Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Team Effort


The Lions need more than just one WR to step up and move up to the next level this fall.

But this is familiar territory for Columbia, which has really been struggling to shore up its receiving corps since Austin Knowlin '10 graduated.

Knowlin was originally one of Norries Wilson's recruits for UConn, but he had the grades to move along with him to Columbia when Wilson got the head coaching job here during the recruiting process.

Knowlin was Columbia's last great wide receiver, and the best one of the last 25 years. His dominance of the record books tells you all you need to know about that.

I don't think the Lions absolutely need a Knowlin-quality receiver to succeed this fall, but they will need to create a series of viable new targets for QB Sean Brackett.

The 2009 Columbia receiving corps could be a decent blueprint to follow. That was Knowlin's senior year and he was a devastating weapons even though his stats, (fewer than 600 yards receiving), were
deceivingly low.

But the key additions that year were juniors Andrew Kennedy '11 and Mike Stephens, along with another senior in Taylor Joseph '10 who fulfilled his freshman year promise after somewhat quiet sophomore and junior seasons.

Kennedy was the biggest addition. He had played a decent amount his first two years, but he really broke out in '09. He continued on that trajectory to have an even better year in 2010.

Rising junior Hamilton Garner may not be as talented as Kennedy was, but he could end up meaning just as much if not more to the Lions offense in his final two seasons.

Yesterday, I looked at the WR's and I still think Louis DiNovo, Connor Nelligan and Dan Slivka have the best chances to start this fall. But the really good news is that none of them needs to be as good or productive as Knowlin to make the Lion offense go further and faster in 2012.

Consider the stats from 2009, a season when the Lion offense was pretty good despite a rash of terrible injuries. Knowlin had 587 yards receiving, Joseph 343, Kennedy 316 and Stephens 310.

I know it's not easy, but is it impossible to conceive that a typical pass-heavy Pete Mangurian offense can't generate three or four players to put up similar stats? Garner is already a 300+ yard receiving TE,and how much of a stretch would it be to see DiNovo, Nelligan or Slivka crack the 500 yard mark?

I'm going to keep the focus on receiving for awhile because Mangurian's track record really shows a favoritism for passing and not just because he had a super-sized all star like Joe Splendorio when he
was at Cornell.

With all the questions we have at RB and on the OL, I think the issues we have in the passing game seem minor in comparison.

And as one reader has already mentioned, there's a chance Mangurian will abandon the spread and put Brackett under center this fall. I can only hope that happens as I was not a fan of the spread, especially in "and goal" situations where we just gave ourselves five more yards to move every time.

The fact remains that we just don't have the horses to use a "ground and pound" offense right now. I expect to see a lot of passing beginning with the spring game just 51 days from now.

The Baker Boys?

Speaking of that, spring practice figures to be a very brutal testing ground for the returning veterans as Mangurian is obsessed with fielding the toughest team possible even if that means thinning the
ranks considerably.

Will it be as tough as Bear Bryant's infamous "Junction Boys" summer of 1954?


Ivy League rules and the Geneva Convention won't allow that.

But it could be something of the Ivy equivalent. I hate to say it, but it will probabaly be wise to check the roster page on a daily basis to see who the survivors are.

For those who do stick it out, the immediate reward will be knowing that Mangurian will basically revert to almost no-contact practices when the season starts.

But that will only be after what will be another brutal training camp in August...

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Revisiting Receivers


Looking Far and Wide…

Columbia fans can’t complain about the sheer numbers when it comes to wide receivers. A nice total of 11 veteran receivers are currently on the roster and five incoming freshmen have playing experience as receivers as well.

That’s 16 players in all. They will now be vying for playing time from a head coach in Pete Mangurian whose key player during his only other stint as a head coach was a 6’6” WR who almost singlehandedly won games week after week.

That player was Joe Splendorio, and what Mangurian wouldn’t give to have someone like that on his side again!

The fact is the Lions need at least one of them to step it up this spring to create new confidence in the overall passing game.

To be fair, TE Hamilton Garner is most likely to be QB Sean Brackett’s leading receiver in 2012. His size, experience and talent broke out nicely in the 2011 season and Brackett and the new coaching staff are unlikely to abandon that.

Junior Louis DiNovo had an almost breakout season last year, and he needs to keep his upward trajectory going in spring practice.

But three players that I think really have a shot to jump into the starting lineup and identify themselves are legitimate weapons are Connor Nelligan, Augie Braddock, and Dan Slivka.

All three got some playing time as freshmen last season. The 6’3” Nelligan showed himself to be a speedster that the coaches wanted to use on obvious long passing and “Hail Mary” plays.
Nelligan’s heads up play against Albany earned him a TD after the Great Danes intercepted and then fumbled a Hail Mary pass at the end of the 1st half.

Braddock got most of his work as a punt returner, but has good speed. Slivka slipped in with the varsity almost unnoticed, but finished the season with a handful of receptions. He also has good size as he stands 6’3” as well.

I can’t remember any time in Columbia history when the team had not one, but two 6’3” receivers returning, and in this case they both have a great shot of being impact starters.

On the not-so-bright side, the receivers are still waiting for a new coach to replace Aaron Smith. Smith was exceedingly popular with the veterans and with just about a month left to go until spring practice begins, time’s a wastin’.

New Rules

The NCAA did indeed decide to move kickoffs up to the 35 yard line and touchbacks will now
come out to the 25. Of course the point of all of this is to cut down on the number of actual kickoff returns because of the very high rate of injuries that occur.

There’s no denying kickoffs are more dangerous than plays from scrimmage, but I hate to see such a fundamental aspect of the game slowly get erased. And this comes so soon after the 2007 decision to
move kickoffs BACK to the 30 in order to make kickoffs more exciting!

It would be hard to find a team that suffered more than Columbia from that rule change. The loss of Alex Gross '11 for the rest of the season on the opening kickoff of the 2009 game at Lafayette was devastating. In my opinion, the Lions would have gone 6-4 rather than 4-6 that season had Gross stayed healthy throughout.

As far as excitement goes, it’s been seven years since Columbia got a TD on a kickoff return. Prosper Nwokocha '06 delivered that score in a 23-17 win over Fordham in 2005 and it was truly the turning point of that game.

On the flip side, Cornell abused the Lions for a game-opening kickoff return for a TD in the Big Red’s 34-14 win over the Lions in 2007.

That’s the last time there’s been a kickoff return for a TD in any Columbia game.

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Monday, February 27, 2012

Is Murphy in Trouble?

Dianne Murphy

Athletic Director Dianne Murphy faced sustained scrutiny for the first time in her career as Columbia's athletic director throughout the 2011 football season.

But she seemed to bounce back a bit after handling the Norries Wilson firing quickly and the powerful alums concerned about sports also seemed to like her choice of Pete Mangurian right away.

Enter the winter, and despite the impressive championship for women's track and field, men's and women's basketball are suffering from very disappointing seasons.

