Friday, February 27, 2015

Making Room

We still don't have any official news on Al Bagnoli's incoming staff of assistants, but if you head on over to the "coaches" page on the football website, you'll see just about the entire staff has been wiped clean.

But I feel fairly confident continuing to quote the reports that former longtime Penn Offensive Coordinator and O-line coach Jon McClaughlin will be joining the staff here at Columbia along with former Penn star center Joe D'Orazio. 

Of course the speculation is still running wild about Rick Flanders, who recently resigned at Yale and many expect to come here. Same goes for  Union Head Coach John Audino who worked with Bagnoli at Union, was a Lions assistant  for four years and was reportedly a key player in connecting Bagnoli with the administration and helping a deal get done.

I'll keep my eyes open for any news as I'm sure many of you will as well.

I Couldn't Resist!

(Courtesy: an inventive reader at the Daily Pennsylvanian)

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Open Enrollment Period

You know how at work you get a few months to change your health insurance, benefits, etc?

Al Bagnoli’s arrival at Columbia should serve as a broad “open enrollment” of sorts for former players still on campus who quit the team, recruits who were on the fence about Columbia but chose another school, and potential transfers who were recruited recently by Bagnoli and Penn and aren’t happy at the non-Ivy schools where they ended up.

Of course the same is true for potential assistant coaches, but I assume that window is closing very fast if it hasn’t already.

When players leave a team in the Ivies, whether voluntarily or not, there’s always a chance they won’t come back no matter how good they were on the field. Since the primary goal for every Ivy player is academic success, it’s often easy to just focus on your studies and not bother returning to the added burden of athletics.

But I have reason to believe that Columbia will enjoy the return of several strong players to help ease Bagnoli’s attempt to make Columbia relevant again.

At Tuesday’s news conference I saw DL Charles Melka looking ready to return to play. I have good reason to believe fellow DL Chad Washington may also be back in the fall along with LB Mark Cieslak. WR Isaiah Gross, who spent time in and out of Pete Mangurian’s dog house, may be returning as well.

I’m a believer that all the above-mentioned players would really upgrade the talent level of the 2015 Lions, particularly on defense where Washinton and Melka’s presence along with the returning star Niko Padilla could suddenly make our front line more than just relevant.

Obviously I can’t know or even comment much on potential transfers and recruits who could change their minds.

But let the word go forth: Columbia Football is now under new and excellent management!

Play Ball!

Columbia baseball begins its regular season tomorrow at the University of Houston. The Ivy champs are looking for a three-peat this year and the Columbia Spectator has a great preview of the season out today. 

Soccer Deal

The USL, which acts as a minor league to the MLS, has announced that the New York Red Bulls II team will play at the Rocco Commisso Soccer Stadium at the Baker Athletics Complex beginning this summer. 

I’m not sure how many of those games will be at night, but if they catch on in any way without any neighborhood protest they could act as solid proof that Lions football can host one or two night home games per season without destroying the epic beauty and silence of the Inwood neighborhood.

We’ll keep our eyes open for that. 

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Knocking it out of the Park

Al Bagnoli's first performance as the new Head Coach of Columbia Football was an unqualified success.

I quietly joined the packed crowd at Faculty House to see Bagnoli's introductory news conference and even though I was already optimistic about how things would go, he surprised me by doing even better than I could have hoped.

I've listened to Bagnoli for years. I even interviewed him several times as well. He was never gruff, aloof, or combative, but he usually wasn't very interesting or entertaining either.

Not yesterday.

The new coach said all the right things in a genuine, forthcoming, and appropriately humorous way. It was clear he even won over the neutral and skeptical news media representatives in the room.

Contrast that to the odd, poor or uncomfortable performances made by Bob Shoop, Norries Wilson, and Pete Mangurian the last three times Columbia put on one of this events.

You can go on the Ivy League Digital Network and watch it for yourself, but being in the room was important because it just felt different from all the similar news conferences we've held over the last few years.

A former Columbia football captain told me the same thing, insisting that because the event was so surreal in a way it was a good sign. Columbia has held too many of these introductory events for new football coaches over the years, and yet everyone involved seemed like this was the first time they had been to this rodeo.

And that's because in a big way it was the first time. It was the first time Columbia's administration had really done the appropriately right thing for football. The bold move finally came, and everyone involved and even close to it is taking some time to digest it.

Want to know a possible reason why Bagnoli was so happy yesterday?

He looks like a man who just got out of prison. I've known lots of men his age who realize about 2 weeks into retirement that they'd rather die. In fact, a lot of men do croak in the year or two after retirement. 

It's possible Columbia and Bagnoli will save each other

Someone asked me just before the news conference that if my fairy godmother appeared and told me I could get Joe Moglia to coach the team right now, would I take him?

My answer was no. Columbia grabbed the best person we possibly could for this job. Someone like Moglia, as great as he is, would need some time to get re-acclimated to this league. Bagnoli won't.


So now, it's time to celebrate this bold move with some support.

Log on to this site right now and make a gift for football. In the notation section I wrote that it was in honor of Al Bagnoli's appointment as head coach, and I urge you to do the same. (If you'd like to mention also that you're a reader of the "toxic blog" that would be fine too!)

I just made the first of what I hope will be many donations that are justified by success and bold moves to get that success.

Assistants Update

This piece in the Philadelphia Inquirer says long-time Penn offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Jon McClaughlin is going to have those same roles here at CU under Bagnoli.

This is an EXCELLENT development as McClaughlin always seemed to put together a great O-line for the Quakers and Lord knows, our offensive line is the biggest problem.

