Thursday, July 31, 2014

Call of the Mild

We're just 5 days away from the annual summer Ivy Football Media Day. Usually, the teleconference is held mid-morning and the tape of the event is up on the Ivy League Sports website by the early afternoon.

I haven't been invited to participate in the call since 2010, because Columbia or some other school has to put me on the list of media people who are allowed to call in. And I understand why I'm not invited, and it's really okay.

But I do hope SOMEONE will ask Head Coach Pete Mangurian the questions he's really never been asked publicly, or at least answered.

I suspect he will skate again thanks to the combination of the ignorance of the general beat reporters assigned to the conference call, the lack of interest in Columbia in general, and the fear some of the student journalists understandably feel when interviewing an adult coach they hope to deal with for the rest of the season.

But none of the burning questions we need answered need to be asked in anger or in a disrespectful tone.

None of the questioners usually gets much time, so I would simply ask everyone on the call to consider the following three questions:

1) How can Columbia improve in any way without a much-improved offensive line? And why specifically should we think the O-line will be better this year?

2) Why are you still the only Ivy program without a JV squad? Your team looked so unprepared on the field last year, especially the younger players. Surely by the later part of the season, some more seasoning would have benefited the program, no?

3) If Columbia goes 1-9 or 0-10, do you think you'll still have your job in November?

Will anyone ask anything resembling the above questions? I have no way of knowing, but it would be great to at least have them addressed once and for all.

And I realize getting verbal answers to the questions, no matter how substantive, won't solve or prove anything.

But as some of the readers have said to me both publicly and privately, Mangurian could create a lot of needed goodwill by acknowledging the failures he's overseen and specifically telling us how he plans to fix them and with which players in which positions.

Right now, we know a whole lotta nuthin' about who are starters are, what the offense and defense will look like and what there is to be excited about for this season.

Neither Mangurian nor his few supporters out there have given us anything other than a few "rah rah" lines. That's beyond disturbing.

If we STILL don't have something real to hang our hats on after media day this coming Tuesday, then it's just another opportunity lost.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

BREAKING: Al Paul Dies

Few names touch off more of a firestorm for longtime Columbia sports fans than Al Paul.

Paul was the Athletic Director during an era when Columbia athletics went from a scrappy program with some occasional successes to the basket case of American collegiate sports.

Mr. Paul died Monday at his home in Maryland at the age of 88.

His legacy will be debated for years, but I never met anyone who said he wasn't a decent person.

And I do believe his heart was in the right place.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Spying on the Weak

Schoelkopf Selfie

I visited Ithaca this weekend with my family and managed to do a few jogs up and down the steps of Schoelkopf Field.

During my little jog, I got a look at one of the informal Big Red practices going on.

NOTE TO THE IVY/NCAA POLICE: I had NO idea a Cornell informal practice would be going on when I jogged over to Schoelkopf and this was not a spying trip. However, the gates were open and nobody said a word to me as I took pictures, etc. PLUS, I think it should be obvious by now that I in no way work for or with the CU football program. 

A couple of notes on what I saw:

1)      Instead of “Omaha,” the defensive player calling out the signals yells, “Roar, roar, roar!” I took offense to that!
2)      Longtime Ivy fans are pretty familiar with the maddening practice many teams follow of throwing many sideways passes every game. Well, now I see why. For about an hour at Schoelkopf, ALL I SAW WAS SIDEWAYS PASSING DRILLS!. Seriously, it was pathetic, and I am now convinced that Cornell doesn’t even have a QB who can decently throw the ball downfield.
3)      Most of the players were too small, and NO I was not watching a Sprint Football practice. The guys were in shape, but the skill players were puny.
4)      I have said the Cornell game is Columbia’s best chance to win one this year, and now I’m even more convinced.
5)      The Cornell campus is huge and big and getting overbuilt… but it’s STILL a breeze for all the players to get to Schoelkopf and practice. And yet… it looked like a lot of them drove to the field and parked their cars on the track behind the end zone.  Yeah, yeah, yeah, I know a lot of Cornell students live off campus... but not that far. AND I guarantee you that every Columbia player would LOVE to have the opportunity to walk to practice of any kind. So, I think the walk up the hill from the locker rooms back onto the field at Wien Stadium may be too much for Cornell at halftime. We should look into making the hills steeper or something.

