Sports | Football

Discontent with Athletics grows, as alumni spearhead efforts to make institutional reforms

  • reassurance | Bill Campbell, CC '62, and the chair of the University's board of trustees (left) is confident in Athletic Director M. Dianne Murphy and head football coach Pete Mangurian. University President Lee Bollinger (center) and Robert K. Kraft, CC '60, (right) look on at last year's Homecoming game.
  • Kiera Wood / Senior Staff Photographer
    hardships | The Lions finished this season with an 0-10 record. The program scored only 73 points the entire season.
  • Frustrations | Football head coach Pete Mangurian is in only his second year as head coach, but fans and alumni are already calling for his job.
  • Peter Andrews for Spectator
    Look! In the sky! | The frustration at Baker Field was palpable in the season's final game, as alumni paid for a plane to fly over the field in the second quarter with a sign reading, “THX SENIORS GO LIONS LUV U!! MANG & MURPHY...JUST GO.”

“In baseball, they joke about the Chicago Cubs not having won a world series since 1908,” says Ernest Brod, CC ’58 and a former Spectator sports editor. In Ivy football, he points out, the joke is on Columbia. It’s been 52 years since the football program won its only Ivy League title, an accomplishment that the Lions shared with Harvard in 1961.

Even before the football team finished its spectacularly disappointing 0-10 season, concerns were raised about the state of the program. It’s not just the record: The lopsided scores, alumni say, speak to bigger problems with the team’s management.

Athletics has suddenly become a hot topic of campus conversation, especially after University President Lee Bollinger’s letter to the editor in Spectator last week, in which he defended Athletic Director M. Dianne Murphy’s job performance.

Other letters have expressed concern regarding the general direction of the athletics department as a whole in addition to issues with the football program. These outcries have not only been from students but also from alumni who have dedicated a lot of time, and in some instances money, to the football team.

In Ivy play over the past six years, the Lions went 9-33, a 0.21 winning percentage. Although the losing nature of the football team is nothing new, what disturbs alumni and fans the most is the margin of losses this season. 

“My problem is how this kind of losing can just go on year after year, decade after decade. And nothing changes,” Brod, who is also on Spectator’s board of trustees, said. “The ADs come and go, the coaches come and go. And the results are always terrible.” 

Desmond Werthman, CC ’93, has written to Murphy asking her to remove his name from the Columbia football Hall of Fame.

File Photo
Leader of the pack | Athletic Director M. Dianne Murphy thinks that the greatest problem facing recruitment for potential football players is the negativity from alumni.

“Please take down whatever plaque or description you have of me and no longer print any of the records I hold in any of the programs going forward,” he wrote in a letter he shared with Spectator.

“There’s a certain type of individual who can lead Columbia to success, and there’s a certain type of coach,” Werthman said in an interview. “We just, I think, may not have that currently.”

Dozens of other alumni, many with strong connections to the football team, believe that the losing tradition that’s become the norm of the football program is hurting Columbia’s image and can only be solved with a change at the top.

The Brand
“Columbia has been branded as losers because we haven’t gotten decent sports teams, even though academically we’re stars,” Robert Levine, CC ’58, said. “I’ve been going to Columbia games for over 50 years. I’ve never seen a team so unprepared for each game and so noncompetitive.”

He added, “Even during the 44-game losing streak back in the ’80s, the team was competitive, and in a lot of the games. This year, they’re totally noncompetitive, and frankly, they look unprepared.”

In his Spectator letter last week, Bollinger highlighted many of Columbia’s recent athletic successes in sports like tennis and cross country. But alumni say that branding relies on more than a few winning teams here and there—successful marquee teams help a school’s reputation.

“I think it’s important to have our major teams be good. It’s nice having a good swimming team and a good track team, but I think that football and basketball are the sports that everyone judges the school on,” Levine said.

Brod echoed Levine’s beliefs, pointing out that even at an Ivy League university, football remains an important institution. 

“Football is the way a lot of colleges get defined in the minds of a lot of people,” Brod said.

Despite the losing football program, Murphy disagrees with Levine’s and Brod’s concerns. 

“I think that our students that come to Columbia are smart enough to appreciate that our institution is a great university in the greatest city in the world, we have great faculty—and that, yes, athletics is a part of that, we want it to be a part of that,” she said in an interview. “But I don’t think that because we have a losing football team this year, that that’s impacting Columbia’s brand.”

Murphy said she understands why the emphasis is often placed on football, but that it doesn’t make sense to put the focus on only one program.

“I’m not going to tell a young man or a young woman who competes in our women’s tennis team, or our men’s tennis team, or our Ivy-champion, No. 8-ranked cross country team … that we don’t care about them and that they don’t matter. They matter! They matter as much as football,” she said. 

By the Numbers
This season, the Light Blue gave up 402 points and scored only 73. The smallest margin of loss was 14 points, the widest 56. Four different opponents scored 50-plus points against the Lions this season, a program first. The last time the Lions went 0-10 was in 1987, and that team only gave up 311 points and earned 104. The smallest margin of loss was only three points, and the widest was 42.

“You can lose games, yes, but … the way we’re losing games is horrendous,” Peter Cohn, CC ’58, said.

The big-picture stats are not in Columbia’s favor, either. The Ivy League formed in 1945 exclusively for football, but by 1954 the agreement was extended to all varsity sports. Since then, Columbia has won a single football championship, not far behind Cornell’s three Ivy football titles, but miles behind Dartmouth at 17.

In an interview shortly before he sent his letter, Bollinger said that he believed the school’s athletics record had been on the rise since Murphy arrived in fall 2004.

“I think there’s been enormous improvement. I really do, and I think the numbers show that across the board,” he said.

Since the 1995-96 season, the Lions have earned 174 individual championships, leading only Dartmouth, which garnered 137. But as for Ivy League team championships since 1956, Columbia is in last place with 89. Meanwhile, Princeton leads with 434 team championships, and Harvard has 369.

Under Murphy, the Lions have won 21 Ivy team championships. On the other end of the spectrum, Princeton has won 99 team championships in the same nine years.

