at many of the newly-opened garages within 1-6 blocks of Baker.

But My advice would be to park the car near the Columbia campus, which is only 100 blocks or so from Baker Field, (I will discuss how to get to the game from campus and more to do around Morningside Heights later). There is more to do, see, and definitely eat around there.

A path in Inwood Hill Park... yes, this IS Manhattan!

BUT definitely choose one game, and check out Inwood and its environs during the season. Parts of Inwood Hill Park are the only pieces of Manhattan that still look as they did in 1524 when the Dutch explorers arrived.

A few blocks South of Inwood is Washington Heights, a very resurgent neighborhood with lots of interesting Latin restaurants and shops.

The Cloisters... an excellent Marital Bargaining Unit if I say so myself

One Washington Heights highlight about 30 blocks South from the Baker Field is the lovely Cloisters. Most Columbia students get sick of the Cloisters after a few years, (some classes make you go there too many times), but it's a great place for the uninitiated. It's also not a bad date spot. So, if you have a wife or girlfriend who's none too pleased about being dragged to a football game, the Cloisters can be your olive branch. No need to thank me if your lady ends up thinking you're a romantic genius; like Billy Flynn, all I care about is love.

But How Do We Get to Neverland?

The directions provided here by the athletic department are very good. You can use them with confidence... but don't ignore the key section of those directions for people coming from Queens, Long Island, Eastern Brooklyn via the Belt Parkway, and that includes JFK Airport and La Guardia. If you are one of those people, I'm about to save you anywhere from 45 minutes to 7 hours by urging you to never, never, even if you're a Penn fan, NEVER take the Cross Bronx Expressway!

The Cross Bronx Expressway... dear Lord, why us?

The Cross Bronx Expressway was designed by Robert Moses a brilliant but evil man whose disdain for ordinary people was well documented by Robert Caro in The Power Broker. If you live in New York, drive in New York, or are thinking about driving in New York, you owe it to yourself to read this book. One great section details how the Cross Bronx Expressway was poorly designed from the outset, destroyed good middle class neighborhoods like East Tremont, and virtually guarantees traffic jams at the drop of a hat. And the kicker is, a lot of other urban planners in the 40's, 50's and 60's emulated this man and his designs. Robert Moses is a big reason why driving in America sucks.

So avoid the Cross Bronx, take the Grand Central Parkway to the Triboro Bridge, (now named the "RFK Bridge," presumably to honor the old home of the Redskins), follow the signs to Manhattan, (DON'T MAKE "THE BONFIRE OF THE VANITIES" MISTAKE AND END UP IN THE BRONX), and THEN take the Harlem River Drive North. Take the HRD to the 10th Avenue/Dyckman Street exit, (this is also the end of the Harlem River Drive, so it should not be hard to miss), make the first right at the first light that will take you onto 10th Avenue if you stay straight, (you'll be driving under an elevated subway track). 10th Avenue runs parallel to Broadway and will take you straight up to 215th Street, 218th Street, or wherever you want to go in the Baker Complex vicinity.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The Harlem River Drive is officially a parkway, so if you're driving a U-Haul or a big bus of people, you can't take it. Otherwise, you and your sedan, SUV, pickup truck, etc. can enjoy it. IF YOU'RE TAKING A CAB FROM THE QUEENS AIRPORTS... MAKE SURE YOU TELL THE CABBIE TO TAKE THE TRIBORO/RFK BRIDGE TO THE HARLEM RIVER DRIVE. DON'T LET THE DRIVER TAKE YOU INTO MANHATTAN!!!

Parking: The Odyssey

Option 1: Donate to CU!

Now if you're going to park near Baker Field, your options are limited, but there ARE options. Your first option is to send a big fat check to the Athletic Department and grab one of the sweet spots in the Baker Field complex itself reserved for generous donors. Seriously, I can think or worse ways to spend your money, and having a spot at Baker Field is like being a shareholder in Berkshire Hathaway during "Buffettstock"... you get to enjoy your investment in a party atmosphere!

