Monday, May 2, 2016

Blog 2K

Back in August of 2008, Yariv Amir - then a member of the Office of Athletic Communications and now high in the athletic hierarchy at Colgate - took it upon himself to create a Princeton Athletics blog.

He created an account, calling it "goprincetontigers.blogspot.com." And then he said "now what?"

Sure, Princeton Athletics now had a blog. The OAC also had no idea what to do with it. At first, it seemed like a good place for smaller announcements, and so on Aug. 28, 2008, this was the first entry:

The new Myslik Field at Roberts Stadium hosted its first event on Thursday as members of the media were introduced to the new home of Princeton soccer. Head coaches Jim Barlow and Julie Shackford and members of both teams met reporters from area newspaper and television outlets. Look for articles in the upcoming issues of the Princeton Packet and Town Topics and on WZBN News. 

It's grown a bit since then.

This was a pretty good weekend in Princeton Athletics.

The women's lacrosse team won an Ivy League title for the third straight year. The baseball and softball teams both won divisional championships, and the baseball team will host the Ivy League championship series this weekend.

Seth DeValve was drafted in Round 4 by the Cleveland Browns, making him the third Princeton player in the last four years to be drafted.

There were other stories at Princeton. And even some others elsewhere that would make great topics for today.

Like what? How about the Duke-Syracuse ACC men's lacrosse championship game in Georgia? There were seven minutes left in a 9-8 game when the heavens opened, and even a lightning strike on the scoreboard that left the stadium without power. Eventually, after almost three hours, the game was resumed - on a side field. There was no TV, nothing. Syracuse won 14-8.

Can you imagine if that had been a major conference football championship game?

Anyway, all of that is for another time. Today is a little more, uh, self-absorbed.

Why? Because this is TigerBlog No. 2,000.

TigerBlog has come a long way since that beginning. It was clear fairly quickly that the blog wasn't the right place for those announcements, which belonged on the main web page.

And in-game blogging, which was done for football and basketball, was ineffective as well. First of all, there were live stats for those who just wanted to follow along. Second, that kind of blogging only works if you get really colorful. And last, it wasn't equitable. Why do in-game blogging for football and basketball but nothing else?

So that went by the wayside too. TigerBlog, seemingly, was about to as well.

It's hard to figure out exactly when this blog became what it is now, but it was definitely early in 2009. What it is now. You know. A place to be a little less formal, tell some stories, comment on basically anything and everything. Be entertaining.

When TigerBlog decided to go down that path, he's not 100% sure he knew what he was getting himself into. For starters, he didn't want to add anything to the workload off everyone else in his office, so he figured he'd have to do most of the writing.

Then he realized that he had to do it every day if it was going to be successful and grow readership. Every day. Every single day.

And so, since he's started, he hasn't missed one. Not for vacations. Not for illnesses. Not from being out of the country. Not for surgery. Not for any reason.

Every work day, every year, year after year.

It's actually easier than you'd think. There's no shortage of subjects out there.

Of course, the concept of TigerBlog stretches what is standard fare for something that comes out of a college athletic communications office. Let's face it. The most recent entry before this one talks about how great Bugs Bunny is.

But that's the best part.

Yes, Gary Walters or Mollie Marcoux could have shut it down, and TigerBlog appreciates that they haven't. From its small beginning, when nobody read it, numbers have gone way up. And continue to go up.

The most read entry TigerBlog has ever written was the one a few weeks ago about Peter Farrell, the retiring women's track and field coach. That was one of TB's favorites.
When TigerBlog was in the newspaper business, he would have said there was no chance that he would ever write like this, essentially in the first person. Harvey Yavener, one of his earliest mentors, also said the news was the news. Covering the news wasn't news.

But TigerBlog has come a long way in his thinking. Maybe it came from reading so much of John McPhee's first person accounts.

Of anything that TigerBlog has done in his nearly 30 years of covering Princeton Athletics, the blog is his favorite, other than the opportunity to get to know so many great athletes and coaches.

TigerBlog loves the challenge of the blog, to come up with something fresh each day. He loves the chance to be creative every day. He loves to tell the stories of his life in Princeton Athletics, and the people he's gotten to know through it all. And what he's learned from them.

Hopefully there are a lot more years, a lot more stories, a lot more entries left in him. One day his writing streak will end, though he hopes it's not for a few thousand more. 

Anyway, that's enough self-absorption for one day. Forgive TB though.

It's not every day you turn 2,000.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Blake, Bugs And A Busy Weekend

Yesterday was Take Your Kids To Work Day.

TigerBlog is pretty sure this began as Take Your Daughter To Work Day, as an effort to introduce girls to jobs that might previously have been though of as male-only. Since then, it has expanded to include boys and girls.

Princeton Athletics, under the direction of Kim Meszaros, has always had a nice program for the kids of department staff. Yesterday was no different.

Blake Borders was here yesterday. He's the son of Andrew Borders, TigerBlog's colleague in the Office of Athletic Communications.

Blake isn't quite two yet, so he's a little young for the activities that Kim puts together. Blake did like the pizza and chocolate chip cookies.

Maddie Sachson was there too. She's seven or eight or so. Yesterday was right in her wheelhouse.

Her dad Craig is another OAC colleague. Maddie played squash and ran track and went swimming and ate and did a whole bunch of things that left Craig almost completed sweated through his shirt.

As for Blake, he mostly hung out with his dad, and Warren Croxton, Andrew's office mate. At one point yesterday, TigerBlog poked his head in to see how Blake was, and he saw that Blake was watching some contemporary cartoon on a computer. TigerBlog didn't know what it was, though he knows his kids never saw it when they were younger.

