Thursday, March 31, 2011

Updated Letter


The rough news about rising junior WR Anthony Johnson is out there right now. I don’t really think there’s much to say about this except we hope the young man is able to straighten everything out.

Don’t forget to post your name and school year/affiliation if you support our call for a special halftime ceremony honoring our student veterans.

I am intrigued by some calls to eliminate all mention of the negative incidents that led me and others to call for this tribute for our veterans… and I have to agree.

A revamped version of the letter is below:

Dear President Bollinger, Dr. Murphy, and Chairman Campbell:

We the undersigned are concerned alumni, students and parents of students at Columbia University. We write today in favor of honoring all of Columbia’s student armed forces veterans at halftime of a football game this coming fall.

We believe these veteran-scholars represent the best of both the Columbia community and our country. We also believe that the vast majority of Columbia’s student athletes and fans support our veterans wholeheartedly.

Columbia has a grand history of honorable contributions to American military history. That history includes the volunteerism and heroism of Alexander Hamilton, Dwight Eisenhower, William Donovan, and Philip Kearney, just to name a few.

We believe the best way to honor these extraordinary student veterans would be to hold a halftime ceremony singling them out in front of thousands of cheering fans.

Whatever we can do to make such a ceremony happen we are prepared to offer. Just ask.


Greg Abbruzzese '91 C

Nicolás S. Barragán '13 C

Richard Berger ’57 C

Curtis Chen ’82 SEAS

Ralph DeBernardo ’09 C

William O. Flick Jr. ’87 C

Steve Greenberg '73 C

Karl Groth

Carl Henriquez '60 C, '64 P&S

Rebecca Hiner '09 GS

Donald Jensen '73 C

Barry Kelner '73 C

Bob Kent '92 C

Bob Levine ’58 C

Thomas Long ’74 C

Eric Lorber '06 C

Cassidy Lutjean '07 C

Brian & Renée McClain

John McClelland ’11 GS

Jacob Novak ’92 C

John F. O’Connor ’67 C

Kiernan O’Connor ’92 C

Charles Sergis ’55 C

Gene Straub '49 C , '50 SEAS

Richard Szathmary '67 C

Dorian Tergis ’74 C, ’78 P&S

Bohdan Vitvitsky ’79 GSAS, ’85 LAW

Jewell K. Waldbaum

Stan Waldbaum ’62 C, ’65 LAW

Jeff Wasserstein ’93 GS, ’96 LAW

Sam Williams

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Solo's Latest Challenge

There are few things more sobering than seeing an athlete you once idolized brought down by physical adversity.

That’s what has happened to the first genuine offensive star I ever knew at Columbia, Solomon Johnson.

I am more than sorry to announce that “Solo” has been diagnosed with Multiple myeloma.

I AM happy to report that Johnson is in good spirits, and is now on a trial drug.

For the relative newcomers here, it’s hard to understate Johnson’s importance to the Columbia teams of the late 1980’s.

It was Solo, along with Greg Abbruzzese, who comprised the greatest running tandem the Lions had in a generation and haven’t matched since.

It was Solo who led the 1987 freshman team to a legendary 6-0 season.

Then, in 1988 he helped lead Columbia out of the depths of its 5-year-long losing streak by scoring the winning TD in the streak-breaker against Princeton on October 8th at Wien Stadium.

Johnson’s speed was just mystifying. It was too good to keep on the bench on kickoffs and so he became a returner as well.

I know all of our prayers go out to him and his family.


Please also don’t forget to post your name and school year/affiliation if you support our call for a special halftime ceremony honoring our student veterans.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Honoring our Heroes

As promised, here is the letter we will soon pass on to the administration calling for all our student veterans to be honored at halftime of a football game this fall. Some of the original signatories are at the bottom. If you would like to sign, please do so in the comments section for now and add your class year and any Columbia affiliation after your name. And please feel free to forward this to anyone you know who may be interested.

Dear President Bollinger, Dr. Murphy, and Chairman Campbell:

We the undersigned are concerned alumni, students and parents of students at Columbia University. We write today in favor of honoring all of Columbia’s student armed forces veterans at halftime of a football game this coming fall.

