Sports | Football

IN FOCUS: Change is a long process for Light Blue football

  • Kiera Wood / Senior Staff Photographer
    patience | Lions head coach Pete Mangurian is aware of the difficulties facing his team, but he still believes that the program is growing despite this season.

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.”

myles.simmons@columbiaspectator.com  | @MSmmns210

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Anonymous posted on

Wrong, Mangurian. Leaders must get results. Before results come, they must try to get them in the right way. You do none of the above.

But then, why are we talking about only the football team? Columbia administrators are not leaders either.

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sageman posted on

Mangurian is nauseating to listen to. He is full of excuses "the past", "the culture", "old habits". He points the finger everywhere but towards himself. President Bollinger, would you accept this performance from a tenured professor? Did your many Nobel laureates blame the lack of of staff or equipment?
Mangurian demonstrates a total lack of leadership. Please move in a different direction before you lose the passion and dedication of the 80 football players who have to be "guided" by this self serving head coach.

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kl posted on

it is a constant barrage of excuses and blame. they are moving rapidly away from the culture he dismisses, in the wrong direction. they are significantly worse than they have ever been.

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Alum 94 posted on

I would be interested in hearing from the players, past and present, and previous coaches on why it is so difficult to succeed or at least be competitive.

This season has become an abomination, especially considering the expectations based on last season and new recruits.

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Uptown posted on

I'm not sure President Bollinger would have swallowed this drivel when he was at Michigan

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Anonymous posted on

Makes me wonder when M. Dianne is going to cut him loose. Is there anyone waiting in the wings?

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Anonymous posted on

He will be fired at end of season.

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Anonymous posted on

And we had 3 wins last year...

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Anonymous posted on

Our football program makes us all look bad. If we are going to play football, then we should aim to be excellent.
When we send teams out to compete at other schools they represent our university.

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Anonymous posted on

Columbia looks bad even without the dismal football performance. Late discovery and inaction on cheating for admissions by a relative of the Kazakh dictator. Alumni relations officer gallivanting in Asia to offer admissions slots via some alumni / alumnae (not to legacy applicants, but to anybody) in exchange for donations. Campus security ignoring physical assaults right in front of their eyes. The college bailing out the assaulter. Racist tweets. Rapes in frats. Drug deals in frats. And all these things happening right under the noses of Columbia administrators. This is a place of organized crime.

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Anonymous posted on

Didn't Princeton's head coach, who now leads what may be the Ivy League's best team, lose every game in his first and second seasons there (0-20)? And didn't Coach Mangurian's predecessor, Coach Wilson, have only one season of his six with the Light Blue in which his team didn't lose more than they won (that year, his debut I believe, the Lions went 5-5)? Let's be fair and give the CU head football coach a chance before calling for his head. The best thing Columbia fans can do now is rally to their beleaguered team and support it.

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Anonymous posted on

You're not seriously comparing Columbia football to Princeton??

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Anonymous posted on

Rather than call for the head coach's resignation, Princeton, which unlike Columbia has a winning football tradition and is therefore less likely to tolerate losing, allowed him to go 0 for 20 before the team started winning. Thanks to that, today the Tigers are winning big. Columbia has a lot farther to go before it gets on the winning track than Princeton did; Columbians thus ought to be more patient with and understanding of the process. That is how I read what the commentator wrote--not a comparison of the Lion and Tiger programs but a contrast. (I suggest you read the comments thoroughly before responding to them. Also, someone should check that 0 for 20 stat.)

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Anonymous posted on

I read the comment very thoroughly. How many times can Columbians be asked to show patience with the football program as millions of dollars get invested with nothing to show for it? Happy to tolerate a couple of 0-10 seasons if I'm a Princeton fan because I know that things will turn around. How many winning seasons has Columbia football had in its history? Someone should check that stat. (Don't get me wrong - I am not one of these CU football haters. I wish and hope that the program will see some success soon but if I were Dr. M. Dianne Murphy, I would seriously reconsider how my resources are being allocated. A much larger bang for our buck can be had in other sports)

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Anonymous posted on

Mangurian should get at least 4 or 5 years to show he's got the program pointed in the right direction; Wilson got what? 6 years to do that? I'd only fire Mangurian before that time is up if his players were to lose faith in him and started quitting the team in droves. Spec. should try to find out how the team feels about the coaches and the program, and if the players have in fact lost faith in their coach(es) or not.

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Anonymous posted on

Based on the article, the coach said the problem is his players lack toughness, work ethic and character. The football issues can't be solved until he an instill those characteristics in them. Is expressing that criticism publicly really a good coaching move? Is it even a fair assessment of our players?

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Alum 94 posted on

I believe the Lions have had 39 losing seasons in the last 42 years. This was a stat I read after the latest debacle.
Mangurian should have at least 5 or 6 years. This will give him time to see how his recruits perform. We are certainly not ND, which would fire a coach before he can see his return on recruits, i.e., Ty Willingham.

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CU True Blue posted on

The stat Alum 94 cited is correct--39 of our last 42 seasons have been losing ones. This is beyond unacceptable. And for those who talk about being "competitive," we've fallen far short of the mark. Losing 56-0 to Dartmouth? Dartmouth? Are you kidding me?

I should also clarify one point a previous poster made about the record of the current Princeton head coach (Bob Surace). In each of his first two seasons, Surace coached Princeton to a 1-9 record. So Surace began his tenure 2-18, not 0-20. I can't find the info about the scores of the games in his first season (2010), but in Surace's second season, Princeton was already competitive.

Perhaps not surprisingly, Princeton's lone win that year (2011) was against our beloved Lions, 24-21. But that Princeton team was already starting to be competitive--they opened the season with a 12-point loss to a ranked Lehigh team, lost by five to Hampton, put up 39 against Harvard, and then, at the end of the season, lost to Yale and Dartmouth by 9 and 7, respectively. Princeton finished the season tied for last in the Ivies with (guess who?) CU.

The next season saw Surace's squad go 5-5. All of which is to say we're not even close to where Princeton was in 2010 and 2011.

So what is wrong with our team?

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