Put on Bugs Bunny, TigerBlog suggested. So Andrew did.

And clearly Blake liked it. Bugs was having some fun with Elmer Fudd. What's not to like? Blake laughed. So did TigerBlog.

If nothing else came out of Take Your Kid To Work Day, Blake met Bugs Bunny. Imagine how hard Blake would have laughed if he'd been watching "Bugs and Thugs" or "Racketeer Rabbit," Bugs' two best performances.

TigerBlog could watch Bugs all day long. You know what he can't watch?

The NFL draft. He doesn't understand the fascination with it. For every 20 players selected, the average fan has not heard of 19 or more. Plus, the odds of finding a good player in the first round is about the same as finding one in the fourth round.

TigerBlog's only interest is whether or not Seth DeValve is drafted. Like the overwhelming majority of the American sporting pubic, TigerBlog is more interested in Ivy League baseball and softball this weekend than he is the NFL draft.

The threat of rain Sunday in Princeton has changed the schedule. Princeton is now at Cornell today in both baseball and softball and home in both tomorrow.

The baseball team enters the weekend one game up on Penn in the Gehrig Division. The Quakers have four with Columbia.

As TB has said earlier this week, it's still possible for all eight Ivy baseball teams to finish 10-10, but that is unlikely. TB isn't sure what the tiebreakers there would be, but it would be fascinating.

Because everyone can get to 10-10, nobody is eliminated yet. That could change today, when one win by Princeton and Penn would eliminate Cornell and Columbia. In fact, one Princeton win means there could no longer be a four- or even three-way tie in the Gehrig Division.

Clearly, every game matters this weekend. Princeton wins the division outright by sweeping, something no other team can say. So that's a start.

On the softball side, Princeton is three games up on Penn, giving the softball team a lot more margin for error than the baseball team. On the other hand, nothing is in the bank yet.

The softball team will win the South Division title with any combination of wins or Penn losses that adds up to two. Unlike the baseball team, though, the softball team cannot host the Ivy League Championship Series, which will be played at either Dartmouth or Harvard.

The baseball playoff could be at the Gehrig or Rolfe Division winner. Obviously the baseball picture is quite muddled.

The women's lacrosse tournament can be at Princeton, Penn or Cornell, depending on this weekend.

Simply put, a Penn win over Cornell and Penn hosts. A Princeton win over Brown means the Tigers get a share of the Ivy title, but the Tigers cannot win the championship outright. The winner of Cornell-Penn is assured at least a share of the championship. A Princeton win over Brown and a Cornell win over Penn means Princeton hosts. A Cornell win and Princeton loss means Cornell hosts.

Okay, maybe it wasn't so simple.

The women's water polo team is at the CWPA tournament at Harvard this weekend, chasing the league's bid to the NCAA tournament. The Penn Relays continue today and tomorrow. There's a lot of home rowing this weekend.

Oh, and there's also the 79th meeting between Princeton and Cornell in men's lacrosse. TigerBlog's contention is that Princeton-Cornell men's lacrosse ranks third all-time in Ivy League rivalries, behind Princeton-Penn men's basketball and Harvard-Yale football.

That game is tomorrow at noon. You can see it on ESPNU.

It makes for better television than the NFL draft, but maybe not as good as Bugs Bunny.

And that's your weekend in Princeton Athletics. It's a busy one, with some big outcomes on the line.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

The Stopwatch

Jim Barlow has been the men's soccer coach at Princeton for 20 years?

Wait. Wait. This isn't more nostalgia, though that has been a theme this week. This is more history than nostalgia.

The whole point about Barlow and 20 years is that he was presented with a stopwatch by a former teammate of his, Tim Foley. It had an inscription on the back that indicated it was given to Al Nies in 1925.

The inscription mentions the "championship team" of 1925, which begs the question of which championship?

Going back to 1925, there was no Ivy League or NCAA tournament. In fact, the Ivy League predated the NCAA tournament in men's soccer by four years, as 1959 was the first year of the national championship event and 1955-56 was the first year of Ivy competition.

Was there a national champion voted on prior to that? TigerBlog can't find a record of it, though he'd guess one exists.

The NCAA record book doesn't list a champion prior to the start of the tournament. It only lists final polls back to 1971.

As for Princeton's record book, game-by-game results don't exist prior to 1938. Only coaching records do.

About the only reference TigerBlog could find was the Princeton Companion, sort of a Princeton encyclopedia. This is what it said about Princeton soccer:

The Intercollegiate Association Football League was formed in 1905 by Columbia, Cornell, Harvard, Haverford, and Penn, and joined by Yale in 1908 and by Princeton in 1911. Princeton competed in this league until 1926, in the larger Intercollegiate Soccer Football Association until 1932, in the Middle Atlantic League until 1955, and after 1955 in the Ivy League. 

It also had something funny to say, in the way writing was done at the time:
Princeton's best season in the early years came in 1916 when it tied for first place but lost the postseason playoff to Penn, 3 to 2, on a snow-covered field a week before Christmas. Center forward Arthur Preyer '19, who had learned to play soccer in Holland, scored both of Princeton's goals. Two of Penn's three goals were scored by its inside right, an All-American whose name was William Nassau. ``Just how we let this man get away from us,'' the Alumni Weekly commented, ``is a matter worthy of consideration.'' 

