Friday, December 31, 2010

Best Defense, Part Two

Erv Chambliss is now coaching at Union College

Prior to the 2006 season, you have to go back to 1998 to find a truly stellar Columbia defense.

That squad allowed just 175 points to finish second in the Ivies that category for the year.

The key was run defense.

They gave up just 96 rushing yards per game, 2.7 yards per carry, and only seven rushing TD’s on the entire season.

There were stars on all three lines of the defense.

The defensive line featured 1st Team All Ivy Rashaan Curry, who had 6.5 sacks for 47 yards lost and a total of nine tackles for a loss.

The linebackers were led by 1st Team All Ivy Paul Roland, who had 70 tackles, 13 TFL’s and four sacks.

And the incomparable defensive back Chris Tillotson was also a 1st Team All Ivy member with 60 tackles, four interceptions, three fumble recoveries and a blocked kick.

The other big stars were linebacker Kevin Wright and safety Jason Bivens, both made 2nd Team All Ivy. Avery Mosely and Joe Cook were also big leaders.

The best team effort came in week one when the Lions shut out Harvard in a 24-0 Homecoming win. The 22-10 win over Cornell featured a defense that held the Big Red to just nine rushing yards and forced four turnovers while getting nine sacks.

Columbia also had eight sacks and forced six turnovers in the 24-14 win at Dartmouth that ended a 27-year-long winless streak against the Big Green.

The defensive coordinator that season was Erv Chambliss, who also oversaw the secondary.

Since 1998, the Lions haven’t come close to enjoying the kind of run defense they enjoyed that year.

So why didn’t Columbia do better than its 4-6 record that year?

The loss of starting QB Paris Childress early in the year was a major factor, as was the apparent lack of a realization that then-freshman Johnathan Reese was the kind of back who could anchor the entire offense. The red zone offense that year was especially weak.

But 1998 was an extremely exciting season, thanks mostly to the run-killing defense.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Best Defense

Lou Ferrari and his troops

As Columbia looks to fill its open defensive coordinator position, let’s look at the last very successful Lion defensive unit and figure out what they did right.

The most recent dominant Columbia defense was the 2006 squad that allowed just 16.3 points per game, and never more than 24 points in a single contest. That was just one season after the 2005 defense allowed a disastrous 33 points per game, including five Ivy contests where the Lions allowed 40 or more points!

The ’06 team allowed a well-balanced 153 yards rushing and 149 passing per game, both good but not great stats. It also only produced 20 sacks, hardly much to write home about.

So why was that Lion squad so good at keeping opponents from scoring?

It was mostly a combination of two things.

First, then-defensive coordinator Lou Ferrari brought a great deal of enthusiasm to the job and it was contagious. His “11 hats to the ball” philosophy broke the players out of the “stay in your lane” belief that was killing the team when opposing offenses ad-libbed the season before.

Second, the Lions of ’06 enjoyed a +10 turnover ratio that season and those turnovers often came at the most opportune times.

But perhaps the most important thing to remember about that defense is that it was not large, not particularly fast, and only one player, Tad Crawford ’07, made 1st Team All Ivy.

Scrappy players like DL Darren Schmidt ‘07, who was barely 200 pounds, led the team in sacks, (and in GPA).

Smart veteran players, like MLB Adam Brekke ’07, helped direct traffic and made sure the defense bent but didn’t break.

With a more poised and effective offense in 2006, that 5-5 team could easily have gone 7-3 or 8-2. They were that good.

How do we get those ingredients back on defense for 2011?

That will be ultimately up to the new DC, but I certainly hope he looks at the 2006 team for some answers.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Help Wanted

Denauld Brown

Many of you already knew that Denauld Brown is no longer with the Columbia coaching staff. We wish him well.

Brown had a tough act to follow, replacing the very popular Aaron Kelton as defensive coordinator.

A top priority for Brown’s replacement will have to be improving the Lions’ numbers against the run, but replacing some very effective veterans in the secondary and improving the pass rush are also up there.

We’ll keep an eye on the process to replace Brown but the last two times the DC job came free, the replacement came from within the existing coaching staff. So we may already be quite familiar with our next defensive coordinator.

Good Timing?

Talk about serendipity…

Just as Columbia’s defensive coordinator position becomes vacant, the entire college football world is learning just how far being an assistant coach for this Lions program can take you.

How far is that?

Try the BCS championship game and the odyssey of former Columbia assistant Chip Kelly. Kelly is now the head coach of the Oregon Ducks who take on Auburn for the whole thing on January 10th.

Kelly was only with the Lions for two years, 1990 and 1991 coaching secondary and special teams, but it was his first coaching job. From Columbia, he moved on to his alma mater of New Hampshire and the rest is history.

NFL News

Columbia has a connection to a number of other interesting football story lines, mostly in the NFL:

-Has anyone noticed how former Fordham QB John Skelton is playing pretty well for the Arizona Cardinals right now? That’s the same Skelton the Lions were picking off and beating less than 16 months ago in Rose Hill.

-Michael Singletary is out as head coach of the San Francisco 49ers. Back in 2002, Singletary made it known he was interested in being the head coach of the Columbia Lions. That would have been interesting… no?

Levin us Alone?

