Friday, July 31, 2015

Why I’m Glad I’m Not a Coach, Running Backs Edition

Cameron Molina

I don’t pretend to have the skills needed to evaluate college football talent on the practice field.

I can watch them play in actual games and make some educated guesses about their abilities, but that’s about it.

That’s why I’m really happy I’m not the one who has to sort through the large number of running backs who will report to training camp three weeks from now. That number includes two freshmen, a transfer, and a veteran who switched positions.

This is the job RB Coach Todd Gilcrist, Offensive Coordinator Mike Faragalli and, of course, Head Coach Al Bagnoli have to sift through:

Of course, senior Cameron Molina should be at the top of the depth chart after a junior season where he led the offensive stat sheet and found a way to put in some stellar performances in a winless season.

After Molina, things get complicated.

In training camp last year, then-freshman Chris Schroer made a splash and he showed a flash or two on the field in 2014 despite an early season injury. He comes from a pretty strong HS program in Cincinnati and could be a factor if he stays healthy.

Fellow sophomore Turner DeMuth was a sparkplug as he got into more games and proved to be a decent runner and receiving target out of the backfield.

Junior Alan Watson had an injury interrupted season and is very hard to rank.

They’re listed as running backs, but sophomore Leander Cutler is a fullback and Tyler Kwiatkowski appears to be put into something of an H-Back role. Both had good springs, and Cutler seems to be improving a lot as blocker.

Incoming freshman Lucas Faria comes in as one of the most highly touted, (there’s that hated phrase again, but it’s accurate), running backs for Columbia in years. Fellow freshman H.T. Minor is more of an unknown quantity, but he comes in with some all state honors.

Finally, there’s transfer Jackson Conway, the Yale commit-turned Duke walk-on who simply cannot be ignored at 5-11 and 235 pounds. No one should be surprised if he ends up getting significant playing time and makes an impact.

Considering the solid way Molina player last year, no one would consider Columbia’s running game to be the biggest concern going into this season. But there is still tremendous room for improvement and Bagnoli spent most of his years at Penn crafting a running game by committee approach that often featured at least one serious receiving threat out of the backfield.

I’m just glad I’m not the one who has to make these choices.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Tanner Thomas Interview

The ABC affiliate in Knoxville featured incoming 2016 freshman Tanner Thomas in this video.

This segment in the football-rich state of Tennessee is worth a lot to the Columbia recruiting efforts.

Do CU a favor and share the video as much as you can!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

The Power of Twitter

With six recruits already committed to coming to Columbia Football for 2016, (we all realize that's committing to report 13 months from now, right?), it's clear we have something new and different going on right now in the program.

The reason for all of this is a very motivated new staff that has the unimpeachable and impression name of Al Bagnoli to carry around with them.

But they need more than that, and one of the tools this staff is using and using quite well it Twitter.

Twitter is indeed a great recruiting tool and we've seen it in action just over the last few days.

When Columbia offers a recruit a spot, he Tweets his excitement and gratitude and then all of his peers. (who often happen to be recruits),  see it. The excitement gets infectious and I strongly believe that infectious excitement prompts other recruits to commit.

The Columbia staff is also Tweeting out strong and positive messages about the program and the school at every opportunity. The existing commits tend to retweet those messages and the advertising base grows exponentially.

Talk about a 180-degree change from two years ago when Twitter was generally a tool that was embarrassing and hindering the program.

I would encourage all fans to follow the Twitter accounts of the assistant coaches and other staffers. They're a great source of info, but I'm beginning to believe fans can actually help things along by retweeting and replying to some of these messages.

I know that the previous staff Tweeted too, but not with this kind of effectiveness or frequency.

The days of radio silence are over. Let's spread the word.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

New Tennessee Commit UPDATED

An RB Tanner Thomas from Knoxville's Farragut HS has just committed to Columbia for 2016.

He was named the PrepExtra 2013 Sophomore of the Year:

This past season, as a junior, he ran for 1,469 yard and scored 23 TD's.

He's only the second Farragut HS player to come to Columbia and the first since Edward Spraker '58. 

Here's the updated list of 2016 commits:

1) Parker Coogan OL/DT 6-2 270 lbs. Kingwood HS Houston, TX

2) Matt Dame QB 6-2 185 lbs. Suncoast HS Riviera Beach, FL

3) Alex Gibson RB 5-10 195 lbs. Central Bucks High School East Doylestown, PA

4) Lamine Nouck-A-Nwal DE/OL  6-4 250 lbs. Central Bucks High School East Doylestown, PA

5) Hunter Petlansky QB 6-2 225 lbs. Modesto Central Catholic HS Modesto, CA

6) Tanner Thomas RB 5-10 183 lbs. Farragut HS Knoxville, TN

Doylestown Pipeline UPDATED

Alex Gibson

Yet another player from Central Bucks High School East has committed to the Lions for 2016.

