Friday, May 31, 2013

Time to be Heard... UPDATE: Harris Responds

Robin Harris needs to hear from us!


I got a voice mail from Ms. Harris just now. She insisted that the Harvard Crimson misrepresented the meaning of her quotes and she would not say that Ivy fans do not want to see our football champs participate in the FCS playoffs.

Harris says she is going to ask the Crimson to consider re-writing the story or clarifying it. I will leave that to them.

Of course, the points are all still mostly the same. Because the following quotes are NOT disputed at all by Harris:

“I think our fans care about Ivy League football,” she said. “Rivalry games are going to draw the most fans [to] a given game, and whether or not a team is going on to the FCS playoffs, I don’t think is going to [have an] impact.”


“The Ivy League presidents are not interested in allowing participation in the playoffs because they value Ivy football as it currently exists,” Harris said. “The focus for our teams is on the regular season and the value of Ivy League play. The tradition and history of Ivy League football is paramount.”

So, if we just look at quote #1, Harris is very clearly saying more fans wouldn't come to games if we allowed the League champ to go the FCS playoffs. I really don't agree with that, but even if she's right, I can tell you the opposite IS true: FEWER fans are going to come to games going forward if we continue to marginalize football. 

Quote #2 is almost as tough to swallow. We're supposed to believe that the Ivy presidents care most for Ivy "tradition." 

Sorry, but Ivy tradition was trashed a long time ago for D-IAA status. That "tradition" is less than 40 years old in a league with teams who have all been playing more than 100 years. 

What the Ivy presidents want is football phased out. The sport embarrasses them and everyone knows it. The one decent supporter of football, Dartmouth's Jim Yong Kim, has left that post now and I KNEW that his departure would bring in a new assault on the sport in general by his ex-peers.

While we may be able to erase the charge against Harris that she drastically misrepresented the will of the fans, (again, "may" being the key word. I want to hear what the reporters have to say), the issue is that the League is still blocking what the overwhelming majority of the fans want for no good reason.

So I still urge everyone to email Harris and POLITELY let your feelings about FCS playoffs be known.

The next step is to publicize the truth about what the fans want in a way that the Ivy presidents can't pretend to ignore.

Original post is below:

Sometimes, people in power are just asking for it…

All the long-time readers of this blog know very well that the overwhelming majority of Ivy football fans strongly want our teams to be made eligible for the FCS postseason playoff tournament.

And yet, in this new piece in the Harvard Crimson, Ivy League Executive Director Robin Harris says she doesn’t think the fans really want entry into the FCS playoffs.

I’m sorry Ms. Harris, but your email inbox is about to explode and I will be partly responsible.

Friends, we can’t sit back any longer on this. It’s not just about getting into the FCS playoffs. It’s about making sure Ivy football is not marginalized more than it already is. Our sport is in jeopardy of becoming D-III, like Amherst or Williams with eight game seasons at best. The slide from the glory days of the past is enough, time to turn the tide.

Please write a strong but POLITE email to Harris at and CC her deputy Carolyn Campbell-McGovern to make sure our voices are heard.

We may not get a policy change right away, but at least Harris will be disabused of the notion that Ivy football fans, even Harvard and Yale fans, don’t want FCS playoff eligibility.

Because we DO want our champions to show what they can do in the playoffs and we DO want HS football recruits around the country to see it too.

The time for sitting back and letting people none of us elected to speak for us is over.

I just sent my email and here it is below:

Dear Ms. Harris:

I must say I was alarmed to read your quotes in the recent Harvard Crimson piece where you spoke for fans like me and grossly misrepresented what we indeed want.

You are certainly entitled to your opinion about this policy, and if you were misquoted in any way I apologize. But you're grossly mistaken about what fans want for Ivy League football.

I am willing to put my money where my mouth is on this one. If the league would commission a scientific poll on this question to fans, players and coaches, I would be willing to mount a campaign for everyone to chip in some money to help defray the cost. 

I know you have a tough job, and I admire you for the more public persona you've cultivated compared to your predecessor. Please take all this a step further and endeavor to find out and publicize what the fans and teams really want.

I also know that you are under extreme pressure, primarily from the administrations at Harvard and Yale, to keep the status quo. But this is your chance to break out and make a real stand for Ivy athletics. You can be a hero here. I believe in you. 

The thousands of loyal alumni and fans at all eight schools are depending on you now. We want you to represent US, and not the administrators and presidents of the schools who already have enough power and representation as it is. 

Please help get this done.


Jake Novak

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

What Looks Good

Bruce Wood at the Big Green Alert Blog has learned that Hamilton Garner is one of just two Ivy Tight Ends on the 2013 College Football Performance Awards FCS Tight End Watch List.

That’s two nice accolades for Garner in the last 24 hours, because he was one of the Lions players given the heftiest praise from Head Coach Pete Mangurian in his assessment of the Columbia offense released last night.

The update on the offense got right to the heart of the matter, devoting four of the first paragraphs on the offensive line.

From what Mangurian wrote, it sure seems like the top 5 O-liners on the depth chart are Ryan Thomas at center, Jim Yukevich and Keith Ramljak at guard, and Eric Kuklinski and Billy Lawrence at tackle. All that could change of course, but appears where we are right now.

(And while we don’t know of Tom Callahan will move up on the depth chart or face some kind of roadblock because of the Twitter issues, it doesn’t SEEM like he was expected to be a starter this fall either way. But I still believe he has a lot of talent and it’s certainly worth it for him and the program to do whatever they can to clear everything up).

Mangurian also asserted that the line in general is improving, which is always good to hear and I don’t think he’s bluffing. He acknowledged that there’s a long way to go

None of this changes the fact that the O-line is still probably the #1 concern/challenge for this team right now. But I am a bit more encouraged than I was a day ago.