Fair or not, men's basketball and football are the two sports that really matter, and somehow both of those teams are WORSE this year than they were when Murphy took over about a decade ago.

With baseball starting in just a couple of days, there's a chance for a nice spring respite from the losing. But if the baseball team disappoints, the pressure on Murphy will rise to do whatever possible to get the football team out of the basement this fall.

Too often, we've let discussions of personalities dominate the debates over whether our coaches or athletic administrators are worth keeping. And it's getting tiresome as somehow the Lions are getting worse in the key sports that make the biggest impact.

But perhaps the biggest disappointment is that other than this blog and its readers, there seems to be a dwindling number of people even inside the Columbia administration who care whether the Lions win or lose.

I'm not saying Murphy should be fired now, but I am saying there needs to be someone in charge at Columbia who is holding her responsible for results.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

The Best of Our Best

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Ralph DeBernardo in 2006

Spring Game Countdown!

The Spring Game will be on Friday April 20th. That's just under eight weeks from now. I don't have an official game time yet, but it should be another night game.

Play Ball!

Columbia baseball starts this week and it’s worth getting excited about one of the most successful teams in recent Columbia history.

Head Coach Brett Boretti has been the perfect combination of recruiter and field general.

Of course, the first several games will be on the road in warmer locales, thank goodness, but it’s worth following the team as much as possible until the home opener on March 23rd.

The Best of the Pride

With all the focus this week on the positions where Norries Wilson FAILED to successfully recruit and field top players, I thought I’d take a look at the successes he enjoyed with a Norries Wilson Era
Columbia All Star Team (2006-2011)

OL-Jeff Adams
OL-Mike Brune
OL-Evan Sanford
OL-John Seiler
OL-Ralph DeBernardo
TE-Andrew Kennedy
WR-Austin Knowlin
WR-Taylor Joseph
RB-Ray Rangel
FB-Nathan Lenz
QB-Sean Brackett

DE-Lou Miller
DE-Phil Mitchell
DT-Owen Fraser
DT-Chris Groth
LB-Alex Gross
LB-Joshua Martin
LB-Drew Quinn
LB-Corey Cameron
CB-Calvin Otis
CB-Eugene Edwards
S-Andy Shalbrack
S-Adam Mehrer

K-Jon Rocholl
P-Jon Rocholl
Kick/Punt Returner-Austin Knowlin

Friday, February 24, 2012

It all Starts up Front

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Randy Murff

Over the years, I’ve written a lot about how the offensive line is really the most important unit on any football team.

I remember the day when I came to realize that as a very young football fan.

I was watching an NFL game in 1980 featuring the new NBC color commentator, (yes he started with NBC), John Madden.

Madden was explaining why if he were rebuilding a team, he would put the most effort and time into the offensive line.

For a barely 10-year-old kid who was always focusing on QB’s and RB’s, it was a shocking thing to hear. But then I came to realize how right Madden was.

This week, I’ve been focusing on the lack of success Columbia has endured when it comes to placing even a respectable number of running backs or offensive linemen on the All Ivy teams.

It is true that All Ivy recognition isn’t the be all and end all  judge of how good a player is in this league.

But when your team loads up on All Ivy players it’s usually a clear by-product of winning games.

(One recent exception in Columbia history is 2010, when the Lions packed the 1st and 2nd All Ivy Teams with a record number of players… even though the Lions went just 4-6 overall and 2-5 in the league).

So which teams have placed the MOST offensive linemen and running backs on the All Ivy teams since 2006?

The answer is the team that has also won the most Ivy titles since 2006 and it’s Harvard.

The Crimson have grabbed 16 total slots for offensive linemen on All Ivy 1st and 2nd Teams since 2006.

Brown is second with 12 slots and Penn is third with 11.

But let’s focus on the positive for a moment here when it comes to Columbia O-lines.

In 2009, when Jeff Adams first cracked the starting lineup and he was teamed with guys like Ian Quirk, Evan Sanford and John Seiler, things were definitely looking up for the Lions.

In those early weeks of the season before QB M.A. Olawale and RB Ray Rangel were injured, Columbia played the best football it ever did in the Wilson era. The offense was churning out big points in wins over Fordham and Princeton in particular.

Later in the year, the strong O-line made it possible for freshman emergency starter Sean Brackett to come in and win two of his four starts to end the season.

I don’t think there’s any question the ’09 Lions were the best Columbia team in the Norries Wilson era. And the strong O-line led by Ed Argast in his first year at Columbia was a  big reason why.

Looking a bit further back, the 1996 8-2 Lions did not have any 1st Team All Ivy O-linemen, but it did have two players on the 2nd Team in Austin Milliken and the late great Randy Murff.  It’s important to remember that the ’96 team was  a defensively dominated team kind of like the 2000 Baltimore Ravens.

The more offensively-powered 1994 Lions had two O-linemen on the 1st Team in Craig Valentine and Tony Petras.  They helped pave the way for some great rushing stats for QB Mike Cavanaugh and FB John Harper.

Going wayyyy back to Columbia’s Ivy championship team in 1961, the Lions placed THREE offensive linemen on the 1st Team in Bob Asack, Tony Day and Lee Black.

Mangurian’s Job

It took four years for Norries Wilson to really put together a top flight offensive line. He had MUCH less to work with than Mangurian has now in terms of talent and experience.

And that’s good because Columbia can’t afford to wait four more years to get a great O-line. Ideally, Mangurian and O-line coach Argast could wave a magic wand and get the O-line into All Ivy condition in time for this fall.

With guys like Jeff Adams and Bob Hauschildt graduating, that’s a really tall order even though the younger players on the line improved with experience last year especially after Adams was lost for the season in the Yale game.

But it all starts up front and as excited as we all are about our chances next season, the team will likely only go as far as the O-line takes it.

Prof. de Bary

Good Stuff

For those of you who think I only like complaining about the bad things Columbia’s administrators and faculty do, I give you today’s GREAT column, subtitled “Professors must teach, not seek public acclaim,” written by Professor Emeritus William Theodore de Bary in the Columbia Spectator.

We’ve been talking a lot about tuition here and Prof. de Bary says what really needs to be said very clearly and plainly in the following sentence:

“... it is student tuition that supports the institution, and the latter in all honesty should give students their money’s worth.”

Remember it was de Bary who wrote that nice letter to the editor in November praising the efforts of the football team after its win over Brown.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Front Five Failure

Columbia will invade Franklin Field on Oct. 13th

Penn Schedule

Penn announced its 2012 schedule yesterday and William and Mary will be the Quakers’ opponent
the week before Columbia comes to Franklin Field on October 13th.

It will be interesting to see how Penn responds to playing the Lions so soon after taking on a traditional FCS power.

Pros at CU

Columbia is one of three schools taking part in a special MBA program geared towards professional athletes and their tricky schedules. Former Steelers WR Antwaan Randle El is one of the
people you might see on campus in the coming weeks, (hey… don’t we need a new WR coach?).