And finally this on Al Nies:
Al Nies, the first full-time coach, who served from 1919 to 1934, saw Princeton soccer through one of its most successful eras. Five of Nies's sixteen teams were league champions: 1921, 1922, 1925, 1926 (tied), and 1927; and five finished second: 1919, 1920, 1923, 1924, and 1932 (tied).

Al Nies was the third soccer coach in school history, after J. Duncan Spaeth coached the Tigers to a 2-4 record in 1909 and then someone known simply as "Holden" coached the team in 1915 and 1916. There is no record of Princeton's having played in between in the athletic record book, though the Companion suggests Princeton had a team in 1911.

As for Al, his record was 76-38-19 at Princeton as the men's soccer coach.

TigerBlog recognized the name Al Nies from the men's lacrosse record book. Nies was the first coach Princeton ever had in men's lacrosse, and his numbers with the lacrosse team were remarkably similar.

Nies coached 133 games with the soccer program to get that 76-38-19 record. He coached 120 games with the men's lacrosse team from 1921 (when the program was restarted after a nearly 30-year absence) until 1935.

His record? 74-39-7. Two fewer wins. One more loss.

Anyway, that's a little history lesson.

As for the present, if that stopwatch that Barlow was given works, then perhaps he could take it to Philadelphia today for Day 1 of the three-day Penn Relays.

The Penn Relays are older than soccer at Princeton, dating to 1895. They began as a series of relay races between Penn and Princeton, by the way.

The 2016 event will feature more than 15,000 athletes, from high schoolers to international competitors. And of course collegians.

Princeton will be there. If you want the complete list of Princeton's entries, you can go HERE.

If you want to see the races themselves, you can go to Franklin Field. Attendance the next three days will far surpass the numbers who go there to watch Penn football.

This will be the last Penn Relays for Princeton women's head coach Peter Farrell, who is retiring after 39 years this season. TigerBlog has spent enough time talking to Farrell to know that he loves the Penn Relays.

There's another big track meet next weekend. That would be the Ivy League Heptagonal championships. That's serious business, with Ivy League titles on the line for men and women.

The Penn Relays? They're serious too, but in a different way.

The official name is the Penn Relays Carnival, and that's exactly what it is.

A three-day carnival.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Bound For Rio

TigerBlog got an email yesterday that said "you are becoming nostalgic."

He won't say who it was from. He'll give you a slight hint, though, and see if you can figure it out for yourself.

Ready? Here it is: He was the Ford Family Director of Athletics before the current one.

When TigerBlog went back to the last two days, he did notice that he had been stuck in the 1980s a bit so far this week. Ah, the 1980s. Those were the days.

Anyway, he's going back a little bit today, though not quite as far. He's actually not sure just how far back he's talking about, though it wasn't anymore than seven or eight years ago.

The place was Triumph, the restaurant/brewery on Nassau Street. TigerBlog was having lunch with Princeton's ESPN contact, a young woman named Meghan O'Leary.

Princeton's ESPN contract is unique. TigerBlog isn't sure of too many other schools that have their own deal with the Worldwide Leader.

It's been 11 years since the deal began, and the current deal extends through 2019. It brings Princeton seven events per year on an ESPN television platform. This year's seventh event is Saturday's men's lacrosse game against Cornell.

Through the years, TigerBlog has dealt with maybe 15 or so different contacts at ESPN, with whom he's worked to figure out which events will be televised, with a lot of give-and-take between both sides. It's a great relationship, and it has worked out well for Princeton, especially with ESPN's willingness to broadcast sports beyond football and basketball.

Anyway, Meghan was one of the first of those contacts.

As Meghan sat at Triumph, she told TB about her longer term goals, beyond ESPN. She had been a volleyball and softball player at Virginia as an undergraduate, but since graduating she had taken up a new sport.

Rowing.

Her goal was to reach the 2016 Olympics, she told TB that day. As they ate, a man walked up to their table, noticed the "Princeton Athletics" shirt TB was wearing and said he had never been in town before but he loved Princeton. Then he asked TB what he did, and TB explained it. And when he asked Meghan if she worked for Princeton Athletics, TigerBlog said "no, but she's going to be in the Olympics in 2016."

Guess what? She is.

Meghan, who has gone on to have a strong career in international rowing, qualified for the Rio games this past weekend in Florida, when she and her rowing partner, Ellen Tomek, won the double sculls at the Olympic Trials.

Meghan said that was her goal all those years ago, and she made it happen. That's extraordinary.

Next up is the push to win a medal. The doubles event isn't easy, but hey, she's there and ready to compete.

Princeton will have its share of Olympians, again.

If you remember, the 2012 Summer Olympics were great for Princeton, who sent 15 athletes and two alternates to London and saw them win seven medals. Of U.S. colleges, Princeton ranked ninth. Had Princeton been a country, it would have finished 31st of 204.

Princeton has had at least one representative at every Summer Olympics since 1896, except for the 1960 Games in Rome.

The Tigers will definitely be represented by at least eight Olympians in Rio.

So far, those who have earned a spot in the Olympics are:

* Ashleigh Johnson in women's water polo. The U.S. is overwhelming favored to win a medal and is the favorite for gold.

* Katie Reinprecht, Julie Reinprecht and Kat Sharkey in field hockey. The two Reinprechts were starters in the Games four years ago.

* Kat Holmes in fencing.

* Gevvie Stone and Kate Bertko also qualified Sunday in Florida in rowing.

* Diana Matheson in soccer for Canada. Matheson scored the goal four years ago that gave France the bronze medal.

There are still others who will be trying to get there, especially in rowing.