There is indeed more good news at the Tight End position where in addition to the praise for Garner, the coach seems excited about Garett Demuth. We also heard about Nick Durham basically playing the H-back position, which makes a lot of sense.

In what was a real moment of super clarity, Mangurian said that Connor Nelligan, Chris Connors, and Jake Wanamaker were the top three receivers right now. That seems to confirm my suspicions that Wanamaker was indeed more than just a little injured last season and would have made more of an impact had he been healthy.  I still think Isaiah Gross will be a de facto starter this fall too.

At running back, I was also very encouraged by the coach’s comments about Griffin Lowery and Cameron Molina.

In August, the freshmen will come in and change a lot of the factors now in place. But in one sentence here are my takes on each major part of the 2013 Lions:

Offense Overall: Looks generally good. Should be the stronger of the two units.

Defense Overall: Could drop a peg from last year without coach Lempa, Josh Martin and two of the three starting linebackers, but a chance to avoid a decline if Adebayo meets expectations.

Special Teams Overall: Generally a strength, especially if Eddy gets more consistent.

Quarterbacks: Should be a strength position with a lot of depth, and maybe a super weapon if Nottingham lifts all boats.

Running Backs: Garrett is a real star, but backups look better than before and maybe only one or two Ivy teams have a better overall running attack.

Wide Receivers: Perhaps the #1 strength of the team, with maybe three All Ivy players.

Offensive Line: Still a big worry, but will be better than 2012.

Tight Ends: Another good strength, depth seems to have jumped a few levels in quality.

Defensive Line: Looks solid, but would be more solid with Chad Washington who can’t be fully expected to play the whole season right now.

Linebackers: Olinger is a top player, but his supporting cast is a crucial question mark.

Secondary: Another big question mark; there’s talent but not much starting experience.
Placekicking: Eddy has a powerful leg; needs to be more consistent.

Punting: Delaney is the man.

Returners: Major positive jump from where we thought we were at this time last year.

Coaching: Also seems to have improved, but Twitter/Chad Washington scandals and the rough schedule will be a major test. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Movies, TV, and 1st Pitches

Movie Moment…

I just saw Silver Linings Playbook this weekend and I have a big question: If you're an Eagles fan, is it hard to watch that movie? I mean, it's an entire film that basically promotes the stereotype that you're all a bunch of violent low-lives.

That reminds me of a story about my audition to do the color commentary for Columbia football back in 2007. The dept. asked me to pair up with Jerry Recco, who had just finished his first year as play-by-play guy for CU, during the spring game. I was splitting that job that with my competition, who was a recent Penn grad.

The Penn grad took a look at Recco’s Dallas Cowboys tote bag and started trashing Jerry’s beloved Cowboys. (If you’re wondering whether that was the smartest move from someone trying out for a job working WITH Recco… well, you’re not alone).

Penn grad said something bad about Dallas and how he was an Eagles fan and Recco responded with something about how at least Cowboys fans aren’t a bunch of low-lives.

All-in-all, that was a pretty fun moment.

Falcone Honored/Baseball Team Dissed

Speaking of NON low-lives, it was great to see CU baseball sophomore Joey Falcone honored by throwing the first pitch at the Mets game Sunday night. He got a huge ovation and wore his Columbia jersey, which was a great added touch.

Meanwhile, the NCAA Regional pairings were announced yesterday and it seems like the selection committee wants the Lions to go quietly into that good night. Columbia is playing #3 Cal-State Fullerton in the opening game on Fullerton’s home field. Then, they’ll play either Arizona State or New Mexico.

The Columbia-Cal State Fullerton game will be broadcast ion ESPNU at 11pm Eastern Time this Friday night. We’ll be watching.

TV Schedule

Speaking of TV schedules and being “dissed,” we have been assured that the NBC Sports Network will not snub Columbia this fall and make the Lions the ONLY Ivy school not getting a game on that network like last year.

I expect the Penn game to be televised and that’s about it… with the exception of the game at Yale, which I expect the YES Network to cover once again as it did last season.

The last two CU-Penn games have been down-to-the-wire nail-biters with some decent highlights, (and the 2010, 2009, 2008 games weren’t stinkers or blowouts either), so the chances that this will be a watchable game for the fans at home are decent. The fact that the game will be the Homecoming day at CU should also make the stands relatively full, (that is, unless the anti-football people on campus find a way to keep their demonization campaign going through the summer and most of the fall).

But the best Columbia game to watch this season, if the past 10 years or so is to be considered, will probably be the game against Brown. The last three Lion-Bear games at Wien Stadium have been extremely good contests, especially the double OT win by Columbia in 2011. But since the Columbia-Brown game is in week 10, it won’t be televised by anyone since that’s also the day of the Harvard-Yale game.

The Columbia-Yale games every year since 2009 have been pretty great too, but again, that’s going to be on YES.

So when you think about it, Columbia-Penn really is the best way to go for NBCSN. Hopefully, the network will end up broadcasting the first Lion win over the Quaker gridders since way back in 1996. 

Friday, May 24, 2013

They Don’t Stand Still

Every morning on the way to work, I listen to about 10 minutes of the start of the Joe Benigno and Evan Roberts Show on WFAN sports radio.

What I really love about the show is how these guys cut through the B.S.

I mean, they're so good at it that I actually think it would be very good for the country if we had two guys like that covering politics and general news every day!

Part of that honesty is that even though both Joe and Evan are HUGE Mets fans, they don't let that blind them to the truth about where the team is and how well it's playing.

Evan is also just as realistic and introspective about his beloved Nets, as is Joe about his beloved Jets.