Option 2: Parking Garages Ahoy! See the parking link above. FYI: in the past, parking has cost fans about $15 for the whole game.

Option 3: Street Parking, or "The Hunt"

Of course, you can try being really sneaky and try to park for free on the residential streets around the area. This is really something for early-birds, as the spots fill up fast. In fact, there aren't a lot of spots to begin with because Inwood is really residential and the local folks like to keep their spots for the weekend. BUT, the eagle-eyed among you may be able to find a nice spot and enjoy knowing that you're a winner even before kickoff by saving a few bucks with a free spot. There are a couple of important pitfalls to avoid:

a) If you aren't really good at parallel parking, don't even think about parking on the streets of Inwood. The hilly terrain makes even seasoned parkers a little nervous, and all those scratched bumpers and fenders on the parked cars are proof of the "goofs" people make from time to time.

b) Inwood is not really a high-crime area, especially during the day, but you should never tempt fate. Lock your cars. DO NOT keep any packages or valuables in plain sight in your car, and you probably should leave them out of the trunk too if you can. This is especially true if you are driving a car with out-of-state plates.

c) Make sure to check the street signs to see if you're parking in a legal spot. Night time is usually immune from alternate side of the street parking rules... but not always. You cannot park within six feet, either way, of a fire hydrant, and you also need to give a lot space for bus stops. You cannot block any driveways. And if there's a yellow stripe painted on the curb, you can't park there either. A good M.O. is to eye every open spot with EXTREME SUSPICION, the chances are more than likely that the spot is there because it's not a legal spot.

d) You may be hampered even further in your quest for free parking if the NYPD blocks 218th Street at Broadway which they often do on game days. To be safe, just find your way to Seaman Avenue, which runs parallel to Broadway on the WEST and start looking for spots there. You might consider printing out a Google Map of Inwood, NY to learn to navigate the local streets better. Remember to look out for one-way streets and the occasional street fair which often pops up and further kills parking opportunities on the weekends.


Manhattan is a great and unique place. One of the things that makes it so unique is that every inch of land is super-valuable and the chances of any institution setting aside lots of space for occasional parking is not likely or even sane. Most sensible people living in all parts of Manhattan do so without a car, regardless of their economic stature. A day or two driving around here will tell you why.

That's why we have the best public transportation system in the world. And luckily, there are a number of more relaxing and reliable ways to get to Baker Field.

The #1 Train: Just about your best bet

Public Transportation Option 1: From Columbia Campus

You can ditch your car at one of the many parking garages near the Columbia campus, or try to find free street parking, (it's not much easier than Inwood, but doable), and then take public transport from there.

The easiest option is to take the #1 Uptown local subway train which you can pick up at several stations in the area, most notably the 116th Street station right outside the campus gates. If you're walking about the area, you can also find the #1 at the 103rd, 110th, and 125th Street stations. BUT before you descend the station staircases, (and in the case of the 125th Street stop, ascend), make sure you're entering the station on the UPTOWN side. A sign telling you whether you're about to enter the "uptown only" or "downtown only" side will be clearly visible at each entrance. Luckily, you can't go wrong at the 116th station, as any of the staircases will send you to both the uptown and downtown trains.

To ride the NYC subway you will need a Metrocard. I recommend the all-day "fun pass" that will allow you a full day's use of the subways AND buses no matter how many times you choose to ride. Unless you're absolutely 100% sure you'll only be going to the game and back, this is a good value. If you are just going to the game and back, go to the booth or the automated Metrocard machines and buy a two-trip card, (note: the all-day pass is ONLY sold at the machines, not at the booth). The machines take cash, credit and debit cards.

When you get to the platform, again make sure that you are on the UPTOWN side awaiting the UPTOWN train. Once you get the train it will take 25-35 minutes to get to the 215th Street station and that's where you get off and walk the three blocks uptown to the Baker Field complex.