Alumni Concerns
Two years ago, when football went 1-9, alumni called for Murphy to fire then-head coach Norries Wilson. Now, while some want to see Mangurian gone—even though he’s been at the helm for just two years—there are louder voices calling for Murphy’s firing.

Much of that debate has been fueled by Roar Lions 2013, a blog about Columbia football run by Jake Novak, CC ’92. On Monday, Novak reported that about 65 former football players—including three members of the athletic department’s hall of fame—had signed a petition calling for Murphy’s and Mangurian’s jobs. And throughout the season, Novak has been writing about what he considers questionable strategic decisions on Mangurian’s part.

Many alumni, including Novak on his blog, have voiced concerns about Mangurian’s philosophy of a lightweight offensive line. 

The average weight of Columbia’s offensive line in the first week of Ivy play this season was 263.8 pounds. Princeton and Harvard, who shared the Ivy title this year, had average weights of 276 and 273 pounds, respectively. While having a lighter offensive line may help players move more quickly, it might also have contributed to the higher number of injuries seen this year. 

“His whole concept of these lighter, more athletic linemen … I don’t think­ is going to fly. And I think this year is an example of that,” Cohn said.

Football alum Rich Forzani, CC ’66, said that numerous parents have approached him this season with concerns about the health of their sons. According to Forzani, one parent he spoke with said that his son was trying to drop 30 to 35 pounds and was passing out because he wasn’t given guidelines for how to drop the weight in a healthy manner.

“Something has to change,” Brod said. “You can’t keep throwing kids out there to get beaten up by 30 or 40 points game after game, year after year. It’s crazy.”

Regardless, Bollinger doesn’t see the need to make a coaching change at this point in time. 

“I think Dianne has done an excellent job. She’s totally dedicated to this, and I think the results show this,” he said. “Give him [Mangurian] and give the program some time. I don’t accept for a second that we’ve got to change leadership and so on. That’s not my view, not my position, and it’s not going to happen.”

And though the loudest voices surrounding the team right now are ones of discontent, the program has a major benefactor at the top: Bill Campbell, CC ’62 and the chair of the University’s board of trustees. Campbell served as the team’s head coach from 1974 to 1979 and was the principal donor for Baker Field’s Campbell Sports Center, which opened in 2012.

In an interview, he said he thought two years was not enough time to judge Mangurian’s success.

“I’ve been there, so maybe I am a little more sympathetic than I should be,” he said. “Dianne Murphy has come in, and I think done a really, really terrific job in taking over a program that was so far behind everybody else’s that every step she had to get was an important one.”

Moving Forward
“There are ingrained, institutional problems that have to be ferreted out and addressed,” Brod said. 

The five alumni from the class of 1958 interviewed for this article urged a re-examination of the recruitment process.

“What I advocate is that there needs to be a real investigation that goes back over a period of years and talks to kids who were offered a spot at Columbia, offered football spots, and they chose to go elsewhere. And we need to understand what are the main reasons that the talented kids that we’re trying to get don’t come,” Brod said. 

“There’s gotta be something we’re doing wrong” with recruitment, Robert Waldbaum, CC ’58, said. 

Brod’s fear, shared by many other alumni, is that more so than actual problems with the recruiting process, recruits are turning down Columbia because of its history of losing.

This fear has been vocalized quite publicly in the past few weeks—and Murphy sees the very loud criticism as one of the most harmful things to recruitment. 

“Quite frankly, I think what’s made difficult about recruiting is the negativity from some of these alumni,” Murphy said. “To me, that’s the hardest thing. To me, that’s what impacts recruiting more than anything.”

Both Mangurian and Murphy also said that a big part of the recruiting process for football is selling the idea of being part of a cultural change within Columbia football.

Although the head coach is honest in recruiting players, he also says that it’s a very special type of player who chooses to come to Columbia. 

“Losing is a temporary state, and it’s not one that we’re going to be in for very long,” he said. “And obviously, we’re working very hard to make sure that doesn’t stay that way.”

Another solution—endorsed by the 65 alumni on Novak’s blog—proposes replacing both Mangurian and Murphy before inviting an outside committee of experts to analyze what they describe as systemic issues contributing to the program’s legacy of losing. 

“The thing that I feel the University has absolutely never done is put together a real, blue-ribbon committee and do a careful investigation on why this has been going on for so long,” Brod said. “What’s the problem? What’s wrong? There’s something clearly, fundamentally wrong when we can’t compete and haven’t been able to.”

Campbell balked at the suggestion.

“I don’t know that there’s much that’s hidden these days, that you can’t find out how the successful people are doing,” he said.

But the team’s leadership knows there’s a problem.

“We have suffered greatly from a lack of tradition,” Campbell said.

Mangurian would not put any sort of timeline on the process of turning the program around, but he is confident that the systems are in place.

“This is not a quick fix, this is not a Band-Aid. There’s been Band-Aids put on this program for a long, long time. We’re basically pulling the Band-Aid off, we’re going to cure what’s wrong, and that takes time. We’re going to build something that’ll last for a while,” he said.

No one is calling for the team’s transformation into an Ivy Championship-winning team by next season, but everyone wants to see the program be competitive.

“This year has been so disastrous,” Cohn said, “and there is nothing to suggest that next year is going to be any better.”

alison.macke@columbiaspectator.com  |  @alimacke

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Anon posted on

Interesting that Murphy says that she believes all sports matter. Here is a story which I think says otherwise:

Recently she had a meeting with her top admins which help cover a specific subset of athletics. One may pay special attention to tennis and softball, the other to basketball and soccer, etc...Murphy went and ranked the teams A,B,C, and D in order of importance. She went and ranked Rowing as a "D Level" sport. I.e. a sport of least significance. Now, this is fine, except for the fact that at the last Varsity C dinner she spent a good amount of the time talking about how amazing Lighweight Crew was for taking 3rd in the country and going to Henley. She even sported her Henley jacket the entire dinner. How she could be so two faced is beyond me.

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Anonymous posted on

I have news for you. It's not just Murphy. It's Bollinger, all the deans, and all the directors. Eye opening, huh?