We might all think we're seasoned fans who can roll with the punches and still see the trees for the forest, but unless you can hold your own like the WFAN guys, (one of whom is our own football play-by-play man Jerry Recco), you're just an amateur.

And let's face it, we could really use that kind of mature perspective when it comes to OUR beloved Lions.

So, when I look at all the comments about how great many of our returning players are, I have to say that I generally agree with them.

We do have impressive talent and even improving depth on this team right now. We have players at many positions who are a significant upgrade over the average level player we’ve seen over the past 20 years or so.

We have the Campbell Center open and ready to go with all the added amenities and comforts the program has needed for almost 40 years.

We have extremely dedicated alumni who are donating more money than ever to athletics and football in particular.

But one thing I don’t think enough of our fans are recognizing is that our seven Ivy League opponents are all improving too. They don’t stand still while we catch up to them.

And while every coach has to publicly say that he is only focused on his team and not looking at the competition, I sure hope that isn’t actually the case for Pete Mangurian right now.

Here’s why:

We have great returning players, but we don’t have as many All Ivy returnees as most of the other Ivies.

We have the great Campbell Center, but can we definitely say it’s better than the new arrangement the Quakers have at Franklin Field, or the Floren Varsity House at Dartmouth?

For every 10 paragraphs I write on this blog extolling our players’ virtues and the general improvement of the program, I have to dedicate at least one paragraph to continually reminding everyone about what a MURDEROUS schedule Columbia faces in 2013.

Not every team Columbia is playing this year is better than it was in 2012. But Fordham, Dartmouth, and Yale look like they will be.

Not every tough game Columbia faces in 2013 is on the road, but it will be tough to repeat last year’s wins over Cornell and Yale in their stadiums this time around.

Lehigh is one of the best programs in all of FCS football right now, and even though that’s a home game, it would be a huge accomplishment to beat them anywhere.

Princeton won’t catch anyone by surprise this year, but their defensive line and running game are very strong and the Lions have to play the TIgers in Princeton this year.

Two of Columbia’s three Ivy home games are against Penn and Harvard, the other game is against Brown. Those three teams will very likely be picked as the top three schools in the preseason polls this summer.

Columbia almost beat Dartmouth last year at home, but this fall the rematch is in Hanover where the Lions have been blown out their last two visits.

The question we all have to ask ourselves, is that barring massive upgrades in player performance at multiple positions, where are the wins in 2013?

Here’s the schedule:

 Sat, Sep 21
Bronx, N.Y.

  Sat, Sep 28
Robert K. Kraft Field

  Sat, Oct 05
 Princeton *
Princeton, N.J.

  Sat, Oct 12
Robert K. Kraft Field

  Sat, Oct 19
Robert K. Kraft Field

  Sat, Oct 26
 Dartmouth *
Hanover, N.H.

  Sat, Nov 02
 Yale *
New Haven, Conn.

  Sat, Nov 09
Robert K. Kraft Field

  Sat, Nov 16
 Cornell *
Ithaca, N.Y.

  Sat, Nov 23
Robert K. Kraft Field

Okay everyone, which games are we going to win?

Before everyone jumps on the Monmouth game, remember that this was a 5-5 team last year that darn near beat Lehigh and has a returning RB in Julian Hayes who’s been named to the College Football Performance Awards (CFPA) Watch List

So tell me which games we’re going to win?

Of course, I want us to go 10-0. Everyone knows that. But I’m not seeing one game where Columbia will even be favored this season.

Does a big part of me really believe that new factors on the stage will change all that? Of course, but we all have to be prepared for what we face beginning on Sept. 21st when the Lions stop playing and practicing against themselves and start facing the opposition. 

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Who's the Man?

Marcorus Garrett

I admit that no one is more responsible for all the Brett Nottingham hype than I am... and I hope I won't need to apologize for that as I think he will turn out to be a star QB in this league.

But that doesn't mean I rule out the possibility that the 2013 Columbia season could end up belonging to another player or two poised to have breakout seasons and carry this team to the next level.

Here are my top 5 contenders and what kinds of stats they'd need to grab the headlines:

1) Marcorus Garrett

-Garrett already had his breakout season last year by coming darn close to rushing for 1,000 yards behind a weak O-line and on a team that was still sub-par. Now, #23 has stepped things up by pushing himself to new heights in his offseason weight training.

Just getting to 1,000 yards alone probably won't be enough for Garrett to push the Lions past the three or four win mark. But I see 1,200 as a magic number because that would be a more likely sign that he's getting about 25 carries a game.

Another magic number would be at least 10 rushing TD's, doubling his total from last season. It sounds cliche, but opposing teams should know that Garrett is going to score at some point in every game and the best they can do is to contain him after that.

I also think Garrett could be a lot more dangerous this year coming out of the backfield as a receiver. He only had 22 receptions in 2012, but he many of them really count. If the receivers and tight ends do their jobs this year and draw adequate coverage, Garrett should be able to get open much more after he makes an initial block or move at the line.  I'd like to see him get 40+ receptions with five or more TD's in 2013.

2) Hamilton Garner

Top notch tight ends are almost always a new starting QB's best friend. ASnd since Columbia will have a new starting QB no matter what, Garner has a chance to post a major upgrade to his 2012 season this fall.

A dominant year for Garner would mean doubling his 2012 reception total to 50+ and coming close to or achieving the 10 TD reception level.

It doesn't mean that Garner won't be a major contributor if he falls short of those numbers, but to be a dominant cog in a successful season that's where Garner is going to need to be.

3) Seyi Adebayo

Columbia may actually flat out NEED a breakout year from Adebayo if Chad Washington is unable to play this fall.

