Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Unofficially Speaking

TigerBlog has always thought of 1997-98 as the greatest year in Princeton Athletic history.

Princeton teams won 13 Ivy League titles that year, which at the time was the most in league history. Among the highlights of that year were a 27-2 record and Top 10 ranking by the men's basketball team, a Howe Cup championship in women' squash, a third-straight NCAA title in men's lacrosse, the first NCAA appearance by the men's hockey team, a Final Four appearance in field hockey and even the charm of an entire season on the road by the football team.

And yet, the following year might actually have been a little better, at least across the board statistically. Princeton teams won 14 Ivy titles in 1998-99, setting a record that was equalled the following year (and in 2004-05 by that school in Massachusetts).

Going strictly by Ivy League unofficial all-sports points standings, 1998-99 was the best year ever. Princeton ran up 218.5 points, its highest total ever (and three points better than the year before it).

As a reminder, the unofficial all-sports points standings assign eight points for first place, seven points for second place, and so on down the standings. Teams that finish in a tie split the points, so that two teams that finish tied for second in a sport get 6.5 points each for that sport. A sport that has fewer than eight teams competing still awards eight points for first, so for instance, finishing last in Ivy League hockey still earns three points.

Princeton publications used to refer to this as the "Ivy League All-Sports Points Championship" until Brett Hoover became Director of Communications at the Ivy League and insisted that we stick the "Unofficial" in there somewhere.

The current athletic year still has a few events left (NCAA track and field, national rowing championships), but the Ivy League season ended with the women's open rowing championships last weekend. Princeton rolled to the Ivy League's "Unofficial" title again, defeating runner-up Harvard by 24 points. This makes 23 straight years that Princeton has won this championship, though the Ivy League will disavow any knowledge of this.

Princeton racked up 205 points, its highest academic year total since the 218.5 in 1998-99. Princeton won on the men's-only championship by 6.5 points (Cornell was second) and the women's only by 10 (Harvard was second).

Going season by season, Princeton won the fall, winter and spring individually (Harvard was second in all three seasons). If you want to just look at championships, Princeton was first with 11, followed by Harvard and Cornell with seven titles each. If you want the complete order of overall finish, it was Princeton, Harvard, Cornell, Yale, Penn, Brown, Dartmouth, Columbia.

It was a fairly dominant year around these parts, and yet nobody here is rejoicing or celebrating or even thinking of this as something out of the ordinary. And again, this is one of TigerBlog's recurring themes: We enjoy great athletic success here, but it's not something that just happens.

Or, as Roy Simmons Jr., the old Syracuse lacrosse coach, used to love to say, quoting that Shakespeare guy: "Heavy is the head that wears the crown."

In our case, it's an unofficial crown, but one we'd like to keep.

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