Princeton also has 17 track and field athletes, if he is correct, who will be at the Olympic Trials this coming July 1-10 in Eugene, Ore. Among that group will be Donn Cabral, who reached the steeplechase finals in 2012.

And there are swimmers too.

In the end, Princeton may approach the 15 who were there four years ago.

The 2016 Rio Olympics begin Aug. 5 and run through Aug. 21.

TigerBlog will be rooting for Princeton. And for Princeton's former ESPN contact.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

That's The Spirit

TigerBlog had a meeting yesterday afternoon.

The subject? The Gary Walters ’67 Princeton Varsity Club Awards Banquet, which is actually one month from today.

Yes, another academic year is flying by.

When TigerBlog was in the newspaper business, he started out each September with the idea that he'd do one more academic year and then, when it was over, go get a "real" job. MotherBlog used to say all the time when TB was little that he'd never be able to make a career working in sports, that someday he'd have to get a "real" job.

Ah, how wrong she was.

TigerBlog has seen a lot of people leave what he does to get "real" jobs. That's up to them. TigerBlog isn't quite sure when he stopped thinking in terms of "one more academic year." It was a long time ago.

He long ago figured out that what he does is a "real" job. In fact, he's finishing up his 33rd academic year in the sportswriting/communications/athletic administration business.

There was a time when the new academic year didn't really start until then-Trenton State College president Harold Eickoff would announce at the preseason media/booster luncheon his prediction, which was always the same. "I predict," he would say, "that every Trenton State team will go undefeated all year."

These days, the banquet is one of the major signs that the academic year is pretty much over. There are only a handful of competitions from that point on, usually in rowing and track and field.

The end of April brings with it the countdown to the final home events of the year. Another sign that the academic year is ending? The email that TB got the other day that said that the event meeting would be cancelled.

By TigerBlog's count, here is the remaining home schedule for 2015-16:
* men's heavyweight, men's lightweight and women's open rowing this weekend
* men's lacrosse against Cornell Saturday
* baseball against Cornell Sunday
* softball against Cornell Sunday
* Heps track and field May 7-8

And that's it.

At least that's it for scheduled things.

It's possible that the same weekend as Heps track will also see Princeton host the Ivy League women's lacrosse tournament and/or the Ivy League baseball championship series.

As exciting as it would be to see all eight Ivy League baseball teams end up 10-10, a possibility that TigerBlog pointed out yesterday, he'd actually rather not see that come to be. Instead, he'd like to see Princeton clinch the Gehrig Division this weekend against Cornell.

If it all goes well for Princeton, the Tigers will win the division and then host the Rolfe winner by having a better record than the Rolfe champ. Right now, Princeton and Yale are both in first place, at 10-6.

Of course, the Gehrig Division comes first, and the Tigers are only one game up on Penn right now.

Then there is the women's lacrosse tournament. Three of the spots are already sealed, with Princeton, Penn and Cornell all at 5-1 and in the field.

The final spot will go to Harvard with a win over Yale this Saturday. Should Yale win, and Dartmouth beat Columbia, then there would be a three-way tie for fourth at 3-4. Without boring you on the details, Dartmouth would then be the fourth team. If Yale beats Harvard and Columbia beats Dartmouth, then Yale would be the fourth team.

Princeton would get at least a share of the league title with a win at Brown Saturday. There cannot be a three-way tie, because Penn plays Cornell Saturday as well.

Simply put, a Penn win and the Quakers host. A Penn loss and Princeton win and Princeton hosts. A Princeton win and the Tigers and the winner of Penn-Cornell share the title. A Princeton loss means the winner of the Penn-Cornell is the outright champion and host.

No matter what, the Penn-Cornell winner is assured at least a share of the Ivy League title.

Brown, Princeton's opponent, is 1-5 in the league, but the Bears just beat Dartmouth this past weekend. And they beat Princeton the last time the Tigers were in Providence.

So there you have it. The remaining home schedule. And the possibly at home schedule.

Oh, and one more thing for today.

There were eight University-wide winners of the Spirit of Princeton Award. To quote the Daily Princetonian:

The award recognizes a select group of undergraduate students who have made positive contributions to various facets of the University, including in the arts, community service, student organizations, residential living, religious life and athletic endeavors.
All undergraduate students were eligible for the Spirit of Princeton award and could have been nominated by faculty members, alumni, staff and fellow students in the Princeton community. The nominations were reviewed and final winners selected by a committee comprised of administrators and undergraduate students.

Of the eight winners, two are varsity athletes. 

One is football player Ian McGeary. The other is swimmer Beverly Nguyen.

You can read about them HERE.

It's an incredible accomplishment for both, given the time constraints of being a varsity athlete. Then again, TigerBlog has never ceased to be amazed at how the athletes here do it, managing their time as athletes while succeeding as students at a school like Princeton and still finding time to serve the community.

They achieve. They serve. They lead.

And they inspire. 

Why hasn't TigerBog ever wanted to get a "real" job? It's because of the McGeary's and Nguyen's of the world of Princeton Athletics.

Monday, April 25, 2016

Prince+Ton

When TigerBlog was a sophomore in college, he got a terrible number in the room draw.

You know. The lottery that lets you select your housing for the following year. TigerBlog's number was awful.

His freshman year roommate was the perfect roommate. He and TB weren't quite friends, but they co-existed perfectly. Never an argument. Never a problem.

Back then, his roommate was certain he wanted to be a doctor. Today, he is Dr. Seth Rubin, an ob-gyn who practices about a half hour from Princeton. TigerBlog hasn't seen or talked to him in decades.