Adebayo is a complete x-factor after missing 8+ games last year with an ACL tear. Physically, he's more than 100% back. But he needs to get some serious numbers to shore up a D-line that is improving but still faces a major challenge without the graduated Josh Martin.

For Adebayo to be the game changer this fall, he needs to hit the 40-tackle, 10-sack neighborhood and put in monster minutes doing it.

4) Zach Olinger

Without as much experienced talent playing beside him at linebacker, Olinger is another already great player who absolutely MUST pick up his game this fall if the Lions are going to have any chance to win four or more games.

Olinger will need to get into the 100 tackle territory, and net more than 10 tackles for a loss. He'll also need to break up more than five or six passes in total.

If Olinger isn't a shoo-in 1st Team All Ivy LB at the end of the year, then this will not be a 5-5 team this fall. Simple as that.

5) Connor Nelligan

Nelligan can actually put up all the same numbers he did in 2012 and still be dominant in 2013... with one exception: TD's. Nelligan MUST get some scores this season to make the impact Columbia needs him to make in 2013.

It's truly amazing that Nelligan had 62 receptions for 636 yards last season, many of them in crucial, clutch situations... and STILL did not score ONE TD for the whole year.

I think he needs to get five scores minimum this fall, period.

Honorable Mentions/Dark Horses

Travis Reim can be the superstar if he gets more pick-offs and pass breakup stats.

Marquel Carter could surprise if he becomes more a tackling force and helps shore up the fresh linebacking corps from his safety position.

Niko Padilla has the chance to make a major difference because impact-level defensive tackles in the Ivies are almost as rare as unicorns. If he gets into 30-tackle, 10-TFL territory, watch out.

Isaiah Gross still may be the best deep threat Columbia has at WR and his off the radar for a lot of teams because he missed just about all of 2012 to injury. This guy is dangerous and even if he only grabs 30 or so passes, it's likely he'll average a lot more than 15 yards per catch. That would be a game-changer for CU.

Monday, May 20, 2013

5 Questions

Well, even though New York’s two other major newspapers have already run similar stories, it sure was nice to see a positive story about Columbia athletics in the NY Times today.

The article was a piece about Joey Falcone and his role with the Ivy baseball champion Columbia Lions. To give the Times a little more credit, I should say that I believe this article is the first to report that Falcone is harboring some hopes of making the majors even though he is about to turn 27.

This story is a reminder that fewer than 48 hours after Columbia athletics reached a multi-year high point with the sweep of Dartmouth in the ILCS, the Chad Washington story broke and everything about sports at CU became negative again.

Hopefully,  when Columbia baseball’s season resumes in the NCAA Regionals at the end of this month, (there is a “tune up” game vs. Sacred Heart this afternoon at home for those of you who can play hooky and check it out), more of the positive glow of this great season will seep through.

Other than that, the summer will be filled with scandal and non-scandal questions surrounding the football program.

Here are just 5 that I can think of right now:

-Will the Lions be without players currently on the roster die to suspension or expulsion from the team?  (I think the key names to worry about are Chad Washington, Tom Callahan and Chris Connors)

-Outside of the players, will anyone in the Lion coaching staff or athletic department be disciplined in any way?

-How will these issues affect the morale and focus of the team?

-What exactly will incoming transfer QB Brett Nottingham be doing to familiarize himself with the Lion offense and how many of his Columbia teammates will be in the NYC area this summer to work with him?

-How soon will we see overall changes in size for the offensive line as the summer goes along?

We’ve got a lot of time to ponder all these questions.

It will be a long summer.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Senior Captains Respond to Twitter Scandal

Zach Olinger, Hamilton Garner and Marcorus Garrett, the three senior captains of the 2012 Lions have just released a statement to the Columbia Spectator.

Here are the highlights:

"We as a team and as its leaders in no way condone, support or will tolerate the inappropriate language or behavior that some of our teammates are responsible for. Coach Mangurian has met with us as a team on two separate occasions since these incidents. He has made it clear that our teammates will be held accountable for their actions."


"We assure you we take what has happened very seriously. We assure you we will address this and fix it from within our team. We ask that our fellow students give us a chance to get this done. Our actions will be consistent with our words."

Where We Are Now

Let’s get back to just football, on the field matters for now… or at least until some kind of Twittergate news or news on Chad Washington’s case breaks.

What else can we do at this point?

I expect silence from the athletic department for the most part over the next three months. That’s partly because it is summer break and partly because some of the people responsible for publicizing the team’s news are getting more directly ensconced in this story.

Following the herd

Recruiting Trends

More Ivy schools are releasing their lists on incoming freshmen football players.

Based on what I’m seeing from the other Ivy schools’ lists of incoming recruits, it appears Head Coach Pete Mangurian and Columbia may not be on such a lonely island after all when it comes to targeting some lighter players.

That might change, especially since we’ve now been promised by Mangurian that the veteran offensive linemen will be bigger by the time the season starts in the fall.

One of the things that annoys me about the Ivies is that the teams tend to fall into general recruiting trends. 10 years ago it seemed like every team was going after bigger players. 5 years ago, I noticed an focus on speed across the league. Now, there seems to be an emphasis on somewhat leaner players with better than average speed.

The herd mentality gives an advantage to any school that intelligently tries to counter what everyone else is doing.

And the school  that most routinely ignores what everyone else is doing and goes after players that fit its system is Brown.

For almost 20 years now, Brown has featured pass-happy offenses and has recruited accordingly. To Head Coach Phil Estes’ credit, he briefly hit pause on that strategy when he saw the potential RB Nick Hartigan ’06 had and went with a run offense for two years. That helped net the Bears the 2005 league crown.