If the subway isn't for you, for the last several years Columbia has been running free shuttle buses to and from Baker Field on game days. They usually run from the 116th Street and Broadway entrance, but ask the security guards at the gate to be sure. I'm not sure how long it takes for these buses to reach the stadium, but they will always be slower than the subway. (There is no faster way to get around Manhattan than the subway... none).

A number of NYC buses, (not free, you need a Metrocard), run to the Baker Field area, but I really don't recommend using them. They are extremely slow, (what do you call it when you have sex on a NYC bus? "Joining the 3-mile-an-hour club"), and erratic on the weekends. BUT if there ever is a fire on the subway or something, it's good to know they're there.

Public Transportation Option 2: Elsewhere in Manhattan

It doesn't matter where else you are coming from in Manhattan, you only have two options for getting to the stadium via the subway. Any #1 train station will take you there and so will the "A" train. The A train runs on the far West side of Manhattan, through Brooklyn, past JFK airport, and all the way to a neighborhood where I did a lot of my growing up called Far Rockaway. The uptown or Manhattan bound A takes you the 207th Street stop, which is the last stop. Exit at the 211th Street exit and then you can either walk the seven blocks along Broadway, (about 35% of a mile), to Baker Field or better yet, enter Isham Park on your left and enjoy a nicer trip that will take you to Seaman Avenue along the left side of the park and you will see Wien Stadium right in front of you at the end of the avenue. This is a more scenic walk and will give you a better idea of what Inwood is like.


Sometimes, service on the 1 and/or A trains is disrupted for track work on the weekends. BUT you can find out beforehand about any service changes by visiting the great website for all the info. The good news is that the 1 and the A will almost surely never be affected by service disruptions at the same time. In my 28+ years riding the subways I have never seen this happen.

The Marble Hill Station on Metro North

Public Transportation Option 3: The Metro North Miracle

One of the most beautiful ways to get to a Columbia game is on the Metro North commuter railroad. Take the HUDSON RIVER LINE to the Marble Hill stop and simply walk over the footbridge to Baker Field. The views of the Hudson that you will get if you're coming from the North, (if you're looking to go this way from Grand Central Terminal, it's not a terrible idea, but much more expensive than just taking the subway from another station on the West Side), are just great.

Cab Anyone?

You can always try to hail a yellow cab and tell the driver to take you to WEST 218th and Broadway, (don't say "Baker Field," there's a very good chance he won't know what you're talking about), and go that way. I expect the trip will cost about $12-$15 in cab fare not including tip... but it varies.

In NYC there are also non-yellow so-called "gypsy" cabs that may honk their horns at you and offer you a ride. The official rules in the city say that you can't take a ride with them without arranging it in advance, but I have found they are usually reliable. The price should be about the same as Yellow cab, but they don't use a meter... so make sure you agree on the fare before you get in.

What if I'm coming from New Jersey, and I want to take Public Transportation?

New Jersey Transit trains take you to Penn Station where you can get the #1 and A trains, or a cab. I'm not sure about the reliability of NJT trains or buses on weekends, but perhaps some of my readers would like to chime in about that in the comments section.

Isn't the Subway Dangerous?

Not really. It's dirtier than is should be, but in general it's fine. Here are some subway safety tips for the very cautious. Basically, keep your wallets and valuables secure, try to ride with or near larger groups of people, and try not to telegraph the fact you're a tourist by pulling out a map every two seconds. It's okay to ask fellow riders directions; most New Yorkers like proving they know the City.

I'm Coming from JFK, LaGuardia, or Newark Airport. What should I do?

A cab from Newark directly to Baker Field is actually not that terribly expensive. But from the other major airports, I suggest you get into Manhattan via a cab and then take the subway, unless you have lots of bags which will make the whole day a pain. In that case, try to get to your hotel first, dump the bags and then follow the directions above.

What if I get Lost?

Go into almost any store you see and ask for help. Store owners can sometimes seem surly, but they'll probably help you. Cops on the street will be good too.

Can't I Just Come with You?

I'd love the company, but I don't think that will work. I am with you in spirit, I promise.