I know a lot of Yale alums and Ivy football fans who are praying Richard Levin is tapped by President Obama to be the new head of the White House economic advising team. In an odd twist, if he is picked, Levin would be replacing former Harvard President Larry Summers. So we'd be going from Harvard to Yale. That's change we can all believe in?

Levin has long been identified as the leading power among the Ivy presidents fighting against postseason play for football and in favor of fewer grid recruits.

In short, Levin is a major roadblock, who could possibly be replaced at Yale with someone more favorable to common sense upgrades for the sport.

Keep your eyes open on this one.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Morality Famine

Does NCAA stand for "No Conscience at All?"

There are times when I look at the big BCS bowl games and I really get jealous about all the things we miss out on in the Ivy League.

But the ridiculous charade the NCAA is playing regarding Ohio State right now is making me feel anything but jealous.

In case you haven’t heard, five Buckeye players have been caught selling items like championships rings and have been suspended for five games.

Beginning next season.

So, all those Buckeyes will still be playing in the Sugar Bowl against Arkansas. That’s because the NCAA can’t let a premiere game like that go on without the key players from one of the teams.

Hypocrisy overflow on aisle 10!

Just to be clear: five players are being punished by the NCAA for making some extra money, but their punishment is being delayed so the NCAA can make some extra money.


Incidents like this make me ashamed that Columbia and the rest of the Ivies are even involved in the NCAA.

Bowl Blizzard

Speaking of big, or bigger time college football, college football returns to Yankee Stadium this Thursday with the Pinstripe Bowl.

Before the big blizzard hit the city yesterday, Kansas State was supposed to hold team workouts at the Baker Athletics Complex, but they have been moved to the NY Giants indoor training site in New Jersey for the time being.

I can understand about today, but if were Kansas State I’d get my guys onto the field at Wien Stadium as soon as possible to get them ready for the kinds of conditions they’re likely to face on Thursday.

Remember, Wien Stadium and Yankee Stadium are just a couple miles apart.

Friday, December 24, 2010

CU in the News... Sort of

Kirby Mack

One Columbia football alum and one who got away are making news today.

First is former star Kirby Mack '00, who is being given credit for coaching the St. Louis Post-Dispatch's high school player of the year. It will be interesting to see where he ends up in college next year.

The one who got away is Baylor University backup defensive back Tyler Pratt, who turned down an offer to come to Columbia and follow his former school mates Adam and David Brekke and Duncan Dickerson '14.

Pratt is about to play in the Texas Bowl against Illinois.

... and of course, we are 18 days away from former Columbia assistant Chip Kelly leading his Oregon Ducks into the BCS championship game aganst Auburn.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

The Kennedy Chronicles

Andrew Kennedy in his days at Staples High School Days

Another day, another major honor for senior TE Andrew Kennedy.

It’s been a long, great trip for Kennedy who was one of the first incoming recruits I ever wrote about on this blog.

Here the chronology:

-On Feb. 7, 2007, I first identified Kennedy as a potential incoming frosh... but as a DE.

-Four days later on Feb. 11, the the news came that Kennedy was indeed going to become a Lion.

-On the Ides of March, I posted some additional news about Andrew and even tabbed him as the potential top recruit in the incoming class.

-In late June 2007, we learned that Kennedy had won his final honor at Staples High School.

-Kennedy became a recognized key to the team in May 2008 when we learned that Troy Evangelist had left the squad.

-By August, we had learned that Head Coach Norries Wilson had been coaching Kennedy personally.

-Kennedy’s first TD catch was one of the highlights in Columbia’s 29-22 loss to Fordham in the 2008 season opener.

-He started to make a bigger impact a few weeks later against Lafayette.

-As we counted down to the start of the 2009 season, I featured Andrew as a player to watch.

-In mid July of that year, Kennedy was named as a preseason All Ivy 2nd Teamer.

-In the 2009 season opening win over Fordham, Kennedy had a monster game.

-Kennedy’s work landed him on the official All Ivy 2nd Team at the end of the season.

-We learned in April of this year that Andrew was going to be a team captain.

-In May, it was time to single out Kennedy again as being the clear leader among returning Ivy tight ends, a theme I revisited in July.

-The same publication that named Andrew a 2nd team preseason All Ivy in 2009, put him on the 1st team in preseason 2010.

-In August, Kennedy’s hometown paper published a new feature about him.

-He was a big part of so many games this season, Kennedy was the clear Columbia MVP against Yale in the Lions’ 31-28 loss.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Hoops News

Alex Rosenberg

We have some news of an interesting commitment to CU men’s BASKETBALL today.

6-6 Alex Rosenberg is now doing a PG year at the Peddie School after graduating from Millburn High School.

His current coach at Peddie is gushing over Rosenberg’s rebounding and defending skills even as he averages a nice 19 point per game.

Perhaps this could be the beginning of some inroads at Peddie. There have been some very good Ivy football players who have also come out of Peddie.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Hard Lessons

Watch and learn

I hope EVERYONE involved with Columbia football watched yesterday’s Eagles-Giants game very, very carefully.

If you did, I hope you watched how the Eagles offense did just about nothing all day until QB Michael Vick was allowed to start running more often and thus opening up the entire offense.