We believe these veteran-scholars represent the best of both the Columbia community and our country. We also believe that the vast majority of Columbia’s student athletes and fans support our veterans wholeheartedly.

Recent events that paint a false picture of the Columbia family being hostile to our student veterans, even our wounded student veterans, are just that, false. They stand in stark contrast to Columbia’s grand history of honorable contributions to American military history. That history includes the volunteerism and heroism of Alexander Hamilton, Dwight Eisenhower, William Donovan, and Philip Kearney, just to name a few.

We believe the best way to dispel false notions and accentuate the considerable positives would be to hold a halftime ceremony in front of thousands of cheering fans.

Whatever we can do to make such a ceremony happen we are prepared to offer. Just ask.


Bob Kent '92 C

Gene Straub '49 C , '50 SEAS

Greg Abbruzzese '91 C

Barry Kelner '73 C

Brian & Renée McClain

Donald Jensen '73 C

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Devils You Know

Now Here are Some Happy Seniors!

Today’s Big Green Alert Blog says Dartmouth will, (unofficially), have 35 seniors on the roster this coming fall.

That has to be a record for Ivy League history… but I don’t know how anyone could 100% confirm that.

Having that many seniors will definitely be a boost for the Big Green overall, but it’s certainly not a magic bullet.

Columbia had the most returning seniors in the Ivies last season and came in 6th.

Cornell had the most seniors back in 2008 and came in 7th.

But both last year’s Lions and the ’08 Big Red did do very well in their non-conference games. That tells me that having good experience is a super advantage against teams that are not so familiar with your senior players in the first place. But it can tend to backfire against the Ivy teams that already know these players very well.

Plus, those non-conference games are early in the season when the younger players don’t tend to be as ready to go as the vets.

So, I expect Dartmouth to go 3-0 against the non-Ivies again this year based on all those seniors and the fact that the team is generally better anyway.

The real key to winning in the Ivies is having a strong nucleus of junior players.

Juniors will certainly be the key to Columbia’s season, as a number of them will have to step up into effective starting roles for the varsity.

Kraft League Update

The Robert Kraft-backed Israeli football league just wrapped up its fourth season with the championship game going to the Judean Rebels 32-30 at Kraft Stadium. (I foolishly bet my money on the Judean People’s Front).

The above linked story focuses on the encouraging teamwork between Israeli and Palestinian players in the league, shattering two stereotypes about the region and the sport at the same time.

I’ve already written about how one young star from this Israeli league will be joining the Ivies this fall, (unfortunately for Harvard, not Columbia), but hopefully more stars from the Holy Land will be on the way in the coming years.

Be Ready to Join!!!

A draft letter is about to go out respectfully asking the administration to honor our Columbia student armed forces veterans at halftime of a football game this fall.

I hope 100% of the readers here will agree to sign that letter and make a positive out of an incident that has to be the low point of my life as a Columbia alumnus.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Two for One

Field of Dreams

I can’t promise anything, but with the Columbia baseball team preparing for some great home stands in the coming weekends I suppose there’s a good chance fans can get a chance to watch Brett Boretti’s great team AND maybe sneak a look at the football practices on Kraft Field next door to the newly refurbished Satow Stadium.

Either way, you could do a lot worse than seeing the new Columbia ballpark and the first class team that goes with it this spring.

One key day to be there is April 2nd when the Lions host a doubleheader against Dartmouth in what seems like it will be another preview of the Ivy League Championship Series.

Also, baseball homecoming is just two weeks later on April 16th against Cornell.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Watch this Space

With spring practice about to begin, keep an eye on the Columbia football roster for changes. Usually, just the weights get updated but we may see some new names and lose a few as well.

I know the weights of our returning defensive linemen are a big concern for many fans so we’ll be watching any changes in that area especially closely.

For the record, the average weight right now for the 13 returning Lion defensive linemen is 252.5 pounds.

By contrast, defending champ Penn has 17 incoming returning defensive linemen averaging 249.1 pounds.