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Jake posted on

The comment above should be very informative for Murphy et al. Just how STUPID and TIMID do they think we are? All their comments, policies, and - most importantly l - their RECORDS are all matters of public record!! Come on Bill Campbell, stop defending this nonsense and pull the plugs on this disaster. Your school needs you now and you're sitting on the sidelines! We're looking to you to bring in the outside group everyone knows we need.

Jake Novak

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Anonymous posted on

Yes, Jake records are the only thing that matters. Let's look at the record for the most recent football turnaround in the Ivy League, Princeton. Coach Surace went 1-9, 1-9, 5-5, ivy league championship this year. Lucky for Princeton, they didn't have some idiot blogger trashing Coach Surace and trying to get him fired during his entire second season.

The CU football program is a turn around project. No coach could walk into a program as weak CU's was two years ago and turn it around in less than three or four years. Mangurian needed to bring better talent, teach them the game and let them play early. Experience is the best teacher. He threw the young guys in the deep end of the pool this year. He decided to take his lumps early and develop his young guys now. This will pay off next year.

Jake your lack of knowledge about football is stunning. Your write up about the current seniors the other day is laughably inaccurate. They have been there four years and you are still clueless about who is talented and who isn't. One theme on your blog all season was that Mangurian was letting talented upperclassmen sit on the bench while he played lesser talented first and second years. That is totally wrong. The cupboard was bare when Mangurian got here. You are just too uninformed to realize it. He is investing for the future by playing the young guys now.

It is time for you get a clue and realize that no cares about your ridiculous demands for President Bollinger, Athletic Director Dianne Murphy and Coach Mangurian to be fired or resign.

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Anonymous posted on

Hey Coach, we all know you're an angry loon but don't you think you should be out recruiting instead of berating a blogger, as you've done fans, players and staff? Maybe outbursts like this is why you were fired in Tampa and are flaming out at Columbia.

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Anonymous posted on

Your wrong. Wilson brought in better talent than mango has. There were more than a few players who should have been on the field helping the team who were marginalized and put on the shelf. There were several players who showed up at mangos first camp malnourished and depleted based on an ill fated weight mandate that was based on inaccurate and outdated biometric data. Stud freshman who can contribute don't go to Ivy League. Freshman have to earn their time on the field, especially in the Ivies. Throwing them in the deep end just drowns them and destroys the moral of the rest of the team. What you get is 0 10 and ruin recruiting for the next 2 years. I agree that there is something wrong with a football program when a blog has any influence on operations. But I suspect that Jake and his army forgot more about football, team building and leadership than you know now.

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Anonymous posted on

Your wrong. Wilson brought in better talent than mango has. There were more than a few players who should have been on the field helping the team who were marginalized and put on the shelf. There were several players who showed up at mangos first camp malnourished and depleted based on an ill fated weight mandate that was based on inaccurate and outdated biometric data. Stud freshman who can contribute don't go to Ivy League. Freshman have to earn their time on the field, especially in the Ivies. Throwing them in the deep end just drowns them and destroys the moral of the rest of the team. What you get is 0 10 and ruin recruiting for the next 2 years. I agree that there is something wrong with a football program when a blog has any influence on operations. But I suspect that Jake and his army forgot more about football, team building and leadership than you know now.

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Steven Leichter, M.D., Class of '66C posted on

Spectator has given us a wonderful article about the problems of Columbia football.

Sometimes, one can find a silver lining in great adversity. The deep problems of our football program at this time, may have presented us with such an opportunity, and we all need to take advantage of it. This must start by using the growing attention of all in the Columbia Community to focus on truly assessing the problems of Columbia Football and fixing them. Part of the silver lining, is that we have no better man to lead that than former coach, Bill Campbell, Class of ‘62C. Part of the solution is to recognize that firing the Coach of two seasons or the athletic director is a cosmetic fix of little consequence. The problems of Columbia football have transcended many coaches with various talents over 51 years.

For many years, while living in St. Louis, Chicago, California, and Norfolk, I was a volunteer alumni recruiter for both the football and basketball teams. I did recruit some good athletes, worked with various coaches, and had feedback about Columbia football from the students I helped recruit. Our problems have little to do with the coach.

For years, they started with a chronic institutional arrogance about football, which is what should be under fire now, not the athletic staff. I was told repeatedly by high administrators that football made little difference to the University as a whole. In their opinion, it did not influence fund raising or the quality of students, who sought admission to Columbia. They felt that, so long as Columbia fielded a team that was sufficient. In short, they viewed our football recruits as cannon fodder, who were there just to keep the school in the Ivy League for athletics. This attitude extended to the Admissions Offices, who also felt that the athletic staff should be good enough to recruit student-athletes of the same quality as the other Ivy League institutions, and that our coaches deserved no special consideration in the admission process for their recruits. And worst, of all, the arrogance included the bizarre attitude that the problem of the commute from the main campus to what is now Kraft field was a trivial issue, as the recruits should balance that against the excitement of going to college in New York City.

These administrative attitudes got the results they deserved in the years of under-manned teams in both football and basketball. As the losses in football piled up over the decades, the recruiting problems grew in parallel. On top of these formidable obstacles, the staffs in football and basketball now faced the insurmountable obstacles of dealing with the deeply entrenched reputation of Columbia sports. Since football takes far more recruits than other sports, and good recruits are very hotly pursued, convincing a promising candidate academically and athletically to come to Columbia became almost impossible.

Therefore, solving this in football will take a major effort to support the athletic department in re-analyzing what it will take to alter the widespread perception in this Country that no well-qualified football recruit would want to go to Columbia. Anyone, who doubts this should live in the cities in which I have resided and listen to what people outside of the Columbia Community think of our football program. It will take addressing the issue of the transportation from the main campus to Kraft Field. And it will take an institutional evaluation of all the places in administration where these unwise attitudes resided for many years, with remedies not only to fix these issues now, but over the years to come. I would start with Admissions, since it seems that our current President has the message that football does count for Columbia, whereas his predecessors did not.