Offensive O-Lines

Yesterday I outlined the incredible lack of success Columbia has had in recruiting and fielding top quality running backs since 2005.

Some of you pointed out that the offensive lines were to blame and that is a good point.

While Columbia has been able to field NO All Ivy 1st or 2nd Team running backs since 2005, it has only been able to field THREE All Ivy 1st or 2nd Team offensive linemen during that same seven season span.

Jeff Adams was the big exception of course, getting on the 1st Team each of his last three seasons.

Can you guess the other two All Ivy O-lineman in the Norries Wilson era?

Pin a medal on yourself if you remembered it was Matt Barsamian who got onto the 1st Team in 2006 and Mike Brune who got onto the 2nd Team in 2008.

Just to do the math again, in the Wilson era a total of 65 All Ivy 1st and 2nd Team slots were awarded to offensive linemen. A grand total of just FIVE of those slots went to Columbia players; three to Adams and one to Barsamian and Brune.

Yes, that was by far the lowest number of any Ivy school in that period.

To be fair, there were some players who deserved All Ivy recognition and didn’t get it. Names like Ralph DeBernardo and Bob Hauschildt come to mind right away.

But for a head coach like Wilson, who starred as an O-lineman in college and had been an offensive line coach for so many years, it was a true disappointment that Columbia lagged behind the rest of the league so drastically in this category.

New Head Coach Pete Mangurian comes to Columbia after several years as a successful offensive line coach in the NFL. Hopefully he’ll fare a lot better than Wilson as the Lions desperately need to break this weak trend up front.

Bill Campbell Makes me Sad

Speaking of offensive linemen, I still love Bill Campbell and all he’s meant to Columbia football.

But he makes me sad with his new initiative to help “save” American journalism by helping to pour money into the joint journalism project at Stanford and Columbia.

Campbell sits on the Apple board and let’s face it, this is a man who really only became a super success AFTER he got out of the collegiate world and got into the private sector.

So he should know better.

The best way to move journalism forward is to invest in a for-profit enterprise that will encompass blogs, websites, cable TV, iPads, etc.

Look at the faculty list at Columbia Journalism School; it reads like a Who’s Who of the recently laid off and burnt out from the real news media.

These are the LAST people who will be able to move journalism forward and they should be the last people getting their hands on Campbell’s money or his friends’ money.

Universities CAN do a great job gathering talent in medical and technical fields and getting them to move their fields forward in university settings.

But is there anyone who thinks the best journalists are actually working full-time as academics right now?

I thought not.

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Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Hoya Destroyer


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Vinny Marino in his UConn days

Marino Hired at Georgetown

Former Columbia offensive coordinator Vinny Marino, the most controversial assistant in recent CU history, has been hired as the new offensive coordinator at Georgetown.

I did my best not to publicly denigrate Marino over his years at Columbia, and that was probably not the greatest idea I ever had.

I realize now that I should have spoken up and taken the consequences.
The evidence I was given year after year of his inappropriate coaching methods was disturbing and his public record on the field was simply not good.

In short, I should have spoken up and taken the lumps the athletic department would have given me. They attacked me anyway for calling for Norries Wilson's ouster last season.

Several parents of former players have already written me wondering how Georgetown Head Coach Kevin Kelly could have done so little research before making this decision.

The only answer I can give is that Marino was a decent recruiter and perhaps that was what Kelly considered to be the top priority at this time.

I suppose anyone can change, but I can't see how this decision will help the Hoyas and I really think this is a bad thing for college football in general.

Running on Empty

Let me be the first to agree with those who have praised former Head Coach Norries Wilson’s recruiting abilities.

Overall, the talent level on the team improved greatly during his six year tenure, it was his inability to get an acceptable amount of wins out of that talent that was his downfall.

But I’m not going to give Wilson a complete passing grade on recruiting because of one major position where he failed to produce an impact player.

It was the one position that EVERY OTHER IVY team successfully fielded at least ONE top player during Wilson’s years at Columbia… and we did not.

If you didn’t guess I was talking about running back, then get acclimated with the stats.

In Wilson’s six years, not one Columbia player ever rushed for more than 516 yards in one season. And that “runner” was QB Sean Brackett in 2010.

To be fair, it’s clear that running back has become the toughest position to recruit in the Ivies and the rare breed known as “1,000 yard Ivy Rusher” is becoming rarer indeed.

But, there’s no excusing Wilson’s utter failure to get at least ONE 1st or 2nd Team All Ivy rusher when EVERY OTHER IVY TEAM has succeeded in doing so since 2006.

Let’s go team by team to just to make the point:

Brown, a pass-heavy offense every year from 2006 to the present placed RB Derek Knight on the All Ivy  2nd Team in 2008 and the Bears won an Ivy title. Zach Tronti made it to the 2nd Team in 2009.

Cornell placed Luke Siwula on the 2nd Team in 2007.

Dartmouth put Nick Schwieger on the 2009, 2010, and 2011 All Ivy 1st Teams and Schwieger was a co-winner of the Bushnell Cup in 2010.

Harvard’s 1st and 2nd Team All Ivy running backs since 2006 are too numerous to mention each one here, but they include top players like Clifton Dawson, Gino Gordon, Cheng Ho, and the current rising senior Treavor Scales.

Penn also has loaded up on top running backs including Joe Sandburg, Lyle Marsh, Mike DiMaggio, and Brandon Colavita.

Princeton has enjoyed the feats of Jordan Culbreath and Chuck Dibillio.

And Yale had Mike McLeod, Taylor Craig, Joe Fucillo, and Alex Thomas.

All in all, there have been 29 running back slots on the All Ivy 1st and 2nd Teams since 2006 and NONE of them have been from Columbia. Every other team is represented at least once on that list.

If you include the season before Wilson took over, that number stretches to 35.

That's 35 spots honoring Ivy running backs and NONE of them are Lions.

That's the new "streak."

The last Lion RB to get any All Ivy recognition was Rashad Biggers way back in 2004 when he made the 2nd Team. Biggers was talented but if you ask me, the last impact RB for Columbia was Ayo Oluwole who had 900+ yards in 2003 and was a reliable pounder with decent speed up the middle.

Eight years is a long time to wait for an impact running back and making sure that wait doesn’t stretch to nine, ten, or 11 years must become a top priority for Pete Mangurian and his staff

And it’s not something you can just blame on Columbia, because each and every one of Wilson’s three predecessors at the head coaching position at Columbia had much better track records when it came to getting top rushers on the field for the Lions.

Coach Larry McElreavy recruited and developed Solomon Johnson and Greg Abbruzzese.

Coach Ray Tellier recruited and developed Johnathan Reese, Columbia’s all-time leading rusher. He also brought in John Harper and Kirby Mack, who were top flight fullbacks.

And Marcellus Wiley, the best athlete Tellier ever recruited, was actually first brought to CU as a running back.