Now, I've visited Cornell 6-7 times now and I think I can honestly say there is NO Ivy school more UNLIKE Columbia. It's a totally different world, with the small exception of the shrinking Arts Quad, which is shrinking because all the construction around it makes it look tiny. Even Dartmouth is more like Columbia than Cornell.

This revelation puts the Pete Mangurian hire into perspective. Yes, I was happy that Columbia had made that very rare move to hire a new coach who had coached in the Ivies before.  But having coached at Cornell is almost useless by Columbia standards. It's not at all like coaching here, and Mangurian's learning curve has been just as steep as someone who never heard of the AI or the Subway.

*Just another few thoughts on the sideways passing thing.

I really, hate hate hate that play. It’s okay to use it once in a while to catch the defense off guard and use like a screen. But the chances of the ball being slightly off and intercepted for a pick six are too high and it seems really wimpy not to throw the ball down the field much more often. Also if the ball doesn’t go forward and it’s dropped, it’s technically a fumbled lateral and a free ball on the ground.

It’s just weak. And Columbia, for decades it seems, has used the play a lot. Vinny Marino loved that play and it was scary every time. I can’t think of any time where it really worked either.  So I encourage Cornell to continue practicing this dicey play all summer and use it a lot this fall. Good luck with that. 

Yes, Coach Archer I AM tweaking you. The fact is, the Ivies have enough of a wimpy reputation, (undeserved mostly), as it is. We don't need teams going the "full wuss" and sideways passing... even if it was just for practice... anymore! It makes the whole league look bad. And remember, this is a Columbia fan saying this, so you KNOW it looks really bad.

Ed Marinaro isn't even dead yet, but he must be rolling over in his grave. When he played for Cornell, he took personal exception to the "Ivies are pansies" talk and loved playing a hard nosed game. He was a tough son of a bitch if there ever was one. Now, he gets to see his team throwing the ball around like a bunch of toddlers in day care. Yikes. 

How about we man up and go for power running or get really wacky and be like the WAC Conference in the 1990's and just pass all the time, but DOWN THE FIELD? 

Let's have fun and stop being so afraid.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Monmouth Tickets UPDATE Link FOUND!

As disappointed as I am by the coaching staff and Columbia administration, I still want to be as helpful as I can to CU football fans new and old when it comes to practical matters.

To that end, I wanted to pass along some info on Columbia’s second road game of the season which is at Monmouth on October 11th.

Tickets for the game are $10 each for adults and they are on sale now, info here. 

UPDATE: THIS IS THE LINK to actually buy tickets for the CU-Monmouth game. 

This game will be Homecoming for Monmouth, so I suggest buying the tickets now.

Monmouth’s Kessler Field can only hold about 4,600 fans, (some more seats can be added, but the all-time attendance record there is just above 6,000), so ticket availability could be a real issue especially if the Hawks have a good start to their season, (this game will be CU’s fourth but Monmouth’s sixth of 2014), it could be tight. 

And Kessler is one of those stadiums with just one side, so home and away fans have to sit together. 

Polled Out

Two of Columbia’s first three opponents are ranked in the Top 25 in the FCS Gameday Preseason Poll. 

Week one foe Fordham is #16 and week three opponent Princeton is #25.

Sporting News puts Fordham as high as #8 while Princeton is unranked in that poll.

Lindy’s also ranks the Rams at #8 and puts Princeton at #25.

Athlon ranks Fordham at #13.  

Meanwhile, yet another Fordham player has been named to the CFPA award watch list. He’s kick return specialist Jorge Solano. 

A fair question right now for Head Coach Pete Mangurian and his staff is this: “What are you SPECIFICALLY preparing to do to make sure the games against Fordham and Princeton don’t get out of hand and leave our team hopelessly demoralized so early in the season?”

Thursday, July 24, 2014

Princeton Update

Anthony Gaffney may be the best player in the Ivies

Over the past two seasons, Princeton has defeated Columbia in both meetings by a combined score of 86-13.

QB Quinn Epperly, (who is back for his senior season this fall), has gone a combined 26 of 35 passing for 375 yards, five TD’s and no INT's. As a runner, he’s gone a combined 17 carries for 96 yards and two TD’s.

Well, the Lions shouldn’t be so ashamed because Epperly has been nothing short of a superstar for the Tigers for two years running. Last year, he won the Bushnell Cup after passing for 2,137 yards, running for 570 more, throwing for 25 TD’s with just three INT’s, and netting another 18 running touchdowns.