This time it's 5-10 195 pound RB Alex Gibson.

Gibson was just named to the 2016 Eastern PA High School football watch list.

This news comes just a few days after Gibson's teammate DE/OL Lamine Nouck-A-Nwal announced he was coming to Columbia next year.

Kudos to Tight Ends Coach Joe D'Orazio, who recruits this area for getting two players from a competitive, high quality football program that had never sent any players to Columbia before.

But D'Orazio knows a lot about Doylestown. One of his best teammates at St. Joe's Prep in Philly was Doylestown native Andy Shalbrack '10. Shalbrack went on to be a four year impact player at safety at Columbia and the man who scored the TD on the best play of the decade, (2000-2009), for the Lions.

It seems crazy to start a list of 2016 commits so early, but it's time to start keeping track as we have five names already:

1) Parker Coogan OL/DT 6-2 270 lbs. Kingwood HS Houston, TX

2) Matt Dame QB 6-2 185 lbs. Suncoast HS Riviera Beach, FL

3) Alex Gibson RB 5-10 195 lbs. Central Bucks High School East Doylestown, PA

4) Lamine Nouck-A-Nwal DE/OL  6-4 250 lbs. Central Bucks High School East Doylestown, PA

5) Hunter Petlansky QB 6-2 225 lbs. Modesto Central Catholic HS Modesto, CA

Monday, July 27, 2015

Surprise Surprise!

The Ivy League has officially announced the television schedule for the 2015 football season.

It turns out Columbia will have not one, but TWO Friday night games on its schedule this fall to accommodate an more ambitious slate of coverage from NBC Sports Network, (NBSN)

We already guessed the week 3 Ivy opener at Princeton would be on a Friday night, but the season finale at home against Brown is also now a Friday night game on NBCSN, moved from Saturday November, 21 to November 20th.

Also, the day game against Yale will be televised by FOX College Sports.

And here's an additional surprise: despite no TV coverage that we know of yet, the week four home game against Wagner is now a night game. It will kick off at 6pm on October 10th.

Since the start time for the week six game against Dartmouth is now officially 3pm, I think there's a still a good chance that game will be televised.

Columbia's Homecoming game against Penn will begin at 3:30, thus accommodating all the Homecoming Day festivities.

Some thoughts:

-I can't remember the last time I looked at Columbia's or any Ivy team's upcoming schedule and times and really noticed this many changes. This is the kind of change that's good. It shakes up a brand that needs shaking up.

-I really like adding two night games on weeks where Columbia will probably need some help getting some new fans into the seats. The first-ever game against fellow NYC team Wagner is a great game to move to 6pm. The game will still end early enough to ease the noise fears from the Inwood. And it will start late enough to allow for Wagner fans to get in from Staten Island and everyone to get a chance for a nice late lunch/early dinner tailgate or picnic going.

-The season finale against Brown could be a chilly affair, but the week 10 games can often be a big problem attendance-wise since they're up against Harvard-Yale. Putting this game on Friday night avoids that problem while also showing NBCSN's unique commitment to the league by airing two Ivy games on the same weekend. (When was the last time that happened?). And one BIG DEAL is that those of us who have always wanted to go to the Harvard-Yale game but didn't want to miss Columbia's season finale now have the best ever option to do so.

-The newbie in all of this for the Ivies is the American Sports Network. It is not televising any Columbia games this fall, but it is doing seven games including what looks like a few marquee match ups. They include the Princeton-Dartmouth game in the final week of the season, the Princeton-Harvard game, and the Penn-Harvard game. That's some very good real estate for a newcomer, but all the ASN games will also still be available on the Ivy League Digital Network.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Mission Accomplished

The Modesto Bee has a nice piece today on new Columbia commit Hunter Petlansky

A number of fans have asked me today about the perils of recruiting and committing to so many QB’s so early.

I have three reasons why it’s right to do this:

1)      QB is a Crucial Position

If we can all agree that having a good QB is so important, then we should agree that you need as many options as possible at the position.

2)      Bagnoli’s Been Caught Short

Head Coach Al Bagnoli’s last two years at Penn were marked by a lack of healthy, talented QB’s. I have a feeling he’s not going to let that happen here.