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SaMac posted on

You make a very cogent argument. Further to your points, it has to be acknowledged that there is a not insignificant portion of the student population and faculty who are openly antagonistic to Columbia Athletics in general and the football team in particular. And it has little to nothing to do with wins or losses-- --the odor wafting over the community of intellectual superiority and prejudice is impressive. One can argue till they're blue in the face as to what came first, the chicken (the negative attitude) or the egg (lack of success).

Nevertheless, being an athlete at an Ivy League school is difficult enough without having to deal with fellow students and professors who question your legitimacy and constantly bust your balls. I'm sure that football recruits are aware of this and would rather play and study elsewhere--someplace where the worst extreme of "school spirit" is indifference.

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SaMac posted on

In an effort to be totally politically correct, I'd like to amend my post as follows:

"Nevertheless, being an athlete at an Ivy League school is difficult enough without having to deal with fellow students and professors who question your legitimacy and constantly bust your balls, ovaries, indeterminate sexual organs, or lack thereof."

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Anonymous posted on

Now people are blaming the Admissions Office? For not lowering admissions standards?
If we need football players that badly, why not open a school of hotel management, a la Cornell?
That will preserve the academic integrity of the university, right?

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Anonymous posted on

Again, the old boy straight network bands together to disparage a gay woman. Let Murphy do her job. And defensive self-righteous rhetoric will not cover-up homophobia.

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anon posted on

you are delusional. at no point has anyone made any reference to Murphy's sexual orientation. There have been no subversive comments, no "reading between the lines", none of that. This is textbook strawman.

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Anonymous posted on

The very fact that you use "strawman" instead of "strawperson" betrays your innermost prejudices. Leave Dianne alone!

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Dworkin's Moustache posted on

This is a joke, right?

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Anonymous posted on

You didn't take this far enough. Strawperdaughtress.

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M. Dianne Murphy posted on

Come on, now. Arrogance, ego and incompetence in all I do transcends my sexual orientation, whatever it may be.

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Anonymous posted on

Disgusting and cowardly. A new low for Columbia.

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Anonymous posted on

this is clearly a joke

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Larry posted on

While football is the most dominating sport for some, the AD's record should be judged by others. There have been notable successful seasons, wins in many. Winning Ivy titles is not the only yardstick.

And, Spec has been guilty of treating them almost as an afterthought. W swimming beat Harvard this year for the first time in history, but the afternoon event wasn't reported online for at least a day, while evening contests had stories within hours. The Spec video discussion neglected it.

As was noted on Novak's blog (which is the least important source of information, replete with unsubstantiated allegations by him and posters) the coach of the co-winner of FB title had a dismal first 2 years, losing very big to Columbia in both. That doesn't mean much for the Lion situation except it provides some perspective on turning around a sport that has many parts.

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Anonymous posted on

I think this article is missing the crucial perspective of more recently graduated athletes, including football players, who are likely far more in touch with the current recruiting environment, the modern games (we're really talking about football and men's basketball), and the academic rigors of the the resurgent College.

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Anonymous posted on

Look at Harvard. Worst cheating scandal in the history of the Ivy League. Two star basketball players caught as well.
No problem, they are in effect redshirted for a year and back to go for another championship.
We could go that route. But I hope not.
Class of 1971.

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Anonymous posted on

Thank you for your discernment. Discern some more. Columbia is well down that route. The journey, the starting point, the destination, and the travellers are ALL WRONG.

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Coach Haynes - RICE HS posted on

Rest assured there's no quick fix here firing any coaches or the AD at this time would only be answering to fan and alumni pressure, and who knows what's next. All University head coaches and more importantly their assistants should be put on notice before any outside agencies are hired.

There's a saying that successful coaches have and it goes "you're only as good as your assistants" check any Fortune 500 company and ask the CEO how valuable and how much they depend on their administrative or executive assistant.

It's the same in athletics Coach K , Pitino and Calhoun etc. all closed the deals when recruiting sudent-athletes at RICE HS , but their assistants made the home visits, spoke with the parents, and attended the games during the open period. The head coach comes in after to close the deal only on certain occasions when you have a blue-chip recruit or a McDonalds All-American does Coach K, Pitino or Calhoun call and say Im coming in on the first day of the open period to recruit player X.

Of course there are internal issue that have to be sorted out but the Manhattanville expansion project is the direction to go and it means sending your assistants into the community to some Public/Catholic schools and homes of student-athletes to began recruiting parents an athlete that chooses to attend Columbia is a decision made by the family and not some teen-ager looking to go pro he or she is looking towards the future and an IVY LEAGUE education.

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poo-poo undies posted on

I can't help but think that the one guaranteed result of the past week's public dirty clothes washing will be that even more high school recruits will choose elsewhere to attend. Not because some of Columbia's teams suck, but because it reveals the underlying ugliness of a great many of the participants in the discussion (sic).

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Anonymous posted on

The point should be emphasized again that no Columbia football team in the past has been so unprepared and so uncompetitive as the current team. The offensive and defensive statistics were the worst among all the 150+ FCS teams, not just the IVY League itself. The margins of defeat were unbelievable. How can any sane person defend this record? Coach Mangurian did a terrible job, though he had said the greatest improvement in the team will come between years one and two of his regime. If AD Murphy and President Bollinger are so sure the football team will be competitive next year with Coach Mangurian, let them agree to resign if the team does not have at least a .500 record. Unfortunately, I believe it is more likely the team will be 0-10 again or 1-9. And it is not the players' fault. It is the coaches who have not prepared them properly.

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'11 posted on

“Football is the way a lot of colleges get defined in the minds of a lot of people,” Brod said.

Anyone else that that maybe that's the problem? It might make sense @ Texas, FSU, Notre Dame, etc. where football is a legitimate and viable producer of revenue. But, even if the Lions went 10-0 and won the Ivy League, they would still be a cash drain. No one is interested in traveling up to 218th, regardless of the status of the football program.