Still, they were good freshman roommates. As a sophomore, TB thinks, Seth went to live in a fraternity house. TB wanted to get a good single, but his number was bad, so most of the good rooms were gone.

With few choices left, he randomly selected a room in the lower part of the Quad. If you've ever been to Penn's campus, the Quad is the enormous series of dorms that stretch up Spruce Street from about 35th to 39th. It is 512,512 square feet of dorm space.

TigerBlog ended up in one of the forgotten parts of the structure. Ah, but as it turned out, he also lucked out a bit.

The room he randomly chose was in a section of a dorm that was being renovated, and so what should have been a floor with eight rooms instead only had two. It was TigerBlog and one other person, a guy from Minnesota. He and TB had a whole floor to themselves for a year, including a bathroom built for eight.

Anyway, the guy from Minnesota, whose name TB cannot for the life of him remember (Phil, he thinks), was a huge fan of two musical acts: Husker Du and Prince.

TigerBlog had never heard of either. Phil (let's call him that) was a huge fan of both.

Shortly after that Prince began to make it big. As you know, he became a mega-star and had a long career, before he passed away last week at the age of 57.

Despite Phil's efforts, TigerBlog never became a huge Prince fan. He liked some of his songs - "Little Red Corvette," "1999" and "Raspberry Beret" especially.

Prince? He was okay. Not the worse. Far from the best.

He didn't make TB cringe, but TB never wanted to go see him in concert. And what was with the whole "artist formerly known as" thing?

That doesn't mean that TB wasn't surprised to hear of Prince's death, which is obviously a shame. He senses wherever he is and whatever his name actually is, Phil took it harder than TB.

Oh, and TigerBlog definitely never got into Husker Du.

One thing TB thought of with the news of Prince's death was the presence of all of those bumper stickers that people have around here, with Prince's picture and then the word "Ton." You know. Prince+Ton.

 This was a good weekend for the softball team from Prince+Ton.

The Tigers took three of four from Columbia, which kept them three games in front of Penn in the Ivy League's South Division. The North Division got a little tighter, as Dartmouth's runaway instead has become a one-game lead over Harvard.

The Ivy League championship series will be either Princeton or Penn at either Dartmouth or Harvard. Brown, Yale, Cornell and Columbia have been mathematically eliminated.

The North winner will definitely host the ILCS. Dartmouth is 14-2, followed by 13-3 Harvard. Those teams play four times this coming weekend. The math is obvious.

The South winner will be either Princeton or Penn. Princeton has four to go against Cornell (two at Cornell Saturday, two home against Cornell Sunday), while Penn is home against Columbia Saturday and at Columbia Sunday in its final four games.

The Quakers would have to make up three games on Princeton to force a one-game playoff and four to win outright. In other words, Princeton's magic number is two - it needs a combination of wins or Penn losses that adds up to two.

On the baseball side, it wasn't as good as weekend for Prince+Ton, but the John Thompson rule does apply. You remember the rule? As long as you're in first place when the weekend ends, you're fine.

Princeton is in first place in the Rolfe Division, with one weekend to go. The Tigers dropped three of four to Columbia, though, so they will take a one-game lead over Penn into its four games against Cornell.

Unlike softball, Princeton will play at Cornell Friday, not Saturday. The rest of the weekend is the same as in softball.

By the way, if the final weekend of Ivy League baseball goes like this:
Brown sweeps Yale
Harvard and Dartmouth split
Princeton gets swept by Cornell
Columbia takes three of four from Penn

... then all eight Ivy League baseball teams will be 10-10.

Will it happen? Unlikely. But it's a cool note.

Princeton and Yale are both 10-6. Princeton was swept by Yale, so the Tigers could only host the ILCS by finishing with a better record than the Bulldogs.

Of course, Princeton needs to finish with a better record than Penn, Columbia and Cornell before it can worry about the championship series.

Still, it's makes for a pretty exciting end of the leagues season.

So that's Ivy baseball and softball.

As for Prince, rest in peace. You left behind a long legacy of original music and millions of fans, even if TigerBlog wasn't one of them.

Friday, April 22, 2016

A Conversation With Julie Foudy and Kristine Lilly, Part II


Kristine Lilly talked about playing sports - any and all sports - in the backyard in Connecticut, with her brother, four years older than she, and his friends.

TigerBlog, sitting in the back of McCosh 50 last night, could close his eyes and see it.

They played soccer, of course. And football. And basketball. And baseball. And anything else.

It's easy to see, right? A bunch of boys tell her "You're just a girl. You can't play with us. You're not good enough." And then about five minutes later, they're like "um, er, okay."

And really, that's what happened over and over again for Lilly and Julie Foudy, her co-panelist for the Princeton Varsity Club Jake McCandless ’51 Speaker Series - and the rest of those they played with on the U.S. women's national soccer team for all those years.

No, they were told. You can't play with us. You're girls. You're not good enough.

And then they'd see them play. And again, always - "um, er, okay."

Foudy and Lilly talked about how they made national team as teenagers, high schoolers. Only there was nobody to play.

No Women's World Cup. No women's soccer in the Olympics. What good was being on the national team?

So just like Lilly did in her backyard, they simply made it happen. They pushed. They demanded. They set the bar high.

And then they delivered beyond anyone's wildest expectations.

Now, in 2016, it's easy to forget what it took to get them to where they are. No soccer player who has ever lived, male or female, has represented his or her country in international play more than Kristine Lilly. Julie Foudy is fourth on that list.