3)      Recruiting QB’s Early Promotes the Program Best

QB’s get all the attention. It’s not fair, but it’s true. The local paper is much more likely to publish a piece about a QB who has committed going into his senior year than a player at another position. It’s priceless to have an article like this talking about the turnaround at Columbia under Bagnoli in a newspaper published 3,000 miles from campus. I’m not saying our staff is doing this for the publicity alone, but it makes a lot of sense to make sure news of your commitments gets out there.

Another big reason is that QB’s tend to be great overall athletes and so many great wide receivers and tight ends were QB’s in high school. 

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Doylestown Commit


Lamine Nouck-A-Nwal

It's been a busy July and it's getting busier.

6-4 250 pounds DE/OL  Lamine Nouck-A-Nwal has committed to Columbia for 2016.

He is primarily an O-lineman.

Nouck-A-Nwal would be the first Central Bucks High School East grad to play for the Lions.

Where We're Stacked

Niko shouldn't have to pray for support this fall

One thing about Columbia football is that fans have often been surprised about the specific areas of weakness and strength on the team. There are many years where we’re convinced the offense is better than the defense or vice versa only to find out that the opposite was true once the season actually started.

So with the humility that needs to come with these kinds of analyses, I still want to focus on one area of this Lions team that looks like it’s completely stacked with talent and depth: the defensive line.

Head Coach Al Bagnoli immediately singled out the D-line as the strength of the team in his introductory news conference back in February. Since then, the situation seems to have only improved.

The two established stars in the unit are DT Niko Padilla and DE Toba Akinleye. Both are seniors and have the potential for 1st Team All Ivy years.

But I’m excited by at least five other players on the defensive line, some of whom Columbia fans may not have noticed or forgotten.

The first is returning senior Chad Washington. Chad was not in school last year as he had to deal with a number of off the field issues, but he is still an explosive player who has potential for a breakout season before he leaves college football.

Next is sophomore Lord Hyeamang. It was a terrible season last year, but Hyeamang did great things for a freshman lineman. He looked good in the spring and he’s another one of those players in the Ivies who came late to football in high school and that’s why he wasn’t snatched up by a bigger program. I have a feeling this will be the season where a lot of Columbia fans start saying “praise the Lord!”

Another impressive sophomore is Dominic Perkovic. The 6-6 Perkovic also got a lot of good playing time as a frosh and looked good in the spring.

Junior Justin Aimonetti is making the transition from the OL to the DL and had a strong spring. Those of you who read his column in the Columbia Spectator can probably guess that Aimonetti is trying to be a leader on this team and I expect him to do something to back that up on the field this year.

I'm also optimistic about returning junior Charles Melka, who is back on the team after being out of school last fall. Most of us remember how good a player his older brother Nick was for the Lions and I think Charles has the same potential. It’s very good news that he’s back.

And then there’s one more player who totally escaped my radar and probably a few others. Incoming freshman Mike Hinton was actually offered a preferred walk-on slot at Wake Forest and could make an early impact.

Returning veteran senior JD Hurt might have to fight hard to keep his playing time as high as it was last year, but that’s a good problem for the team to have.

And I really liked sophomore Alexander Holme last year at LB, and perhaps he can make a bigger impact as he has now been moved onto the line.

I can’t wait until they post the starting lineups and we see who beat out the tough competition to get the top spots.

Is this the best D-line in the Ivies? That doesn’t really matter because D-lines don’t play against each other. The important question is whether this D-line can beat the O-lines it will face for 10 straight weeks this fall. I think it has a chance to beat them all and dominate against some others. And maybe more importantly, this D-line is Columbia’s best chance to shed the losing image and get some nastiness going on the field. 

California QB Commits

Hunter Petlansky

6-2 225 pound QB Hunter Petlansky announced yesterday that he has committed to Columbia for 2016.

Petlansky has already led Central Catholic HS to two straight state championships. He's a pro style QB, but he only averages about 15 throws a game.

He had some interest and offers from San Jose State and schools like Arizona.

Petlansky will be the first documented Modesto Central Catholic player to come to play for Columbia.

His region is recruited by Columbia assistant coach and very newlywed John Poppe. 

New Assistants

Speaking of assistants, we now know for sure what we saw on Twitter: Columbia football has two new assistant coaches. They are defensive assistant Lewis Walker and offensive assistant Kevin Callahan.