I also find it interesting that 100% of the disparaging sentiment (at least publicly) comes from alums that didn't graduate in this current century. Look at the co-signed petition that ran in this paper last week. Quite a few '9X and '8X - these are not people who spent a single second under the leadership of Dr. Murphy or Coach M. And I understand that these same '9X and '8X grads are giving their fair share of time/money to the Ath. Dept., so they have their right to weigh in - but the issue just simply cannot be Dr. and Coach M. 50 years of futility - over which there have been many different combinations of AD and Coach - shows that isn't the leadership or vision of a single person or combination of people.

I don't think people understand what a drag it is to recruit to a school where the players are 'gifted' with 20 minute bus rides to and from the field, a few hundred fans per game, and a pervasive general disinterest in all things college football. People need to get over it - they are spending too much time and effort trying to correct something that just simply doesn't matter - at least not to the Columbia community as a whole (and this is coming, again, from a former 4 year athlete, captain).

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Anonymous posted on

Why is everyone making such a big deal about the bus ride from campus to Baker Field (this includes the NY article and many other posts)? Baseball, women's tennis and men's tennis (not to mention women's and men's soccer a few years back) have all won multiple Ivy titles in the last 3-5 years and they all have to take the same bus ride from campus. I know that these are not "major" sports and I am not saying that there shouldn't be a rethink re: football, but the bus ride from campus is not an excuse.

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Anonymous posted on

I only believe it is an excuse insofar as attracting recruits. Believe me, the ride was actually one of my favorite parts of the day (I played baseball). I'm just saying that when it comes to comparing Columbia to other Ivies, the separate nature of the complex could be a deterrent. But yes, completely agree that it is NOT an excuse for the results. Just doesn't help in regards to talent accumulation.

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Anonymous posted on

This school is built on and financed by the alumni (ie the donors). Each new building, program, was financed by an alumnus who loved their school. Please listen to the 200,000 world wide alumni and improve our athletics and football team and get new coaches. We love our school and think Columbia is the best university in the world.

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sageman posted on

Bill Campbell, please resign as Chairman of the Board. Time and reason has clearly passed you by!

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Anonymous posted on

Bill Campbell is the sole reason why Columbia Athletics has a shred of legitimacy in any of the other sports we compete in besides football.

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Anonymous posted on

To anyone saying the AD should be judged by the performance of the entire department...NEW FLASH gang, as a former Columbia athlete, the most successful teams at Columbia are the ones that M. Diane has almost zero influence on or involvement in. Trust me. Barely any acknowledgement. We are tempered as freshmen to never expect acknowledgement. She is concerned with football and basketball foremost. Every honest coach/staffmember in the whole department will tell you that.

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Anonymous posted on

Agreed! Zero involvement - but it makes you wonder - why not destroy a few programs should one possibly be anticipating their own departure? I suspect that is true about the honesty part ..which would apply to beyond coaches I suspect .. administrators too.. if they all were not terrified for their job .. Securing letters of recommendation Or for the future of the current student athletes who would be left to the candidates identified in the extensive 'national searches' or the 'hiring committees' which they have presumably witnessed first hand. I Hope that the Alum community and current student athletes transcend the lines being reinforced between the sports.. I suspect they have a lot in common ... To the mental health world I suspect doing such things as 'A' vs 'B' would sound a lot like splitting - I hope such an approach will no longer work for this AD who has already added your collective accomplishments (whether it be 'athletic' -a 'policy' - or a 'program' - or a fundraising campaign to her CV -

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Rich Forzani '66C posted on

Taking a step back from much of this discourse for a moment, I'd like to address the situation minus any personal recrimination or hysteria or angst.

I don't know PM or DM. or LB for that matter. I have no idea how wonderful or not they may be in their personal lives, and it isn't my business. I will say that "empirically", LB has for the most part met expectations, in the sense of generating donations, acquiring real estate and maintaining academic reputation. So while athletics has been ignored in terms of his mind share, overall he has met trustee expectations.

When considering DM, one should only look to the documented record. Unfortunately, this gives the lie to claims of improvement. In the nine years of her tenure, we have been ranked dead last in the Ivies as an overall athletic program (not just football) 5 out of 9 years. Never higher than 5th. Our average is 7th place. So when the president claims program success, he is either misinformed or misinforming. Her performance has been the most egregious in this mix. Spectator was dead on in their editorial. She has, quite plainly, failed miserably. The record proves this unequivocally. Please look at it yourselves if you doubt this. Empirically, she fails.

PM is a symptom of an underlying condition. Whatever his future, whether he stays or goes, football success will not improve. If we win 2 games next year, will that be considered a turnaround? Two facts are inescapable: his record since assuming the position, and the documented alienation of team parents and team members. Too much evidence of the latter fact exists in letters and conversations with primary sources to be ignored. Empirically, he fails.

Finally, to those who voice concern that this debate is "hurting" the program, I submit that this debate did not begin until we were well into the season. The horrible aura surrounding football has enveloped us for years. What is hurting the program, indeed all our programs, is institutional apathy. And that has existed forever and must change.

I leave you with one thought: If the president was faced with a multi-million dollar university program such as English or Physics being consistently ranked last in the Ivy League, what do any of you suppose his action would be? And how quickly would he take it?

That is the truth to the tragedy surrounding our athletic department.

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Anonymous posted on

A reaction to President Bollinger’s quotes in his Letter to the Editor last week and in the piece above written by Alison Macke:

“. . . athletics has an impressive overall record compiled by student-athletes and coaches under Athletic Director M. Dianne Murphy’s leadership. . . “

“ Indeed in recent years, Columbia teams and athletes have had greater success than at any time in several decades. ”

“ In an interview shortly before he sent his letter, Bollinger said he believed the schools athletics record had been on the rise since Murphy arrived in the fall of 2004. ”

The prevailing business model is to disregard and in some cases disrespect the past in order to inflate the present. Three sports currently, deservedly so, being praised are Women’s Swimming, Men’s Tennis and Men’s and Women’s Cross Country and Track and Field. It is worth noting that the coach of Women’s Swimming, Diana Caskey and the Coach of Men’s Tennis, Bid Goswami, were both hired by former Athletics Director Al Paul. The coach of Men’s and Women’s Cross Country and Track and Field, Willy Wood (who accomplished one of the greatest improvements in a program in college sports history), was hired by the most recent Athletic Director John Reeves.