Coach Bob Shoop lured Ayo Oluwole back to the team in 2003 and guided him to that great season. Biggers’ strong 2004 year was also under Shoop.

Who’s Coming Back?

What does Columbia have on the roster right now that can help end the running back drought?

The previous coaching staff was very high on rising junior Marcorus Garrett when he first committed to the Lions and he has shown some flashes of brilliance in his first two years on the team. Last season he was injured right from the get go and we didn’t really get to see what he can do consistently.

Nick Gerst has been plagued by injuries the last two seasons, but there’s hope the latest procedure he underwent for his hamstring problems will unleash his best talents this fall. Gerst is also likely
to seek a 5th year for the 2013 season.

Rising junior Griffin Lowry was solid in emergency duty last season, but it’s still not clear if he’s All Ivy material.

Alec Fisher was the most promising freshman runner last year and he should get a chance to prove he can step it up this fall.

Who’s Coming In?

Looking at the incoming freshmen is a crucial part of this discussion as a big chunk of those 20 All Ivy runners since 2006 were either freshmen or sophomores when they first cracked the All Ivy team.

Columbia has two running backs and one fullback on our list of known incoming freshmen for fall 2012. One of them is Nick Gerst’s brother Mike Gerst who could give us a quick look at what an uninjured Gerst can do.

And fullback Mike Zunica seems like a very solid player with good fundamentals.

The best incoming freshman runner may be Cameron Molina who looks like he has the size and shape to be an impact player right away.

But no one seems like a slam dunk, definite good bet to change the trend that has really undermined Columbia’s chances for so long.

Super Schools… still working

I know I promised for today a full list of the high schools sending more than one class of 2012 player to Ivy football, but I want to make sure I do an accurate job on that list. So it will take a day or two more.

Please bear with me!

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Super Schools

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A Little More on Ramljak
Newly-committed OL Keith Ramljak come to us from Westlake High School, which should not be confused with the Harvard-Westlake School which is the premier prep school in Los Angeles and has sent a handful of players  to Columbia over the years.
But Westlake HS is a public school founded in 1979. In that short time it has established a nice list of very good athletes as alumni. They include US Soccer sensations Cobi Jones and Eric Wynalda, retired Major League Baseball All Star catcher Mike Lieberthal, and about five NFL players.
Local New York area fans may remember Westlake alum Matt Franco who was an explosive clutch pinch hitter for the Mets in the late 90’s.
No Change
It’s been about two weeks, but now departed WR coach and recruiting coordinator Aaron Smith remains on the "coaches" page on the Columbia football website… which is annoying for all of us who want to see some news on Smith’s replacement.

High School Excellence
Obviously, the lists aren’t complete just yet, but we’re seeing a good deal of schools sending more than one player to play Ivy League football this fall.
So far, three Columbia incoming players have current high school teammates heading to other Ivies:
LB Mark Cieslak from St. Joseph’s in NJ is currently in school with Chris Stapleton a DB/WR headed for Penn.
RB Mike Zunica from St. Rita’s HS in Chicago is in the same class with incoming Penn DB Max Krucar.
And D-lineman J.D. Hurt’s teammate from Long Island’s St. Anthony’s High School Pat McHugh is going to Yale.
I think it’s time to recognize the high schools that have been good enough athletically and academically to send multiple graduates in the same year to the Ancient Eight.
Again, everyone should recognize how hard it is to achieve this.
Any school can have great students.
Any school can have great athletes.
Combining the two is hard enough… combining the two AND helping those scholar-athletes realize how much it’s worth to go to an Ivy school as opposed to quitting serious football or serious academics is another thing entirely.
Schools like Saint Anthony’s, Saint Rita’s and Saint Joseph’s take a lot of ribbing for being too crazed about sports sometimes.
But the proof that these schools have their priorities straight is right here in black and white.
Log in tomorrow for a complete list of ALL the high schools sending multiple players to Ivy football programs with the class of 2016.
Here's a little chuckle from The Times-Leader in Scranton-Wilkes Barre:
The article features Columbia wrestler Jake O'Hara, but states in the lead that he is a student at "The Uniiversity of Columbia."
Does the #1 train go to Bogota?

Monday, February 20, 2012

Another OL!

Keith Ramljak

Our 31st incoming frosh became known late last night and he's another needed OL to help shore up the freshmen ranks at that position.

6-4 275 pound LT Keith Ramljak was the Lineman of the Year in Southern California's Marmonte League and was a California All-Stater.

Ramljak abd Westlake made it all the way to the state championship game before losing to De La Salle, ruining what would have been a perfect season.

You can see his highlight video below:

And here is the updated list of our 31 confirmed incoming freshmen:

1. Oluwatoba "Toba" Akinleye DE 6-1, 215 lbs. Fort Hamilton HS Brooklyn. NY
2. Jacob Ardron LB 6-1 230 lbs. Diamond Ranch HS, Pomona, CA
3. Trevor Bell WR/KR 5-7 190 lbs. Hamshire-Fannett HS Hamshire, TX
4. Brandon Blackshear CB/WR/KR 5-10 170 lbs. Sherwood HS Sherwood, OR
5. Matt Cahal DB 6-0, 190 lbs. Brophy College Prep Phoenix, AZ
6.Chris Cicilioni G/DE 6-2 225 lbs. Valley View HS Scranton, PA
7. Mark Cieslak LB 5-11 235 lbs. St. Joseph's HS Montvale, NJ
8. Chris Connors WR 6-1 205 lbs. St. Edward HS Lakewood, OH
9. Alec Davison LB 6-1 243 lbs. Clement HS Sugarland, TX
10. Andrew Dobitsch WR 5-11 180 lbs. Northern Valley HS Tappan, NJ
11. Nick Durham DE/TE 6-4 228 lbs. Bishop Fenwick HS Franklin, Ohio
12. Josh Foster DB 5-11 170 lbs. Delran HS Delran, NJ
13. Michael Gerst RB 5-10 190 lbs. Bergen Catholic Bergen County, NJ
14. Scooter Hollis QB 6-1 175 lbs. Bowling Green HS Bowling Green, KY
15. J.D. Hurt DE 6-2 270 lbs. St. Anthony's HS Melville, NY
16. Max Keefe S 6-2 200 lbs. Choctawatchee HS Fort Walton, FL
17. Erik Kuklinski OL 6-7 270 lbs. Arlington HS LaGrangeville, NY
18. Brett Leatherwood OL 6-0 220 lbs. Anderson HS Austin, TX
19. Kevin McCarthy, S 6-1 200 lbs. Hingham, HS Hingham. MA
20. Trevor McDonagh, QB 6-3 200 lbs. St. Louis University HS St. Louis, MO
21. Cameron Molina, RB/LB 5-10, 185 lbs. Tuscarora HS Leesburg, VA
22. Daren Napier DT 6-4 275 lbs. St. John's HS Houston, TX
23. Niko Padilla, DT 6-2, 280 lbs. Parish Episcopal School Dallas, TX
24. Darin Patmon S 6-1 180 lbs. Land O'Lakes HS Land O'Lakes, FL
25. Keith Ramljak OL 6-4 275 lbs. Westlake HS Westlake Village, CA

26. Travis Reim DB 6-1 185 lbs. Cedar Park HS Cedar Park, TX
27. Logan Scott QB 6-2 180 lbs. Chaminade HS West Hills, CA
28. Austin Stock, C 6-3 270 lbs. Solon HS Solon, OH
29. Hank Trumbull QB 6-4 210 lbs. Chadwick School Palos Verdes, CA
30. Julian Vigil DB 5-10 170 lbs. Mullen HS Denver, CO
31. Mike Zunica, FB 6-1 215 lbs. St. Rita HS Chicago, IL

Drive for Five

In recent years, Columbia's 5th year seniors have contributed greatly to the team in their final seasons.