Mangurian has made statements over the last 17 months that lead me to believe he wants to pursue an iconoclastic recruiting strategy as well. And he should… because if Columbia gets into recruiting battles for the same players with Harvard and Penn too often, the Lions won’t be able to field a team.

Post Spring Pole Position

With spring practice at all eight schools wrapped up, here’s a very quick take on where the seven other teams are right now:

Penn:  Still feels like the team to beat right now. QB Billy Ragone is a winner. He doesn’t do it in a pretty way, and he is injury prone because of the way he lays it all out there, but he gets the job done.

Harvard: Hard to believe the Crimson won’t be strong this fall as usual. But Harvard doesn’t look as scary right now. And that, actually scares me. What am I missing?

Dartmouth: For the first time since Buddy Teevens came back to Hanover, I think he has a winning proposition at the crucial QB position. He has talent and depth there and a star RB too. I also like the Green linebackers and secondary, but I’m not so sure about the D-line. A lot of stars are starting to align at Memorial Field.

Brown: Patrick Donnelly is back at QB and he’s a dark horse candidate to lead the league in a lot of categories this fall. The Bears will never fall too far for too long as long as Estes is there. These guys look and feel like a 6-4, 4-3 in the league kind of team.

Princeton:  I don’t expect the Tigers to have as good a year overall as they did in 2012. But they have the best overall player coming back in DT Caraun Reid and a deeper running attack than they’ve had in a long time. This is a solid 5-5 team.

Yale: The Elis will now have had a full offseason to adjust their attack to cater to Tyler Varga’s strengths. But there’s still no strength at QB and the defense has some serious graduation losses.

Cornell: Jeff Mathews is back and has a lot riding on how good his season is as he attempts to enter the NFL draft. Unfortunately for Big Red fans, that doesn’t necessarily mean the team will win. Cornell’s extremely young new head coach is probably going to face a rough start this year.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Expanding the Witch Hunt

I don’t expect any major revelations on the Twitter scandal or on Chad Washington’s case in the next few days or weeks.

I’m largely grateful for that, even though I know the biggest reason for that is the summer break is coming, the students will be gone from campus, and the offices at the Spectator and WKCR will be mostly empty.

That said, WKCR is now trying to show even more proof that people in the athletics department must have known about many of the offensive Tweets and did nothing about it.

I'm not happy with WKCR for deciding it was appropriate to publicize all the offensive Twitter comments by the players. I'm not sure they were really a necessary aspect of the story after the Washington incident, and I do think this was an attempt to make the story bigger and more exciting.

But the Tweets are now out there and there's no putting them back in the bottle. 

So, I’m trying to find a diplomatic way to clarify this situation for both WKCR and the fans… and I don’t think I can come even close.

Here’s what I can say, (even though it still sounds a bit mean):  there’s no way anyone in the department really condoned the content of the players’ Tweets. I may not have the coziest relationship with the athletic department these days, but I would have no problem defending everyone working there against any accusations of racism, etc. It’s an outrageous charge, and I'm sure it's particularly hurtful for the staffers I know.

I myself have been following a lot of the players on Twitter, and clearly just taking one or two days off from reading the Tweets led me to miss these offensive comments. And I sure hope no one thinks that I condone the comments based on that.

But, (and here’s the mean part), I think some people in the department have too much of a friendly relationship with the players, or seek to be somewhat too cozy with them, and they are unable to really handle the situation as supervisors as opposed to quasi-peers.

That’s just my opinion, and there is no real or implied personal accusation on my part in this case.

As for me, yes, I’ve made friends with some of the more recent players over the last seven years or so. But while they were playing, the relationship was always kept more than at an arm’s length by mutual agreement. I don’t want to violate NCAA rules and I also think it’s creepy for a 40-year-old guy who isn’t a family member or a coach to be regularly contacting  19-year-olds. It’s usually not until well after graduation that I establish what could be considered anything close to a friendship, and even that is rare.

And if the athletes in question were of the opposite sex, I’d be WAYYYY more cautious about any kind of contact altogether.

I just think emotional lines need to be drawn and honored, no matter how much we care about, like and admire our student athletes and coaches.

Anyone who’s read my material over the years knows that while I am obviously a big Columbia “homer,” I draw the line when it comes to defending the indefensible. That was the sole reason why I wrote so much about getting rid of the Norries Wilson regime back in 2011 and that is why I try to present fair criticism of the current coaches as well.

It’s certainly not the athletics department’s job to be impartial in its communications; it should cheer lead as much as possible.

But in its internal handling of things, favoritism can’t be allowed and friendship is not exactly ideal.

I don’t mean to sound sanctimonious, because I know a lot of this is easier said than done.  I’ve made friends with my co-workers and subordinates over the years and I’m sure someone could see many things I’ve done on their behalf as favoritism. But I’m dealing with adults and peers. If my “co-workers” were made up of dozens of college students, the inclination to be their “friend” would just not be there for me.  

When it comes to social media, I’m FAR from an angel myself. I know how things can get carried away in that medium. But there’s got to be better recognition from everyone that we are dealing with very young people here. That means they will do stupid things that don’t necessarily mean much more than immaturity. It also means that better, more impartial, ADULT supervision is required.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Mangurian's Statement

Here is Head Coach Pete Mangurian's direct statement on the Twitter mess below from his blog.