The Inquirer also says former Penn All Ivy star Joe D'Orazio is coming in as tight ends coach. I don't know much about D'Orazio's style, but I like his potential to relate to recruits. He is just 26 years old himself.

For the last two years, he's been coaching under Andy Reid with the KC Chiefs.

This outdated, but decent bio of D'Orazio from his one year at the University of Utah gives you some more info. He was a two-time 1st Team All Ivy, won two championships, and was a dominant center.

Bagnoli said he expects to have his staff finalized by the middle of next week, so look for more news on this front in the coming days. 

Crimson Crazy

The Harvard Crimson takes the prize for the "most-shocked columnist" reacting to the Bagnoli hire in this hyperbolic piece out today.

Funny thing is, you can't really blame him.

Imagine how shocked the Ivy and general sports media will be when we actually start winning.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

5 Questions for Al Bagnoli

The news conference introducing Al Bagnoli as the incoming Columbia Football Head Coach will be at 4pm today and will be broadcast live on the Ivy League Digital Network.

I sure hope no one asks him the annoying “how many games will you win this season?” question today.

It’s annoying because it’s kind of a trap question. Someone asked Pete Mangurian that question right off the bat at his introductory news conference in 2011 and it resulted in the first instance at Columbia of Pete showing his public anger.

So, please folks… ask him something else.

In fact, here are the top 5 questions someone should ask Bagnoli today:

1)      Did you get any specific assurances, (that you can tell us about), from the administration about further changes/improvements to the football program?

2)      We understand your phone has been ringing off the hook with calls from potential assistants. Without necessarily divulging any names, has the field of assistants looking to join you here exceeded your expectations?

3)      Looking across the field at Columbia for all these years, and recruiting against us as well, what’s the one thing that stood out to you the most that you think was the key reason for our lack of success?

4)      Does your arrival re-open the recruiting process to any extent? Do you hope to bring in a few more players who might choose Columbia now that you’re here?


Monday, February 23, 2015

BREAKING: News Conference Time & Place Set

Tomorrow's news conference to officially introduce Al Bagnoli as Head Coach of Columbia Football will be at 4:00pm tomorrow, (Tuesday), at Faculty House, 3rd floor.

The official announcement of Bagnoli's arrival is also now up on

Our Whole Premise is THIS

Bollinger has finally done what Sovern et al didn't have the guts to do

A lot of the debate raging right now over Columbia’s hiring of Al Bagnoli centers around predictions of how many games he’ll win with the Lions and how fast he’ll do it.

No one has emphasized the importance of actual wins on the field more than I, so I get the inclination to do that.

But I have to insist we wait on all of that until the actual season begins.

For now, it’s important for the true fans of Columbia football and Columbia athletics overall to recognize this most important fact:

This hire proves we’re finally getting what we wanted!

By that I mean that the main goal was never to fire any coach, or replace any one administrator… or even all of them.

The goal was for the administration to finally realize that it must make a profound financial and emotional commitment to the football program.

I strongly believe that the effort to hire Bagnoli out of retirement is evidence of just that.

Remember, to get Bagnoli we had to offer him a major salary that will easily dwarf what all the other Ivy football coaches earn. But also, count me among those who believe that Bagnoli still would not have come here unless he was also given ironclad assurances that other hurdles to on-the-field success are removed at every opportunity.

In other words, President Lee Bollinger had to agree to a lot of things his predecessors never would have to make this hire.

And this is what we’ve demanded for so long.

It’s exceedingly important to recognize this and be ready to do what it takes to reinforce this good behavior.

We can start by offering more financial support, which I plan to do the moment tomorrow’s Bagnoli news conference wraps up.

One More Thing

There happens to be an already-scheduled Ivy football coaches meeting set for Wednesday.

And sources tell me Ivy League Executive Director Robin Harris has already told Bagnoli that she expects him to be there! 

Sunday, February 22, 2015

This Just In

This email was just sent out by incoming Athletic Director Peter Pilling:

Columbia Athletics has good news to share. We are writing in advance of the public announcement to let you know—officially—that Al Bagnoli, nine-time Ivy League champion and the all-time winningest coach in NCAA Football Championship Subdivision history, will be introduced as Columbia’s new Patricia and Shepard Alexander Head Coach of Football tomorrow.

Many of you know Al from his time at the University of Pennsylvania where he amassed 148 wins over 23 years—some of you played against him! With a winning percentage of .714 in Ivy League contests, Al is the second winningest coach in Ivy League history. 

Beyond his many coaching accolades, we continue to be most impressed with his ability to mentor and motivate. Al is a teacher who prepares his student-athletes for lessons on the field and in life. We are grateful that he has made the decision to lead us during this important moment of transition. The fact that he is here speaks volumes about the University’s commitment to turn Columbia Football around.

Right now, we plan to have a press conference on Tuesday afternoon. We know this is short notice, but we hope some of you can rearrange your schedules to be with us as we welcome Al Bagnoli to Columbia. Thank you.

Best regards,

A Few More Details as We Wait

I expect an official announcement tomorrow of Al Bagnoli's hiring at Columbia with a news confernce set for Tuesday. But there's still a chance things might get pushed back a day. 

Here are some things to chew on until then:

1) Al Bagnoli visited with President Lee Bollinger Thursday night at the President's House on campus. That's when the deal was sealed. 

2) Multiple sources tell me the current relationship between Bagnoli, the Penn administration, and successor Ray Priore remain warm. I'm also told by two sources I trust that Bagnoli was not in any way "pushed out" as coach, and whatever issues he was not happy with arose after retirement. 

