AROUND THE IVIES: Harvard the Heavy Favorite vs. Lions

Around the Ivies

Harvard cheerleaders, I wrote you a song:

You better work out,

You might as well cry,

Get ready for a rout

I’m telling you why

Col-um-bi-a is coming to town!

Yes, prepare yourselves my pom-pom bearing friends—tomorrow Harvard gets its turn to experience every Ivy football team’s favorite week of the season. It plans to celebrate by scoring many, many points, which in turn means that you will be doing many, many pushups.

Columbia football hasn’t had a winning season since 1996, when one in ten Americans had internet access, the Macarena was a No. 1 hit, and Anthony Davis was three years old. It gets worse when you consider the team's history against Harvard. The Crimson is 41 games over .500 all-time against the Lions and has won the last eight meetings by an average of three touchdowns. So to call Columbia a doormat would be an insult to front porches, to call it a bottom-dweller would be disrespectful to deep-sea fishermen everywhere. Instead, let’s put it this way: the Lions are to Ivy League football what “Star Wars VII” will be to George Lucas’ career—something that in the future we’re all going to wish we had never witnessed.

Granted, Columbia is coming off a rare victory after they barely inched by fellow trainwreck Yale, despite the fact that the Bulldogs were forced to start a running back (Tyler Varga) and spell him with a wide receiver (Henry Furman) under center because its top three quarterbacks were hurt. And the game STILL came down to the last minute, largely thanks to the Lions allowing Varga to collect 220 yards on the ground. But a win’s a win, right?

Here’s what Columbia first-year coach Pete Mangurian—who looks about as qualified for his job as E was when he became Vince’s manager on Entourage—had to say about Varga following the game:

“Man, is he good. He’s a good football player. I’ve seen a few good football players, and he’s a good one.”

Did everyone get his central thesis there?

A few things, Coach: It’s not so much that Varga’s good—he can’t be that special, considering he couldn’t even win the starting halfback job over an athlete named Mordecai—but rather that your team is just bad. As a general word of advice, when a team’s quarterback is actually a running back, there’s a pretty good chance he’s going to be running the ball. You probably should’ve realized this after Yale called runs on 11 of its first 13 plays, and maybe even started to sense a trend there. Because in case you were unaware, there are things you can do to prepare for the run—stacking the box, for example—so that a team that LITERALLY CANNOT THROW THE BALL is not able to pick up 257 yards on the ground. But that’s just a suggestion. Of course, it’s very possible that you did try such a strategy but your team did not execute, which would not be surprising at all, considering the fact that on a roster of 93 players, you’ve only seen “a few” good ones.

But it’s not just you, Coach; many of your predecessors have found it as difficult to win at Columbia as it is for Nicholas Cage to turn down a role in an action movie. The Lions are 27-80 over the past decade, and the program’s last (and only) Ivy championship came way back in 1961—and it was a co-title, split with Harvard. Since then, everyone else has won at least three.

But here’s the question: Why? There’s simply no reason the Lions should be to Ancient Eight football what France was to the World Wars. Because guess what, Columbia? Your campus is in New York City! Recruiting for you should be as easy as 3.14159265359 (get it?), but instead your search for talent has gone about as successfully as it did on American Idol the year Taylor Hicks won.


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