I think he makes a very good point about finding out whether the players involved made a stupid, immature mistake or whether he has some real racists, etc. on the team. The response should indeed be different depending on what the situation is:

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Villamagna Speaks Out

The following, for those who missed it, is a great piece in the Spectator written by Anthony Villamagna '13

My name is Anthony Villamagna, and I am a Columbia football player who will be graduating this year with many of you. In light of the recent events involving Chad Washington, I would like to present my own perspective on some of the issues surrounding the football team that have arisen recently.
My views are not reflective of the football team, the coaching staff, the athletics department, or any of my teammates. My views should not be treated as those of any group or organization on campus. 
I will not comment directly on Chad Washington’s arrest or the circumstances surrounding it. I will not make a judgment on the events of this past weekend until the process of the law has run its course. I reaffirm the stance taken by the Asian American Alliance and many others in the administration and across campus that hate crimes, physical and verbal abuse have absolutely no place at Columbia. Every person has the right to be protected from these acts. 
The football team is made up of roughly 100 individuals with widely diverse personal backgrounds. Our political ideologies, extracurricular interests, and personal philosophies differ from person to person. We are not a homogenous group, but rather a collection of individuals connected by their love of football. I was upset and disappointed by some of the tweets posted by my teammates, because, having known many of them for a number of years, I do not feel as if they accurately reflect their beliefs. They were, in my opinion, moments of very poor judgment by people who should have known better. My teammates should be held accountable for what they published, as should any person who  would write such comments. I do not share any of the homophobic or racist views expressed in the tweets, nor do I believe they are shared by the majority of Columbia football players. 
Much has been made over the “divide” between regular students and student-athletesat Columbia. As a football player, my days were scheduled around football and classes. The overwhelming majority of my time was spent with my teammates. I came to school along with the rest of my teammates before other students to attend our “Camp”, or pre-season practices, for about 14 hours a day every day for two weeks before school started. While other students were bonding at NSOP, I was bonding with my teammates through our mutual suffering. I don’t believe I had my first meaningful interaction with a non-football player until after our season ended around Thanksgiving time. This is mostly my fault—I should have made a greater effort to reach out to my classmates. Since then, I have tried to interact with people outside of my “insular” football group and have made some good friends who are not associated with football or athletics in any way. 
I recognize that my gray sweatshirt, which is emblazoned with “COLUMBIA FOOTBALL,”  will automatically garner prejudice against me. It is disheartening to hear a professor, upon hearing that I’m a football player on the last day of class, tell me, “You hide it well.” There is animosity on both sides, from athletes and from non-athletes, some deserved, but most of it not. I cannot help but think that a small number of athletes and a small number of students widen the divide for our entire community. I believe that I am both a Columbia student and a Columbia football player. The two need not be mutually exclusive.
In short, some of the public views of a minority of my teammates are utterly shocking to me. I have been with these guys for many hours and I do not believe them to be as bigoted as they appear to be through their comments. That being said, their words are rightfully being condemned across the community, and they are being held accountable for what they said. I hope to impress upon the Columbia community at large that I believe these views are not common in a majority of the football team. This is an eye-opening moment that warrants considerable soul-searching. I hope that it will serve as a learning experience to remind us that everyone is responsible for what they say and that we as a united Columbia community will move forward with greater awareness and greater understanding.
The author is a Columbia College senior majoring in economics. He is a member of the varsity football team.

Statements on Statements

Okay, now I'm going to give a quick take on where we are right now on the Chad Washington case and the Twittergate fiasco:

-The Chad Washington case is just that, a case. It's "in the system" and thus beyond any of our control. I hope justice is done. Unless you were an eyewitness to the incident, commenting about the case is really an exercise in futility. But I will post updates, of course.

-The problem with the Twitter comments is complex and troubling. First off, let's remember:

1) These are very young people and here's a newsflash: young people in college say and do a lot of stupid things. Based on what I've seen in recent years, more and more young people are almost PRIMARILY doing their "talking" online. Their ability to tell the difference between public and private conversation is pretty blurry.

2) But since everyone knows that, the fact that the athletic department didn't strongly suggest or order all the athletes to keep their Twitter and Facebook accounts private, (some individual coaches I suppose could have ordered this), is beyond me.

No doubt, that's a policy that will be pursued from now on.

To tell you the truth, I was following a lot of the football players' accounts in hopes of simply continuing to follow the program. I thought I was catching about 90% of the Tweets, but I obviously missed a great deal of the offensive comments. Had I seen them, I can promise you I would have used whatever back channel contacts I still have in the athletic department to warn them about this and hopefully something would have been done. But again, monitoring these students is certainly not my job nor my place.

3) At least one of the athletes who wrote some of the offensive Tweets has apologized and said publicly that his Tweets do not reflect who he is.

According to this site, Thomas Callahan has made this statement:

 "These tweets were not intended to be taken seriously and in no way reflect my personal views or morals."

I just wanted to make sure that statement got out there.

3) And below is a letter just sent via email to the entire campus from Dianne Murphy and Head Coach Pete Mangurian: 

Dear students, 
In addition to joining the statement sent to you earlier by Columbia’s undergraduate deans, we feel that it is important for us to address the campus community directly and independently.
Our athletics program is greatly disappointed by the language and sentiment expressed online by a select few Columbia student-athletes.
These comments are not representative of the more than 700 Columbia undergraduate students who participate in our athletics program, or the coaches, administrators and staff who serve the University and our campus community.
Columbia Athletics is steadfast in its support of, and appreciation for, diversity on campus and in the world around us. Personal expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, anti-Semitism and any other form of bigotry are abhorrent. This is disheartening and embarrassing for everyone involved. We respect and support the University's goals and ideals of acceptance and tolerance of all members of the campus community. 
We are addressing this inexcusable behavior with the individuals involved. We will also address this with each of our 31 varsity teams. All of our coaches, administrators and staff understand and appreciate how important it is for everyone on campus to communicate and work together in a civil and respectful manner.
We are working closely with our campus partners to make sure that we are diligent and proactive in our response to this matter. The athletics program is committed to providing additional resources to continue to educate our student-athletes about the importance of respect, civility and inclusivity in everything we do. Moving forward, we will continue to reinforce these important values that are so vital to our University community.
On behalf of the members of the Department of Intercollegiate Athletics and Physical Education and the Columbia Football program, we offer our sincere apologies to members of the greater Columbia community.