They have won multiple World Cups. They are Olympic gold medalists. They have played soccer all over the world.

So yeah, looking back, it may be easy to see Lilly in her backyard.

But if you could go back to those days and could ask that little girl - and the other little girls with whom she'd make history - what they thought life as an athlete would be, there's probably no way they would have been able to imagine what would become of them.

To TigerBlog, that's the biggest contribution they've made.

The talk in McCosh 50 was well attended. There were some young girls there, soccer playing girls themselves, and they asked good questions during the Q&A portion of the night. But they hardly made up a majority of the room.

Nope. It was a pretty even distribution between men and women. Ever since they made their breakthrough in 1999, men have watched women's athletics and embraced women's athletics in ways that never would have been dreamt about before that.

And so the women on the stage last night weren't "women" athletes. They were just athletes.

Famous ones. World famous ones.

This was like having having the event with Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig and having them say "yeah, our 1927 team was pretty good." It was like having Paul Hornung and Bart Starr talk about how football got a little bigger while they were playing for the Packers together.

Lilly and Foudy were part of a team - no, make that a movement - that really changed the sporting world. Their 1999 World Cup championship was the game-changer, and it has done more than any single athletic event to bring women's athletics in the mainstream.

Lilly and Foudy came to Princeton to speak about their experiences, and about the state of women's athletics.

Ford Family Director of Athletics Mollie Marcoux, herself a soccer (and ice hockey) player at Princeton, was the moderator, and she introduced both, who seemed genuinely embarrassed by the lengths of their resumes. Both then spoke for a few minutes, and that was followed by some questions from Marcoux and then open questions of the audience.

Among the themes:

* the value of the team - both spoke about what it meant to them to be a real, true team, not just a bunch of individuals. They talked about how everyone on the team embraced her role, and it took all of them together, even the ones who didn't play in the games, to become champions. They talked about how close everyone on the team was, and how much they miss not seeing each other regularly anymore

* get out of your comfort zone - Foudy showed a graphic that had a small circle with the words "your comfort zone" in it and then a much larger circle, not touching the first, that said "where the magic happens." Get out of your comfort zone, she said. And then she showed a video of a young girl at the top of a ski jump who had to talk herself into jumping off - only to find that the experience brought her greater confidence to move ahead

* leadership and service - The Princeton Athletics theme of "Achieve, Serve, Lead" was discussed. Leadership? It's personal, not positional, Foudy said. Service? Don't do it just to check a box on a college application. Do it because you want to make change, for the better. Find your passion and pursue it.

* advice to the young players - have fun. And play to win. One doesn't have to exclude the other.

They were very entertaining. They told stories about what it was like to be on the wave of history. They personalized it, with stories about making fun of Mia Hamm's famous shampoo commercial and a video practical joke they played on Brandi Chastain.

They talked about the current controversy about pay disparity between the men's national team and the women's national team. They talked about how much still needs to be done to grow the women's game internationally.

As TigerBlog sat there and watched and listened and took some notes, he kept coming back to something Mollie Marcoux said early in her introduction. The 1999 World Cup championship was a sporting event that was so noteworthy that people remember where they were when they saw it.

She's right.

There aren't that many sporting events like that for TigerBlog. He's not talking about Princeton here, obviously. There are hundreds of those from Princeton.

But beyond that? The Miracle on Ice, for sure. The Giants when they won the Super Bowl.

And the 1999 Women's World Cup final.

TigerBlog was in Seattle, visiting BrotherBlog, and he supposed to be flying to Philadelphia at the time. That flight, though, was cancelled, and he was put on a flight to Dulles Airport instead.

The plane landed after the game should have ended, but because it went overtime, it was still going on when TB got off the plane. He saw a TV and a crowd around it, and he realized what was going on.

He got to a spot where he could see the TV just as the penalty kicks were starting. His car was at the Philadelphia airport, his luggage was who knows where ,but so what. Everything else could wait.

He wanted to see the end of the game.

When the U.S. won, a roar went up in the terminal. It was a roar of sports fans, male and female.

They were celebrating the achievement of one of the most remarkable and important teams in the history of American sports. Girls who can't play? Hah. No.

These were women who were champions, and trailblazers.

It was great to hear two of their best speak at Princeton last night. They were beyond impressive.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

A Conversation With Julie Foudy And Kristine Lilly

TigerBlog's contention that if you ask 10 random male sports fans to name 10 female athletes, they will name three (maybe four) women's tennis players and the rest will be women's soccer players.

By "random male sports fans," TigerBlog isn't talking about the first 10 men who walk into Jadwin Gym to watch Princeton basketball.

He's talking about 10 random men at an NFL game or an NBA game. Men whose view of college sports is just big-time football and basketball.

They'll give you Serena Williams, Venus Williams, Maria Sharapova and maybe Caroline Wozniacki. And then the rest will be soccer players.

TigerBlog first started covering college sports in 1989. Back then, he was in the newspaper business, and he worked with a legendary Trenton sportswriter named Harvey Yavener.

Generation after generation of Princeton athletes can talk about their experiences with being interviewed for a story by Yav. The average interview lasts about five or 10 minutes. Yav? An interview with him meant a half hour, 45 minutes.

Each time, Yav would come back and rave about what he'd learned about these athletes. And the funny thing was that they were almost never football or basketball players. No, they were athletes from every sport, male and female.