$60 Million... and Worth Every Penny

A model of the to-be-built Eagles Stadium

The city of Allen, Texas is spending $60 million on a new high school football stadium

The knee-jerk reaction in most of the media has been condemnation, horror, shock, etc.

Not enough people outside of Texas seem to understand this will be a terrific boon for local businesses and workers. Plus, the same high school is also spending about as much on a performing arts center.

And here's the biggest part of the story in my opinion: Allen can pay for it!

More and more cities and school districts in America are going bankrupt these days and teachers unions and their pensions are big reason why.

Long ago, Texas set aside billions for its schools when it created a fund that funnels a low percentage of oil and gas profits into education.

That fund is why Texas can spend about $600 million on textbooks every year.

It's also why athletics get a great share of the other funds that other school systems would need just to keep the lights on in the classrooms.

The overall quality of education in Texas public schools is debatable. But one thing I'm not willing to debate is the absurd notion that a lot more money solely for education would make much of a difference.

Good students come from good, concerned parents and competent teachers. With any one of these key elements, schools and students fail. Higher pay and union tenure don't necessarily make for better teachers.

As for football and what's going on in Allen, I think this is a great thing. People will get jobs, the football team will thrive, the band program will thrive, local businesses savvy enough to take advantage of this new structure will thrive. Is this really bad? Or are we only supposed to cheer unsustainable "green jobs" and temporary Census work?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Ready for Prime Time?

The live blogging of spring practice is back tomorrow beginning at about 4:15pm.

Welcome John Cavalier!

John Cavalier has been named Columbia's new director of football operations, replacing the great Jeff Kupper. Cavalier is now the guy who, in many ways, will become the face of Columbia football to so many people from current players to recruits to alumni.

Farnham was 2-2 against Columbia

Farnham to the NFL?

Brown has done very well getting its players into the NFL in recent years. An "on the bubble" player this year is WR Buddy Farnham who should be signed by an NFL team no matter what, but will he be drafted?

Farnham was actually not at his absolute best in his four games against the Lions. But he was still pretty darn good, and he got better as the years went on.

As a frosh in 2006, Farnham grabbed one pass for nine yards in the Lions 22-21 win over the Bears in Providence.

In 2007, Brown QB Michael Dougherty completed 27 passes to just four different receivers with Farnham getting five of those balls for 55 yards and one touchdown. The real weapon for the Bears that day was Farnham's fellow sophomore Bobby Sewall, who had 12 receptions for 83 yards and two TD's. Brown won 30-22.

2008 was the only blowout in Columbia-Brown series over Farnham's four years. The Bears won in Providence, 41-10 and Farnham had 6 catches for 76 yards and a score.

Farnham concluded his collegiate career in 2009 with a 28-14 loss to Columbia where he had nine grabs for 107 yards and two TD's. On paper, that was a great way to end things... other than the loss I mean... but if you watched the game, it wasn't so clear cut.

Farnham did play extremely well overall. He got the kind of separation from Lion defensive backs that no other receiver achieved all year. But he also suffered two drops that may have hurt his stock with the NFL scouts who indeed were in the pressbox that afternoon.

First, he misjudged a punt in the sun early in the first quarter and muffed it. Columbia recovered and eventually got into scoring position before missing a field goal.

Later in the first quarter, Farnham dropped what looked like a sure TD pass after blowing by the Columbia defenders along the western sideline. That drop was really the turning point of the game. Brown had to punt on the next play and Columbia scored the tying TD on the ensuing drive.

If Farnham were at a BCS school, none of those two errors would mean all that much. But I have found that Ivy players are judged on a much tougher level by NFL scouts and I wonder if those miscues will burn him even though they did take place almost six months before draft day.

And compare Farnham's numbers against Columbia to current Brown grad and NFL special teams star Sean Morey.

Morey was also a star WR in college and, like Farnham, a Bushnell Cup winner.

In the Bears' 1995 33-14 win over the Lions in 1995, Morey was a non-factor as a freshman.