More Details on the Complaint Against Chad Washington

Gothamist has a more detailed report on the exact complaints/charges against Chad Washington.

The report includes this passage, (sorry for the obscenities):

According to the criminal complaint, the incident occurred at 1:45 a.m. on Sunday, outside the McBain dormitory on West 113th Street. Detective Michael Diaz of the NYPD's bias incident investigations unit says the victim "observed defendant with five other individuals in front of the above mentioned location and hears someone in the group state in substance: 'Yellow fever. Chinky eyes. Asian mother fucker.'"
The victim says he was followed into McBrain's vestibule, where Washington grabbed his shirt collar and pushed him against the wall. The criminal complaint alleges that Washington said, "You're an Asian pussy. Why don't you hit yourself you Asian pussy."
However, a source familiar with the case suggests that Washington, a defensive lineman for Columbia's football team, may have been provoked by the victim first. Washington and his group of friends had walked past the victim and the victim's friends, the source says, and apparently brushed up against them. This, the source claims, angered the victim who mocked Washington's group, and at that point, Washington and his friends reacted. Further, the source says that both parties had been drinking.

Statement from Columbia Deans Released

Dear students,

As educators and leaders of a diverse learning community, we are deeply concerned when racism, sexism, homophobia and incivility—whether in words, actions or posts of any kind—target individuals or groups. Such behavior violates our Community Principles.Community Principles

For all members of Columbia University, harassment, mistreatment and hateful language based on race, gender, sexual orientation, affiliation or other identities are unacceptable and hurt every one of us. We all are committed to a campus environment which values and supports each individual in an atmosphere that is caring and respectful.

When a bias incident is reported, we move quickly to investigate the matter and ensure that all involved students are treated fairly and are supported throughout the process. This has been the main focus immediately following Sunday’s report, and we must honor and protect the wishes of victims. After an investigation by the New York Police Department, and in addition to any pending outside legal process, CC/SEAS students involved are also subject to a judicial process through the Dean’s Discipline process. For a fuller understanding of our Bias Response, please read the brochure.

We ask that you respect the privacy of all individuals involved and allow us to investigate thoroughly and act according to our protocols and procedures. Speculation based on limited or inaccurate information reported in the press, or anonymous rumor, serves no one well and is detrimental to the wellbeing of those involved as well as to our community as a whole.  Senior administrators from Student Affairs and from the Athletics Program, with complete support of university leadership, are working together and treating this matter with the seriousness it deserves.

With respect to social media messages reportedly posted by some students, we share fully in the belief that offensive messages in any form are unacceptable and fall far beneath the standards of civility and mutual respect we expect of all our students, including student athletes who represent Columbia. We are addressing this matter aggressively with the individuals involved. We also believe that broad generalizations about any group are unfair and hurtful, and we unfortunately have seen that social media has too often become a forum for such offensive comments.

Every one of us is responsible to this community, and we ask that you affirm the values that call for us to treat each other with respect and dignity. Let us commit to using our freedom of expression to promote civil dialogue and to appreciate our greatest strength—our diversity. We understand the deep hurt, disappointment, and anger and are committed to supporting and collaborating with all of our students in addressing these things in our community and how we will move forward together. Now is the time for all of us to reach out to one another with compassion and understanding.

James J. Valentini,
Dean of Columbia College and Vice President for Undergraduate Education

Donald Goldfarb,
Interim Dean, Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science

Peter J. Awn,
Dean, School of General Studies

M. Dianne Murphy,
Director of Intercollegiate Athletics and Physical Education

UPDATE: Washington's Lawyer Speaks Out

Daniel Fetterman

Chad Washington is now being represented by a partner in a major Manhattan law firm.

Daniel Fetterman of Kasowitz, Benson, Torres and Friedman told the Columbia Spectator that:

"The allegations do not accurately portray the events that occurred," he said. "When all the facts come out, it will be clear that Mr. Washington did not commit a hate crime, and he will be vindicated."
Fetterman also said that Washington is not being charged with a felony, as NBC reported, but with a misdemeanor.


Less than 48 hours ago, I thought I has seen just about every Tweet sent out by members of the football team over the past 6 or 7 months. I was wrong. I hate a lot what I have seen in the last couple of days and honestly, I don't know the best way to respond. It's clear that many of the young men on the team don't quite grasp what it means to send out comments that the whole world can see. Some major training and discussions about the nature of social media are in order. And for the worst offenders, more disciplinary action is required.

Suffice it to say that I'm watching this story unfold with the most possible trepidation.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

The Campus Reacts

I can't tell you all just how much I hate, hate, hate this story about Chad Washington and the charges against him.

I am praying some new information will come out to mitigate the whole thing, but that leaves me feeling pretty helpless. Apparently there is video of the incident... and I'm not sure I want to see it.

The rational adults and near-adults reading this will all agree that even if the charges are true, it doesn't mean anything about the other athletes at Columbia or collegiate sports in general.

Others will attempt to use this story as a weapon. We have to be prepared for that.

Meanwhile, much of the Columbia campus is still in finals mode.

That hasn't stopped many students from speaking out online.

Some of the comments are the usual hate-filled ignorance, but I noticed one from former Columbia QB M.A. Olawale on the student website I follow Olawale's other online comments all the time, and this looks 100% authentic).