So take all of this stuff with the necessary grain of salt.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Schedule Sketches

The Grandstand at Jack Coffey Field

Columbia will be the Homecoming “villains” at two of our road games this fall, at Fordham and at Dartmouth.

Speaking of Fordham, it looks like the six-year tradition of playing the Rams in the Bronx at night is over. The game is scheduled for 1pm, meaning the Lions will visit Jack Coffey Field for a day game for the first time since 2003.

Looking at the whole 2011 schedule, here is a quick rundown about how each team Columbia faces this fall looks like right now:

At Fordham

The Rams are still in that no-man’s land, nominally in the Patriot League but not allowed to actually win it. In my opinion, this limbo is negating whatever recruiting advantage Fordham may have picked up when it introduced athletic scholarships for football last year. Even though this will be the Homecoming game for the Rams, it’s hard to believe this won’t be another close affair that will be decided in the last minute or two just like the last three CU-FU games.


The Great Danes will be a super “X-factor” on the schedule even if this weren’t the first-ever meeting between the two teams. Any squad that can beat Yale at the Bowl and then lose to Robert Morris two weeks later by a 38-0 score has be called a mystery.

Looking at the Alban roster, you see a young team that will probably feature a red shirt sophomore QB named Buddy Leathley.

On defense, the Great Danes allowed a lot of yards last season, but fewer than 24 points per game and opponents only had a 33% 3rd down conversion rate. Bend, but don’t break I guess.

At Princeton

The Tigers in 2010 were about as bad as I’ve seen an Ivy opponent be in my four decades of following Columbia football.

Princeton is bound to be better in 2011, but there’s a long way to go. The Lions may be lucky to be facing the Tigers this early in the season before some improvement is likely to really kick in.

Sacred Heart

The early buzz on the 2011 Pioneers is that they will be badly lacking without star QB Dale Fink who is graduating this spring. This might simply be a game that Columbia wins or never lives down.

Penn (Homecoming)

Even with 4/5 of its starting O-line graduating next month, the Quakers will be the favorites to “3-peat,” (damn, now I owe pat Riley money), in 2011.

I think the Lions and most of their fans realize that Penn is the hurdle Columbia must clear before it can ever consider itself a contender in the Ivies.

Tall order.

At Dartmouth

After beating the Big Green in Hanover in 1998 and 2001, and playing them darn close there in 2003, 2005 and 2007, the Lions fell badly at Memorial Field in 2009.

Meanwhile, Dartmouth is definitely on the upswing after getting back to a winning record last season and returning most of the key players for 2011.

On the other hand, one of those players is NOT the graduating Charles Bay and there’s a good argument to be made that the Big Green will fall a bit closer to Earth this fall.


Two straight close losses to the Elis have got to serve as an added incentive for the coaches and players to finally get over the Yale hump this year.

Starting QB Patrick Witt, and his mixed bag of great talent but erratic play, returns for 2011. So does Head Coach Tom Williams after a brief flirtation with getting the top job at Stanford.

My take is that Yale will either get back into contention this season, or fall hard under the strain of Witt and Williams’ drama. I don’t see much of an “in-between.”


QB Collier Winters will return along with star RB Treavor Scales and a bunch of defensive stars. Two years without a title in Cambridge will make the Crimson hungrier than most seasons this fall.

This will be a tough, tough game for the Lions.

At Cornell

New Head Coach Kent Austin clearly needed all of his first season last year simply to evaluate the talent on the roster. The result was a very tough year that just about everyone predicted.

But I expect Austin to be a quick study and at least have the Big Red bouncing back faster than say, Princeton, in 2011.

Columbia has almost always played very well in Ithaca for decades now, but this late-season contest could prove to be a bigger challenge than usual.


Does anybody doubt that Phil Estes will have his Bears ready to play again this fall? Nobody should.

Brown returns all its top star players like QB Kyle Newhall-Caballero, who missed most of 2010 with injuries. The defense still seems iffier than in some recent years in Providence, but honestly… by week 10 of this coming season things will look a lot different for every team in the league. Other than saying that Bears will be strong on offense, I’m not predicting much else about this game.

And Finally...

You can't read this story and not be inspired.

A one-legged young man is now an NCAA champion wrestler.