Columbia’s football season was a lot like that this past year. The offense often froze for long periods until QB Sean Brackett started running with the ball and forced defenses to spread out to guard against a serious new threat.

The difference between the Lions offensive effectiveness when Brackett was running and when he wasn’t was absolutely NIGHT AND DAY.

Are there risks? Of course. The Eagles lost Vick for a few games this season after he was roughly tackled on a running play.

But what would you rather have, risking injury or guaranteeing a loss?

I think we would all pick the former.

There’s one more important lesson to learn from that Giant game.

Punter Matt Dodge made a mental error punting a line drive at the end of the game when he was told to punt it out of bounds. But the snap was high and Dodge says he was worried the punt would be blocked so he just kicked it.

I say that’s hogwash.

Dodge and a lot of other Giants play the game with Coughlin in their heads. They worry more about getting chewed out by him than actually making a mistake.

Teams with that kind of stuff in their heads rarely win in pressure situations.

It makes sense that under those circumstances, the Giants Super Bowl winning year came in 2007 when no one really expected anything from them. Coughlin backed off a bit that year and the result was a Lombardi Trophy.

That’s a good lesson for coaches at all levels of football. By all means, scream your head off at players you think are dogging it or are defying you on purpose.

But in the Ivies, the fact that the players are showing up at all pretty much proves they’re not slackers. And I can’t imagine too many Ivy players are openly defying their coaches at any point in practice or a game.

I see some Ivy coaches yelling from time to time, but I think guys like Penn’s Al Bagnoli saves the yelling for the refs on game day.

Kraft’s league bears fruit… for Harvard!

Eight months ago, I first posted a piece about the semipro football league in Israel sponsored by Columbia alum Robert Kraft.

In that piece, I expressed the hope that if there was a good looking prospect in that league, Columbia would get first dibs on him.

Well, no dice.

Talented defensive lineman Niv Sultan, who played for one season in the Israeli league before returning to high school back on Long Island, has committed to… HARVARD!


But not all is lost. At least the Israel League-Ivy League channel is open and Columbia will be a very logical landing spot for some other talented players in that league because of our New York City location.

It’s a marathon, not a sprint.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Maryland Tackle

Joe Kopp

Arundel High School standout left tackle Joe Kopp committed to Columbia last night.

He is now 6-4 and 260 pounds and is the first documented Arundel HS player to come to Columbia football according to my Lion Feeder School Database.

If you have a subscription, (and it's not a terrible idea as long as you can temper the hype it bestows on kids who are often too young for that kind of attention), you can read here how Kopp made his recruiter, Coach John Gutekunst, "ecstatic" with his decision last night.

Right now, Kopp is still focused on high school ball as he is playing in the Crab Bowl All Star game today against players from the Baltimore area.

So here's our updated list of publicly announced commits for the class of 2015

*NOTE: This list is VERY unofficial. It is based on published news media reports only and should not be considered an actual admissions list!

1) Sean Coffinger LB 6-4 215 lbs. Desert Vista HS Phoenix, AZ

2) Ryan Flannery WR 6-3 185 lbs. North Attleborough HS North Attleborough, MA

3) Joe Kopp OL 6-4 260 lbs. Arundel HS Gambrills, MD

4) Hunter Little DL 6-4 225 lbs. The Webb School Knoxville, TN

5) Kal Prince QB 6-4 198 lbs. Owenboro HS Owensboro, KY

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Back to Bucknell?

More Honors for Kennedy

Andrew Kennedy has been named to yet another
All America team.

Fordham's Fire

The discussion going on in the comments section about Fordham deserves a better airing here in the main section.

Fordham’s decision to go with athletic scholarships for football certainly hasn’t paid off yet, but will it ever lead the Rams into national prominence like Notre Dame or Boston College?

With Fordham’s current football facilities, that hardly seems possible. But there is a little hinting here and there that the Rams would someday like to reclaim Yankee Stadium as its unofficial home for football if the program truly does take a few steps up.

Fordham actually has a beautiful campus and a good academic reputation, but few people outside of New York really even know about it.

Hell, lots of people in the New York area don’t know much about the school if anything.

And maybe that’s the point.

Win or lose, Fordham would enter the discussion at least in the New York area if the local news and sports media simply mentioned the school’s name more often.

There’s no faster track to getting mentioned on the evening news or ESPN than playing a sporting event, especially if it’s against a school like Notre Dame or Boston College.

More Possibilities

I like the idea of bringing Bucknell back to the schedule sometime soon. It seems the Lions stopped playing the Bison as soon as they stopped becoming a very competitive team. That’s just our luck!

And what about some schools like Maine, (only 8 hours away… not too bad), and the very nearby Wagner?

Your thoughts on Bucknell?

Friday, December 17, 2010

The Wish List

Yesterday’s tabled vote on scholarships for Patriot League football makes me wonder if a massive FCS realignment is in the wind.

If the Patriot League is somehow dissolved and the teams have to join other conferences, Columbia might have to start thinking about adding some new names to its out of conference schedule.

Here are a few thoughts on some of the teams I wouldn’t mind seeing become regulars on the Lions schedule:


The Hoyas really seem like the most obvious choice. Columbia played Georgetown to a thrilling 23-21 victory at Wien Stadium in 2006, but the Hoyas mysteriously disappeared from the schedule after that.