Yes, Epperly was responsible for a whopping 43 TD’s in 2013.

And he’s back, and judging by his Twitter account, he REALLY thinks he’s good too.

One possible hopeful note: for the last decade or so in Ivy play, juniors who have super blowout seasons have not tended to repeat those feats in their final years. Maybe the same jinx will afflict Epperly.

If only Quinn Epperly were the only returning player to worry about.

The Tigers also have possibly the best athlete in the entire league in CB Anthony Gaffney.

Lion fans should remember Gaffney as the guy who scored a TD the very first time he touched the ball in an Ivy game when he returned the opening kickoff for a TD against Columbia in 2012.

Since then, he’s only improved. Gaffney is considered a shutdown corner and opposing teams rarely test him anymore.

Both Gaffney and Epperly have been named preseason All-Americans.

In addition to the two big superstars, Princeton has a lot of returning talent. Senior OL Spencer Huston was 1st Team All Ivy last year. Junior RB DiAndre Atwater, who many believe still hasn’t really shown what he can do, was a 2nd Team All Ivy honoree in 2013. WR Seth DeValve was one of Epperly’s top targets and he’s back for a senior season. But his top WR from 2012 and 2013, Roman Wilson, is gone to graduation.

On defense, the Tigers will have to recover from some heavy graduation losses. Top of the list is DT Caraun Reid who is now in the NFL. They’ve also lost DB Phillip Bhaya and DL Greg Sotereanos.

But they do have LB Mike Zeulim a 2nd Team All Ivy who was the leading tackler for Princeton last year. And the Princeton secondary is still stacked. Along with Gaffney, the Tigers return All Ivy Honorable Mention Matt Arends and the talented Khamal Brown returns after missing a season and a half with an aneurysm.

The incoming freshmen class is simply stellar. D-Linemen Kurt Holuba and Khalil Bryant are considered to be two of the top incoming college players in the country, not just the Ivies. LB Joe Percival is another standout.

But the best news for Princeton is that the Tigers get home field advantage against the other two best teams in the league, Harvard and Dartmouth.

Princeton was shocked by the Big Green in the 2013 finale, not so much because they lost but because they lost because of a weak day on offense. No one was supposed to be able to stop Epperly and co. and Dartmouth did.

But with the game shifting to New Jersey this fall, the Green will have a hard time repeating that feat.

So after beginning their season against one of the best teams in all of FCS football in Fordham, the Lions get to open their Ivy schedule with the team favored to repeat as Ivy champs.

When does it get easier?

And Now for Some Good News!

It's been a steady stream of bad PR for the Columbia football team for the past 15 months.

But today we have a very good PR moment and thank goodness for it!

Several incoming football freshmen have been helping to clean up NYC parks this summer.

Kudos to everyone who had a hand in arranging this.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Fordham Update

For Columbia, the season opener at Wien Stadium looks like an invitation to a slaughterhouse. 

Here's a look at the news Fordham has been making since the spring.

The Rams have no less than SIX preseason All Americans. There are even more players named to the preseason award watch lists. And there are just about as many defensive standouts as offensive. Even the kicker is on an award watch list.

The offense seems more powerful than the defense when you look at the individual players, but the Rams have hard hitters galore. 

For all intents and purposes, Fordham is a legit D-IA/FBS team. 

Even relatively competitive Columbia teams of the recent past would be prohibitive underdogs in week one, but this team actually needs to worry more about a repeat of the devastating injuries that resulted from this game last year.

So in other words, Columbia is WORSE, (no more Marcorus Garrett, D-line gutted), since that 52-7 defeat and Fordham is BETTER.

As much as I don’t expect Columbia to win any games this fall, I’d hate to see that fate sealed without a doubt before the first game is even over. That’s what happened essentially when Brett Nottingham and Seyi Adebayo went down at Fordham last year. 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Nowhere to Run

Not only does Columbia’s disastrously bad offensive line make it impossible for the Lions to win games, it makes it nearly impossible to truly assess our talent at running back.

A year ago at this time, hopes were high on the RB front as Marcorus Garrett was returning for his senior season after a stellar junior campaign.

But injuries, personal issues, and poor blocking in front of him destroyed what could have been a great season. Garrett finished his CU career with a shrouded whimper.

And as weak as Garrett’s abbreviated 2013 season was, he still scored the only four Columbia rushing touchdowns all year long.