But in the Ivy League, the only way to get a 5th year of eligibility is to lose most of a previous season due to injury.

In a a new article in the Express-Times, writer Corky Blake makes the case for allowing red shirting in the Patriot League instead of going with the just-approved athletic scholarship route.

The prohibitive cost of Ivy tuitions has made talk of deliberately taking extra time to graduate moot even if the league allowed it.

But perhaps it should be allowed without the obligatory torn ACL or broken bone thrown in.

Recruiting and scouting can be thorough enough, but every year Columbia and all the other Ivies get about 10-12 freshmen players who have a lot of ability but are just not ready to play varsity ball in their first year.

Giving them another year to get used to athletics and academics might work out extremely well for everyone involved.

And since Columbia would still get four years of tuition payments either way, I don't see the tremendous financial harm in allowing this process to work.

I realize it's not really a possibility right now, but if the Patriot League starts to whip Ivy butts in coming years and we can't find a suitable conference to schedule those three non-Ivy games to play each year, SOMETHING will have to get done.

Challenging Robin

Speaking of getting things done, oh how I wish I were a sports network TV boss right now.

Because if I were, I'd have a very simple offer to make to Robin Harris, the executive director of Ivy sports who just happens to be shopping the league around to TV networks right now.

Here's the offer: "Robin, we'll televise eight football games and 10 basketball games nationally every fall if you get the Ivy presidents to waive the postseason ban for Ivy football. Otherwise, no deal."

I can't think of any other way to bring the reality home to Harris and the presidents keeping the ban in place right now. The Ivy League's academic requirements and storied history are good enough to withstand just one of the Ancient Eight teams going to the FBS playoffs every year. And if they don't it will continue to cost the league money.

Enough said.

Kelton Recognized

Former Columbia defensive coordinator Aaron Kelton is featured in this new article about African Americans leaders in Massachusetts.

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Saturday, February 18, 2012

Step it up Spring

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No matter how great some of the incoming freshmen are, spring practice will be crucial for a lot of Lions who need to show improvement to the new coaching staff… or at least something the old coaching staff overlooked.

Every week until spring practice begins, I’d like to focus on three Lions at each position.

Let’s start with the offensive line:

OL Jimmy Yukevich

The rising junior has gone from 275 to 297 pounds to better fill out his 6-7 frame. That’s a good start. Speaking of starts, Yukevich got a few last year at right tackle, but the Lions are going to need Yukevich to step it up to help provide new leadership on the line.

OL Alec Kosminskas

Incoming freshman center Austin Stock seems like the real deal at this position so the senior Kosminskas, who has been a key backup as a center and some other positions, will need to bring his “A” game to spring practice. As a rare senior returnee at this position, Columbia really needs Kosminskas to provide the skill and the experience to the front five in 2012.

OL Eric Walker

Another senior like Kosminskas who was pressed into emergency duty as a starter last season.  This is his chance to prove he deserves a starting spot in normal circumstances.

I would add Carey Parker and Tom Callahan, but since they are still just rising sophomores I don’t think they face the pressure the upperclassmen do to show their stuff this spring.

Of course, spring practice is a weird atmosphere for O-linemen since QB’s aren’t live and you can’t really practice pass protection as effectively that way.

But Columbia needs to generate some strength as this position after the problems the unit faced last season.

This is also a big test for O-line coach Ed Argast. Argast is now the only remaining coach from the previous staff and he needs to prove to the new regime that he truly deserved to be retained.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Springing Up On Us!

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Spring Cleaning

I know it seems like the 2011 season just ended, but we’re barely six weeks away from spring practice!

Spring practice will begin on or about April 1st and while I cannot yet report the actual date for the spring game, I can say it will be another Friday night game and it WON’T conflict with Passover or Easter weekend.

All of the changes for the returning players are about to get VERY REAL as the new coaches will finally get to see their new charges in action on the field LIVE.

For the veteran players hoping to become starters this fall, this is crunch time as they will have this one and ONLY chance to impress the new coaches before the freshmen flood onto campus in August.

Top 10

Speaking of returning players, if you had to pick our top 10 returning players, who would you name?

Don’t worry so much about ranking them 1-10, just give me 10 names.

Here’s my top 10, (and bear with me, there IS a point to this):

QB Sean Brackett

TE Hamilton Garner

WR Louis DiNovo

OL Scott Ward

LB Josh Martin

LB Ryan Murphy

LB Zach Olinger

LB Mike Waller

DL Seyi Adebayo

DL Nick Melka

It would make me feel a lot better if we had a RB or a DB on this top 10 list.  But with injuries hitting our tailbacks last season and graduation slamming the secondary this year, it’s hard to ignore the weaknesses in those areas.

That is NOT to say we don’t have a lot of talent at these positions. A healthy Marcorus Garrett and Nick Gerst could make a big difference in the running game. The secondary is filled with players who have seen the field in varsity action while they waited behind what was a very talented pool of DB starters the last few years.

Defensive coordinator Kevin Lempa will be working personally with the secondary, and that may take most of his time in the preseason.  And while we do have talented players coming back you can see why a couple of our incoming freshmen DB’s have already been quoted as saying they expect to get some playing time right away.

Needless to say, I don’t envy some of the hard decisions Lempa is going to have to make.

At running back, fans need to remember that Garrett and Gerst were never close to 100% last season. Otherwise they might be considered one of the top 10 returning stars for sure. Griffin Lowry was pretty impressive in emergency duty last year but it’s still hard to completely judge him.

On the other side of the coin, the Lions are more than deep at linebacker where Lempa may decide to move some players around to plug holes in other areas. Many fans have already speculated that Josh Martin will move back to the DL and Mike Waller could be pushed into a safety position.

More on Money

I guess I’m surprised more people haven’t responded to my post yesterday that basically laid out the fact that Columbia and most of the other Ivies don’t need or even necessarily use the tuition dollars so many parents struggle very hard to raise. But I’m glad one parent of a player did chime in to confirm just how hard it is for people to put together tuition payments.