The two schools are both top academic institutions, there is a large alumni contingent for both schools in Washington, D.C. and New York, and there’s one more key connection: Lou Little.

Columbia’s greatest coach of all time roamed the sidelines at Georgetown before making the jump to the Lions in 1930.

I’d like to see these two teams play annually, or at least every other year, and have the winner claim the “Lou Little Cup.”

Stony Brook

The biggest “pro” here is that this game wouldn’t be a real “road game” when played at Stony Brook, which is about an hour trip from the Columbia campus.

Stony Brook has a great, modern stadium.

I’d also like to see the Lions raise their profile in front of the very untapped fan and recruiting base on Long Island.

And playing more local teams seems like a great idea in general.

The “con,” (for some people), is that Stony Brook is another scholarship school that is looking to become a top tier FCS team like UNH and Applachian State.

But that’s not such a “con” in my opinion, as I think playing one super tough opponent out of conference will do wonders for the Lions as they prepare for Ivy competition.

And while Stony Brook is TRYING to raise itself up to the highest highs, it’s not a foregone conclusion that it will get there.

Old Dominion

This is admittedly my wildcard choice. And I have soft spot in my heart for this school because I used to roam the campus by myself while my dad taught there in the late 1970’s.

But Columbia and all Ivy football followers really NEED to see an FCS program that is on the rise in every category, especially fan attendance and local non-student/alumni interest.

Game day in Norfolk, Virginia has become a real local event. The folks at ODU really did everything right when they reintroduced football in 2009.

Yes, the Monarchs are another team that is getting very, very good and could be as tough as Penn or Harvard in a typical year. Plus, the trip to southern Virginia would be long.

But after Cornell bailed on a commitment to play the Monarchs in their inaugural season, I think any road trip would be softened by some very warm hospitality for an Ivy League team.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Patriot Punt

Andrew Kennedy’s remarkable contribution to the Lions in 2010 has paid off with a slot on the 2010 Walter Camp All-America team.

Kennedy was the only Ivy Leaguer to make the team.

No Decision

If you were waiting for a big decision from the Patriot League on athletic scholarships for football… keep waiting.

The Patriot presidents decided to simply table the great debate over this issue today.

I assume this means the folks at scholarship-issuing Fordham will have to accelerate their search for a new conference to join, as it makes little sense for the Rams to remain in league that bars them from winning the championship.

Such a conference move might put Columbia’s annual Liberty Cup game against Fordham in jeopardy.

But either way, make no mistake that this “tabled vote” is nothing less than an actual “no” vote against scholarships.

Keeping the status quo is a move against scholarships, period.

Not Interested?

This photo was taken on campus last week, (I think at the Lerner building). It shows what so many students leave behind from their otherwise free copies of the New York Times.

The question is: Are there very few sports fans at Columbia, or are sports fans so sophisticated at Columbia that they know that reading the Times sports section is a true waste of time?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Beantown Prospect

Ryan Flannery

Wide Receiver Ryan Flannery from North Attleborough HS (sometimes spelled "Attleboro"), in the Boston area has committed to Columbia.

Flannery is the second documented North Attleborough grad to come to play football at Columbia after Jeff Kraskouskas ‘94.

Here's a look at Flannery's highlight video.

So here's our list of publicly announced commits for the class of 2015

1) Sean Coffinger LB 6-4 215 lbs. Desert Vista HS Phoenix, AZ

2) Ryan Flannery WR 6-3 185 lbs. North Attleborough HS North Attleborough, MA

3) Hunter Little DL 6-4 225 lbs. The Webb School Knoxville, TN

4) Kal Prince QB 6-4 198 lbs. Owenboro HS Owensboro, KY

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Now and Forever

Back to Lehigh in '12?

Lehigh football blogger Chuck Burton reports that Columbia is tentatively expected to play at the defending Patriot League champ Mountainhawks in Bethlehem in 2012.

Columbia hasn't played Lehigh since a 63-13 loss at Goodman Stadium in

Patriot League in Peril

Speaking of the Patriot League, Lafayette’s president has come out against football scholarships just four days before the full Patriot
League votes on the issue.

The vote was forced last year by Fordham’s decision to go to athletic
scholarships for football. The temporary solution for the rest of the
Patriot League teams was to keep the immediate future schedules intact while
barring the Rams from being able to win the Patriot championship.

If all the other Patriot schools follow Lafayette’s lead, then Fordham will
simply have to find a new conference home.

But if there is a significant split, the league may dissolve and the
residual effect that would have on the Ivies would be profound.

Stay tuned.

Mystery of the “C” Explained

A good catch by the folks at the athletic department for linking to this great story explaining how that magnificent “C” painted on the rocks behind the Baker Athletics Complex came to be.

The Difference between “Now” and “Forever”

December is recruiting weekend time for the Columbia football team, and this
was one theme I couldn’t get out of my head all weekend:

Cam Newton ran away with the Heisman voting and grabbed the trophy Saturday

Newton is, no doubt, a superior athlete.

So were Matt Leinart, Jason White, Chris Weinke, Danny Wuerffel, Gino
Toretta, Andre Ware, etc.

You get the picture.