Yes, we only had FOUR. 

That tells you how non-existent the rest of the CU rushing attack was. Current sophomore Alan Watson had 172 yards on 42 carries in 2013 to grab the #2 rushing spot on the stats page while current junior Cameron Molina was #3 with 120 yards on 37 carries.

The truth is Columbia basically abandoned the run altogether after Garrett stopped playing in the first half of the Dartmouth game in week six. The Lions only rushed the ball a paltry 235 times all season long, and the entire team netter just 516 yards and those measly four TD’s.

In the four full games where Garrett did not play at all, Columbia rushed the ball at TOTAL of 83 times for a TOTAL of 171 yards. 

So how good are Watson and Molina? Are either of them the kind of player who can have even an occasional 100-yard game? I think any speculation about them based on the very little we’ve seen of them at the college level is really impossible.

The same is even more true for the rest of the CU RB’s on the roster. There is some noise being made about incoming freshman Chris Schroer out of Cincinnati. He does come from a decent high school program, but that’s really all anyone can say for sure.

One thing is for sure, CU needs to run the ball a lot more if QB Brett Nottingham is going to survive with his life this season. The best way to cut down on sacks is never give the defense the chance to sack your QB in the first place, and gain yards on the ground with another ball carrier.  The Lions just can’t afford to put a Canadian Football-like product on the field and try to pass 80% of the time.

With 61 days to go until the season starts, Columbia’s depth chart at RB is an extremely closely guarded secret… in the same way that a high school kid hides a failing test paper from his parents. 

Friday, July 18, 2014

Capital Changes

Say Goodbye to Bob Ford and that hat

Now back to previewing our 2014 opponents. My look at Fordham from back in May is here.   

Sorry, I wasn’t able to do a week-by-week update as I promised but now I have better information to work with anyway.

Albany is the week two opponent for the Lions and the 2 hour 45 minute journey from campus will be the longest road trip of the year. This is the return engagement for Columbia after Albany came to CU in 2011 an won by a score of 44-21.

Albany has a new stadium with 8,500 seats and is named after their legendary coach Bob Ford.

But the Great Danes are a much different team than they were in 2011 when they beat the Lions at Baker Field. Despite losing a number of close games against good teams, there’s no getting around the fact that Albany was a putrid 1-11 last season.

The great Bob Ford has retired, succeeded in December by Greg Gattuso. Gattuso seems like a good choice for Albany, but the transition from Ford who was the only coach ever in Albany football history, will not be easy.

The Great Danes appear to be much stronger on offense than they are on defense. That’s thanks to a stellar RB, Omar Osbourne, who ran for 1,206 yards last season and has been named to the CFPA running back award list.

Joining him on the award watch list for tight ends is another red shirt senior, Brian Parker. Parker is a good combination blocker and receiver who pounds defenders with his 260-pound frame.

And Albany has a great QB, and yet another red shirt senior, in Will Fiacchi who passed for 2,300+ yards last season.

Expect a big boost from Maryland transfer Mike Madaras, an excellent offensive lineman who was originally recruited by the Terps by coach Gattuso. Another potential quality transfer is 6-4 QB Dan Harding, but I’m not sure if he is eligible to play this season. If so, he could push Fiacchi or just use this year to gear up for 2015.  

Albany’s best defensive player is senior safety Olatunji Idowu, who is also a top student academically. But watch out for Michael Smith, who is officially listed as a DT but is really a LB and was the Great Danes leading sacker last season.

For all intents and purposes, this seems like one of the more winnable games for the Lions.  But that’s only a relative observation. Just about everyone else on CU’s schedule is tougher. 

Tuesday, July 15, 2014


Obviously, we’re stuck with the failure Head Coach Pete Mangurian for another season at least. So our only hope for a win in 2014 is if he learns the following three lessons:

Keep Dumping  the Ideology on the Offensive Line

Mangurian came to Columbia with the same insane “go real light” agenda that earned him the hatred of players like All Pro Jumbo Elliot and almost got him into fistfights with his fellow coaches when he was with the NY Giants. This sad ideology was in place well before he even evaluated the CU player personnel and it just doesn’t work at any level. Mangurian will never admit this, but our complaining about the lightweight O-line was a big reason why he’s now changing his policy about it and allowing some more weight gain. Had we not complained or highlighted the issue here, he would have skated by and blamed the team’s total lack of success on something else.