Now that the Patriot League has moved to relieve this burden for about half of their incoming freshmen football players each year, the Ivy League should consider responding in a number of ways. The key would be finding a way to put a dent in the tuition bills for middle class families without taking anything away from the bigger aid packages offered to poorer students.

So if Columbia doesn’t really need or isn’t even using that hard-earned and hard-borrowed tuition money, what’s the justification for charging so much anyway?

Here are some possible reasons with my comments:

1)      The donation money won’t always be flowing in and the endowment could be seriously eroded by drops in the market. Thus we have to keep charging tuition just in case.

Okay, I can see a lot of the logic in maintaining some form of tuition. But does it have to be $60,000 for tuition room and board for EACH YEAR?!?!? Really? If Columbia needs to build up and emergency fund from tuition, let the school charge $5,000 per year and put the money into treasury bonds or money market accounts and leave it at that.

2)      If Columbia eliminates tuition, the application pool will explode to an unmanageable level.

Since academic standards wouldn’t be lowered along with tuition costs, it hardly seems likely that thousands of high school seniors who wouldn’t have the chance to get into the CU anyway would flood the admissions office. But if you’re really worried about too many applications coming in, try jacking up the cost to apply to say $250, a price any parent would gladly pay in return for a shot at free tuition.

3)      There’s an important principle that people learn when a real price is attached to something. If Columbia’s education comes for free, then students and parents won’t appreciate its true value.

As I argued yesterday, very few Columbia undergrads can grasp the true value of their education when it’s impossible for them to really contribute anything meaningful to their tuition costs. If you pushed the price down to $5,000 per year or made tuition free, a lot more students would be able to pay their own way or at least cover a lot more of their living expenses. Now THAT’S and education!

There’s a very good chance that big university endowments will soon be taxed by a government desperate to get its hands on more revenue anyway. A good will gesture like eliminating tuition at multi-billion schools, (and getting its tenured professors to actually teach the students), would go a long way toward protecting the richest colleges and universities from the same kind of bashing and new interference Wall Street is facing these days.

Signing Pic of the Day

Above you can see incoming freshman Jacob Ardron from Diamond Ranch HS in Pomona, CA in his Columbia hoodie.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Lion Green

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Last year was a record year for donations to U.S. universities... and the rich got richer as the 20 schools with the biggest endowments got 27% of all the money donated.

Columbia was one of those top 20 schools and by all accounts, 2011 was a banner fundraiser year for Alma Mater.

There are two points I take from all of this:

1) At Columbia, sports is a very big driver for donations. So our student athletes past and present deserve a big pat on the back.

2) The article asserts that at the top 20 schools, tuition isn't really needed since just about every penny spent comes from donations.

That's a red flag for all those middle class families who make just a bit too much to get major financial aid.

I mean, how would you like to hear that all that money that you've been saving for so many years is really not needed or perhaps not even used anyway?!?

My solution to all of this is to reduce tuitions, at the top schools, to a number that the actual STUDENTS could pay mostly on their own... you know, the way it used to be in America before 1975 or so.

I think both rich and less rich kids alike are done a disservice by not letting them really learn the value of money. And that's exactly what colleges do when they charge tuitions that no 18-year-old could make a serious dent in.

I'm not just throwing this out as a general criticism of others, I can say very emphatically that I was a much lesser person when I graduated Columbia because I didn't pay one penny of my own on tuition and relied on parents and grandparents to pay those bills.

By contrast, my father- who grew up in a wealthier home than I did - was expected to pay his University of Chicago tuition in full by his parents every year, (he graduated in 1961). And he did that by working summer jobs that just covered his $600 per trimester tuition. And he was better for it.

If you REALLY want to educate kids nowadays, teach them the value of money too... and you rob them of that lesson when you charge so much that making the effort to chip in is meaningless.

Hall of Fame Ballot

Speaking of fundraising...

I used to get very excited about the voting process for the Columbia Athletics Hall of Fame
I even used to make some recommendations for names people should nominate.

But recently I've learned that the Hall of Fame process is really just an elaborate excuse to point the inductees, their families and friends on the spot to donate money.

Now don't get me wrong, I think donating money to Columbia and Columbia athletics is a GREAT thing to do if you have disposable income. And charging people $150 or so to attend the awards dinner is more than okay.

But as we get into the 3rd or 4th Hall of Fame classes the process is starting to feel hollow. By that I mean, shouldn't we start getting more WINS before we look for more honorees to laud with the all-too-familiar refrain of: "he/she was a standout star despite never winning a championship... ?"

Continuing to expand the Hall of Fame without producing more winning teams first seems like the athletic department is taking victory laps it doesn't deserve.

A far better exercise would be expanding the kind of donation options that have fans and alums donating more and more to a given program based on how many WINS it earns that season, (football does this with
the "100 Club" where donors pledge to give $100 for every win).

If Columbia didn't already have the seed money to build competitive programs without such win-tied donations, then I'd back off this demand.

But athletics has earned record donations in recent years, so the money is there.

Now, we want WINS.

Continuing to ask us for money in this environment reminds me of a great voice over scene in the movie Goodfellas where Ray Liotta's character Henry Hill describes what it was like to go into business with the
backing of the leader of the mob, (I apologize in advance for the vulgar language in the clip below):

Now let's imagine I rewrite the above scene with Columbia athletics in mind:

"Now we've got Dianne Murphy and Columbia Athletics as a partner.

Now we've gotta come up with Dianne's money every year no matter what.

Football team is 1-9 despite loads of All Ivy players? F**k you, pay me.

Oh, you wanted a real national search for a coach instead of a knee jerk, hire the one guy I remember from Cornell 12 years ago? F**k you, pay me.

The basketball team just blew a 21-point lead to Yale last weekend? F**k you, pay me."

You can insert your favorite line with the same ending for each sentence if you like, but you get the picture.
I just want the athletics department to tie more of its fundraising to actual results. Otherwise, there is no standard and when you have money flowing in with no standards it's positively toxic.

I say we suspend these Hall of Fame ceremonies until we can nominate at least one football and one basketball team with a winning overall and Ivy record over a four year period.

Many of us also received this fancy mailing below:


We are busy training for the fall season, and your support helps us to fight that much harder. We do it for the love of the game.

Will you show your love of the game and make a gift today? Roar!

Sean Brackett, '13CC, #10

This is a very nicely packaged mailing and I like the personal touch from Brackett, but again we have to tie more, (not all), of our donations to results.

So, yes I WILL donate money to the team right now to show my support.

I will donate $100 now and pledge to give $100 more for each win this fall.

For those of you with more money to spare, I ask that you do the same with bigger numbers. If you've given $2,000 or $3,000 per year in the past, how about fronting $1,000 now and another $500 or so per win?

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Patriot Alternatives

More Summer Help Needed

Rising senior OL Alec Kosminskas is looking to stay in the city to work out with his teammates this summer.

But he's NOT looking for a Wall Street gig.

Alec wants to get into film production, (he wants to be a director one day), and he's looking for production work with a film company or TV network.