Maybe Cam Newton will be a star in the NFL and remain in the league long
enough to build a huge fortune and cultivate other financial opportunities.

But even after winning the Heisman, the odds that he’ll still be in the NFL
five years from now aren’t great. And even if he remains in the league, the
financial hardships endured by the overwhelming majority of NFL retirees is
well documented.

I know we’ve been arguing lately about the things that need to be done to
get Columbia winning more football games in the immediate future.

But the most important reason to play football at Columbia or any Ivy school
is to do what’s best for your long term future.

The facts don’t lie: the average Columbia football alum has a better
personal and financial success rate than the average Heisman Trophy winner!

All the Ivy schools can boast tremendous post-graduation success for their
athletes. But my own research shows that Columbia’s athletes tend to far
outpace non-athlete alums at our school by a mind boggling degree.

In other words, the decision to come to Columbia to play varsity sports is
all about the next 40 years of your life, not the next four.

It’s also important to focus on long term thinking at a time like this in
the face of what’s been a pretty bad, but ephemeral, week of PR for our
beloved university.

The bad PR will pass, the prestige of a Columbia degree coupled with the
special career opportunities for alumni athletes won’t.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Challenge... Accepted!

Based upon yesterday's comments, putting together an All Time All Ivy team of guys who did not win the Bushnell might be a fun project on a slow news day. :)


The Bushnell Cup was established in 1970. So who are the best Ivy players since then who never won the player of the year award?

Here’s my list. Critique away:


WR Don Clune Penn
WR Craig Morton Dartmouth
TE John Spagnola Yale
TE Steve Jordan Brown
OL Dan Jiggets Harvard
OL Joe Valerio Penn
OL Craig Valentine Columbia
OL Matt Birk Harvard
OL Kevin Boothe Cornell
RB Clifton Dawson Harvard
RB Kenny Hill Yale
QB Jason McCullough
K Nick Lowery Dartmouth


DL Marcellus Wiley Columbia
DL Tom McHale Cornell
DL Seth Payne Cornell
DL Tom Csatari Dartmouth
LB Reggie Williams Dartmouth
LB Jeff Rohrer Yale
LB Zack DeOssie Brown
LB Rory Wilfork Columbia
DB Dean Cain Princeton
DB Ted Gregory Columbia
DB Lloyd Lee Dartmouth
DB Jay McCareins
WR/P Pat McInally Harvard

This list was really hard to come up with and it has some inherent imbalances.

For one thing, the defensive list is filled with generally better players than the offense because just about every truly outstanding offensive skill position player in the Ivies has won a Bushnell Cup.

For example, the defensive list includes an NFL Hall of Famer in Reggie Williams while the crucial QB position is held by Jason McCullough, a outstanding player, but not in Williams' league.

I expect a lot of changes in this list just in my mind in the coming years, and that doesn't include what future players will do to mess it all up.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Waiting in the Wings

Andrew Kennedy

Who are the top graduating players Columbia needs to worry about replacing next season and who’s in line to replace them?

Let’s focus today on the three seniors who were 1st Team All Ivy:

TE Andrew Kennedy

Kennedy was one of the most prolific receiving tight ends in recent Columbia history. His knack for the end zone was especially impressive and will be the hardest to replace next season.

Only one upperclassman, rising senior Rafael Lopez, is among the crew of returning tight ends. But we heard a lot of good buzz about rising sophomore Chris Mooney, and he even got into some varsity games this year.

At 6-foot-5, it’s hard to rule out Hamilton Garner in this race.

LB Alex Gross

Replacing co-captain Alex Gross isn’t just a matter of stats like total tackles and passes defensed. The Lions will need another player to step up and fill the emotional leadership role Gross played on and off the field.

But as far as rising young linebackers goes, rising sophomore Zach Olinger made a big splash as a frosh this season, especially in the Yale game in week 7.

I also look for rising senior Nick Mistretta to take a leadership role, at least among the linebackers in 2011.

But someone other than Zach and Nick has to step up since the Lions are also losing senior co-captain Matt Moretto on graduation day.

We may well need to see the re-emergence of rising senior Evan Miller, who filled in very nicely in emergency injury duty in 2009 after Gross went down.

Rising junior Ryan Murphy is officially a linebacker, but he continues to mostly play in the role of a pass rushing specialist defensive end.

And could there be a chance for rising sophomore Brian East, who impressed me with his play in high school?

CB Calvin Otis and S Adam Mehrer

I know Otis was a 1st Teamer and Mehrer was an honorable mention All Ivy, but they’re both graduating and losing them presents a serious challenge for the entire secondary.

The best news is that rising seniors like A.J. Maddox, Kalasi Huggins, Neil Schuster, and Ross Morand have a great deal of playing experience. Maddox and Huggins are starters and Schuster and Morand have been impact players in a handful of games in their careers so far.

Rising junior Stephen Grassa got onto the field very often this season and seems like a potential star in waiting.

That’s five players with great experience and skill all learning more under the tutelage of the great secondary coach John Gutekunst.

Not bad.

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Arizona Addition

Sean Coffinger

Desert Vista HS TE/DE Sean Coffinger has committed to Columbia's class of 2015.