But this is not the time to stop. Mangurian needs to continue getting deprogrammed out of the Jenny Craig School of Coaching before somebody, like our potentially great QB Brett Nottingham, gets killed.

A general lesson Mangurian needs to learn is to look at what works in this league and copy and improve on that. Harvard and Penn routinely have the best O-line in the league, so copy what they’re doing from recruiting to conditioning on down the line. Find out what you need to do to beat them in the recruiting competition for those guys and do that. It’s fine and recommended to sometimes look for the players and methods no one else is going for and using, but Mangurian is doing that way too much,  

Stop with the Pocket Passing Only Offense

Let the damn QB’s run, even just a little. Teach them to scramble while you’re at it too. We know that Sean Brackett was severely punished back in 2012 for leaving the pocket, thus neutralizing one of Columbia’s best offensive weapons. In addition to not scoring as much, Brackett got the snot knocked out of him half the time.  

Take a look at the successful teams in this league. With the exception of Brown, they have all used very mobile QB’s. That’s because the realities of the league require it. Mangurian’s steep learning curve about this remains as he didn’t bring any running QB’s at all in this class.

The results will be predictable. Columbia’s offense will be predictable. Lion QB’s will predictably be badly beaten up.

The only hope is that Mangurian wakes up to this reality at some point. Perhaps he will allow junior WR Scooter Hollis to take some snaps at QB just to mix things up as he was a stellar running QB in high school. That’s just one thought, but something has to change here.

Hire Better Coordinators

Mangurian’s predecessor Norries Wilson's promising potential was destroyed at Columbia by his bad hires at the coordinator slots. OC Vinny Marino was a disaster and after DC Lou Ferrari left early in Wilson’s tenure, the defense was never quite good enough either.

Mangurian knows how to do this right, but he seems to have forgotten. He got it right when he hired the stellar Kevin Lempa to be his DC for his first season at CU in 2012.

But when Lempa left the following spring, (and we’ll never know if the “going home to Boston College” excuse was the real deal), Mangurian went considerably down market with current DC Chris Rippon.

Mangurian has never shown an ability to get the OC job right as he continues to stand behind Jaime Elizondo.  If Elizondo was worth a darn, he would never have stood for the insane lighter O-line strategy or the “keep the QB in the pocket” rule. Neither have worked.

It’s particularly egregious that not only wasn’t Mangurian fired, but he wasn’t even forced to dump his coordinators in a ceremonial, “make some changes” edict from A.D. Dianne Murphy. You would think after the Marino debacle killed Wilson’s tenure at CU, someone would have demanded this. 

Monday, July 14, 2014

If You Can't Make it There...

If there’s one thing that makes me and most Lions fans angry, it’s seeing local top football recruits go to other Ivy League schools.

This year’s poster boy for that issue is Joe Percival, an incoming linebacker for Princeton who excelled in many ways for St. Anthony’s on Long Island.

Rubbing salt in that wound is the fact that NOT ONE of Columbia’s incoming freshmen is from the greater NYC area, (we do have two players coming in from the South Jersey Shore area, but that’s much closer to Philadelphia and not even in the NYC media market).

Of course, none of us will really care about geographic origination if the players turn out to be great. But we keep seeing top players who have actually proven their worth as winners come out of the NYC area and excel for other teams.

And this happens over and over again.

The best example lately is Caraun Reid, also from Princeton, who was picked in the NFL draft earlier this year. Reid was a monster defensive lineman from the Bronx -- literally 10 minutes from Baker Field – and we lost him.

Here’s a breakdown of how many NYC area players are in each Ivy team’s class of 2018:

Princeton: 7

Penn: 5

Dartmouth: 2

Yale: 2  

Brown: 1

Harvard: 1

Columbia: 0

Cornell: 0

I guess we can understand schools like Princeton and Penn doing well with NYC-area recruits since they’re very close to New York City. But CU was also beaten out this year by Dartmouth, Brown, and Harvard.

That’s an embarrassment any way you cut it.

And notice that the only other team with no NYC-area freshmen is Cornell, our usual friend at the bottom of the Ivy standings. 

Meanwhile, our successful baseball coaching staff doesn’t have this problem. Two of our 9 incoming players are from the NYC area, or more than 1/5 of this year’s haul. And looking at the overall roster including these new freshmen, you see our baseball team has a total of eight NYC-players including Ivy Rookie of Year Will Savage and team power hitting leader Rob Paller.

