So far, every team in the Ivy League is undefeated. It's that time of year again--coaches' hopes burgeon, each tempering outright enthusiasm with a sober assessment of the competition. As always, the 1980 Ivy football season assures nothing more than the unexpected, especially this year with six teams conceivably in the race for the championship. No one dares to place the Ivies in the realm of big-time football, but then again, at least all eight teams will compete, unlike the Pac (10-5).
While the traditional rhetoric about how balanced the Ivies are and how many schools have a shot at the crown sounds familiar, this fall promises to furnish an exciting derby down to the last Saturday. The consensus among the league's coaches seems to be that only Penn and Columbia are removed from the thick of things, but that those two squads will both be improved. At this point, no team stands above the rest of the crowd the way Yale did last year--and we all know what happened to Yale last year.
1. YALE: The Bulldogs always field an imposing assemblage, but this season coach Carm Cozza will have to replace 14 starters from last year's almost undefeated squad. Because the Elis saw their season in the sun abruptly Crimsoned by the score of 22-7, the initial press releases from New Haven recall 1979 as merely a "very fine" season--mild language for pre-season publicity dispatches, particularly those of an 8-1 defending champion. Presumably, if the perennially powerful Bulldogs crunch the Crimson this year, they will have enjoyed a "great" season.
The schedule seems to favor the Elis. After what should prove a revealing opener against Brown, Yale gets its three non-league games out of the way, then faces the relatively weak Columbia and Penn squads. By the time the meat of the competition pops up, Cozza should have his collection finely tuned, and the season finale at Soldiers Field should be a dandy.
In 1979, the Elis led all NCAA Division I-A teams in total defense (175.4 yards per game) and rushing defense (75 Yards per game). Returnees include middle guard kevin Czinger, who blocked two punts in the 13-12 squeaker over Brown, end Fred Leone and standout monster back Dave Novosel, who has a tendency to turn up wherever the ball may be.
On offense, Yale boasts depth at the crucial quarterback position, with John Rogan and Phil Manley. Senior spilt end Danny Stratton caught 33 passes a year ago for a 19.1 average. Tailback Rick Diana returns after an injury kept him on the sidelines most of last season. Cozza plans to build his offense around captain and fullback John Nitti.
That Cozza must replace 13 starters may be deceiving, although it appears certain his team will not approach the caliber of last year's group. The only glaring weakness is the kicking game, where the Elis will have an untested punter and placekicker.
But knowing the depth Yale teams usually have, the Elis appear the surest of a batch of unsure bets.
2. DARTMOUTH: This is the 100th year of Dartmouth football--will wonders never cease--and the Big Green intends to pursue the Ivy title with a vengeance. The first thing many students and alumni want to do to celebrate the centennial is bring back the Indian as the school symbol, proving that those educated in the backwoods can often be backward-minded.
But coach Joe Yukica's squad will try to rise above the prejudicial fray and bring the undisputed Ivy title back to Hanover, the king of beer-consuming milieus, as many Big Green partisans feel obliged to tell you.
With Jeff Kemp at quarterback (the son of Rep. Jack Kemp, Reactionary of New York) rumor has it that Dartmouth will run a balanced budget offense. Actually, Kemp promises to send opposing defenses reeling into the red. He has as targets spilt end Dave Shula, son of Miami Dolphins' coach Don Shula and Dartmouth's all-time leading receiver, and flanker Sean Teevens, brother of 1978 Ivy most valuable player Buddy Teevens, who led the Big Green to the Ivy championship that year.
On defense, inside linebackers Joe Fernandez and Gary Pearson will marshall the forces, though the Big Green may be vulnerable at defensive tackle and in the secondary. The overall personnel is strong enough to challenge for the title, and a good measuring stick of Dartmouth's strength will be the October 18 clash with the Crimson in New Hampshire.
3. HARVARD: A tad optimistic? Perhaps, but the Crimson's results over the last few years have been misleading. Two years ago, the 4-4-1 squad could well have gone 8-1 with a few strategically distributed points, and the massive rash of injuries last year does not allow an incisive examination.
As coach Joe Restic says, "If we can stay healthy, we'll be three." A superlative defensive line and a wealth of talented signal-callers should prove the greatest Crimson strengths, and while the squad has some holes to plug, Restic's charges always manage to be competitive.