Not a paralympics champ... just a champ.

Great story.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

How to Win

DeMaurice Smith

The “Head Hog” George Starke ’71 is the subject of this interview on the Redskin fansite “Hogs Haven.”

In it, Starke covers a lot of the same ground he did when I interviewed him live during the Columbia-Towson game in Maryland back in 2008.

One of the things I’ll never forget about that interview is how Starke had to rub his knee and leg the entire time because of the constant pain he endures from a series of injuries on the field.

Memo to either one of the warring sides in the NFL labor talks that really wants to “win”:

The real financial challenges in the NFL do not reside with the owners or the current players. It’s all about the retired players, the vast majority of whom have financial and physical problems… some of them horrific.

The way to win public opinion here, especially if you’re the players union, is to make these negotiations all about the current and future RETIRED players.

If I were Deforest Kelly or Dermott Mulroney or whatever the Hell the NFLPA guy calls himself. I would get on TV right now and say that the union will forego any demands for a raise or spike in profit sharing for current players as long as a big percentage of new profits goes into a new retirement fund for existing and future retired players.

Drag out the pictures of all the players who have died young, committed suicide, are bankrupt, etc. and make it about them, about their families.

I’m talking about Mike Webster, Dave Duerson. I mean the MAJORITY of NFL players who either file or come close to filing for Chapter 11 within five years of retirement.

For the union, it’s a win-win… because ALL the players currently in the union will be retired one day. It’s about saving for a rainy day and helping the guys who came before and made the league what it is.

The owners would be very hard-pressed not to go along with this. It’s one thing to fight with known millionaires like Drew Brees. It’s another to play hardball with an emaciated-looking player from the 1980’s who’s broke. Yeah, they part with a lot of the money they wanted.. But the owners would also get to save face by not giving in to the existing player demands. Plus, they can opt to defer some of the payment to this new retirement fund and only be on the hook for an aggregate total, not a PER PLAYER guaranteed payout like the state worker pensions that are bankrupting the damn country right now.

In fact, if I were an NFL owner I’d make this proposal FIRST. Beat the union to the punch and call their bluff by proving that YOU care more for the players in the long run than the union does! Remember it was Delroy’s predecessor Gene Upshaw who famously said that he did not really give a crap about retired players.

Inwood Latest

Here’s the latest on the Johnny-come-lately foray into the Campbell Sports Center by some members of the City Council.

NYC politicians are infamous for this kind of thing. They do nothing for their constituents for years… but a private entity shows up and starts a project and suddenly, they’re VERY concerned.

It’s a sad joke that the useful idiots at the New York Times and similar media outlets have enabled for years.

Here's a great bit of buffoonery from this town hall-like event:

"And because Columbia has enjoyed access for 90 years without compensating the public and without giving money to the city, its reasonable and fair that the Boathouse Marsh plan address what it takes for the community to get on the water."

A good friend of mine and fellow Columbia alum looked at that quote and noted:

"a) George Baker acquired the land a century ago, when there was nothing for miles around.

b) He gave it to Columbia just under a century ago when there was almost nothing for miles around: no "community;" no "people;" no doughnut place.....

c) thus, it is reasonable and fair (and just) to let Columbia do what it wants with the property."

I saw this kind of stuff up close when I was a student at Columbia and the university began plans to convert the dilapidated Audubon Ballroom into a job-creating medical facility.

No one cared about the site of Malcolm X’s assassination as it became a dangerous crack den for decades, but as soon as Columbia wanted to do something productive with the place, (even naming it after the slain historical icon), leftist groups on and off campus pretended to be outraged about a “whitewash” of history.

It was a joke then, and it’s a joke now.

But the harm these little skits can do to athletics are not funny.

Let me make something plain:

The reason why these politicians are getting involved at this late date is because this project will make them look bad. It makes government look bad. Because if hard-left city dwellers start seeing the truth about how private entities actually make things happen and governments do not… well, that’s the equivalent of pulling the curtain from the Wizard of Oz.

It would be REALLY nice if some… (even ONE), Inwood residents would stand up at the next meeting and tell these pols to butt out.