It was such a rarity back then. Yav would send TigerBlog to cover basketball games at Trenton State College (now the College of New Jersey) or Rider, where they would play doubleheaders, and TB would be the only one covering the women's game. When the rest of the sportswriters got there for the men's game, they'd make fun of TB for covering "the girls."

Today? The world is different.

Women's athletics have skyrocketed in the last few decades, especially in terms of media coverage.

And this isn't just with having the NCAA women's basketball tournament on television. Today's world includes women who regularly broadcast men's sports, including the NBA, Major League Baseball and major college football and basketball.

Where did it all start? With tennis. The top women athletes from when TigerBlog was a kid were all tennis players, like Billie Jean King, Chris Evert and Martina Navratilova.

As an aside, TigerBlog covered a lot of tennis in the early 1980s and got to interview Navratilova more than once. She remains one of the most gracious and accommodating athletes TigerBlog has ever written about.

Tennis, though, only took women's athletics so far. Why? If you ask TigerBlog he'd say it's because tennis perpetuated the notion that women's athletes had to be ladylike or else nobody would watch them.

It took soccer to destroy that myth, especially in the 1999 World Cup. This was the World Cup that was played in the U.S. and ended with Brandi Chastain as she whipped off her jersey to celebrate in just her sports bra after her Cup-winning penalty kick.

All of the sudden, it wasn't the idea that maintaining the femininity of women's athletics is what mattered. It was that they could play so hard and get so dirty and compete so aggressively and celebrate so openly and never have to apologize for any of it.

Women? They were still women. They were just women who could sweat as much as any man.

Julie Foudy and Kristine Lilly are veterans of that 1991 team, and of many other successes with the U.S. women's national team. In fact, both were long-time captains of the team. They are among the most famous names in the history of women's sports in this country.

Foudy has gone on to a long career in broadcasting. She has established herself as an honest voice, a strong voice. When you watch a game that she is doing, you don't think of her as a "woman" announcer. You think of her as an "excellent" announcer.

You can hear her voice tonight at Princeton, as part of the Princeton Varsity Club's Jake McCandless ’51 Speaker Series. The event - "A Conversation with Julie Foudy and Kristine Lilly" - is free and open to the public.

Oh, yeah. Where and when? It's in McCosh 50 at 7:30 tonight.

Princeton has a long history of success in women's athletics. Men's sports here had a head start of nearly 110 years on the women's teams, but almost since Day 1 in 1971 the women have been a model of what is possible in college athletics.

What's changed most about women's athletics here in TigerBlog's time isn't the success of the teams or the commitment of the department and University to providing the athletes the best possible experience.

No. It's been the evolution in how the teams are received by the public, especially the male public and male students.

TigerBlog remembers watching Princeton women's teams play in front of tiny crowds, with almost no male following. Today, venue after venue has larger crowds, with more men and boys in attendance. This is especially true at women's basketball, but it applies basically across the board.

The driving force behind that acceptance, TigerBlog believes, was the U.S. women's national soccer team.

Tonight, you can hear from two of its most prominent members.

Maybe Julie Foudy and Kristine Lilly just wanted to play and never really considered the larger societal implications. Maybe they did. Either way it's fine.

They have had a huge effect on women's athletics, at Princeton, and everywhere else.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Ten, Again

The women's tennis team won the Ivy League championship Sunday.

With that, Princeton reached an achievement that it does more academic years than not: double figures in Ivy titles.

For Princeton, women's tennis made it 10 for 2015-16. If you're keeping score, it's field hockey, women's soccer, women's volleyball, women's cross country, men's fencing, women's fencing, women's ice hockey, men's swimming and diving, men's indoor track and field and women's tennis.

Reaching double figures in Ivy League championships in an academic year is nothing to take for granted. Not at all.

Since the formation of the Ivy League in 1956-57, the only school other than Princeton to reach double figures in an academic year is Harvard who has done it seven times.

Including this year, Princeton has now done it 23 times, including seven of the last eight academic years. Princeton also reached double figures for nine straight years at one point, from 1993-94 through 2001-02.

These are extraordinary accomplishments.

It's a testament to the the great coaches and athletes who have competed here, as well as a departmental and University-wide commitment to having a broad-based athletic program that strives for excellence across the board.

Yes, that's sounds a bit trite, but it's not. It's genuine.

The all-time record for Ivy titles in an academic year is 15, which Princeton achieved in 2010-11. There are still 11 Ivy League championships remaining to be crowned in 2015-16, and TigerBlog would say that Princeton has a shot at 15, though it would take a lot to go right.

Still, getting to 10 is incredible. It's not just something that happens. It takes a lot of effort.

As for the women's tennis team, the championship won Sunday was not an easy one.

When you think of the sports in which the Ivy League is best top to bottom, this year it's probably women's tennis. All eight teams are ranked in the top 75, and every league match was basically a toss-up.

Princeton, as TB said Monday, won the title at 5-2, marking the first time in league history that a women's tennis champ had two losses. Also, this was the first time that the last place team (in this case, three teams at 2-5) didn't go 0-7 or 1-6.

For Princeton that makes three straight outright women's tennis championships. For head coach Laura Granville, she joins Zoltan Dudas (women's fencing), Kristen Holmes-Winn (field hockey), Will Green (men's golf), Rob Orr (men's swimming/diving), Fred Samara (men's track and field), Peter Farrell (women's track and field), Courtney Banghart (women's basketball) and Susan Teter (women's swimming and diving) as current Princeton head coaches who have won at least three straight outright Ivy titles in their careers.