Walker played as a DB and a special teams specialist at the University of Hawaii before transferring to the University of Utah and graduating from there in 2013,

Callahan played for Amherst and after he graduated last year, he won the Edward Hitchcock Fellowship for the graduating senior interested in pursuing a coaching career.

We Have Logo!

Click to enlarge the picture above and you can see our new midfield logo.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

More Turf

Director of Columbia Football Player Personnel Eric Hahn Tweeted out the above picture of the new Kraft Field turf looking more than half finished.

Is is just my imagination, or does it look like the beginnings of a midfield logo are in the picture?

Looks Like More TV

Bruce Wood’s Big Green Alert blog reports that the Columbia game at Dartmouth on October 24th will start at 3pm. That unusual start time leads me to believe the game will be televised, probably on one of the regional FOX Sports channels.

I think the Ivy title this year will come down to Harvard and Dartmouth, so this could be a good chance to see how Columbia fares against the best of the league at midseason. And Dartmouth has the best player in the league in QB Dalyn Williams, so that’s another big test… unless Williams sits out the Columbia game as he did last year just as a risk-free precaution. I say risk-free because the Big Green still beat the Lions by 20 points. 

The Toughest Lion

Col. Chris Riga

In case you think the Columbia recruiting pitch is only about all the exciting jobs New York has to offer, you might also want to focus on the toughness that playing football in this city instills in so many players.

And perhaps the toughest Lion there is has a lot more to deal with than a crowded subway train when it comes to getting to work every day.

I'm talking about Chris Riga '87, captain of the 1986 Lions who happens to be the Group Commander of the 7th Special Forces Army Airborne.

Riga joined the Army right out of Columbia. The last uniform he wore that wasn't an Army uniform was a Lion uniform.

Riga came to Columbia after a PG year at Northfield-Mount Hermon Prep School and four years at Westfield HS in Massachusetts.

At Columbia, he was a called a "madman" on the field even though he was gracious and kind off the gridiron. The Columbia Spectator did this feature piece on Riga prior to the 1986 season that discussed his leadership on defense as the middle linebacker. Despite Columbia's 0-10 record that year, Riga made Honorable Mention All Ivy.

But his service to our country is so much more important. And because of that, I wanted to include below his complete and latest Army bio:

Colonel Christopher N. Riga enlisted in the U.S. Army in August 1987 following graduation from Columbia University, and served as an infantryman in the 82nd Airborne Division. 

In September 1991, Col. Riga attended Officer Candidate School. He was commissioned as an Infantry Second Lieutenant upon Graduation from Officer Candidate School Class 01-92 on 30 January 1992, and served as a Platoon Leader and Executive Officer in the 82nd Airborne Division and the 75th Ranger Regiment. 

In 1998, Col. Riga graduated from the Special Forces Qualification Course and was assigned to 3rd Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (A). He served as a Detachment Commander and Assistant S-3 from 1998 to 2002.  Col. Riga then attended the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, Calif., and the Command and General Staff College at Fort Leavenworth, Ks. 

After graduating from CGSC, Col. Riga returned to 3rd Special Forces Group (A). He served as the Bravo Company Commander and Operations Officer for 3rd Battalion from 2004 to 2006, and as the Group Operations Officer and CJSOTF Deputy J-3 from 2006 to 2007. Col. Riga was then assigned to the United States Army Special Operations Command where he served as the DCS G3 Executive Officer, and as the Assistant Chief of Staff. From August 2009 to July 2011, Col. Riga served as the Battalion Commander, 1st Battalion, 3rd Special Forces Group (A). During that time, he served as the Special Operations Task Force-South Commander, Kandahar, Afghanistan, from September 2010 to April 2011. 

Following command, Col. Riga served as the Military Assistant to the Secretary of the Army from July 2011 to June 2012. Col. Riga graduated from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government as an Army War College Fellow. Col. Riga was assigned as the 7th Special Forces Group (Airborne) Commander in July of 2013 and most recently served as the Combined Joint Special Operations Task Force Commander - Afghanistan from November 2013 to August 2014. 

Col. Riga has served in combat in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, multiple rotations in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, and Operation Iraqi Freedom. He also served with the Multinational Force and Observers while assigned to the 82nd Airborne Division, in Operation Safehaven while assigned to the Ranger Regiment, and Operation Joint Forge as a Detachment Commander. 