In addition former football coach Ray Tellier ( 8-2 and voted National Coach of the Year, both in 1996) was hired at Columbia by Al Paul and prior to that, at a different institution, by John Reeves.

With all due respect to the current leadership at the University and in Athletics let’s not disregard and disrespect former dedicated employees--and in addition Alumni, a much maligned group of late.

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Anonymous posted on

Very well put. I think it would be a worthwile exercise (maybe the Spec can look into this) to list the number of Ivy titles won since Dianne Murphy took over and see how many were won by coaches that she hired? This is not a rhetorical question. Trying to get the facts straight here given all the emotion going around. Other non-rhetorical question (I simply don't know the answer): who fired Ray Tellier? Was it John Reeves or Dianne Murphy?

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Anonymous posted on

Speaking of recognizing past employees, why wasn't Al Paul at the dedication of the soccer stadium he raised the funds for and built?

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Anonymous posted on

Speaking of recognizing past employees, why wasn't Al Paul at the dedication of the soccer stadium he raised the funds for and built?

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Anonymous posted on

Al Paul, was not invited.

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Anonymous posted on

Ray Tellier stepped down and assumed the role of Assistant Athletics Director, before Dr. Murphy arrived.

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Anonymous posted on

Thank you, Athletics Dept, for your response. If you could kindly also answer my other question, that would be much appreciated.

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UnionLeague posted on

Regarding the Football Program, that is going to be a tough nut to crack for Columbia particularly without the right support and resources coming from Low Library. I think the Columbia Athletics conundrum is slowly being solved and the recent success of the Baseball Team and other sports is evidence of a positive change. While the sorry state of Columbia Football is clearly on many people's mind, I would like to deflect the focus a bit, towards other aspects that might enhance both Football and Columbia Athletics. As the systemic reform goes through its iterative process, and the Baseball Team is a good example of a positive iteration, it would behoove the Administration to turn it's attention to those tasks that can be accomplished relatively easily and hopefully expeditiously. If Baseball is the first step in solving major sports, the next step must be Basketball! There is absolutely no reason for Columbia not to own Men's Basketball in the Ivy League. As we all know, the game is played on Campus, indoors, and is the epitome of the urban sport. In addition, Columbia is domiciled in NYC, one of the premier centers of the sport, both professionally and at an amateur level. I would simply guess that the level of academic/athletic talent available within a one hundred mile radius from Columbia is simply astronomical. It is imperative that Columbia take full advantage of this and lead in this sport. Basketball is most certainly low hanging fruit in the field of Athletics for Columbia. This needs to get done! If you can add dominance in Basketball to excellence in Baseball, you've solved two out of three "Major Sports". How does this relate to Football? While the Football Program requires resuscitation and long term reconstruction, success in Baseball AND Basketball can lead to a better environment for sports at Columbia and help support the rebuilding effort of the Football Program. Part of the opportunity is geographical and I really do not understand why a team located in the piffling town of Princeton, NJ or the secondary cities of Philadelphia and Boston should have any advantage over a great institution like Columbia, located in New York, the premier city in the United States.

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Anonymous posted on

Basketball is an on campus sport for men and women. It is an Urban sport. It requires few recruits each year. Basketball for men and women can go to the the Big Dance. Football cannot. Let's go with basketball, while still supporting Football.

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UnionLeague posted on

Thank you, well said!

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Coach Haynes - RICE HS posted on

Union League great points but how do you get the administration at Low Library to understand the process which has to be inclusive. Without jumping into quick fixes and band-aids that hides the wound but spreads the infection. Columbia does not need a heart transfusion the pulse is there we need a operation that allows air to flow into our lungs and brains so we can condition our student-athletes into become CHAMPIONS. Books - Baskets -N- Behavior a pilot academic athletic program can initiate the process.

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UnionLeague posted on

Coach Hayes, thank you for your feed back. You raise issues that require a long dissertation. I would like to highlight your most important points. Inclusive, yes. Diversity and inclusion need to become more prominent words in the Columbia vocabulary. Diversity and inclusion; is the College truly considering all the potential schools in the metropolitan area that can produce student-athletes who can succeed at Columbia, or does it have blinders on at all times. Yes, the School and the culture need to breathe and expand their notions of excellence. The School helped develop President Obama. For good measure the College should think of how to develop lots of Senator Bradleys. The School can remain true to its past and its traditions while embracing new and invigorating possibilities.

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Jake posted on

The bottom line is this: Our football team has just completed the undisputed worst season in the history of the Ivy League. Not only is NO ONE getting removed over this, but the Athletic Department's official response to this is that the real problem is all the negativity from the alumni.

There is no disputing the above statement. No one actually does. And that's where we are. The absolute indefensible is being defended over and over and over again.

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Anonymous posted on

Yes I find this bizarre and so do many others with whom I have spoken. I agree that it is the norm to give an Ivy League coach 4 or 5 years to build a program but as many people in this article noted these results were the worst by far in 50 years and that is saying some thing. Nobody likes to changes coaches but something is clearly very wrong with the direction of the program. I have no issue with DM but i would certainly have alot more confidence in her if she actually move forward and said that this season was unacceptable and that she feels the frustration of those of us who have supported the program. To blame the alums and others who care the most about Columbia football and have suffered through years of Saturday disappointments seems terrible and will result in far less people now supporting Columbia football.

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Anonymous posted on

Yes I find this bizarre and so do many others with whom I have spoken. I agree that it is the norm to give an Ivy League coach 4 or 5 years to build a program but as many people in this article noted these results were the worst by far in 50 years and that is saying some thing. Nobody likes to changes coaches but something is clearly very wrong with the direction of the program. I have no issue with DM but i would certainly have alot more confidence in her if she actually move forward and said that this season was unacceptable and that she feels the frustration of those of us who have supported the program. To blame the alums and others who care the most about Columbia football and have suffered through years of Saturday disappointments seems terrible and will result in far less people now supporting Columbia football.