But in the 31-27 thrilling Columbia win at Wien Stadium a year later, the Lions had their hands full with Morey as he caught 9 passes for 115 yards and two TD's.

In 1997, Morey was the big star in the Bears 41-11 blowout win. He had 10 catches for 152 yards and three TD's to close out a junior year where he had 1,427 yards and 15 TD's.

But Morey's final collegiate game ended with a whimper. With Brown coming into week 10 of the '98 season averaging 28 points and 346 yards per game, the Lions shut down the great Bear offense despite falling to Brown by a 10-3 score. Morey finished the game with just 3 catches for 40 yards. He came into the game averaging 8.8 catches and 108 yards receiving per contest.

You could argue that even with that monster 1997 game, Farnham had a more impressive career against Columbia than the great Sean Morey.

Either way, Lions fans are glad Farnham is graduating!

Wednesday Briefs

Matthew Fox

Current Lost star and former Columbia Lion starter at wide receiver Matthew Fox '89 is in the news again these days.

In his latest interview, he mentions his... er, social life at Columbia.

I ain't saying nothing about that...

John DeFilippo

Former Columbia assistant coach John DeFilippo has moved from QB coach of the New York Jets to QB coach at San Jose State. I wonder if this move is John's way of trying to get a head coaching job at the college level. Everyone I know who was recruited by DeFilippo during his brief time at Columbia thinks he is an absolute prince of a guy. Good luck to him!

Tyler Feely

When it was reported that Tyler Feely was coming to Columbia, I made the point that it might be fun to see his brother Jay Feely at Lions games. That's not so likely anymore now that Jay has left the Jets and is signing with the Cardinals. So much for an upgrade on my very bad NY Jets season tickets.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

10 Late Movers

With 10 days until the Spring Game, the real focus for many fans will be on the somewhat unheralded returning players and trying to see which one will start emerging as perhaps a surprise star for the 2010 season.

With that in mind, I thought I'd list 10 recent Lion football players who were "late-bloomers" and broke onto the scene as upper classmen. In almost every case, the Spring Game was the first inkling that the coming season would be very different.

Ray Rangel (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics)

2009: Ray Rangel

Coming into 2009, Rangel had 581 total yards rushing and a sub-par 3.5 yards per carry average. But in his senior season, Rangel had 502 yards and a 5.8 yards per carry average before getting injured and lost for the season after the Dartmouth game. Rangel was particularly impressive in the opening week win over Fordham with 118 yards and a TD. He had 130 yards rushing the following week against Central Connecticut with another score.

Conor Joyce (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics)

2008: Conor Joyce

Conor was never exactly a superstar, but he played a very effective role for the 2008 Lions on the defensive line. Conor had a total of 35 tackles and just 2.5 tackles for a loss in his first three years at Columbia. But in his senior campaign of 2008, had 37 tackles, 4.5 TFL's and 1.5 sacks. He was one of the big factors as the Lions made huge improvements on the defensive line compared to 2007.

Bayo Aregbe (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics)

2007: Bayo Aregbe

There really wasn't a total sleeper senior for 2007, but Bayo Aregbe came pretty close. After leaving the team in 2006 due to injury, Bayo came back and fought more injuries through a solid senior year. Aregbe finished 2007 with 40 total tackles and provided some important senior leadership on a very young team.

Darren Schmidt (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics)

2006: Darren Schmidt

Calling Schmidt's 2006 senior season a "breakout year" would be an understatement. Before '06, Schmidt had a grand total of one tackle in three years with the Lions. Then in his senior year, he exploded for 50 tackles, 16 for a loss, and tied for the Ivy League lead in sacks with 7. He made All Ivy Honorable Mention, and even had the highest GPA of all the Lions.

Craig Hormann (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics)

2005: Craig Hormann

Craig was hardly a dark horse in 2005, but he was a rare sophomore starting QB and he put up stronger numbers than many would have predicted on what was the weakest Lion team of the decade. Hormann finished with 1,481 yards passing and 7 TD passes. He looked especially good in Columbia's two opening wins for the season against Fordham and Duquesne.