If anyone has any ideas or leads, let me know and I will pass along his contact info.

Shane Kelly's Dreams

Former QB Shane Kelly '10, is taking a shot at getting fit enough to join the NFL.

As many of you may know, Shane honed his passing skills further in Canada at Wilfrid Laurier College while he was getting a graduate business degree.

Interesting Perspective

A writer for the Lehigh Valley Express-Times has a piece today decrying the Patriot League's decision to allow football scholarships.

There's nothing very unusual about that, but it turns out this writer is the parent of a girl who was recently recruited by Columbia for track and field.

So he has an interesting perspective.

I don't agree with the spirit of his article, but he makes some good points.

Pioneer League Deal Ahead?

The Patriot League scholarship decision has many Ivy fans wondering how much longer our teams will be able to regularly take on teams from that league.

One alternative could be to play more games against teams in the Pioneer League. Of course, the Lions already are scheduling more games against Pioneer member Marist beginning with the season opener this September.

But most of the Pioneer schools are much further from the Northeast than Marist, presenting a new travel challenge to Ivy football teams.

Could the Ivies start taking on Division III teams?


Rod Perry

Former Columbia secondary coach Rod Perry is back in college football after a long stint in the NFL. 

Perry, who was an All Pro DB with the L.A. Rams, (remember them?), has just joined Oregon State and will coach the secondary there. He was let go earlier this month by the Colts after the big personnel changes over there.

Time's a Wastin' on TV

The NBC Sports Network, (formerly known as Versus), has made a deal with the Colonial Athletic Association to cover football and basketball games for the conference.

Whether this means there will be no room for a new deal with the Ivies is not known, but it sure looks that way.

Once again, you have to look at the CAA's rules allowing postseason football as a big possible reason why a conference with little-known schools like Towson and Richmond can get a national TV contract.

Ivy Executive Director Robin Harris needs to push for the lifting of the football postseason ban and she should make it clear that TV contracts are hanging in the balance.

Signing Day Pics!

I asked for more signing day pics, and many are pouring in already!

I think to give every athlete his due I will publish just one per day.

Today's athlete is Fort Hamilton's Toba Akinleye. (obviously, he's the guy in the CU hat on the far left)

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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Test #1 for Mangurian: Smith Leaves


Aaron Smith Bolts to Beantown

One of the two coaches from Norries Wilson's staff that new Head Coach Pete Mangurian was keeping on was WR coach Aaron Smith. He was even promoted to recruiting coordinator.

But Smith is moving on anyway.

In what I have to call a surprise announcement, Smith is going to Boston College to coach the receivers there.

I'm not sure how or why Smith decided to leave, but his departure is a blow to continuity for the veteran players as he was very popular. Even Athletic Director Dianne Murphy singled our coach Smith recently as a great asset to Mangurian's new team.

This leaves Coach Mangurian with an important hole to fill less than two months before the start of spring practice.

I thought Smith was a good person who got pretty good results on and off the field.

Because Smith was the recruiting coordinator, this issue presents the first real crisis for the Mangurian regime.

Let's see how he reacts now.

Patriot League Okays Football Scholarships

In a move that seemed highly unlike even a year ago, the Patriot League okayed athletic scholarships for football late yesterday. The rules will allow for up to 15 full scholarship players beginning with next year's recruiting classes.

Whether this decision will mean Georgetown will leave the league or if Fordham will rejoin it as a full member isn't really known right now.

But this move seems more than likely to change to nature of the Ivy League's long-running history of playing out of conference games against Patriot League teams.

On the bright side, Columbia has faced Fordham twice since it went "rogue" and started offering football scholarships... and both games were more than winnable for the Lions.

Stay tuned for a lot more developments on this big story.

Erik Kuklinski

New OL Commit

Well, we've been hoping for more offensive linemen in this class, and we've just heard of another one.
Erik Kuklinski, comes from Arlington High School in Lagrangeville, NY.

He's impressive at 6-7 and 270 pounds, but his strength stats need some work. strength stats need some work.

Nevertheless, his coach Dominick DeMatteo believes Kuklinski is the best prospect  he's coached at Arlington.

Kuklinski missed much of his junior year because or illness and then injury and that explains why he wasn't a bigger target on everyone's radar last year.

Arlington High School is located near Poughkeepsie, northwest of New York City.

Coach DeMatteo is about as well respected you can be as a head coach in this region of the country.

But one note of caution, Kuklinski did NOT make his section's Senior Bowl All Star game this year, however I'm not sure if that was also due to injury.

Kuklinski would be the second Arlington product to play football for Columbia since a linebacker named Trip Finley '83.

Finley was actually a great star on the 1979 freshman team and the hero of that team's one win that season over Montclair State. But a shoulder injury ended his career before he could make an impact on the varsity.

And here is the updated list of our 30 confirmed incoming freshmen:

1. Oluwatoba "Toba" Akinleye DE 6-1, 215 lbs. Fort Hamilton HS Brooklyn. NY
2. Jacob Ardron LB 6-1 230 lbs. Diamond Ranch HS, Pomona, CA
3. Trevor Bell WR/KR 5-7 190 lbs. Hamshire-Fannett HS Hamshire, TX

4. Brandon Blackshear CB/WR/KR 5-10 170 lbs. Sherwood HS Sherwood, OR
5. Matt Cahal DB 6-0, 190 lbs. Brophy College Prep Phoenix, AZ
6.Chris Cicilioni G/DE 6-2 225 lbs. Valley View HS Scranton, PA
7. Mark Cieslak LB 5-11 235 lbs. St. Joseph's HS Montvale, NJ

8. Chris Connors WR 6-1 205 lbs. St. Edward HS Lakewood, OH
9. Alec Davison LB 6-1 243 lbs. Clement HS Sugarland, TX

10. Andrew Dobitsch WR 5-11 180 lbs. Northern Valley HS Tappan, NJ
11. Nick Durham DE/TE 6-4 228 lbs. Bishop Fenwick HS Franklin, Ohio
12. Josh Foster DB 5-11 170 lbs. Delran HS Delran, NJ

13. Michael Gerst RB 5-10 190 lbs. Bergen Catholic Bergen County, NJ
14. Scooter Hollis QB 6-1 175 lbs. Bowling Green HS Bowling Green, KY
15. J.D. Hurt DE 6-2 270 lbs. St. Anthony's HS Melville, NY
16. Max Keefe S 6-2 200 lbs. Choctawatchee HS Fort Walton, FL

17. Erik Kuklinski OL 6-7 270 lbs. Arlington HS LaGrangeville, NY
18. Brett Leatherwood OL 6-0 220 lbs. Anderson HS Austin, TX
19. Kevin McCarthy, S 6-1 200 lbs. Hingham, HS Hingham. MA
20. Trevor McDonagh, QB 6-3 200 lbs. St. Louis University HS St. Louis, MO

21. Cameron Molina, RB/LB 5-10, 185 lbs. Tuscarora HS Leesburg, VA
22. Daren Napier DT 6-4 275 lbs. St. John's HS Houston, TX
23. Niko Padilla, DT 6-2, 280 lbs. Parish Episcopal School Dallas, TX

24. Darin Patmon S 6-1 180 lbs. Land O'Lakes HS Land O'Lakes, FL
25. Travis Reim DB 6-1 185 lbs. Cedar Park HS Cedar Park, TX
26. Logan Scott QB 6-2 180 lbs. Chaminade HS West Hills, CA
27. Austin Stock, C 6-3 270 lbs. Solon HS Solon, OH

28. Hank Trumbull QB 6-4 210 lbs. Chadwick School Palos Verdes, CA
29. Julian Vigil DB 5-10 170 lbs. Mullen HS Denver, CO
30. Mike Zunica, FB 6-1 215 lbs. St. Rita HS Chicago, IL

Kickoff Rules Changing?