Volunteers are welcome.

Friday, March 18, 2011


The Proposed Campbell Sports Center

I could say a lot about the political red tape that may be emerging to impede the construction of the Campbell Center at the Baker Athletics Complex.

But I will say just two things:

1) The anti-athletic expansion people are banking on Columbia fans to be silent. Surprise them. Write, email, and call the local officials involved and POLITELY make your voice heard.

2) The political class in this country is running on empty. Incumbents for life like we see in New York City are already getting their wake up calls and they will continue. Stupidity like this is the last straw.

On the Brighter Side...

How great is this start by the Columbia baseball team? Usually, these games before the Ivy season begins are almost all losses. Not this time.

Coach Boretti is once again proving that teams that train and play at Baker can win.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

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.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Personnel vs. Program

Mark Whipple: Father of the Brown offensive system

The best Columbia teams of the last 20 years have been a product of unusually great players and coaches who were smart enough to adjust their systems to fit their talents.

Players like Marcellus Wiley and Rory Wilfork convinced then Head Coach Ray Tellier that it was a good time to go with a more defensive-dominated team with a ball control run offense.

Of course, that came after Tellier was smart enough to convert Wiley from RB to a defensive end.

Similar scenarios have occurred a few other times in Columbia history. Right now, it appears the team is at least somewhat being shifted to cater to QB Sean Brackett and his talents as a runner and passer.

It's always great for a coach to know where his players' strengths are, but itcan also be frustrating to have to wait for the great players to come along as opposed to having a system that more players can excel with and produce more consistent winning teams.

Yes, teams like Penn and Harvard have strong recruiting advantages. But they also have "systems" that rarely find themselves so lacking for decent players that they suffer losing seasons... or consecutive losing seasons.

Brown has a great system in effect too, and has had one since at least 1994 when then head coach Mark Whipple introduced a high-powered offensive scheme that hasn't been tweaked so much in the 17 years since.

Could/should Columbia try the same thing?

In some ways, we already are. For the last three seasons, the Lions have been using an option offense with a speedy QB at the helm. The last two QB's to run that offense, M.A. Olawale and Brackett have been excellent. We would do well to continue to attract that kind of player to that system in the future.

But lately, the other parts of the Columbia offense and defense don't seem as well defined for more than a year at a time.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Getting Your Attention

Okay, let's say there is some kind of disruption of the NFL regular season this fall.

As a Jets season ticket holder, I am NOT hoping for this.

But as a good friend suggested to me this weekend, if there are canceled games in the pros this coming season Columbia really should try to take advantage as much as possible.

How about half-price or even free tickets to all fans coming to Wien Stadium with Giants and Jets tickets for canceled games?

How about an ad blitz promoting good quality football right here in Manhattan for half the price of PARKING at the Meadowlands?

The last time a major sports strike effected the Lions was 1994... but that was during the Major League BASEBALL strike and canceled postseason.

Nevertheless, the Lions got extra coverage that fall because of the need to fill the vacated space Yankee and Met articles would have occupied in the papers. The result was great, because 1994 was the best Lion season since 1971 and a lot of people in the city followed them a lot more closely because of the baseball strike.

Just imagine how many new fans Columbia could generate with a strong 2011 season without NFL distractions?

Saturday, March 12, 2011


Tevya Sings for a Postseason

It’s hard write anything about Ivy sports today without mentioning the big basketball playoff game tonight at Yale where Princeton and Harvard will battle for a spot in the NCAA tournament.

A couple of points:

-Tickets for the game sold out within minutes. What does that tell you about the interest in Ivy athletics?

-This is a playoff game. Playoffs are good. Fans love them. Teams love to compete in them.

I can’t think of a better argument for creating a postseason Ivy basketball tournament and for allowing the Ivy football champ to compete in the FCS playoffs.

With football, the extra time and travel involved with going to the FCS playoffs is still a consideration. But it’s one that I am sure NO Ivy football player or coach has a problem with.

On the other hand, I am very sure that an Ivy basketball tournament would absolutely generate net revenue for the schools involved and the league in general.