Rashad Biggers carries the ball

2004: Rashad Biggers

In what was another very disappointing season for the Lions, Biggers was a rare bright spot as he came back from a serious injury to lead Columbia in rushing with 770 yards and six TD's. His best game was a gutty performance on Homecoming against Princeton when he ran for 137 yards and two TD's. He also had 129 yard against Yale.

2003: Ayo Oluwole

Oluwole wasn't even on the team during the 2002 season, but he had 903 yards, a 4.2 YPC average and five TD's in 2003. He was a huge surprise in a year when no one expected anything from the CU rushing attack after Rashad Biggers went down for the year in the preseason scrimmage. Ayo had 110 yards in the win over Bucknell, 166 yards in the loss at Lafayette, and 138 yards in the win over Cornell.

2002: Evan Tryforos

Evan missed the 2001 season due to injury, but he burst on the scene in '02 by leading the team in tackles with 73. The linebacker had his best game in the season opening stunning win over Fordham with 12 tackles.

2001: Jerry Bailey

The defensive end broke through for an Honorable Mention All Ivy season with 42 tackles and four sacks. He wasn't a complete dark horse, since he had posted 20 tackles and a sack as a sophomore, but the improvement was big a year later.

The incomparible Johnathan Reese

2000: Johnathan Reese

It's ridiculous to say Reese was a "surprise" after his stellar freshman and sophomore seasons... but his junior year just so good that it deserves as much recognition as possible. Reese still holds the single season Columbia rushing record he set in 2000 with 1,330 and he scored an incredible 19 total TD's. Neither record seems to be in much danger of being broken anytime very soon.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Already in the Fold, Part 3

Matt Moretto (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics)

I am generally a bigger fan of the 4-3 defense than the 3-4 alignment.

One of the reasons is I like the emphasis it puts on the pass rush and pressuring the outside lanes for running backs and scrambling QB's.

But one of the things that makes me nervous about the 4-3 is the added pressure it puts on those three linebackers to cover as much territory as possible.

Columbia's shift to the 4-3 last season had mixed results for the linebackers. But you have to consider the fact that superstar linebacker Alex Gross only played three games before his injury finished him off for the rest of the season.

Marc Holloway and Nick Mistretta each had flashes of brilliance at the crucial middle linebacker position, but they also suffered setbacks. I expect one of them to grab more authoritative control of the starting position in 2010.

Corey Cameron was a revelation at one of the outside linebacker slots last season, cashing in on his 5th-year gamble, (at Columbia's tuition prices, exercising your right to play a 5th season because of injury really is a financial gamble), by grabbing a spot on the Honorable Mention All Ivy Defense.

But Cameron is now gone to graduation and we won't know just how effective Gross is until summer training camp when his re-hab will be over.

That means the linebacking corps probably needs a boost for 2010.

I'm excited about some of the incoming freshmen, especially Brian East from Carmel HS in Carmel, Indiana.

But the Lions have some returning players who could really make a major impact if they step it up a bit for the fall.

Rising junior Evan Miller had some great moments last season when he was pressed into duty after the Gross injury. He ended up with 38 tackles, with two for a loss.

Rising sophomore Will Patterson was a revelation in the last two games of the 2009 season, especially showing some pass rushing ability from the outside.

But the biggest boost for the linebackers could come from rising senior Matt Moretto, who missed all of 2008 due to injury and some parts of the 2009 season also for injury reasons.

Moretto impressed everyone from the get-go when he first arrived on campus in the summer of 2007. He went on to play in all ten games as a frosh and recorded 45 tackles in 2007.

Last season, he got into seven games and had just eight tackles. But I think Matt was still recovering for most of 2009 and he has a better shot at getting back to 2007 strength in 2010.

Moretto shows a unique ability to defend the run and the pass, a crucial need for a linebacker in the 4-3.