Col. Riga’s awards include the Defense Superior Service Medal, Legion of Merit, Bronze Star Medal for Valor with three oak leaf clusters, Meritorious Service Medal with three oak leaf clusters, Army Commendation Medal for Valor with four oak leaf clusters, and other achievement, service and foreign awards. He has earned the Combat Infantryman Badge (two awards), Expert Infantryman Badge, Master Parachutist Badge, Pathfinder Badge, Ranger Tab and Special Forces Tab.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

A Few More Updates

Bo Layton

-Incoming RB Lucas Faria played in the North-South All Star Football Classic in New Jersey late last month. His future prospects at Columbia were featured in this article in the NJ Herald.

(all the recruiting info below comes directly from these players' and their coaches' Twitter feeds)

-Max Mangum a DB from Westlake HS in Austin, TX, (same school as current Lion Zach Dansby's alma mater), was offered in early July.

-Bo Layton, a 6-6 DE/OL from Christian Academy in Knoxville, TN received an offer from Columbia also in early July. Cornell also offered him in June. Layton would be first Lion footballer from that HS.

-RB Jake Heiple from Somerset HS in Somerset, PA was offered by Columbia in late June. He also visited campus about 10 days ago. 

New Field Almost Ready

You can click the above picture to enlarge the photo Tweeted out by Athletic Director Peter Pilling yesterday.

I like the very colorful new end zone design, but am still very curious to see if the field will have some kind of midfield logo.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Never on a Friday

Lineup page from the 1934 Rose Bowl

Now that we know Columbia's Ivy League opener at Princeton will be played on Friday night October 2nd, it begs the question: Has Columbia Football ever played a game on a day that was not Saturday before?

We know the answer has been "yes," on at least two occasions.

1) The Rose Bowl game that Columbia won on New Year's Day 1934 was played on a Monday.

2) Columbia's re-scheduled 2001 season finale, (the game was postponed because of the 9/11 attacks), was played on a Thanksgiving Thursday at Fordham.

Now I would assume that there were some games the Lions played before 1900 that are likely to have been on weekdays. But any way you look at it, this is a rare event in Columbia history.

UPDATE: One smart Columbia fan has informed me that he has found another non-Saturday game. The October 29, 1891 contest between the Lions and Rutgers was on a Thursday.

Uniforms Unveiled Soon?

During the spring, reports said we would get our first look at the new Lion uniforms in July. With 11 days left to go in the month, I suspect some fans are getting very eager to see them.

The best bet to see the new look first will be to keep returning to the Columbia Football Instagram account.

UPDATE: The players have been told that their new uniforms will be hanging in the lockers on the day they report back to Columbia for training camp on August 10th. But we may see those uniforms before then.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

UPDATE: Munsil plans to walk on

Matt Munsil grabs a pass

On Monday, I wrote about former Arizona small schools player of the year Matt Munsil being accepted to Columbia via regular admission and speculated about whether he might try to walk on to the football team, baseball team, or both.

Based on Tweets since then from his father and others, I now can report that Munsil does intend to walk on to the football team and attend training camp next month.

Penn Adds Transfers, and that's Good News

LB Colton Moskal

Why do I think Penn's addition of two FBS transfers, including one blue-chipper LB from Syracuse, is a good thing?

Because more big time transfers coming into the Ivies helps the entire league not only get more transfers, but also more blue chip recruits out of high school. Moves like this raise the stature of the league among the kids who are currently choosing between a big FBS program and an offer from an Ivy school.

Sure, it won't feel great if some other school's transfers smoke our team on the field on any given Saturday. But two can play at that game, and Columbia has high hopes on a transfer of our own in Skyler Mornhinweg this fall.

Ivy League football faces a lot of financial, cultural and generational challenges. Just look at all the empty seats at any given game if you need proof of that. The one thing that has the best chance of saving it and even increasing its stature on and off campus is more star players.

As a brand, Ivy League football just got a big boost from these transfers. Let's enjoy it and encourage this to happen more.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

BREAKING: Columbia-Princeton on Friday Night

Princeton Stadium at night

The Princeton website now has the updated game times for the 2015 football season and it lists the Columbia game at Princeton for Friday night October 2nd at Princeton Stadium.

The Princeton site does not say the game will be broadcast on NBC Sports Network, but I am pretty sure that it will be, and Princeton simply is not at liberty to publish that info right now. I am still not ruling out another network broadcasting the game, but I would be surprised.

As I wrote here nine days ago, the Princeton game is pretty much the most broadcast worthy and available game for Columbia on NBCSN this year.

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Gutted in the Bronx?

Two straight years of being smashed by 40+ points by the athletic scholarship-laden Fordham Rams, not to mention the move to drop them from the schedule, probably has just about every Lions fan writing off the season opener at Rose Hill as a definite loss.

