It’s amazing the difference a season or two makes.
Late last semester, Columbia athletics faced a moment of crisis. I don’t need to remind anyone what happened to the football team—the less said about that abysmal season, the better. But overshadowed by football’s first winless season in 25 years was how hard it was to find success in any of the fall sports. Between football, volleyball, men’s and women’s soccer, and field hockey, Columbia’s teams only won eight games in the Ivy League while dropping 29 and tying five—a .276 winning percentage.
Since then, however, Lions squads have been on fire. The most prominent example, of course, is men’s basketball, which put together the program’s best season in four decades, winning more than 20 games and advancing to the quarterfinals of the CollegeInsider.com Tournament. It was an unforgettable campaign that filled Levien to an unprecedented level—average attendance for league games increased to 2,233 from just 1,969 last season—and has left the campus eagerly anticipating the upcoming season, when the team should be one of the Ivy favorites.
The spring sports have continued the trend. This weekend, No. 19 men’s tennis completed the sweep of its Ivy opponents (during which the team only dropped one point) en route to its first title in three years. A perfect season is hard to come by, and the tennis team’s domination should not go unnoticed. Women’s tennis, which picked up the ECAC title in February, only fell short of Princeton in its own quest for a title.
This is all to say nothing of the baseball team, which is defending its Ivy title with a vengeance. Since dropping a midweek doubleheader to Yale three weeks ago, in which it managed just one run over two games, the Light Blue has exploded offensively. In consecutive weekends, it swept series against Princeton and Cornell, pushing its winning streak to 13 games. To put that in perspective, a 13-game winning streak would be equal to or longer than the longest winning streak in the history of 12 of the 30 major league baseball franchises, including the New York Mets. (The Mets have never won more than 11 games in a row.)
The Lou Gehrig Division title will come down to next weekend’s four-game set against Penn, which currently shares the division lead at 13-3. Winning the division would bring the Ivy League Championship Series back to Robertson Field for the second year in a row, presenting a tremendous opportunity for the baseball program to again demonstrate why it’s the class of the league.
In the bright sunshine of spring, it’s tough to remember how bleak the picture looked for Columbia athletics in the fall. And come this fall, the pressure on Pete Mangurian and the football team will be immense—as it should be. That team must show tangible improvements—and I mean winning more than one game—or the drama of another coaching search will return to Morningside Heights.
But the withering darkness of the fall should not overshadow the blossoming seasons of this spring, where our classmates have done some truly remarkable things across courts and fields in the Northeast.
Peter Andrews is a Columbia College senior majoring in history. He is a member of Spectator’s editorial board, head manager emeritus of the Columbia University Marching Band, and a sports broadcaster for WKCR. For Pete’s Sake runs biweekly.