Having Morretto's abilities back up to 100% going along with his senior experience would be a major boost for the Lions this season. And that would make Moretto a sleeper candidate for stardom in 2010.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Officially Looking for a Hoops Coach

Joe in the huddle

It's now official.

Joe Jones is leaving Columbia to become one of Steve Donahue's assistants at Boston College.

We wish Joe well and thank him for helping to raise the spirit of Columbia basketball to much higher levels during his tenure.

So that means three Ivy teams are now looking for a new head basketball coach; Columbia, Dartmouth, and Cornell. Let the best search committee get the best person for the job.

Some of my contemporaries from the classes of 1991-1993 at Columbia have told me their top man on the wish list is Lion great Buck Jenkins '93.

But that's just a wish right now...

Friday, April 09, 2010

The List Grows

Cardinal Mooney HS in Youngstown, OH sent 7 players to Columbia from '69-'85

Another week has yielded another six years worth of added info for my Columbia football high school database project.

Once again, I openly admit there are some omissions here. But the list is very close to complete for every varsity and freshman football player from 1969 through 1985, (with a few players from earlier years sprinkled in).

Please email me or use the comments section to alert me to any errors or omissions.

High School Database Project: 1969-1985

(UPDATE: to see the list from 1969-1999 click here)

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Still Unconfirmed

Joe Jones

The rumor mill is still grinding over the fate of Joe Jones as head basketball coach.

As of 1:30pm Eastern Time today, it's all still unconfirmed rumors and partial reports that says Jones is on his way to Boston College to work as assistant under new Head Coach Steve Donahue.

If something truly happens or is announced, we can talk about it then.

I want to tread carefully here for what I hope are obvious reasons.

Marty Cicco

Cicco Gets a Boost

In rosier, and more definite, news, former Lion defensive back and Bill Campbell protege Marty Cicco '78 has just been given a big boost in title and stature at the boutique investment bank Evercore Partners.

Marty is now Evercore's Senior Managing Director and Head of Evercore's Real Estate Advisory practice.

Cicco grew up in Pittsburgh and was a star player at the steel city's South Hills Catholic High School. While he was at South Hills, (which is now Seton-LaSalle Catholic HS), Cicco's dad was the superintendent of all the Catholic schools in Pittsburgh.

Injuries, (including a serious ear infection in 1975), kept Cicco from really shining with the varsity. But he was a big star on the 1974 freshman team and earned a varsity letter in his senior season of 1977.

Here's what Cicco had to say about Bill Campbell in a recent edition of Columbia College Today:

Thirty-one years ago, Cicco was a highly recruited high school football player in Pittsburgh. He picked Columbia, a school whose football team had just one winning record over the previous decade. The reason? “I came to Columbia solely to play for Billy Campbell,” says Cicco, one of Campbell’s first recruits when he took over the program in 1978. Injuries cut short Cicco’s Columbia career, and during his four years on campus, the team went 8–28. Still, Cicco does not regret his decision. “I have had a reasonably successful career,” he says, downplaying his job as head of Merrill Lynch’s Global Real Estate Investment Banking division, “and I owe the job solely to Billy.” Through Campbell’s connections, Cicco got a summer job at Merrill after his junior year that led to a full-time job. He’s one of several Columbia alumni with a similar story. “Billy felt he had an obligation to every kid he recruited to be there in all aspects of a player’s life, not just on the football field.”

Another Live Blog!

The first live blog of the Columbia spring practice last week was a big hit, and now we get another one tomorrow!

Good stuff!

"Coach Lake"

And lastly...

One of Ivy Football's most enduring legends has died today.

Coach Don "Lake" Staffieri was the sort of mascot of Penn football for the last few decades. You couldn't miss him at the Penn games or even practices.

Staffieri's official title was "game-day coordinator". During every game he wore the 12 Ivy championship rings the team has won in his 32 years at Penn. He led the student section in cheers and used to do some cheering exercises with the team at the beginning and end of practices.

He was a decorated Marine Corps and World War II veteran, and then a Philadelphia area high school football coach. Before all that, he was a member of Maryland's sole National Championship team (in 1953).