Not so fast my friend.

A quick look at the Fordham roster shows the Rams have suffered an extraordinary number of graduation losses including their star QB and the entire experienced receiving corps. The top defensive stars, except for two, are also gone.

This chart shows that Fordham has actually lost the most impact players to graduation than any other team in the FCS.

Fordham still has possibly the best RB in the FCS in sophomore Chase Edmonds who torched Columbia for 174 yards and a rushing and a receiving TD last season. His capable backup, Kendell Pearcy is also back.

And the Rams have two of the best linebackers in the FCS. First is Stephen Hodge who missed 2014 because of injury. Second is Marlon Crook, an absolute beast of a player at 6-5 and 232 pounds.

But this is where the Fordham decision to go to athletic scholarships a few years ago really meets the first test. That is, now the initial recruiting edge has been diminished by most of Fordham's Patriot League opponents also offering scholarships, can the Rams reload?

I wouldn't be surprised if they have done so, but I also find it hard to believe that Fordham will be able to field a team as good as the 2013 and 2014 squads this season. That's even though two college football magazines have picked the Rams to repeat as Patriot League champs.

Fordham is also excited that FIU transfer QB Luke Medlock is joining the team on the field this season.

But also remember that Fordham takes on Columbia after opening its season with two brutal games against Army and Villanova.

Bottom line, this is  a much more winnable game for the Lions than the games against Fordham were the last two years, (remember the 2012 game went down to the wire).

How funny would it be after we've arranged to end this series, Columbia pulls out a win in the Bronx in 67 days?

Location, Location, Location

A day AFTER I wrote my post explaining why NYC is a superior place to go to college, the Washington Post published this story enumerating all the things i was talking about.

Here are some of the key graphs the Columbia recruiters need to push hard. And with our new regime under Al Bagnoli I know for a fact there is a big emphasis on promoting the Columbia brand in a much better way than the previous coaching regime and athletic director did:

"In order to experience those off-campus opportunities, students either need to travel or go to a school in a place that has a strong and diverse economy offering a multitude of options for experiential learning."

"Most of the nation’s colleges and universities were built for a different era, when being spread out geographically was seen as an asset because it offered easy access for students no matter where they lived. Today, with ease of travel and communication, having a college in your backyard doesn’t matter as much as being located in a dynamic city."

"... as you’re looking at schools this summer, don’t just search for the closest Starbucks. Be sure to also check out what the place offers in terms of learning opportunities off the campus. It could matter more than anything in terms of what you ultimately do with that bachelor’s degree."

Monday, July 13, 2015

Added Walk-On?

A former star WR at a small Arizona high school is coming to Columbia this fall. The questions are: Will he play sports? Will he play football? Or will he play baseball? 

His name is Matt Munsil son of the current president of Arizona Christian University. 

Matt took a gap year during which he did some touring of Europe. He was accepted here via regular admission. 

Thursday, July 9, 2015

Roster Updated

The football roster has now been updated to include the names and bios of the incoming freshmen and transfers, (although walk-ons like Jake Young are not on the roster yet).

It does not appear that player weights have been updated yet.

Texas Commitment

Parker Coogan

The Tweets and other hints were flying yesterday, but now we can say that 6-2 270-pound OL/DT Parker Coogan has made a verbal commitment to come to Columbia in 2016.

Coogan plays for Kingwood HS in Houston and already had at least one other offer, from the Air Force Academy.

Scouts seem to like Coogan more as guard or a center than a defensive player. He was All District 1st Team as an OL last season,

Based on my database of all known Columbia football players, Coogan would be the first Kingwood grad to come to the Lions for football.

And One...

Jake Young

In late May, I got word of an excellent football player who Lafayette had heavily recruited for their grid team who was coming to Columbia instead... but to wrestle.

I also heard that this incoming freshman really wanted to play football for the Lions in addition to wrestling, just like the great Lou Miller '10 did for us not so long ago.

Now it looks like everything has been worked out and Freedom High School's Jake Young says he will indeed play both sports at Columbia this year.

Even though Young starred as a DB at Freedom, he's reportedly going to play slot receiver for the Lions.

Based on my database of all known Columbia football players,Young would be the fourth Freedom HS grad to come to the Lions for football and the first since Charles Henderson '96.

I also think new Head Coach Al Bagnoli's presence with this program inspired Young's choice in a way the previous coaching regime never could have done. People want to play for him, period.