3) Bollinger deserves more credit than many of us realized for pulling this off. While he did not engineer the details by any means, he repeatedly green-lighted the funding and some of these unprecedented efforts. 

I do not believe this excuses the overall administration's poor communications through the almost 3 month period of total silence, and Bollinger's statements at that public event Wednesday were still inappropriate, (actually, the whole event was really bizarre in retrospect, but it doesn't matter now). BUT give the man credit: he is now looking like the first CU president in about a century to really take the leap for football. It was Nicholas Murray Butler who was president when Columbia famously almost pulled off hiring Knute Rockne from Notre Dame in 1930, so this is how long we've waited for this kind of bravado. 

4) There is a strong desire from Pillling's office to get Bagnoli's staff filled quickly. But this kind of hiring has to jump through some political hoops before it can be made official. That's why some of the news we had Friday about assistants possibly had to be walked back. Nevertheless, I doubt we'll have to wait long before the news on the assistant front becomes more solid. 

5) Columbia fans may hate Penn fans, but I think we should keep that to Saturday afternoons in the fall. Every Penn alum I've spoken to in the last four days is genuinely happy for Al, Columbia, and the league overall. Everyone believes the Ivies need Colimbia to be competitive and they recognize that New York is the central location for all Ivy alums worldwide. We all dream of a competitive Columbia with the home and away stands filled every game. 


Friday, February 20, 2015

Update: Bagnoli News Conference Set for Tuesday, Flanders/Audino in doubt

President Lee Bollinger's schedule permitting, the news conference to formally introduce Al Bagnoli as the new Head Coach of Columbia football will be this Tuesday. 

Meanwhile, a reputable source close to Bagnoli tells me Rick Flanders and John Audino may not be a part of the incoming staff after all. We will learn more in the coming days. 

UPDATED! Bagnoli Announcement to be Made Monday/Flanders and Audino reportedly in tow

Sources close to the team tell me the players have been notified that Al Bagnoli will be officially announced on Monday as the new Head Coach of Columbia Football.

News of Rick Flanders’ hiring as the new defensive coordinator has not yet been 100% confirmed, but the players are generally being made aware of that development as well.

As soon as I know the time and the place for the announcement, and hopefully a news conference, I will publish that here.

I know he bashed me publicly two days ago, (and he had to do it to please certain folks),  but I thank Rick Taylor for the role he has played in finally getting Columbia to make the commitment to winning in football.

UPDATE: Sources tell me that in addition to Rick Flanders as defensive coordinator, John Audino will be brought in as offensive coordinator.

This is not a youth movement to be sure, but Columbia now has the most experienced senior staff perhaps in Ivy history.

Audino has been head coach at Union since Bagnoli left there in 1992. He's had many coaching positions including a stint as an assistant at Columbia from 1977-81 under Bill Campbell and Bob Naso.

In the meantime, perhaps this is a good time to re-read a post I wrote about what Bagnoli's coaching prowess means in this league. I wrote it 3 1/2 years ago as the lead for my Ivy season preview.

Percy Haughton

It might also be a good time to do some historic reading about the legendary Percy Haughton.

Bagnoli is following a path created by Haughton when he came out of retirement to lead Columbia football in 1923. Haughton was a national champion three times with the Crimson before joining the Lions and instantly making the program a winner.

Sadly, Haughton died midway through his second season at Columbia, and we certainly hope that part of the story isn't repeated.

But if the Bagnoli hire proves that the CU administration is as serious about football as it was 92 years ago, then maybe we've already won.

BREAKING: Flanders Possibly Joining Bagnoli at Columbia

The Portal 31 blog is reporting that Yale Defensive Coordinator Rick Flanders has resigned. 

Sources tell me he will likely now join Al Bagnoli here in New York to lead the Columbia staff. 

Flanders' coaching resume is exceedingly impressive, so much so that I really don't have time to list it all here. 

But I will say that this is a guy a lot of Yale players and alums have wanted to be their head coach in the past. And he worked under Bagnoli before at Penn in the 90s. 

Ladies and gentlemen, in the course of 24 hours Columbia has gone from having the least experienced and successful coaching staff in the Ivies to one of the most successful and experienced ever. 

BREAKING: Bagnoli Deal is Sealed

Sources tell me Columbia University and former Penn Head Coach Al Bagnoli have indeed come to an agreement at least in principle. 

Bagnoli will be the new Head Coach of Columbia Football. 

This is a story that easily dwarfs any other off the field event in the last few decades of Ivy football history. 

Stay tuned for more details as they come in. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

5 Reasons Why Hiring Al Bagnoli Would be a Good Thing for Columbia

Will Columbia have what it takes to bring legendary former Penn coach Al Bagnoli to Morningside Heights?

I suspect we’ll find out in the next 48-72 hours.

Until then, let’s assess the reasons why he’s worth going after:

1)      He’s a winner

Do I need to document the facts all of us already know?


But I guess I need to talk about Bagnoli’s final two seasons at Penn and why they weren’t winning seasons.

I have my theories, and one is that perhaps he wasn’t getting the support he used to get from previous administrations.

Whatever the reason, the Quakers still kicked our butts both of those years and were no pushovers week to week.

2)      He already knows this league and this team

No shakedown period will be required with yet another coach who needs to get re-acclimated to Ivy rules and the state of the league as it stands now.

Bagnoli is also very well-versed when it comes to existing player personnel across the league. And I believe he already has an honest assessment of our current players.