Coffinger is a young man well beyond his years when it comes to leadership. He was the heart and soul of a Desert Vista team that surprised everyone with a 10-3 season.

Coffinger is the first documented Desert Hills student to commit to Columbia football.

Bushnell Reform

Thanks to Bruce Wood at the Big Green Alert Blog for alerting me to this piece from the Daily Pennsylvanian Blog that FINALLY explains how the Bushnell Cup voting process is conducted.

Here are my two biggest burning questions about this process:

How the heck does each head coach decide on the name of ONE player to throw into the voting hopper? In Columbia’s case, the choice between Alex Gross and Sean Brackett must have be agonizing for Coach Wilson.
Is it wisest to allow these decisions to be made by the coaches only?

Since it’s been 27 years since a Columbia player has been fortunate enough to win a Bushnell Cup, it seems this process hasn’t been that favorable to the Lions.

Don’t get me wrong, I realize the BIGGEST reason why Columbia has been Bushnell-free since 1983 is because the Lions just haven’t had enough winning seasons to earn one.

But the stars of the 1994 and 1996 winning teams, people like Rory Wilfork and Marcellus Wiley just to name two, seem to have been snubbed by this process.

What’s the solution?

Obviously, having me be the sole decider of who wins the Cup is the BEST choice and I will let you know what the league officials think about that idea.

But in all seriousness, should a group of journalists be allowed to vote as well?

What about team captains? They would know which opposing players frightened them the most from week to week, right?

All I know is that Columbia’s exclusions aside, this Bushnell Cup voting process seems flawed and it should be remedied.

Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Big Blocker on the Block

Andrew Montgomery

A punishing blocking fullback from Tennessee is considering coming to Columbia.

Andrew Montgomery just won the prestigious Hume Award, which is “presented annually to an outstanding Metro public school player from Nashville who excels in sportsmanship, scholarship and football ability.”

It’s very impressive for a high school fullback, with little or no rushing stats of his own, to be recognized in this way. The coaches in his conference obviously knew what a big deal he was for his team and made sure to spotlight him.

Now the big question is which college program will reap the benefits?

Speaking of reaping benefits, Alex Gross finds out tonight if he will be the winner of the super prestigious Bill Campbell Trophy.

In all seriousness, the trophy always goes to someone from a major BCS program. The National Football Foundation knows the value of public relations, and awarding the trophy to someone not even in an FBS program ain’t going to grab headlines.

But just making it this far in the process is such a great achievement for Alex and the Columbia program in general. This is a night to celebrate his personal, and Columbia’s communal, achievement.

Gross and classmate Adam Mehrer were just named to the Academic All Ivy Team as well! Gross a 1st Teamer, Mehrer an honorable mention.

Tad's Move

One of the best safeties in Columbia history, Tad Crawford '07, is going to test the free agency market in the CFL after for seasons with the British Columbia Lions in Vancover.

On a sour note, the harsh realities of what passes for “fun” in college came to a crashing halt at Columbia early this morning.

None of the people arrested were on the football team, and I don’t believe any of them were on any Columbia athletic teams at all. And as much as I’d like to gloat about that, I am not foolish enough to think any one group is really immune to this sort of thing.

I’m also not 100% sad that these arrests occurred, because this kind of incident will hopefully put the fear of God into some of the kids out there.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Split the Cup

Nick Schwiegger

The Bushnell Cup is going to be a shared award for the second year in a row.

Dartmouth’s Nick Schwieger and Harvard’s Gino Gordon were named co-winners here in Manhattan earlier today.

Both are great players and deserving of may kudos.

But it’s hard not to take this news as the “third strike and its out” for this entire process.

Strike one was when major Columbia stars Sean Brackett and Alex Gross were both not on the list of four finalists for the Cup.

Strike two was when Princeton WR Trey Peacock, the 0-7 in the Ivies Princeton, DID make the list.

And I consider this strike three; splitting the award between a player like Schwieger, who absolutely made a bigger impact on his team, and Gordon, who had a solid, but not exactly remarkable, season on a Harvard team that dropped off in overall quality this season anyway.

Let’s hope the Cup goes to one clear cut winner next season, (and preferably one wearing light blue). Thia year though, Schwiegger should have won it alone.

Columbia held its own awards dinner last night.

Snubbed by the Bushnell voters, Gross won the prestigious Sid Luckman Award as MVP of the Columbia football team.

Brackett was the well-deserved offensive MVP award winner, and I particularly liked the Most Improved Player nod going to WR Kurt Williams.

But the highlight of these awards for me is the recognition some of the less well-known players finally get.

Guys like graduating seniors Nathan Lenz and Daniel Myers were great sparkplugs this season and in seasons’ past. So their awards mean a lot.

And on the other end of the spectrum, we have the Heisman Trophy race.

It would be absurd if the award goes to anyone other than Auburn’s Cam Newton.

But Newton represents everything that’s wrong about big-time college football right now, as it seems almost certain that one of his family members basically shopped him around to various BCS schools for cash.

Cam Newton seems like a decent enough person himself, and I have no idea whether his personal character or academic abilities are wanting in any way.

But this young man is setting himself up for a professional athletic career only.

That’s bad news, as most of us just how successful most recent Heisman winners have been in the NFL.