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robert pelletreau posted on

I keep telling everyone but as they say " Is anyone home McFly?" TRIPLE OPTION TEAMS like Navy,Army, and Air Force.. all with less fire power, talent, etc... not only compete but defeat teams like Notre Dame, Pittsburgh, etc... How about Georgia Tech?.. TRIPLE !OPTION is the way to go McFlies

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CU True Blue posted on

Jake makes a great point. This year's result in football was 100% unacceptable, and the AD, Mango, PrezBo, and others within the administrative ranks are completely unwilling to acknowledge this simple fact. Everything else they bring up is, at best, secondary, and at worst, misdirection. I've heard no one in a position of leadership say (and believe), "What happened this year will not be tolerated. We will accept no excuses. We will be successful, and we will not be content with anything less--not cellar-dwellar status, not mediocrity, and not third place."

That none of the leaders has made such a statement speaks volumes. In fact, they've had the gall to suggest the real problem is alumni negativity! Seriously? Should we be happy that the team went 0-10 and got demolished in most of its games? If alums were content with this result, then I'd agree that the problem really was with the alumni base.

Ironically, the whole point-a-finger-at-the-alumni tack is of course an implicit acknowledgement that there is a very real problem here. But until someone in a position of leadership says, "Bottom line, the results this year for CU football were the real problem," we really need to question whether the AD and Mango in particular should retain their positions. Winners don't make excuses.

Also, in the interests of correcting the record, I'm including below something I posted a month ago relating to the current Princeton coach's first two seasons. Several people continue to insist (erroneously) that Princeton beat Columbia in both seasons (2010 and 2011), and one poster went as far as to say that we were "demolished" by Princeton.

Here's what I wrote (in part) a month ago:

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?

Bottom line, what happened this year would not be tolerated at Harvard, Princeton, Penn, or any other teams that win in the Ivy League. As you may recall, the previous head coach of Princeton was fired after three consecutive 4-6 seasons, the last of which (2009) included a shellacking at home at the hands of CU! Expressions of what's been disdainfully called "alumni negativity" no doubt played a part in Coach Hughes' termination, and look what happened as a result. In case you missed it, Princeton enjoyed a share of the Ivy title this year. I'm not even going to mention the result of the Columbia-Princeton affair this year.

Anyway, we need to make changes. We owe it to our student athletes, their parents, and indeed, everyone (including us alums) who is somehow a part of the Columbia community.

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Anonymous posted on

Mangurian is 3-17 in his first two seasons which is better than Surace. He would have had some wins this year, if his top QB didn't get injured in the first game.

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AnonAlum posted on

While I usually tend to side with the administrators, on this issue I have to agree with the alumni. The team was awful this year--there was no bright side. I just refuse to believe that we could be so much worse than peers--so I can only blame the coaching staff. I respect the Mangurian's willingness to try something new, but it failed--lets go back to more traditional approaches. We were supposed to have a stellar new QB and I respect Mangurian's ability to recruit him.

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Joe Brown posted on

I graduated from the College in 1966. It was the same then with the football team. We had some good teams like fencing, but most of all we had good times. There was no hyperventilating or need for counseling. What's up today? Dealing with winning is so easy. Dealing with losing is very hard. But you must be able to deal graciously with both.

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Anonymous posted on

As a parent of a 2017 football player at another Ivy League institution who went to Columbia's football camp, I can tell you that the staff was very indifferent and rude to the recruits. They were yelled at during the drills and berated consently of a hot summer day.The staff's arrogance was a complete turn off. We left saying "that was awful, I would never go there"

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Anonymous posted on

Therefore, whoever goes there must not only be stupid, but must also be ill.

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Columbia Spectator's picture
Columbia Spectator posted on

We'd love to speak to students (and their families) who considered playing for Columbia but turned it down. Please email editor@columbiaspectator.com if you would be interested in talking to us on or off the record.

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UnionLeague posted on

Great idea and thank you! Do think the marble statuary of Low Library might consider your analysis in their decision making process or has the mental ossification gone beyond all repair????

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UnionLeague posted on

Great idea and thank you! Do think the marble statuary of Low Library might consider your analysis in their decision making process or has the mental ossification gone beyond all repair????

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Anonymous posted on

There are some on campus who somehow equate a losing football team with better academics, as though winning football cannot co-exist with more rigorous scholarship. But this year's results belie this mistaken belief.

Exhibit A:
This season's football co-champions, Princeton and Harvard, are academically ranked #1 and #2, respectively.

Exhibit B:
This season's next-to-worst team, Cornell, is academically ranked the lowest among the Ivies.

It seems the correlation between winning on the field and winning in the classroom is positive, not negative. Why don't we at least try to produce a winning team, just in case?

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Anonymous posted on

Columbia football players are dumb asses. Want exhibits? Read Spec. Columbia academics is a mirage. Want exhibits? Read Spec.

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resgostar posted on

It has struck me that no one has commented on the irony in the photo above this article. Here you have Columbia alumnus, Robert Kraft, the most successful owner of a team in the National Football League watching the most non-competitive, inept college football program in the United States. Has it dawned on anybody in the University administration to perhaps ask Mr. Kraft and his New England Patriot organization to share a little of their football know how and organizational expertise with Columbia. If Mr. Kraft is willing, I suggest a committee be formed with Mr. Kraft, or his designee, as its head to provide ideas, suggestions and reforms to bring some prestige back to the Columbia football program after 50 years.

With or without, Mr. Kraft, the University should immediately announce that it will do a post- mortem of this season’s football season and announce the results to all Columbia football fans. The comments in this article and previous ones by University administrators are patently defensive and self-serving, especially comments that negativity by the alumni hinders recruiting. In fact, what the Columbia administration “professionals” involved in Columbia football are getting from alumni and Columbia football fans generally, both in comments here and on the Roar Lions 2013 blog, is simply what is called in sports jargon “ a collective booing”. As any real sports fan knows, the typical proper response from a professional in this instance is that home team fans have every right to boo poor performance on the field---they are the customers after all. Most professionals would also properly say something to the effect “well if I were in the stands I would boo too.” Further as any sports fan knows, if a home team professional complains and whines about booing from the home team crowd they are universally considered crybabies and weak of character (wimps) and are only subject to more booing from the home team crowd. The way then to stop this booing is as any sports fan knows is: GET SOMETHING PRODUCTIVELY DONE FOR THE PROGRAM ON AND OFF THE FIELD AS SOON AS POSSIBLE!