This will eliminate the disadvantages we would have had by hiring another coach so late in the game. Perhaps the 2015 season won’t be a lost cause after all.

3)      He is revered and feared in this league

Do I have to remind Columbia fans how good Bagnoli is at working the refs?


But maybe I do have to remind fans that Bagnoli’s name carries a lot of weight with high school coaches across the country. He’s widely respected and the coaches out there who have routinely steered their kids away from Columbia will think twice about doing that if Bagnoli is at our helm.

On game days, I expect the stands to be fuller. Many Penn fans in New York tell me they’ll come to Columbia home games now just to see how this all works out. So we might get better attendance even before we win.

4)      He can groom a successor & teach the new A.D.

Lots of younger up-and-coming assistant coaches would be willing to put in some time under Bagnoli, (and for the higher salaries we’re going to offer), than with almost anyone else. With the list of assistants I’m told Bagnoli already can bring in, Columbia could actually have a coach waiting in the wings for the first time ever.

And I know it sounds a bit presumptuous, but who do you think Peter Pilling will look to for guidance as he tries to navigate the Ivies for the first time? I can’t think of a better teacher.

5)      It’s a sign of administration commitment

As Bruce Wood wrote earlier today. there’s no way Al Bagnoli is coming to Columbia without some real guarantees and specific promises from the administration that go beyond money.

This is what we’ve all been asking for for so long. Hiring Bagnoli and doing the things to get him to sign on the dotted line would be the first real sign of commitment from the administration since it hired Jim Garrett 30 years ago.

UPDATE: Bagnoli, Columbia Close to Deal

 Will he hoist one here?

The Philadelphia Daily News is reporting that former Penn Head Coach Al Bagnoli will meet with Columbia President Lee Bollinger and incoming Athletic Director Peter Pilling today or tomorrow.

It goes on to say Bagnoli is close to becoming the Lions new head coach as early as next week.

You may recall that on January 14th, I suggested that Bagnoli might be a good candidate for this job, but who knew that anyone was listening?

I think there are a lot of pros for Columbia in this move, provided some important details are worked out first. At 62, Bagnoli is not an old man by today's standards. But a major priority Columbia must demand is for him to focus on grooming possible successors within the program.

Too many people right now are focusing on the reasons why Bagnoli would want the job. I find this to be the result of lots of fans not understanding the kind of competitive fire a person like Bagnoli has. Money is also a big factor, and I believe he will be paid a record salary for an Ivy coach. But Bagnoli isn't doing this just for money. I think this is also about his desire to show he can win anywhere.

And remember, Bagnoli has been offered this job before. It was way back in 1989. Perhaps he sees this opportunity as a chance to complete some unfinished business.

As far as what I think of his abilities, that's well-documented on this blog and the old site over the past 10 years. Bagnoli may have played the role of the villain for a lot Lions fans, but I don't know of any of us who didn't think he was an excellent coach.

As the song says, let's see if he can make it here.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

BREAKING: Bagnoli in talks with Columbia

I had heard some rumors, but apparently it's true that just-retired Penn Head Coach Al Bagnoli is in talks to take the Columbia job. 

The link to the story from the Philadelphia Inquirer is here:

And thus, my prayers that Columbia fans would have something other than me and this blog to talk about have been answered in just a matter of hours. 

The Onslaught of Excellence

Faculty House

I’ll start with the positive things we learned from today’s event at Faculty House:

1)      Rick Taylor said we needed to pay our assistant coaches more. That’s very true and it’s helpful for him to say that publicly.

2)      President Lee Bollinger announced that $3 million is being spent to replace the playing surface at Kraft Field. That’s good news too since the Field Turf is 10 years old and Field Turf has a 10-year shelf life.

3)      The program has dropped the Fordham game beginning in 2016. (Not exactly “positive” news, but the right move for now).

4)      Everyone needs to give more money. (I know that’s not exactly different from what college administrations have said about everything for 100+ years, but a lot of people should donate more).

Now to the harder part.

I have to play the role of a realist again because much of what we heard and saw at Faculty House was an exercise in corruption.

New Athletic Director Peter Pilling is innocent of that charge of course and we still wish him every success. The same will go for the new head football coach, who Pilling said we have a soft target of hiring by mid-March. 

It wasn't fair to drag Pilling into this event at all. It may harm his ability to set a newer, warmer and more humble tone in the department's relationships with alumni. 

For example, I don't think Pilling would have rejected out of hand the idea for a practice field nearer to campus had he known how important an issue that's been to so many alumni for so many years. 

Meanwhile, Bollinger and Taylor were disappointing as what they said failed the truth test and failed the test of giving long-suffering fans and alumni some real hope.

Based on my own impressions and the impressions of several alumni who were at the event or listened in, here's what really stood out as egregious, false, and disappointing from Taylor's and Bollinger's words, (again, many of these impressions come from what I heard and what other alums who listened to or attended the event. I stand by them): 

1) Bollinger Thinks He's Awesome

Bollinger began by stating that Columbia and its administrators are doing a spectacular job in every aspect of human existence but for some curious reason, football alone has not responded to their onslaught of excellence. 

The praise for outgoing Athletic Director Dianne Murphy was excessive and contained the repeated false impression that she's overseen more Ivy championships in her tenure compared to her predecessors. 

That is false. 

But even if it were true,  no one is taking responsibility for this one place where the Bollinger regime isn't the greatest thing since cronuts.

I'm glad Bollinger is at least willing to admit there's a problem with football, something he was unwilling to do adequately last year, but it's clear that these people don't consider themselves responsible for creating the problem. How can a problem be fixed if no one takes responsibility for fixing it?