Readers of this blog know I am a very strong traditionalist. But traditions that don’t really add anything to league are not traditions worth keeping.

Traditions like maintaining high academic standards should remain.

Traditions like no playoffs in basketball or football are not cutting anymore for anyone.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Junior Leaguers

A previous poster is correct in saying that Mike Murphy joins Paul Havas and Mike Stephens as the third 5th year senior this coming fall, not the two I said yesterday.

The senior class is 24-players strong and includes key starters like Stephens, Jeff Adams, A.J. Maddox, Kalasi Huggins, Ben Popeck, Nick Mistretta, Chris Groth, and, (if healthy), Owen Fraser.

But it’s the junior class that really carries what seems like a very big load coming into the 2011 season.

Obviously, Sean Brackett is the leader for the juniors at QB. But he needs to have help from his fellow juniors, especially RB Nick Gerst, DE Josh Martin, OL Xander Frantz, DE Seyi Adebayo, DE Will Patterson, LB Ryan Murphy, and DB Steven Grassa.

These are the juniors who will all have to step it up in ’11 to make things happen in the win column.

A big concern for the Lions is at linebacker, where Columbia has just 10 returning veteran players and loses all its regular starters except for Mistretta. That puts some pressure on Ryan Murphy, the only rising junior with significant effective playing time at the position.

The crucial tight end slot also doesn’t get any help from the junior class with no one from that class even listed at the position.

Of the five rising junior wide receivers, it looks like Ian Cummins and Brian DeVeau are the best of the crop.

But I think the four key juniors not named Sean Brackett for 2011 will be Josh Martin, Ryan Murphy, Xander Frantz, and Nick Gerst.

The Lions may really need all of them to have All Ivy-type years this fall.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Countdown to Spring

The official news release
Ahhh... Springtime

about Chris Woods joining the CU coaching staff as defensive coordinator is now live on the website.

Can you guess the three words I have for Mr. Woods?

You guessed it: “STOP. THE. RUN.”

Spring Numbers

The spring game is just 44 days away, which means spring practice is just about three weeks away.

Here are some key figures on the Lion squad going into the spring sessions:

Total Players: 82 (a nice high number, but it may be more like 79 or 80 once we see the roster updated in the days before spring practice officially begins)

Seniors: 24 (including two 5th year seniors)

Juniors: 30 (a bumper crop, considering that most players who do leave Ivy football teams usually leave between sophomore and junior year)

Sophomores: 28 (a mostly unknown resource right now… a lot of this is spring practice will be about finding some potential contributors from this crew, especially at linebacker, running back, and wide receiver)

About 20 of the returning players have at least some experience as starters, but the offense returns a great deal more experienced starters than the defense.

Thus, the practices and stretches in the spring game that pit the top offense against the top defense will be quite interesting.

Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Returning Warriors

An O-line is like the guys on the front lines

Last season, there’s little doubt that Penn fielded one of the best offensive lines in Ivy football history.

But the Quakers will lose four of their five starters to graduation this spring.

Columbia’s offensive line, anchored by two-time 1st Team All Ivy Jeff Adams, in the opposite position. The Lions will return four of their five starters for 2011. In addition to the LT Adams, they are C Kyle Stupi, LG Bob Hauschildt, and RG Xander Frantz.

Only RT Dan Cohen will graduate in May.

But how good were those four starters coming back?

By just about any account, the Lion O-line was very solid. Columbia finished fourth overall in rushing yards, and pass protected well enough to land on top of the entire league in pass efficiency.

And in a stat that I think especially points to the strength and clutch value of a front five, the Lions were second in the league in 4th down conversions.

As far as new faces among the starters, there are a number of players who climbed the depth chart last season and may replace Cohen or get on the field in other ways.

Rising senior Sam Cecil has the most experience of the returning non-starters, and last year he was Cohen’s top backup.

Rising sophomores Jimmy Yukevich and Joe Ghergurovich both cracked the two-deep by the end of last season. And based on my announcer’s law that the players with the hardest-to-pronounce names will eventually make the starting lineup, Yukevich and Ghergurovich have a great shot!

That law also favors the hard-working Alec Kosminskas, a rising junior who battled some injuries last season.