Failure to recruit good players, or any players at all, from the NYC area is a big red flag for Columbia sports teams. And that’s especially true for football, which has the luxury of bringing in 30+ players per year.

And for those of you who are still wondering when I’ll stop piling on this failed football coaching regime at Columbia, the answer is simple: I’ll ease up once they stop failing. 

The Brawl

HOWEVER, I will reserve one word of praise for Head Coach Pete Mangurian as a part of another general critique of the program below.

Many of you have heard of a bar brawl late in the spring semester that led to the suspension of a number of Columbia players from the University and their removal from the team. 

Because this is such a personal matter, I will comment only generally about this incident based on the reports I've seen and heard about it.

First, it doesn't not look like more than one CU player was really an aggressor in this fight but sadly more than that one player has been punished. 

Second, the fight mostly took place outside the bar in question. But underage players were inside the bar before that. 

Third, this incident is just another example of how the "Pete Mangurian may not be winning, but he's a tough disciplinarian" myth is just that, a myth. This team is unprepared on the field and not so in control off of it either, and it's clear the players aren't buying into Mangurian or acting loyally to him. 

Now, here's the good part: to his credit, Mangurian DID fight like Hell for the players who were punished by the University. He did get some good results for some of them and I do expect some of them back on the team in 2015. At least Mangurian's very public desire to reduce the roster did not translate into him abandoning his players in this instance.

Of course, this is the same guy who trashed the upperclassmen coming into last season. This is the same guy who didn't allow all the players to dress for home games either until we made a stink about it. 

So when it comes to showing his players the proper loyalty, Mangurian's accounts are still in the red.

And I think that's why we still have players committing more and more stupid acts like cheating, brawling, and vulgar Tweeting than ever before. They don't believe in this guy or the program.

And neither do the fans when this kind of failure is allowed to remain in place. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Let's Hear It

Okay everyone, let's get your actual thoughts on the record.

1) We keep hearing how great this coaching staff is despite overseeing the worst season in Ivy football history last year. So, how many games will Columbia football win this fall?

2) If you expect us to go 1-9 or better, which games will we win?

3) We keep hearing how this was a great recruiting class. Name at least five players in this class that you think have the best potential to be All Ivy honorees at any time over the next four years.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Here They Come!

Welcome to the neighborhood!

The first few waves of incoming freshmen players are beginning to arrive on campus for about two weeks of informal workouts and to get acclimated to campus.

There's really no way to get reliable info about these workouts, who looks good, etc. 

BUT we do have some positive news already to report:

It appears that the moment each of the new players comes on campus, they have been protecting their Twittter accounts.


Seriously, the amount of potentially bad stuff being Tweeted by new and veteran players daily is still embarrassing. 

After writing about 10-12 posts begging the staff to do something about this, it appears something has finally worked. 

Still, the idea that "protected Tweets" are really protected is not entirely true. If you Tweet it, there's still a good chance it could get out there. So if you're a player or a parent of a player reading this, please just remember not to put offensive stuff online ever. 

How Do We Recruit... Really?

About four years ago, then-Head Coach Norries Wilson was talking about this time of year for Columbia football. 

He talked about all the preparation for the coming season, the summer camps for high school players, and the evaluation of the incoming freshmen.

One thing Wilson said that really haunted me and still does, was a comment he made about the first day of training camp.

Wilson said that the first day was like Christmas Day, because as he saw all the freshmen players arriving it was like opening up packages and you didn't know what was inside. He talked about how there was a mystery about how good these incoming players really were, etc.

That comment blew me away. I know there are variables and all, but why should someone who you've recruited and offered a one-in-a-million Ivy degree to be a mystery? Do we really not know if these guys are worthy of playing football at the Ivy level? And if not? what the heck is our very hefty recruiting budget for? 

I know the athletic department recently sent out a few "updates" trying to describe the recruiting process in detail, but they really didn't answer the hard questions about recruiting that Wilson's comment put in my mind.

Remember, the value of an Ivy degree is greater than ever. We have to treat every spot like a very precious commodity, because it is. 

When you think about how poorly the freshmen executed on the field last year -- I'm talking all the dropped passes and missed blocks -- you really have to ask some very hard questions about how Columbia is recruiting. 

And here are my questions:

1) How many of the 30-35 players we bring in every year have been actually seen playing in real games by any of our recruiters and not just “seen” on video? 