For a man who has such strong support from the trustees right now, his words in that preamble sounded oddly defensive and almost embattled.

2) Money for Nothing?

According to Taylor, our facilities are first class, our financial aid is first class, our administrators are first class but the alumni need to double their contributions. Why is money the problem if all these things are first class already? Is there something specific, like maybe a high-priced, but totally worth it head coach and assistants you want us to donate money to pay for? If so, why not just say the word? I have always insisted that a lot more money would come pouring into Columbia football even before we start winning, as long as something specific was there for donors to latch onto. 

We didn't get that today. 

Something also changed in Taylor's message from the December meeting compared to today.

When Taylor was asked at that first meeting if more alumni giving and participation would turn things around, and he said that wasn't really very important. 

I will give Taylor the benefit of the doubt that he simply reconsidered that statement and now honestly feels that alumni donations and participation will make a key difference to football's chances for winning. I'll also allow that maybe he didn't hear the original question clearly. But it's fishy. 

3) Mangurian Delusion

According to Taylor, Pete Mangurian did a hell of a job and was on the verge of success. He actually said that at one point.

I have to think they would have kept Mangurian if they could despite the 0-21 and the continued worsening performance of the team on the field. 

That really doesn't make me feel confident in their abilities to evaluate the depths of the problem. 

Taylor also said he did not have a more in-depth meeting with Mangurian after their initial meeting because he resigned beforehand.

Excuse me, but isn't Mangurian getting a pretty expensive buyout of his contract? Shouldn't one condition of that be that he keeps his appointment with Taylor? If that wasn't required, that's financial negligence on behalf of the administration.

4) Absence Breeds... Love?

According to Taylor, the fact that Bollinger allowed a situation to occur in which we had no AD or head coach for months is not a problem. The problem is my blog and cheap alumni.

5) As Expected: Bashing the Blog

And that leads to the fact that once again, an inordinate amount of time was spent talking about the blog and me... even if no one could bear to mention my name. 

They kept referring to me as "the blogger" like the Arab terrorists always call Israel the "Zionist Entity." 

Folks, the curious thing about all this is this: if they hate the blog so much and it's so bad and they resent the attention it gets, WHY do they keep giving it so much publicity?

The fact is, every failing regime needs to create scapegoats and phantom enemies.

In that sense, this blog must be the best thing that's ever happened to the Columbia administration.

I'm like Israel is to the failed Arab leaders in the Middle East: a phony enemy the regimes can focus on to deflect attention from their own failures.

Meanwhile, I don’t think there’s much need to respond to Taylor’s comments about me and the blog today since I explained very well yesterday how this concept that the blog is harmful is quite false and frankly dangerous for a regime that needs to hear as much criticism as possible.

The fact is, I respect Taylor even if he does not understand me or the work I’m doing. I am very used to being criticized and I try to take it to heart instead of ignoring it all out of hand. 

I Gave Taylor a Chance to Clarify the Record

But I do think it's important to clarify what Taylor was alluding to when he mentioned something about him on the blog that was not true. 

What he was talking about was my glowing summary of some of the positive things he suggested Dartmouth do to turn its program around about seven years ago. 

I emailed Taylor a few months ago and during his responses to me, he told me of his complaint that some parts of that praiseworthy account were not true, but never gave me any specifics. 

I told him that I considered my source on that story to be unimpeachable, BUT that does not mean that source’s information was 100% correct. 

So, I offered him the chance to tell me on or off the record what was wrong in the account, and he refused saying he wanted to focus on the present. 

Folks, when someone publicly complains that he's been portrayed inaccurately but he then refuses a simple chance to clarify the record, it's a big red flag. 

If what I said about the good things Taylor did at Dartmouth was wrong, it clearly wasn't so wrong that Taylor felt it was worth a minute of his time to fix. 

Now feel more confident than ever in every aspect of the Dartmouth story.

The funny thing is, my profile of Taylor and his moves were 100% positive! So it’s odd that he seems to take exception to them. As he spoke about that account today, he made it seem like I had some criticisms of his job or of him, but I have not. I only criticize him now for his comments today and his continued parroting of an erroneous untruth about the blog being a real problem. 

This is not criticism, but since we are speaking of accuracy, there were inaccuracies in Taylor’s comments today. His praise for Mangurian was over-the-top ridiculous, but then it really went too far when he gave him kudos for allegedly instituting the recruiting weekends. In truth, those weekends were instituted long before his arrival. Sure, some aspects of them were unique to Mangurian, but Taylor made it sound like he invented the wheel.  

And if we want to bring track records into the equation, well my record speaks for itself and so does the football program’s. 

Let’s just say my winning percentage is a lot better.

In short, Bollinger and Taylor embarrassed themselves greatly today. Pilling was unfortunately associated with that, but hopefully he'll wipe himself clean of it and I will try to help him do that. 

Meanwhile, every account of today's event will have this as a headline: "Worst Program in College Football Blames Alumni and a Blog for Failures!"

That will be followed by more endless jokes about Columbia football.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

5 Things We’d Like to Know

Ready to hear his words? 

We’re now less than a day away from the big public forum big public forum on Columbia football hosted by President Lee Bollinger and consultant Rick Taylor.

The event is only scheduled for an hour, so I’m not sure how much ground they will be able to cover or if they’ll field questions.

But I can say it would be a disappointment if we don’t get the answers to the following five, (some of them compound), questions:

1)      Have we hired a new head coach, and if not how close are we to doing that?