If you’re an Ivy recruited athlete or a parent of one reading this blog, pat yourself on the back for insisting that your son or daughter takes care of their future prospects first before opting for the ephemeral limelight of “big time college” athletics.

If more people like you followed your lead, the whole debate about whether college football is really just a pro sport would be moot.

Sunday, December 05, 2010

Nice Win!

It was hard not to love the men's basketball team's performance last evening at Levien Gym as they pulled out a 73-72 win over annual rival Stony Brook.

The MVP award may have to go to Coach Kyle Smith who was flying all over the court, not letting the refs get away with anything!


Visits to this blog were up 23.8% in November, year-over-year. Thanks for visiting!

Saturday, December 04, 2010

Backfield in Transition

Marcorus Garrett in his high school days

With the upcoming graduations of Leon Ivery and Zack Kourouma, the Columbia running game will automatically look different next season.

Most fans have made it clear they'd like to see rising junior Nick Gerst pick up most of that slack. And there's a lot of slack to pick up; Gerst carried the ball just seven times per game.

Another great candidate is rising sophomore Marcorus Garrett. Garrett is supremely talented, period.

But a Gerst-Garrett backfield would be missing a bruising fullback type runner. Unsung hero Nathan Lenz, who did a great job asa fullback during his time at CU, is also about to graduate this spring. Nico Papas is certainly capable of filling in next season, which will be Nico's senior campaign.

And no one will be surprised if QB Sean Brackett remains the #1 rusher on the team next year and the year after that.

The question is: should the Lions just go with the speedy backfield of Gerst, Garrett and Brackett and forget about trying to grind out tough yards right up the gut?

Let's hear from the readers...

Friday, December 03, 2010

Hot Fight in Old Nassau

The Daily Princetonian has set off a real firestorm online with its publication of a series of articles on the Princeton admissions process.

The real fireworks started flying when on online poster claiming to be a long-time tenured Princeton professor expressed his/her outrage over the supposedly inferior academic abilities and performances of the athletes.

This supposed professor, (who based on the passages written seems to me to be much more likely a graduate school teacher’s assistant), repeats all the old stereotypes about student athletes.

This debate is boiling over at Princeton, mind you, a school that wins the most Ivy championships year after year.

Here are some of my favorite comments in response to the “outraged faculty member”:

@outraged faculty
I find your comments to be rooted in mean-spirited generalizations and stereotypes. I suspect if you took the time to actually interact with the athletes on campus you would find 700+ SAT scores and top 10% class rank are more the rule than the exception. As you know, the recruited athletes are given no special treatment in the classroom (quite the opposite in your classroom, I suspect). Handling the same workload as their non-athlete peers while devoting 3-4 hours each day to practice and representing Princeton academically is a huge challenge, and the great majority of these recruited athletes are able to accomplish it.
If you would prefer that Princeton give up on it's rich athletic tradition and stop recruiting, Princeton athletics will look a lot like MIT athletics in short order. I, for one, think that would be a shame.

@ outraged faculty
I am ashamed that one of our professors would have such a warped opinion of me, my teammates, and others who play varsity sports at Princeton. The rationale behind likely letters, as explained in the article, to prevent athletes from matriculating to other schools, which are allowed to promise scholarships, because they are unsure about their chances at Princeton. EVERY YEAR my sports team has recruits DENIED by the Admissions Office, PRECISELY because they, like other non-athlete candidates who apply to Princeton, do not meet academic standards! Being a recruited athlete is in no way an admissions guarantee, and recruits who do matriculate (as seen by the graduation rate) seem to be able to handle the academic rigors of Princeton. In fact, MANY go on to receive the University's highest accolades, such as the Spirit of Princeton Award or thesis prizes.
The fact that SO MANY varsity athletes are extremely academically successful is a testament to their organization and dedication to both their schoolwork and their sport (read yesterday's article for clarification). It is appalling that, after the hard work they do for themselves and to uphold Princeton pride, they are so often singled out by students, faculty, and administrators for being an underachieving section of the student body.

What, no vitriol against legacy and developmental admits as well? Why do they deserve admission to Princeon despite inferior academic qualfications? I seem to recall Princeton being at or near the top of the Ivies for percentage of legacy admissions. I suppose the reason this continues to be allowed is so the university can provide bodies to populate those snotty eating clubs only the very rich are allowed to belong to.
The haughty attitude expressed by outragedfaculty is one reason my athlete daughter turned down Princeton and Harvard advances. Students at those schools reported that athletes should hide the fact they play a sport from some professors or they will look down on them and give them as intellectually inferior. Since her GPA and SAT's were as high as that of any Princeton non-athlete, she opted for a school which respects their athletes.

Legacy admits have significantly higher scores and grades than the average admit. They don't pull the academic averages down, they pull it up.
As for the eating clubs, snotty or not, most are subscribed by lottery and even the ones that aren't have a diverse membership. As another surprise for you, if anything, the selective clubs slant toward sports team members if anything.
Finally, when you say your daughter's SATs and grades were as high as any PU student's, then I assume you mean she was number one in her class and had perfect SATs, since many many PU students are exactly that. More on point however, is that more validictory or 2400 scorering applicants are turned DOWN by PU than are accepted. The reason is that University has decided that a class made up of people vetted only by test taking and hoop jumping might make for a dull group overall. Pure academics is a great start, but not enough if the university is going to create leaders for the nation and world, which without much modesty, is what we claim to do.
The general theme for admissions is that first you need to be academically strong, and then what else can you bring to the party. Like 08Alum suggests, the real question Outraged Faculty points to, is what university mission is served by admitting athletes with lower scores and grades and has it be clearly articulated so that everyone can at least understand the rationale.