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Charles H. Brown "56 CC posted on

Two primary questions that I have are :
1. Do the student - athletes we recruit receive the same financial package as they are awarded at Harvard, Princeton , Yale, Penn ,etc. ? I mean all grant and no loan. If we do not , then how can any coach hope to land the top recruits ?

2 . Why don't we have practice facilities on campus ? We have heard for years that the other Ivy schools' coaches will regularly say to a recruit , " Columbia has
no practice facility on campus. You have to travel 45 minutes on a bus up to Baker Field daily for practice . " This to me is a major hinderence to the football program as well as the other fall and spring programs to some degree. The university is spending millions on the new Manhattanville project for additional academic facilities . How about setting aside some area for the construction of a bubbled indoor athletic facility ? The cost would not be unreasonable and the benefits substantial.
In order to compete successfully in the Ivy League our teams must be on an equal footing with our opponents .

I have been involved in Colunmbia athletics since the fall of 1952 as an athlete , parent of an athlete and grandparent of an athlete .In my opinion Diane Murphy has done more to add class to the athletic department and improve the Facilities at Baker Field than any Director of Athletics I can remember. ( I do remember Ralph Furey ) The problem of Columbia football goes well beyound Diane Murphy .

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Anonymous posted on

Yes but how were things at Columbia during the American Revolution? I realize your memory may be sketchy but please try anyway.

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Anonymous posted on

You are "right on" without an on campus practice facility--forget success.

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Jonathan Earle posted on

My undergraduate years spanned the famous "longest" losing streak, and I now teach at a BCS university that has seen its football team fall on hard times. I look back to the late-1980s now (I was Managing Editor of Spec in 1989) as a missed opportunity -- a chance to stop throwing good money after bad and eliminate the football program. Numbers don't lie: there are very, very few football teams that even begin to cover their costs, and Columbia will never be one of them. Meanwhile: go soccer, fencing, volleyball, and all the other "non-revenue" sports at Columbia!

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Hiram posted on

If this season happened under a coach established at CU, he would be let go. Just look at what the admin did after poor seasons under Ray Tellier and Norries Wilson. The fact that it came in the second year under a new coach brought in to build the program makes it a different matter. The AD has to do its annual program review to determine the reasons for the precipitous drop in on field performance, and determine whether they can be ascribed to growing pains or to a lack of capability in the team's management. If the former, the coach gets more time; if the latter, the coach goes immediately. Clearly to AD has determined the problem is closer to the former, and that CU should stay the course. I wouldn't be surprised if there are adjustments in the coaching approach, as well. Even the AD and football staff should be learning organizations at CU. The question is whether the community has confidence in the decision-makers and their plan, with little public or historic basis for that confidence. Perhaps that problem should be addressed too, beyond "trust us", "not gonna happen", and "the players just don't execute". What happened to the talent level and competitiveness Wilson built - so quickly and completely? And what is being done to rebuild them?

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Stephen Steiner '66 posted on

In the fall of 1965, when I was Sports Editor of Spectator, following another humbling football season, with a final game in which Columbia lost to a weak Brown team by about 50 points, I wrote a series on why Columbia sports as a whole and football as the prime example, were so terrible. Frankly, what I wrote then sounds so much like Alison Macke's fine story, "Discontent with Athletics Grows..." The more things change, the more they remain the same.
In my era, we had Ivy League championship fencing teams and even All-Americas in the sport. Then came the great basketball teams with Jim MacMillian and company, that at one time ranked fourth in the nation (not in the Ivies -- in the nation)! Over the years Columbia has had some real successes -- Gene Larkin had the game-winning hit that won the World Series for the Minnesota Twins about 20 years ago, and baseball on the whole, if I'm not mistaken, has been solid. But it all comes down to football (and to a lesser degree, basketball).
What is to be done? Well, it would be nice to hire Bill Campbell as coach again. Coaches who come from the NFL don't seem to do too well. (Jason Garrett, the coach of the Dallas Cowboys, I believe played for Columbia when his father Jim was an unsuccessful coach with an NFL background. He lasted one year.) Pete Mangurian certainly deserves one more year to try to turn around the program. But if he doesn't make it, the new coach should be someone who has succeeded at a prestigious almost-Ivy school, such as Amherst, Williams, Lehigh, Lafayette, etc., who knows the pressures on student athletes and can perhaps recruit the right players for the Lion program. But that's a year from now -- and hopefully it won't have to happen.
I often root for the New England Patriots because of Robert Kraft, one of the most successful owners in the NFL. Perhaps he can lend expertise in terms of how the Patriot's success can be transferred to an Ivy League level. I'm not saying send us Tom Brady, but perhaps his staff can work with Mangurian and company on training, game preparation, substitution patterns, motivation and the like, to produce a new kind of atmosphere.
Should we give up hope? No. But as I believe I said in 1965, it doesn't have to be like this.

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The Lion posted on

Bollinger is lying. Give it some time? He's had 12 years and the record is worse than ever. The W-L percentage under Bollinger is even worse than all the lousy years before him.
He said he didn't like "a culture of losing" but has only made it worse. And he's made his most ridiculous remarks following the WORST season ever recorded in the history of Ivy League football!
The same for Murphy, another arrogant practitioner of misdirection. NOBODY has told tennis players that they don't matter, but SHE has told all football players that they don't matter. Fire Bollinger and Murphy and hire a talented coach to lead Columbia out of the muck.

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Larry posted on

After two months, nothing new and many successful starts in MBB, WSw, Fen, Wr, is it appropriate to keep this story?

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Anonymous posted on

Thanksgiving, when this article was published, is now more than for months ago. If you keep the editors keep the story on the website, they must think it's important. So, why no reporting on the subject since the original article? What is the Administration's reaction? Is the alumni position well-founded? What do the athletes think? What is being done or planned to improve athletics? If there's a story here, the question is where are the reporters?

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