The numbers are about as grim as they can be for the football team (0-6, 0-3 Ivy), and there haven’t been many signs of progress as the 2013 season continues.
Saturday’s 56-0 loss to Dartmouth (3-3, 2-1 Ivy) accentuated the Light Blue’s abundant problems on both sides of the ball, best illustrated by the discrepancy in total offense: 575 yards for Dartmouth to 95 yards for Columbia.
And while the Lions rank either last or toward the bottom of most categories in the Ancient Eight, they’re also one of the worst teams statistically in the entire Football Championship Subdivision. In the 122-team FCS, Columbia is No. 120 in total defense, surrendering 524.8 yards per game. The Light Blue ranks dead last in total offense, averaging 176 yards per game. And the team is No. 121 in scoring offense, with its 7.5 points per game ranking above Austin Peay State University of the Ohio Valley Conference, which is averaging just five points in its eight contests.
Obviously, the Lions have myriad problems to solve throughout the rest of the season.
“I think if you’re the leader, and I am, you’ve got to look at yourself first. You’ve got to say, ‘What do I have to do differently?’” head coach Pete Mangurian said after Saturday’s game. “I’ve been around a lot of guys with a lot of answers, and I think I’ve got a pretty good handle on things. But you’ve still got to look, and you’ve got to see.”
Mangurian said that the disappointment on his players’ faces after a loss like Saturday’s is one of the toughest parts of his job because, he said, he knows how hard they’re working.
Part of the problem is that the Lions’ issues go deeper than just what happens on the field.
“They’re trying to change a culture. And there’s a lot of things involved in that, and it’s not just football,” Mangurian said. “When I can get it to when it just comes down to the football part of it and doesn’t come down to the toughness part of it, and the work ethic part of it, and the character part of it, and all the things that you have to have to create a program—then we’re making progress.”
Yet there has to be a balance between the issue of changing the culture—a task made tougher by the Columbia environment, to be sure—and the problems on the field.
“Probably the hardest thing is you get caught going back and forth between the football part and the intangible parts,” Mangurian said. “But that’s where we are right now—we’ve got to fix them both.”
What goes along with changing a culture is the creation of an identity. Mangurian has constantly been able to pinpoint how other teams in the league define what they want to do on offense and defense this season, and that will be a vital factor for Columbia’s success going forward.
“Every team I’ve been around that’s been successful had an identity,” Mangurian said. “They knew who they were and what they wanted to be. And you recruit to that, and when you get kids that fit that mold, then they recruit more kids that fit that mold, and it continues to grow and get stronger and stronger.”
Though the Lions have not yet established that kind of identity, they still have the respect of those around the League.
“I’ve been in that situation before, and Pete is coaching them well,” Dartmouth head coach Buddy Teevens said after Saturday’s game. “The kids are playing hard. They’ve got some talent and there’s a lot of young guys out there. It’s just you take your lumps early and the things you don’t see as quickly when you age. It’s tough getting experience like that.”
Though it may be disheartening for now, what Columbia needs most is time to establish a new identity and culture.
“I’m not a patient person, but this is one of those situations that’s going to call for patience,” Mangurian said. “But you always get caught as a coach saying, ‘How long is it going to take?’ We’re going as fast as we can. You always wish it was faster.”