As for teams that are on a current streak of at least three straight Ivy League outright championships, TigerBlog thinks this is the complete list: Princeton women's tennis, Princeton field hockey, Cornell wrestling, Columbia baseball, Columbia men’s tennis, Harvard women’s golf, Harvard women's indoor track & field.

So that sort of puts the women's tennis streak into some historical context.

Oh, and TigerBlog wanted to give a shout out to his broadcasting colleagues in the Office of Athletic Communications.

This past weekend, three members of the OAC staff (not including TigerBlog) were called into broadcasting duty. There was Cody Chrusciel, one of the video dudes, who is also doubling as the play-by-play man for Princeton men's lacrosse. He also did softball on the Ivy League Digital Network Sunday.

Cody at least is an experienced broadcaster. And a really, really good one. He could probably make a career of the broadcasting piece alone.

It was the first thing TigerBlog noticed about Cody on his interview here. His voice. He's a natural.

Then there were the other two OAC'ers who got behind the mic this weekend.

One was Kristy McNeil, who never before had done any broadcasting. She jumped on with Jeff O'Connor to do the women's lacrosse game on the ILDN and ESPN3.

Originally, TigerBlog was going to do the color commentary and Kristy was going to do stats, but she wanted to try the broadcasting end. And she did really well. She kept it simple. Talked about the teams. Didn't try to be too shtick-y.

It was an excellent debut.

The other broadcaster/communications person was Andrew Borders, who at least had done some games in college, at UCLA, a long time ago. Andrew jumped on to do softball on the ILDN Saturday.

Oh, he also did stats and public address at the same time. That's pretty impressive, no?

Hey, the key word is "communications," right?

Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Head Coach Brian Earl

Brian Earl was a baby-faced 18-year-old when TigerBlog first met him.

It was back in 1995, when Earl came to Princeton to play basketball. TigerBlog had heard of him, knew that he was bringing with him a reputation for being a big-time outside shooter.

It took about five minutes of Earl's first game for TB to love how he played. By the time Earl graduated four years later, TigerBlog had seen every game he played but one.

Earl finished his career as the 1999 Ivy League Player of the Year, with 1,428 career points, and, at the time, as the Ivy League's all-time leader in three-pointers made. He had a team-best 21 points in the 1998 NCAA tournament win over UNLV, and he helped Princeton ruin the last game ever at North Carolina State's Reynolds Coliseum in the second round of the 1999 NIT.

His best performance? It came in the comeback game at the Palestra in 1999, when Princeton rallied from 27-3 down and 40-13 with 15 minutes left to beat Penn 50-49. Earl had 20 points that night, almost all of it in the second half, most of it when an empty possession would have destroyed the comeback.

HERE are some highlights.

When TigerBlog thinks back to Earl as a player, he remembers all of those games - he went 40 minutes in all of them, by the way. He remembers all of the nights on the road, when Earl was the focal point of venom from opposing fans that TB has never heard matched in the league. If it was nasty or obscene, it was yelled at Earl.

He remembers the story he wrote about Earl for the game program when Earl was a senior, how he wrote about the way Earl looked like you could knock him off his feet with the slightest nudge. Only you couldn't. No. He kept moving. Kept fighting. Stone faced at all times.

And then, as TB wrote, it was "three more in his pocket."

And yesterday, he thought back to a conversation he had with Gary Walters, the former athletic director, back when Earl was a player. It was a conversation in which TB told Walters that he thought Earl would make a great coach.

TigerBlog always thought that about Earl. It wasn't because he was such a great player. It was because he definitely saw the game, made everyone a better player, saw the big picture of what the team was trying to do.

Today Brian Earl is a baby-faced almost 40 year old. And he's a Division I head coach.

Earl was named the head coach at Cornell yesterday. He'll be heading to Ithaca after spending the last nine years as an assistant coach at Princeton, under Sydney Johnson and Mitch Henderson.

Those three, by the way, are half of the six Princeton alums who are now Division I head coaches. The other three are John Thompson, Mike Brennan and Chris Mooney.

Earl takes over a team that finished tied for last this past season, though he does get Matt Morgan, a freshman who averaged 19 a game this year.

Cornell has gotten a great one.

He has a lot of Bill Carmody/John Thompson in him. Don't be fooled by his understated personality and inherent calmness. He, like Carmody and Thompson, may be quiet, with a subtle, sarcastic sense of humor and a laugh that is more of a smile.

But make no mistake.

Like the other two, he is a fierce competitor. Like the other two, he's one of the most competitive people TigerBlog has ever met.

It came out in every game he played. He's a tough guy, and has been since Day 1 in 1995.

Now he's going to bring that toughness to Ithaca.

He's one of the most well-liked players Princeton has ever had. He is one of the greatest players Princeton basketball has had, and still to this day, only Douglas Davis (with 276)  has come within 48 threes of the number Earl put up.

He was part of an extraordinary era in Princeton basketball. He played in the win over UCLA, hitting a huge three-pointer in the second half. He was part of Pete Carril's last team and Bill Carmody's first.

He helped lead the Tigers into the top 10 as a junior, when Princeton went a remarkable 27-2.  For TigerBlog's money, it would take a lot for any Ivy team since to beat that team.

Now he's trading his Orange and Black for Big Red.

It'll be really weird to see him at Cornell, instead of at Princeton. He's been one of the best representatives Princeton Athletics has had in TB's time here, as both an athlete and coach.

So good luck to Brian Earl as he embarks on his head coaching career.

No matter what he does at Cornell, he'll always been a Princeton guy to TigerBlog. A great one, at that.