This may be the only question we need to ask, but at the very least it's my top question. I have a sinking feeling a decent number of our recruited athletes are never seen in live game action by our coaches. 

Highlight videos and stat books for high school football can be very misleading. 

And we DO have documented evidence that some players we get to come to Columbia are last minute afterthoughts. 

Case in point: Incoming Punter Parker Thome, who didn't know really anything about Columbia and hadn't heard a thing about being recruited by us, was ON HIS WAY TO SIGNING A LOI to some D-III school in Minnesota when he suddenly got a call that we were dropping a Columbia degree on his head. 

His case almost fills me with as much horror as Norries Wilson's "mystery Christmas present" comment. 

2) Is there more pressure to get the best players, or to just fill out the roster?

I'm sure all the coaches want to get the best players, but at what point do they just start worrying more about getting a decent number of new bodies signed up? I'm thinking that point comes sooner than it should. 

3) How do we sell the Ivy League and Columbia to recruits right now?

With so few Ivy grads in our coaching ranks, are we even sure these guys know how to sell the league and Columbia properly to the high school kids and their parents? 

Even people over the age of 40 who DID go to an Ivy are most likely not aware of how things have radically changed to the point that getting into any Ivy is much, much harder than it was in the 1980's and 1990's. 

We're giving these kids a winning lottery ticket, and in too many cases, we can't get them to take it. Why?

4) How do we hear about our recruits in the First Place? 

I've heard the stock answers about how we see a lot of recruits at our summer camp days, etc. but do we have relationships with any high school coaches? Do we spend too much time on the Internet and not enough time on the road or in meetings with HS coaches, etc? Do the other Ivies use different methods to fish their recruits out? 

5) Do we not get the best recruits because of Columbia's bad football reputation, or because of our poor execution at recruiting?

This is the most important question of all. 

Wednesday, July 2, 2014


Breaking News from WKCR Sports: CU Men's Basketball plays at U Kentucky on December 10th

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Roster Notes

The football roster has been updated with new info for about 2 weeks now.

Here are some impressions:

-We have six players shorter than 5"10 and 27 players lighter than 200 lbs. It's good to see Columbia supports Pop Warner Football.

-One of our "Wide Receivers" is 5"8 and weighs 208 lbs. If true, he should resemble a frozen Butterball Turkey. Perhaps we should switch him to defense, grease him up, and roll him like a bowling ball at the opposing offensive line.

-Man, this coaching regime sure likes wide receivers. We have a total of 14 of them on the roster!

-On the other hand, we only have six RB's with a grand total of 202 rushing yards total from all of them. We know the QB's aren't allowed to run in this system, so let's hope the pass blocking is better this year.

-There are 18 offensive linemen on the roster. If we can't find five decent players in this group, then recruiting and coaching have totally crashed.

There are 17 DB's on the roster. Hopefully, they won't be as busy as they were last year making so many of the tackles.

-A HS player who says he has 4.39 speed, Cameron Roane, has been moved from his HS position of RB to DB for CU. Wouldn't we want someone with that kind of speed to be an offensive skill player? Or... could it be that his reported speed totals are exaggerated. NO!

The Italian Army

Vinny Pugliese

Some CU fans responded to my recent post about our very weak defensive line by saying that they thought our linebacking corps was even weaker.

I’m not really optimistic about that group either, but two veterans who have endured a lot and keep getting better and coming back for more give me reason for some hope.

I call returning senior LB’s Vinny Pugliese  and Ray Pesanello our “Italian Army.”

For four years now, the two of them have been bound together by more than just the fact that they’re always right next to each other on the roster alphabetically.

Until last season, they were statistically even as well. But Pugliese emerged in 2013 as a major force, collecting 63 tackles and making some very big plays. Pesanello remained in that area between 10-20 tackles, but still made an impact.

Either way, the two of them represent to most experienced and proven linebackers returning to the team this fall. Gone are Zach Olinger and Brian East, who were the #1 and #2 tacklers for CU last season respectively. And gone is the once-promising Mark Cieslak, who is off the team for unspecified reasons.

The still-promising Toba Akinleye has indeed moved over to LB as some readers pointed out, and that could help. There’s also a lot of hope behind incoming freshman Hagen Patterson, who could be the star of his class.

But when the chips are down for the defense this fall, I think Pugliese and Pesanello are both likely to be on the field. Experience really counts and these guys have that in spades.