I also like, and have always liked, rising junior Eric Walker, who has the size and great Texas high school football experience on his side.

A veteran offensive line is a rare gem in the recent history of Columbia football. You have to go back many years to find the last time the Lions were returning four starters. And you’d have to go back even further to find two of four returning starters who are as good as Adams and Hauschildt in particular.

Will that be enough to push Columbia over the top to a winning season in 2011?

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Best of the Best

A new report from the Columbia University Senate shows that 60% of students favor the return of ROTC to campus, with just 33% opposed.

Barnard was the only undergrad school without a clear majority of students supporting the ROTC return.

More fodder I believe for our campaign to get all the U.S. military veterans honored at halftime of a football game this fall.

As with all good campaigns, the key to making this happen will be getting some big-name alums behind the project.

Stay tuned on that one.

Play Ball!

Good work by the Columbia baseball team this weekend, especially the 9-3 knocking off of the University of Illinois Sunday.

We’re just 19 days away from the baseball home opener against Holy Cross at the beautiful new Robertson Field at Satow Stadium.

The Ivy home opener is April 2nd against the other major contender in the Ivies, and the defending champs, Dartmouth.

Best of the Best
Columbia football has the best QB in the Ivies, Sean Brackett, but the Lions finished just 2-5 in league play and finished in 6th place.

Columbia basketball has the top scorer in the Ivies, Noruwa Agho, but the Lions finished just 6-8 in league play and finished in 5th place.

Obviously, football and basketball are team sports and one player just isn’t enough to make a winner in either game.

Since Agho is just a junior and Brackett is still a sophomore, there’s time for this all to work out for the best.

I know all of us will do whatever’s necessary to make that happen, even if that means just going to lots of games and cheering our heads off.

Saturday, March 05, 2011

No Soul in Philly

Jeff Adams '12 (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics)

I am sorry to report that M.A. Olawale '10 did not make the cut for the Arena Football League's Philadelphia Soul. I would have really loved to see what he could do in that fast-moving, high-scoring league. Hopefully, he will get a chance somewhere else.

I am also sorry I can't eat as much every day as Columbia's two-time, (and counting), 1st Team All Ivy LT Jeff Adams. The Columbia Spectator got the lowdown on Jeff's daily diet in an article Friday.


Visits to this blog were up 27.6% in February compared to February of last year. Thanks for reading.

Friday, March 04, 2011

Big Back

5-11 235 lbs. fullback Steven Silvio is coming to Columbia.

His highlight video is here.

Silvio will join former Spain Park HS teammate Zach Olinger ’14 on the Lion squad. They are the only two documented Spain Park grads to come to the Lions.

So our list of known incoming freshmen has grown to 25.