2)      If we haven’t hired a new coach, has the administration decided that an acceptable Plan B would be to stick with Chris Rippon as interim head coach through the 2015 season?

3)      After the questionable way Pete Mangurian was hired, do you think the hiring process this time should be more open and above-board? And if so, how do you hope to achieve that? While we certainly support Peter Pilling in his new position, his hiring process was just as unnecessarily secretive. Why don’t we allow any kind of alumni/fan input like so many other schools like Princeton?

4)      Can you explain your positions on Columbia’s financial aid packages, facilities, and all the other factors that people often believe play a role in hurting our recruiting efforts? And if there are things that you believe can be improved, do you have a timetable and plan to do that?

5)      Do you believe that the biggest reason Columbia football fails is because so many alums and even administrators don’t believe it can ever really succeed? If so, what can you do now to shock even those people into fostering some real hope in the program once again? And do you think you’re doing some of those things right now?

Pre-Emptive Statement

And since this blog was mentioned so prominently in the meeting with Mr. Taylor in December, I believe I need to once again clarify the facts about this blog and its real effects.

The negative things about the football program documented by me on this blog over the years are miniscule in comparison to the positive statements, historical reminiscing, and boosterism you’ve seen here as well.

But the reason to harp on the negative aspects was always the same: to warn the program of its failings and get it to stop repeating them.

It’s be agonizing to see those warnings ignored and the worst predictions of failure that I’ve made come true. But I don’t think I would be doing anyone a favor by keeping them to myself.

As far as the charge that this blog is used as a negative recruiting tool by our Ivy opponents… well that’s laughable isn’t it? This is a program that’s had three winning seasons over the past 44 years. This is a program currently on a 21-game losing streak where only one of those games was decided by one score or less. This is a program that has been famous for its futility for longer than my lifetime.

To blame this blog for recruiting issues is stranger and more pathetic than blaming the scoreboard operator for making us look bad too.

The "Anonymous" Head Fake

Finally, Bill Campbell and others beholden to him have often primarily complained about this blog because I allow anonymous people to comment.

With all due respect to Campbell and the people in the administration, including Taylor, who have parroted this absurdity, this is a particularly erroneous complaint.

As we learned via the James Dolan vs. the Knick fan email incident last week, too many people in power simply don’t want to allow criticism at all, whether it’s anonymous or not.

And as the one person who has consistently NOT hidden behind aliases to level my criticism of the program and its enablers, it’s especially irritating to hear this complaint.

Failing regimes need to hear criticism no matter how it’s disseminated. The fact that this administration has exerted so much energy in hopes of trying to silence this blog and denigrate its commenters is more than telling. It’s downright indicative of yet another regime that values quieting criticism over actually doing the things to make things better.

And we know that the effort hasn't even been conducted in the right way. Instead of complaining about me, the administration should have made more information available to all the fans and alumni. It should have provided more forums for open discussion. 

I'd really rather NOT be the #1 source of information and the #1 place to discuss everything about Columbia football.

And I don’t just say this to sound high and mighty; it’s the way I carry myself in my personal and professional life.

Not only do I allow people to criticize ME on this blog, but I also have the #1 recurring column on where the thousands of comments I often get on each piece usually run 90% against me.

Do I cry about this? 


I’m grateful for it because many of those comments, (all anonymous by the way), help to keep me honest and more humble. 

I pity the kind of people who can’t brook even this level of relatively benign criticism. I've also noticed most people like this tend to be a part of academia or government in some way.  

No wonder this administration hasn’t yet shown the inner strength to field a winning football program; it can’t even muster the strength to weather online comments!

Meanwhile, let me clarify one more thing. This blog’s M.O. for 10 years has been the same: insisting that the football program succeeds and accepting no excuses for continued failure.

Yes I DO know that this football program CAN win. And everything this blog has done has been based on that belief and everyone knows it.

I support Rick Taylor, Peter Pilling and Lee Bollinger and take them at their word when and if they say they are also committed to making this program a winner.

But they will have to continue proving this over time and they must grow a thicker skin and listen to the criticism along the way. 

Thursday, February 12, 2015

How About Nofri?

Mark Nofri

I wonder if more outstanding FCS coaches might be interested in the Columbia job.

After an historic 2013 season with the Pioneers, Nofri kicked it up another notch with a 9-3 record in 2014 and a top 25 ranking to end the year. 

Pros: He knows the general New York area and has really helped a program kick it up a serious notch.

Cons: Sacred Heart doesn’t have the admissions restrictions Columbia does and Nofri has only been a head coach for three years.

Anyway, he’s just another name to consider. 

STOP What You're Doing and Read this NOW!

I dare anyone not to take real pause after reading amazing story about Lion basketball freshman start Kyle Castlin.

I also dare anyone to continue harboring anti-athletics sentiments when you see what this kid had to overcome to make it to Columbia.

Hopefully, this story will lead to some real justice for Kyle and his family.

But I humbled by his ability to succeed so tremendously in the interim.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

One Week to Go?

Will we know the identity of Columbia’s next football head coach in time for that public forum with President Lee Bollinger and Rick Taylor one week from today?

Many fans believe we will, but since new Athletic Director Peter Pilling was just named to the job on Feb. 3rd, if Columbia does hire someone on or before the 18th you have to reason that most of the decision was made before Pilling was officially installed.

It’s not that I don’t think you can carry out a pretty good coaching search in 15 days, it’s just that it’s very hard to do.

Based on his Twitter feed, Pilling is currently traveling., (he Tweeted a pic of a Ed Sheeran lookalike onboard his plane yesterday). But whether he was in flight for personal reasons or to meet with some head coaching candidates is of course not something I know.