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

Problems I Wish We Had

Ray Tellier

Donahue Gets Poached

Cornell's basketball success will not go unpunished.

Miracle worker head Head Coach Steve Donahue is heading to Boston College, and that's to be expected considering his stock is at an all-time high right now.

It's also not a surprise since Cornell does not figure to be much of a factor next year in bball with all those talented seniors graduating. And... I heard Donahue's wife is not too happy with Ithaca.

Now the intriguing story out there is that Donahue has contacted one Ivy head basketball coach with an offer to be one of his assistants on Chestnut Hill. Is that unknown coach Columbia's own Joe Jones? We'll have to wait and see. I haven't seen or heard one iota of evidence either way.

But the Donahue story gets me thinking of the kind of troubles I wouldn't necessarily mind having as a Columbia fan.

By that I mean what if one of our major Lion teams became so successful that the head coach of that team would become extremley likely "poaching material?"

The last time I heard a little chatter about this was when Ray Tellier was guiding football to some successful seasons in the mid-1990's. I'm not sure if Tellier ever got any offers from other schools, but I wouldn't be surprised.

Because of his age and his pre-Columbia resume, you can bet that if we started putting together some winning seasons, Head Coach Norries Wilson would be highly sought after by other programs.

Hey if that's the price of success, I think all Columbia fans would be willing to at least worry about losing the coach. We'd also demand that everything reasonable be done to keep such a coach in the fold.

But again, as my grandmother would say: "we should only have such 'problems.'"

Roster Rising

Speaking of "such problems" consider the Columbia roster size and its implications for the 2010 season:

1) Even with the near-record 26 graduations this spring, assuming we bring in 30 frosh and other newcomers this August there will be 121 players on the football team in 2010.

2) Did you think it was impressive that the Lions had 26 seniors last season? Try this, next season there will be 27. And by my estimates, about 15 of them are truly "impact" seniors who will either definitely be starters or can be listed as "likely starters" for 2010.

3) Some units on the team will be hard-pressed to replace some key graduation losses, (I would count wide receivers and the defensive line in that category), but when I look at areas like the offensive line and the secondary, I see a historically rich level of talent and depth that I have never seen before.

On the OL, I predict we will have first-time starters from the senior class who will be first-time starters because the seniors before them were just a hair better and that's it. Gone are the days, at least for now, when sophomores and even freshmen were pushed into the front five starting slots because there was literally no one else ahead of them who was ready to play.

Tuesday, April 06, 2010

Already in the Fold, Part 2

A.J. Maddox looks to get back on the field in 2010 (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics)

What if I told you Columbia had a talented safety with the coverage skills to help replace Andy Shalbrack and the blistering speed and good kick returning skills to help replace Austin Knowlin?

You'd be excited right?

Well, we have just such a person, and it's not an incoming freshman. It's rising junior A.J. Maddox, who missed all of 2009 due to injury after a promising 2008 season. It does appear that he is 100% recovered and faster than ever.

Maddox could very well be the fastest of all the Lions and that will come in handy as Columbia works to replace Knowlin as the lead kickoff and punt returner.

With the crowded and deep secondary, (three of four starters returning), Maddox may have a better chance of starting with the special teams. But don't sleep on his abilities as a strong safety as he did rack up 16 tackles in his freshman year of 2008. He also played in all 10 games as a freshman, which is always impressive.

Could Maddox expand his role and appear on the offensive side of the ball? That's up to the coaches, but Maddox intrigues me as a possible dangerous weapon in the "scatback" type of role like Dave Meggett was years ago as a receiver for the Giants and Patriots. (Of course, I refer solely to Meggett's abilities on the field, not his personal and legal issues!).

But any way you slice it, the "x" in "Maddox" stands for the big X-factor A.J. is when you predict how the Lions will fare in 2010. If he can make the kind of impact on kick returns he's capable of, and help the defense, Columbia's opponents better not forget to factor a response to A.J. Maddox this season.