It reads:

"I dont know the full details of the story but I will say that it is anonymous cowards like the owners of some of the comments above that cause the divide between athletes and non athletes. You don't have to hang out with somebody to show them respect, and quite honestly if you haven't figured out that college and the world in general is separated into many "cliques" then you are a little late my friends. Not all "cliques" are bad. The "cliques" that form among athletes is a byproduct of most athletes' scheduling and the amount of time that they spend together practicing and working out. Being a former student athlete myself, I have been a victim of this undeserved hate and animosity from some non student athletes. I am not going to generalize and say that all non athletes were disrespectful and hateful but there were definitely enough to make me question how many other non athletes shared this irrational and general dislike for us. Anybody remember that article that was written in the Spec in 2006 or 2007 about how Student Athletes didn't belong at Columbia? Talk about not feeling wanted?!?!?! We all go to the same school, so I don't know why there needs to be an athletes vs. non athlete mentality. For every athlete you meet that is a jerk there are ten athletes that are great people and could care less if you played a sport or not. 
It's really easy to act and talk recklessly when you can't be held accountable for your words. If you stand by the comments you are making then you should be able to put your name by it.

-Millicent Olawale CC '10

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Breaking: Chad Washington in Trouble

The NY Post is reporting that rising junior DL Chad Washington is accused of making racial threats against another student. Link is below:

Deep Thoughts about Depth

The W.C. Matthews Trophy belongs to CU!

I’m still on a high after attending Columbia’s two game sweep of Dartmouth to win the Ivy League Baseball Championship series. It was such a great day for Columbia and the fans in every way. Winning the Ivy baseball title in 2008 was great, but we had to watch that series on the internet as the games were in Hanover, NH. This time, there was a standing room only crowd getting into every pitch all afternoon long with perfect weather to boot.

The baseball team showed all the qualities we’d like to see the football team acquire, especially coming through in the clutch.

It’s a great thing that Head Coach Pete Mangurian regularly uses Facebook and Twitter to praise the baseball team, as it shows he recognizes what it takes to succeed in Columbia sports.

I hope Columbia gets a chance to play somewhere relatively close to New York in the NCAA regionals. We won’t find out until the end of this month.

Spring Game

A better, more detailed analysis of the spring game/scrimmage/demonstration is surely coming from Mangurian’s own keyboard probably by tonight, so I will keep my impressions short and hopefully a little different from what you’re likely to see elsewhere.

I mostly liked what I saw Saturday night.

I liked the new format for the “spring game,” as it helps focus on individual units of the team.

I liked the emphasis on getting the younger players more playing time and saving the sure starters from possible injury. (That’s a tradition Mangurian started last year and it’s a sound practice. Look up "Chad Musgrove" if you don't know what I'm talking about).

I liked the way Augie Braddock, (I wrote "Augie Williams" before because I miss that dude), and Cameron Molina played, giving me hope that we have the deepest running talent Columbia has seen in about 10 years.

I liked the way Trevor McDonagh is clearly good enough to start in the Ivies. I think he may get a lot of snaps early in the season when Columbia is playing its non-conference schedule and Brett Nottingham gets more used to the system. I still think Nottingham is our starter, but McDonagh is making that decision a little tougher to make. And that’s what every football team needs to happen at every position.

My dream of seeing a NYC-HS recruit turn into a Lion star got a shot in the arm thanks to the play of rising sophomore Toba Akinleye Saturday night

I also agree with Mangurian’s assessment of the tight end play. It was improved and has suddenly become an area where Columbia seems to have good depth.

I like the way the secondary is starting to look. It’s still #3 on my list of units I’m worried about, (#1 is the O-line, #2 are the linebackers), but with Malcom Thaxton’s improved play, it’s less of a concern.

Speaking of the linebackers and O-line, there was nothing there to make me worry more… but I’m still about as concerned as I can be. Without marked improvement from the offensive line, Columbia won’t accomplish much this fall. And if the linebacker play deteriorates, the challenge to improve on last year’s 3-7 record will be steep.

Again, for a more detailed and reliable analysis of the performances on the field let’s wait for the official release from Mangurian today or tonight.  

Here’s my overview on where we are as we head into the loooong wait before training camp begins in late August:

Mangurian and the players can only focus on improving themselves. The trouble is, much of what will determine Columbia’s fate in 2013 is the schedule of opponents. Unless the Lions make significant improvements to every unit of the team, even matching last year’s 3-7 record will be difficult. That’s no fault of the players or Mangurian, it’s just the nature of the game.

There are reasons to be optimistic, mostly on offense. I can’t remember the last time Columbia had this much real talent in the passing and running games. That kind of balance can make up for a lot of problems in other parts of a team, within reason.

The other reason to be optimistic is at least the defensive line seems to be shaping up quite well despite the graduation loss of Josh Martin. There’s a deep level of talent at DE and DT, and that should help reduce any major problems at linebacker.

But it keeps coming back to depth, doesn't it?

I remember before the 2007 spring game, and how good I was feeling about the Lions after their strong 2006 finish. Then, someone from the athletic department who I've known for a long time reminded me that depth was still a problem for the team. And sure enough, 2-3 injuries during the fall of that year doomed Columbia to a 1-9 season.

Now we have a team that has actual talented depth at QB, RB, WR, TE, and on the DL. The secondary may not be too far behind. I wish the O-line looked better now even though I know it will be better by the time the season starts. That needs to happen.

For the next 137 days until the season kicks off, we’ll be a bit in the dark about what this team is capable of.  That’s the nature of the beast. So let me apologize in advance for the kinds of “grasping at straws” posts you might see here in the summer months.