I’ve made the argument a few times here that considering the current state of the Columbia football team, rushing to hire a new head coach is not as important as it would be for other teams in the Ivies.

But I first made that argument back in November and not it’s mid-February. Whether the Lions have any chance to compete this coming season or not, it’s getting really late.

Pilling’s appointment takes at least half the heat Bollinger and Taylor would have faced on the 18th if they faced the alumni and fans with no new hires to show for themselves.

But I think the event could still be very uncomfortable for them both if they aren’t able to at least honestly say that Columbia is very close to hiring an excellent candidate for the coaching job.

Of course, some readers here have the right idea when they say that we need to hear something substantive from Bollinger and Taylor beyond chatter about our next coach.

What we really need to hear is something tangible about how we intend to bring in the best players. I’m talking about new approaches to recruiting and financial aid that the administration has rejected or hadn’t thought of in the past. If we don’t hear about that, then the Feb. 18th event won’t really be worth a full hour of our time. And if we don’t actually make those changes and try those new approaches, Columbia football will not win.

Again, I just don’t think Bollinger and Taylor are such gluttons for punishment that they would come to such an event without something really different to bring to the table. I suppose it’s possible that they are, or that they don’t think they’ll face real heat, but I doubt it. 

Monday, February 9, 2015

A VERY Good Sign

Maybe someone is listening to us at long last...

The long-awaited February 18th event where President Lee Bollinger and football consultant Rick Taylor discuss the state of the program will be available to ALL via conference call!

You can read about the details and get the access code here.

This is exactly the kind of improved openness Columbia needs to re-engage the alumni and build support behind the new Athletic Director Peter Pilling and the eventual new head football coach.

Yes there IS Interest

I can't reveal the names of the coaches who I can confirm have applied for our open head coaching job.

But I can tell you the interest is very HIGH in this job from very qualified people at all levels of football right now.

I report this for two reasons: 1) to soothe those who think our situation at Columbia is so bad, no one decent would ever want to come here.  2) to preempt anyone from the administration or anywhere else from claiming we hired a nobody because nobody better was interested... if indeed we hire a nobody.

Now, the following name is NOT one of the people I can confirm has applied for the job.

But I do think we should discuss a current D-III coach who might be a good fit for Columbia.

Chris Wilkerson

I have already mentioned U. Chicago Head Coach Chris Wilkerson very briefly on this blog one or two times.

But I wanted to talk a little more about Chris because he brings a little more than just success on the field to his resume.

Coach Wilkerson is also a great personality and I'd be a liar if I didn't say that I think having a gregarious personality is important considering our long-suffering fan base.

Just to rate our recent head coaches by that criteria, I will say that Norries Wilson exemplified that kind of a personality much of the time, but not quite enough. Ray Tellier was too soft spoken, And Bob Shoop and Pete Mangurian were basically hopeless.

Wilkerson is a good talker, and he'll need to be if he's hired because the first couple of years aren't likely to be that rosy.

Friday, February 6, 2015

Another Logical Choice

Sean McDonnell

Lord knows I'm not high-handed enough to stick with my list and only my list of possible coaching candidates.

After thinking about it a bit more, I realize UNH Head Coach Sean McDonnell is very likely someone Columbia is looking at for our open job.

They may have even made an offer already.

He was the head coach who brought in 
Chip Kelly to be the offensive coordinator when the Wildcats turned things around, and he's overseen the strong program ever since.

Sources tell me his salary is paltry and he should be at least interested in what Columbia can offer.

McDonnell was also an assistant at Columbia for two seasons in 1989 and 1990.

A lot's changed since then, but he at least knows where the stadium is.

Peter’s Picks

Call these guys

Let’s take incoming Columbia Athletic Director Peter Pilling at his word and assume he really is only looking to hire a new football head coach who has experience turning a program around.

That would seem to disqualify some of the rising stars in and around the Ivies and some big names too. But, a little nuance, (read “stretching), and poetic license might bring some of those people back into contention, and I’ll do that a little later.

For now, let’s look at who among my almost 3-month-old list of top candidates and see who still fits the “turnaround” bill:

1)      Joe Moglia

Sources tell me that some effort to woo him has been made by Columbia in the last month or so. It’s probably a stretch to think he would bolt Coastal Carolina at this point, but a redoubled effort should be made. Moglia turned around Chanticleers instantly and hasn’t looked back.

The pitch to make to get Moglia should be centered on New York City. Moglia needs to be here relatively often because of his position as TD Ameritrade Chairman anyway, so this would make life easier for him and his family.

More importantly, New York City is the best place for Moglia to be if he is going to stick with FCS football. Now that Moglia has been passed over for all the open FBS jobs, he should realize that those big programs will probably never hire him. That means his best next step is to be in the #1 media capital where every positive thing he does will get the most possible attention.  

Columbia might also want to appeal to Moglia to return to his coaching roots in the Ivy League. Wasn’t it a desire to return to those roots that inspired his entire career change?

2)      Tom Gilmore

Gilmore turned around his program at Holy Cross soon after he became the head coach. The program has had its ups and downs lately, but it is always a competitive team and punches above its scholarship and attractiveness rate in the Patriot League.

Gilmore has long deserved a chance to coach in the Ivies, where he was a legendary player and assistant coach. His players at Columbia hold him in highest regard.

Hiring him would not only be a good move on the field and in the locker room, it would also bring new financial and emotional support from a group of 40-50-year-old alums who are now at the height of their earning power.