The NCAA rules committee could move kickoffs back to the 35 yard line like they did in the NFL last year, BUT it also may move touchbacks from the 20 to the 25 yard line. We should find out in just about a week because the rules committee meets again on February 21st.

The reasoning for all of this is injury prevention as it has suddenly dawned on the NCAA that a huge number of serious injuries occur on kickoffs.

Columbia fans don't need to be reminded of that. Remember Alex Gross' terrible injury at Lafayette in 2009 on the opening kickoff?

How many more games does Columbia win on '09 if Gross doesn't go down? One, two, three? (I say the Lions would have beaten Lafayette and Yale for sure with a healthy Gross for a 6-4 record that year).



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Monday, February 13, 2012

The "W" Word

Hoop Nightmare

Saturday night was another horrific night in recent Columbia sports history as the men's basketball team blew a 21 point second half lead and fell to Yale by one point at the buzzer.

It would have been the perfect night for a win; a sold out crowd was in attendance and the place was rocking.

The result was eerily familiar to the last two Columbia football Homecoming games where the Lions lost heart breaking games in front of the biggest crowds of the year. This last October's excruciating loss to Penn was the worst of them all.

But these losses provide a teachable moment for all of us who spend too much time talking about everything BUT winning at Columbia.

We talk about attendance. We talk about student excitement. We talk about player retention. We talk about academics. We talk about All Ivy teams.

ALL of the above issue are very important of course. But these students are playing to win. And we need this program to start winning.

The basketball game last night was the perfect example. All the butts were in the seats. All the excitement and enthusiasm was there.

I am as guilty as the next guy when it comes to focusing on issues other than winning, but this year I have vowed to make sure we all know that winning is the main goal.

Of course, other topics and issues will always be addressed, but we have to keep our eyes on the prize.

Mangurian Letter

And with that it mind, it's the perfect time to talk about the letter new Head Coach Pete Mangurian sent around this week.

The letter is as singularly focused on winning as anyone could hope it would be. And we should all appreciate very much the accountability for winning or not winning that Mangurian is taking right off the bat.

Here's another picture of a signing ceremony.  This one is of Max Keefe with his parents in Fort Walton Beach, Florida.

There's more of Keefe's story here, (there is one mistake in it: Max's brother John is about to become a sophomore, not a junior).

If anyone has access to more pictures like this, please email them to me whenever you can.

Getting Back to Napier

Another key entrant in the "overlooked because we kept getting so many commits every day" file is Daren Napier from Houston's St. John's high school.

How many times have we all called for a big defensive tackle to finally stop the opposing run? Napier sure seems to fit that bill at 6-5 and 280 pounds. Just about every scout, including the ESPN guys, listed run defense as his top trait.

Napier also played offensive tackle and one has to wonder if Mangurian will see if he's a better fit at that position where the Lions appear thin on depth especially in 2012.

Napier's music group has the beats

Napier is also interested in music. He's a member of a rap/hip hop group that he co-founded with two school mates that was profiled in this piece last summer.



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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Camera Ready?

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Be sure to read an excellent piece in the Philadelhia Inquirer about TV rights and the lack of a
national broadcast contract for Ivy sports.

The Inquirer piece is really very long but it's a vital store of information for serious Ivy fans. Take your time and read it all.

Author Jonathan Tannewald maps out the very extensive details on how the Ivy League is working to get a national TV deal for basketball and football.

Some of the highlighs are:

-The football deal with Versus has expired, and there is no guarantee it will be renewed by the network which is now named NBC Sports.

-The eight Ivy athletic directors are basically letting Ivy Executive Director Robin Harris take the lead in negotiating deals for the entire league. This is a big vote of confidence in Harris that many of the AD's did not have in her predecessor Jeff Orleans.

-Harris seems to "get it" as far as stressing the importance of more TV coverage, but does she get that not having postseason football weakens our brand? Until she puts two and two together, she's at a bit of a handicap.

-Columbia needs to learn from all of this just how important winning sports teams will be for the school. With all the media deals in flux, a winning CU football or basketball program is in a unique position to deal with the big media companies right on their home turf in New York City.

I've been a TV news producer for 18 years. It's hard for me to look at things through the eyes of a non-insider.

But I can tell you that you don't need to be an insider to realize the importance of getting Ivy sports on TV and marketing that package properly.

Versus did the best job yet of doing that in recent years, and I'd like to see the new NBC Sports network continue its relationship with the league.

But even Versus left a lot to be desired and there's much work to do.

The Lin Effect

Speaking of TV and media exposure, Ivy athletics are getting the best PR they've had in years as New York City is rapt in Jeremy Lin mania. I finally got a chance to watch him last night and the hype is deserved. Lin plays an exciting, but well-skilled game.

I'm not shocked that a league that has lost a lot of its fundamentals is being dazzled by an Ivy player schooled in the game properly and actually played his four full years in college.

I am willing to bet there are more Jeremy Lin's out there either playing Ivy ball now or sometime in the future. Maybe not one every year, and certainly not as great as Lin is now... but they're out there!

Davison Acknowledged

Before we all got giddy about Niko Padilla, (perhaps rightfully so), committing to Columbia, the talk of this blog was incoming freshman Alec Davison from Clements HS
in Fort Bend, Texas.

A new story out today about Davison reminds us that he is considered one of the top inside linebacker prospects in the entire country.

New Home

Fired Fordham Head Coach Tom Masella has found a new job close to home. He is now the associate head coach at Staten Island's Wagner College. Wagner is not playing any Ivy teams this coming season, but
has tangled with Cornell a lot in the past.

Shirt Controversy

Would anyone not attending a Charlie Sheen party confuse this image...

... with this one?

Well, the folks in the Columbia Athletics department aren't taking any

They have blocked the current Columbia College sophomore class from using the top image
in the official class t-shirt because it supposedly infringes on the trademarked image below.

This just doesn't seem like a smart move at all.

And creating new emnity between the student body as a whole and the athletics department is dangerous.

Check the comments after the linked story to see just what I mean.