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

Emperors of the City

A loyal reader recently pointed out to me that I've done a good job promoting the Ivies as a superior choice for college-bound athletes, but I haven't explained in a long time why Columbia is a superior choice among the Ivies. He was right.

First off, I have to say that I don't actually think Columbia is the best choice for every player. That should be obvious, but I wanted to get that out there in case someone doesn't understand.

Second, the following points are my list of what I would call Columbia's unique advantages. They are not the only great things about CU, but they're things a lot of people may not recognize or articulate well enough to be convincing.

1) "New York City" is a powerful thing to put on your resume

The obvious advantages of New York City as a great cosmopolitan center have been enumerated many times and in better ways than I ever could.

And many people have made the very important point that any career a student is interested in will provide much more numerous and convenient internship opportunities here in the city.

But the city life isn't for everyone... at least not forever. And that's where we need to make it clear that no matter where you go after Columbia, the fact that you lived in New York City will always be an impressive part of your professional and personal resume.

I can say that as someone who spent most of his childhood outside of NYC, then moved here for my late adolescence through college, moved away again before returning 18 years ago.

No matter where else I lived, even the people who claimed they hated or were scared of New York were impressed that I had lived there and could navigate the city confidently at any time.

Sure, you can be a Texas boy and talk a lot about how you long to return home for four years. But if you do it right, you'll be a bit of a local legend back home for the rest of your life because of your New York experiences and all the fun you had and challenges you conquered along the way.

And if you do decide to stay, being a Columbia grad will give you a very strong head start on all the other new graduates who flood into this city every summer.

At some point in your life, on and off the field, you're going to have the chance to prove yourself on the biggest stage. It will then be up to you to accept the challenge or stay in the minor leagues. New York is the biggest stage and is the place for people who want to excel at their chosen field at the top level.

2) New York City is an excellent "college town"

Actually, NYC isn't a "college town," it's just a great place to go to college. How many New Yorkers would jump at the chance to experience this city with the time even the most hard-working Columbia student has on his or her hands? Most of us work 50+ hour work weeks and we can't realistically hope to enjoy all the things this city has to offer with any regularity. I figure even a student-athlete during the season has more free time than your average working professional.

Beyond that, New York is uniquely set up for younger people when it comes to getting around. The subway is an amazingly cheap way to get places much faster than driving. Walking and actually enjoying a city at less then 55 MPH is optimal here. Many Columbia grads who leave the city, (myself included), find themselves gaining some real weight because of all the walking they're no longer doing now that they're out of New York.

3) New York in centrally located for the Ivies

Columbia is basically right in the middle of the geographic chunk of the country populated by the Ivy schools. But with our train stations and airports, we're more conveniently located too. If you're coming to Columbia from anywhere along the East Coast, it will be an easy trip for you and your family.

This may not sound like much now, but talk to the parents of kids who go to the other Ivy schools and ask them what it's like to fly or drive to their sons' home football games.

4) The food is unbelievable

When I was a student at Columbia from 1988-92, the food choices immediately around campus weren't great. But that's changed in a big way. Of course, the food choices in the greater city are not even worth arguing about. Of course, NYC has the best restaurants. That's a big reason why almost every football player at Columbia talks about how their happiest moments off the field are when they have a post game meal with their families.

5) Cities are the future

Baby boomers and Gen X'ers grew up with the notion that America's large cities were crumbling and dying. Now it looks like more of our suburbs are in danger than cities. If economic success and quality of life are important to you, urban areas are a better bet. Now's your chance to get used to it.

Monday, July 6, 2015

Speculating in the Dark of Night (Games)

So if Columbia is going to play a night game on a Friday this coming season because of the structure of the expected NBC Sports Network deal, which game or games are most likely to get that spotlight slot?

Here's a breakdown of our schedule game by game

Week 1: at Fordham

This wouldn't be a bad choice for NBC since Fordham is becoming more of a national FCS power, but this is Fordham's Homecoming and I doubt the Rams will be able or willing to change the schedule of all their corresponding events from Saturday afternoon to Friday night.

Week 2: Georgetown

I can't imagine this game will be much of a draw for a national audience, but the real giveaway is that Georgetown's game the following week at Harvard is definitely scheduled for a Friday night. No way NBCSN is going to want to feature Georgetown two weeks in a row,

Week 3: Princeton

This would be one of my favorite personal choices for a number of reasons, not the least of which being that early season games at Princeton during the day can be scorching hot. The Tigers have a night home game the week before against Davidson, but Princeton is used to playing multiple night home games early in the season.