3)      Phil Estes

The man who makes miracles year after year at Brown would be worth a very hard look. The facilities and atmosphere in Providence are dismal to say the least, but all the Bears do year in and year out is win.

4)      Mark Whipple

The man who turned around Brown and set the stage for Estes 20+ years ago deserves a call. He’s at UMass now, but Columbia can offer him more money and a better platform than New England.

5)      Greg Schiano

Yes, this may be a crazy stretch. But with the money Columbia is supposedly willing to pay, maybe it isn’t.

Should Pilling at least reach out to Schiano to gauge his interest?


Now, for the non-head coaches who I still think you can consider because they have had a big hand in turnarounds despite not being the head coach:

6)      Keith Clark

Dartmouth’s overall turnaround over the past five years owes a lot to Clark. He’s the offensive coordinator and it’s the offense that’s been the best of the two units for the Big Green over that time. Recruiting is a big reason why and Clark deserves credit for that too.

He was also well-liked during his time as an assistant at Columbia. He’s a link to that great 1996 team that went 8-2. He coached the offensive line, the only part of that offense that had real effectiveness and talent. The ’96 team was otherwise all about the defense.

7)      Mike Kelleher

Much of Brown’s sustained successful turnaround over the years has been due to Kelleher and the work he’s done with the always-underrated Brown defense.

Kelleher is also a former Columbia assistant who was well thought of here.

8)      Chris Wilkerson

Wilkerson was at Dartmouth for nine seasons before going to the University of Chicago to become the head coach last year. He's made a quick turnaround for the Maroons and he certainly understands coaching in a tough academic, urban environment. He also recruits the NYC area.

9)      James Perry

The Princeton offensive coordinator has been a whiz at turning around that unit and making it a scoring machine. He deserves a chance to be a head coach in this league.

And finally, here are two outside the box candidates I’d very much like to see interviewed:

10)   Matt Patricia

After the Patriots Super Bowl victory, I find it even harder to believe reports that Columbia is seriously trying to bring New England’s rising star defensive coordinator to Morningside Heights.

But stranger things have happened. Patricia has turned around the once-flagging Patriots defense and he relates to players in a way that makes me thing he might not be a bad recruiter.

11)   Nunzio Campanile

Campanile is the 34-year-old head coach of Bergen Catholic. He also learned his craft for years at Don Bosco HS. It’s a stretch to call him a turnaround expert, but Bergen is a better team overall than it was before he got there.

These two schools are a treasure trove of the best Ivy-eligible talent out there. With Campanile and his mentor Greg Toal’s help, Columbia would have a pipeline from two of the best Ivy-recruited schools in the Northeast.

But more importantly, a guy like Campanile is a recruiting expert because he’s actually in the room when every Ivy recruiter comes courting his players. He’s seen what we all do in our pitches, and he could do it better.

I know of at least three times in the recent past when Columbia acted like snobs and refused to give top high school coaches a fair chance at our open head coaching job. I know that attitude came from one donor who has too much power over this program as it is.

Campanile, if he’s interested, deserves a good hard look. 

Thursday, February 5, 2015

Tall Order

Brock Anglin

After seeing a post on VOY, I found confirmation from the school website that 6-6. 240 pound TE
Brock Anglin committed to Columbia yesterday.

Anglin goes to the Episcopal School of Dallas, not to be confused with All Saints Episcopal School in Fort Worth where fellow class of '19 commit Ryan Suitt comes from.

Anglin would be the first documented Episcopal School of Dallas grad to come to Columbia.

By all accounts, it appears Anglin is a blocking TE, not a pass catching TE... at least for now.

So let's update the list:

1) Brock Anglin TE 6-6, 240 lbs. Episcopal School Dallas, TX

2) Adam Armesto OL/TE 6-6, 235 lbs. Canton HS Canton, MI

3) Kyle Castner QB 6-2, 211 lbs. Ben Davis HS, Indianapolis, IN

4) Calvin Falkenhayn LB 6-2, 230 lbs. Loyola Academy, Wilmette, IL

5) Lucas Faria RB 5-10, 190 lbs. Sparta HS, Sparta, NJ

6) Ryan Gilbert DB 6-0, 178 lbs. Bellevue HS, Bellevue, WA

7) Connor Halm DT 6-7, 270 lbs. Langley HS McClean, VA

8) Michael Hinton DE 6-4, 221 lbs. Reynolds HS Winston-Salem, NC

9) Danny Hong QB 6-4, 215 lbs. Bishop Gorman HS, Las Vegas, NV

10) Brandon Krcilek WR 6-2, 185 lbs. Hamilton HS Chandlerm AZ

11) Cole McDonough OL 6-2, 290 lbs. Bel Air HS Bel Air, MD

12) John Riley McLaughlin CB/WR 6-1, 192 lbs. Alcoa HS Alcoa, TN/Phillips Andover Academy Andover, MA

13) Luke Melsop DE 6-5, 220 lbs. St, Francis de Sales HS Newark, OH

14) H.T. Minor RB 5-9, 175 lbs. Woodberry Forest HS Woodberry Forest, VA

15) Ryan Suitt QB 6-1, 175 lbs. All Saints Episcopal HS Fort Worth, TX

16) Peter Szymanski OL 6-6, 275 lbs. Maine South HS Park Ridge, IL

17) Jason Vravick LB 6-2, 225 lbs. Stevenson HS Lincolnshire, IL

18) Sean "Jimmy" White DB 6-3, 220 lbs. Friendswood HS, Friendswood, TX