On the Rebound
Let's not get lapped!
Princeton is returning to the NCAA Tournament just a few years after falling to the bottom of Ivy basketball.
Currently dwelling in a place somewhere lower than the bottom of the Ivy football world are, coincidentally, the Princeton gridders.
Can the football Tigers engineer the same kind of quick turnaround as their brethren on the hardcourt? And if they do, what does that tell us about Columbia football?
Based on some solid sources in Tigertown, I reported well before the 2010 season started that Princeton was in dire straits. Offensive coordinator James Perry was not winning the team over, and the personnel was thin to begin with. The result was an 0-7 Ivy record and hardly any of those games was even close.
It seems impossible for any athletic team at Princeton to hit rock bottom, especially football which boasts the nicest stadium in the league and tons of other amenities. Other than Princeton's ban on transfers, it's hard to find any structural cracks in the Tiger facade.
Except they are there. The Tigers have, by far, the fewest football titles of the Big Three schools. Their last Ivy title was in 2006, but they've won just three championships since 1990.
But here's what worries me. Head Coach Bob Surace and his staff may simply have not been as ready as they needed to be for 2010. With a year under their belts and some healthy pressure from the alumni, there's every reason to believe Princeton will get at least one or two Ivy wins in 2011.
We'd like to believe that Columbia football is a work in progress with the latest reboot coming after a totally disastrous 2005 campaign. Every year, we want to see a little bit of progress on the way to finally grabbing the Lions' first Ivy title since 1961. And to be fair, we have seen some good progress in some of the subsequent five seasons. Unfortunately, the Lions took a step backward in 2010 and a sense of urgency needs to be felt in the program... now.
And if we get lapped this year or the following season by a Princeton team that is every bit as bad as the Lions were six years ago, then we have a problem. It means we're doing a little more spinning of our wheels than we should.
As I said late last year, if the Tigers achieve a winning record before we do, that's, as the kids say now, a "fail."
Just a hair above Princeton last season in the "fail" category was Cornell.
The Big Red came into last season with very little established talent and a new coach. They knew is was going to be a tough year in Ithaca.
But Cornell showed some spark during the season, and darn near beat the Lions here in New York City in week nine to boot.
And yet the Big Red are another team that the Lions simply cannot allow to recover to a winning record before Columbia achieves the same or better.
(*By the way, interesting side note: Can the Lions beat Cornell for the fourth straight year in 2011, giving the class of 2012 a perfect sweep of the Big Red? No Columbia class has swept any opposing Ivy team since the class of 1998 beat Yale each year from 1994-97).
It's one thing to have trouble gaining on established winners like Penn and Harvard. It's another to let so many other programs cut us in line.
Dartmouth has done that already with the Big Green's winning season last year that included a defeat of our Lions on our own homecoming field.
Columbia can literally do the same thing to Dartmouth this fall at te Big Green's homecoming game in Hanover.
That would be a great statement. One of many opportunities for this Lions team in 2011.