Colton Bishop DB 5-10 180 lbs. Chaparral HS Scottsdale, AZ

John Brady LB 6-2 220 lbs. Lakota East HS Liberty Township, OH

Tom Callahan OT 6-6 280 lbs. Lyons Township HS LaGrange Park, IL

Wells Childress* DE 6-4 263 lbs. Kinkaid HS Houston, TX

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

Alec Fisher DB/RB 5-11 185 lbs. Bishop’s HS La Jolla, CA

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

Percee Goings QB 6-1 180 lbs. Friendship Collegiate HS Washington, DC

Tyler Hamblin CB 6-0 190 lbs. Cretin-Durham Hall Eden Prairie, MN

John Keefe WR 6-1 185 lbs. Choctawhatchee HS Ft. Walton Beach, FL

Josh Keiles 6-3 OL 295 lbs. Lakewood HS Lakewood, CA

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

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

Connor Nelligan 6-2 190 lbs. Benet Academy Lisle, IL

Ijeoma Odigwe DL 6-2 220 lbs. Chandler HS Chandler, AZ

Ray Pesanello LB 6-2 215 lbs. Mahwah HS, Mahwah, NJ

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

Vinny Pugliese LB 6-1 210 lbs. Walsh Jesuit HS Cuyahoga Falls, OH

Roy Schwartz DL 6-2 240 lbs. Westlake HS Austin, TX

Mike Skalitzky DB 6-1 180 lbs. Marist High School Chicago, IL

Steve Silvio FB 5-11 235 lbs. Spain Park HS Hoover, AL

Dan Slivka WR 6-3 196 lbs. North Allegheny HS Wexford, PA

Malcolm Thaxton CB 6-0 190 lbs. Fuquay-Varina HS Fuquay-Varina, NC

Ryan Thomas OL 6-4 275 lbs. Buchholz HS Gainesville, FL

Chad Washington DL/TE 6-2 220 lbs. Bishop O'Dowd Oakland, CA

*=Transfer from Texas A&M

Thursday, March 03, 2011

Insurance Policy

Credit: Columbia Athletics

M.A. Olawale '10 should find out in about two days whether he has made the roster for the Arena Football League’s Philadelphia Soul.

In the meantime, he’ll need to find a second job whether he makes the team or not.

So, it’s a good thing that the team held a job fair for the players where I would assume Olawale really stood out.

If Olawale does make the Soul and gets a chance to play, it would be a wish granted for me and many other Columbia fans who never really got to see him play when he was fully healthy. Most of his time as a starter for the Lions was marred by one injury or another.

Wednesday, March 02, 2011

Boys Among Men? Not Quite

Kurt Williams could be a top Ivy receiver in 2011 (CREDIT: Columbia Athletics)

Bruce Wood at the Big Green Alert site has recently documented the unusually high number of returning starting skill players and defensive stars in the Ivy League for 2011.

At first glance, the Lions seem lacking in this area compared to their rivals.

But looks can be deceiving.

In the QB category, Columbia actually looks very good with the best overall signal caller in the league returning in Sean Brackett. That’s really saying something because all eight Ivy teams have a QB returning this fall with at least some starting experience.

But when it comes to running backs and wide receivers, you have to look a little harder to see the Lions won't be facing vastly more experienced competition.

The Ivy’s top rusher for 2010, Dartmouth’s Nick Schweiger, returns along with Harvard’s very talented Trevor Scales, Penn’s Lyle Marsh and the list goes on.

Columbia returns the speedy Nick Gerst at tailback, and he was virtually a starter for much of the season. Of course, a lot of fans are certain Gerst needs about 40 carries a game. We'll see.

At wide receiver the man who probably would have been the Lions’ top man, Mike Stephens, is coming back for a 5th year after his injury sidelined him for 90% of 2010. There’s also the up and coming Kurt Williams, who will be a senior after an impressive junior season where he was a full-time WR for the first time. Williams is a real wildcard because he is an amazing athlete and he will enter 2011 with a crucial 10 more months under his belt to learn the position.

But no returning Columbia receiver has put up the numbers that returning stars like Brown’s Alexander Tounkara and Jimmy Saros, Yale’s Gio Christodoulou, Cornell’s Shane Savage, and Dartmouth’s Tim McManus and Michael Reilly did in 2010 or previous seasons.

On defense, the need for former backups to really step up and play like veterans is even more pronounced as leaders like Alex Gross, Adam Mehrer, Calvin Otis, and Matt Morretto will all be gone.

All teams go through seasons where a larger number of seniors need to be replaced than usual. But this is happening in the same year when so many of our Ivy opponents are enjoying a bumper crop of returning starters. And that presents a very big challenge for Norries Wilson and his staff.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Bits and Pieces

Professor Ei-ichi Negishi

-To those of you concerned that we only have 24 incoming freshmen recruits reported, let me assure you that there are more but I just don’t have the requisite confirmation to publish anything about them on this blog.

We will have the usual number of about 30 incoming members of the football class of 2015.

-I have learned that rising sophomore Brian East’s grandfather won the Nobel Prize! The only trouble is, I don’t know his name or in what category. I am guessing his grandfather is the winner for chemistry, Professor Ei-ichi Negishi of Purdue University. Any help on this issue from any readers would be appreciated.

-I continue the push to get all our Columbia students who are also U.S. armed forces veterans honored at a football, basketball, or pre-game baseball ceremony this calendar year. I would appreciate any help and ideas for respectful lobbying for this to happen from all my readers going forward.