Don't hate the player, hate the game: It is not MY fault as a princeton lax alum that girls sweated me, i crushed it on the dfloor, and i destroyed a little property.
Its not MY fault. It is the nature of the school. The real reason the faculty are upset is because everyone on campus looked up to people like me and my lax buddies more than they looked up to some professor who has spent his entire life studying some worthless sociology theory about why Brokeback Mountain is the most critically acclaimed motion picture of the century.
Here's a research question for all you outraged faculty members:
you have the option to go to lecture and fall asleep, get a good 20 minute nap in before some nerd interrupts the class to spell out a point that is painfully obvious to the 300 other people in lecture - this is not a most enjoyable experience.
second option: go to Joe Canal's, buy a 30 rack of natty light, post up in the 1952 parking lot and drink that 30 rack. then, enter the men's lacrosse game vs. syracuse and watch your friends/idols on the lacrosse team take it to the orangemen...this, of course, would be followed by the opportunity to buy those same lacrosse players drinks at Winberry's after the game.
Option 2 sounds like a much more enjoyable experience.
My suggestion/theory/axiom: outraged faculty members - go sip on a little brew and relax your belts that are jacked half way to your nipples. let your belly button breath. switch your glasses for contact lenses. then, maybe someone will start coming to your lecture!
For now, I'm gonna go crush it at my day job.


The thing that I keep returning to, though, is that anyone who truly doesn't care about academics wouldn't choose to come to Princeton in the first place. If you are a real star athlete and all you want to do is skate by in school, you go to a top D1 athletic powerhouse where you are put on full scholarship. People only choose to come to Princeton if they are comfortable shouldering the academic burden-- which in most cases means they are at least on some level interested in intellectual challenge.

Concerned Parent again...
Someone at Princeton should be smart enough to remember the Olympian man of ancient times..."sound mind" + "sound body". The two are connected and not mutually exclusive. I am concerned that Princeton lets in too many one dimensional nerds. I don't care what your passion it and don't be embarassed by it.

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Aim High

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

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

They were:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

Here are my top three in ASCENDING ORDER of importance:

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

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

Not so much in the Ivies.

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

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

2) A Winning Season NEXT Year

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

This streak HAS to end now.

Anything else for 2011 has to be considered a failure.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Don’t think so?

Consider these three facts:

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

No Bushnell for Us

Johnathan Reese, during his days with the Jets

The list of the finalists for the 2010 Bushnell Cup were announced this morning.

They are Dartmouth’s Nick Schwieger, Penn’s Billy Ragone, Harvard’s Gino Gordon, and Princeton’s Trey Peacock.

Each one of these players was outstanding, but it is very disappointing that no Columbia players, especially Sean Brackett and Alex Gross, made the list.

To be fair, I have called for the entire Penn starting offensive line to win the award. I have also, more realistically, said that Schwieger makes the most logical choice winner for this season.

But Brackett is the most exciting and valuable player in the Ivies right now, and what player made more of an impact on his defense than Alex Gross in 2010?

I suppose we could shout about unfair anti-Columbia biases and in this case, I think we’d have a good case.

How someone like Peacock, a great wide receiver but a great wide receiver on an 0-7 Ivy team, could become a finalist over Brackett and Gross is just silly.

But other than the case of Peacock, the real reason Columbia’s best players didn’t make this list of finalists is because of wins and losses.

It always comes down to wins and Columbia just hasn’t won enough games to get respect.

And don’t fool yourself into thinking that winning four games per season, while a lot better than one or two, is going to earn Columbia any real respect from the league.

Columbia just didn’t have enough wins this season to impress the voters for the Bushnell Cup.

The Lions didn’t have enough wins from 2006-2009 to get all-time great players like Austin Knowlin a Bushnell Cup even though he was every bit as good a player as Brown’s excellent WR Buddy Farnham, a co-Bushnell winner in 2009.

Why? Knowlin won just 12 games in his Columbia career.

The Lions never had enough wins to get great RB Johnathan Reese a cup from 1998-2001, despite his superhuman importance to Columbia in those four seasons.

Reese won just 13 games in his Columbia career.

It’s the personal stories that make the Bushnell Cup snubs hurt the most. The kids who play 1st Team All Ivy quality ball at Columbia year after year are seeing too much of their efforts on the field wasted.

Who, or what, will be held accountable for this?

We can’t just lay it all at the feet of the opposing coaches.

I’m not looking for a scapegoat, but I do very much fear an atmosphere where too many of us are content with four win seasons or see them as a great achievement.

To do so would be a grave injustice to the hard work of our student athletes who deserve better.

They deserve trophies; championship trophies and MVP trophies.

It’s not too late for people like Sean Brackett who has two more years to play.

But for Alex Gross, Austin Knowlin, Johnathan Reese, and so many others, it is already too late.