Week 4: Wagner

Wagner is actually a strong team with D-I transfers and lots of other weapons. But this is not the game NBCSN is going to want to feature.

Week 5: Penn

Now this is the game I'm sure NBC would LOVE to have as we have the much-awaited first meeting between new Lions Head Coach Al Bagnoli and his old Penn Quakers. The problem is this is Columbia's Homecoming game and I just don't think things can be moved to a Friday night to accommodate.

Week 6: at Dartmouth

It's an intriguing game for many reasons, but I'm not sure fans would appreciate a night game in Hanover in late October. Plus, I think there's a good chance the Dartmouth-Harvard game the following week at Harvard could be the featured game for NBCSN and I'm not sure it will want to put Dartmouth on two weeks in a row.

Week 7: at Yale

There are some reports that Yale is ready to bring in portable lights for the Bowl this season, so this is at least a possibility. But again, we have an overexposure issue. Yale is going to have its game at Penn the week before this game broadcast on NBCSN's Friday night schedule.

Week 8: Harvard

November 6th could be a chilly date for a night game in NYC, but the odds are it won't be too bad. And Harvard is the only team NBCSN probably does want to overexpose. So this could be the winner in the sweepstakes.

Week 9: at Cornell  

A night game on November 13th in Ithaca is an entirely different story. I would say this game has no chance of being moved to a Friday night slot.

Week 10: Brown

With NBCSN all locked in on the Harvard-Yale game Saturday, there's is officially no chance this game gets on the network,

So the bottom line is that it looks like the Princeton and Harvard games have the best chances of getting the Friday night treatment. Of course, that does not mean Columbia won't get another game broadcast on NBCSN on the regular Saturday afternoon slot. If we're talking afternoon games, then I think the Columbia-Penn game is not only the most likely NBCSN broadcast for the Lions, but also the most potentially lucrative for the network.

As for the argument that these night games on Friday disrupt tradition... well, I think one game out of 10 per year is not a threat to anything.

And we also need a preemptive strike against anyone in the neighborhood who will launch some kind of bogus protest about a 7pm kickoff. Granted, Columbia can make sure the recorded music and canned noise is kept to a minimum, but with the game likely to be over before 10pm, I just don't see this as a real issue. Plus, Inwood is becoming a home to more and more neighborhood restaurants and bars that will be open long after the game is over.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Florida Find

Matt Dame

The Palm Beach Post is reporting that 6-2 185 pound QB Matt Dame has committed to Columbia.

Dame speaks highly of Head Coach Al Bagnoli and says he chose Columbia in part because he wants to work on Wall Street.

Dame is about to start his senior year at Suncoast High School in Riviera Beach, Florida. He would be the first Suncoast grad to come to Columbia football.

Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Friday Night Lights... for Everyone!

It looks like every Ivy team will be playing at least one game on a Friday night this coming season.

Harvard is the first team to unofficially get this out there as it posts two Friday night home games on it's single game ticket schedule web page.

I suspect this is part of NBC Sports Network's plans to increase viewership for its Ivy football coverage by putting the games out of the very crowded Saturday college football schedule. And I think it will work, especially with some of the key games like Dartmouth at Harvard on October 30th.

Friday evening football has a history in Ivies. I should say it HAD a history until freshman football teams were eliminated in 1993. When Columbia fielded excellent freshmen teams in 1987 and 1989, it was not uncommon to see louder crowds in the stands for the frosh games on Friday nights.

I expect to see Columbia play at least one of these night games, but I have no idea if it will be at home or on the road. NBC might really want to televise the big Penn-Columbia game on Friday night, but that is Homecoming weekend for the Lions and I don't think all the Saturday festivities can easily be moved to Friday night. Perhaps the home games against Harvard or Brown will be more feasible. I can also see the road game against Princeton as being a Friday night possibility.

Bottom line, I think this will help the league. It will help our games stand out and perhaps send a message to the Ivy presidents that new traditions can be a good thing. Maybe if this works out they'll finally approve Ivy entry into the FCS playoffs.

A man can dream,

BREAKING: Yankees Sign Falcone

Really great news from the New York Yankees today as the Bombers have Joey Falcone to a minor league contract.

The all-time great Columbia slugger and Iraq/Afgan war vet will join the Yanks' Gulf Coast League affiliate in rookie ball and should be in the lineup as soon as tonight.

It won't be easy for Falcone as a 29-year-old rookie playing with a bunch of 18, 19, and 20-year-olds. But he's battle tested in more ways than one.