Monday, June 29, 2009

End Of The Search

TigerBlog is a big fan of Christian Swezey of Inside Lacrosse, and it’s a good thing, because TB has heard from Swezey almost hourly for the last few days.

Swezey was checking in often to see if Princeton had an announcement about a new men’s lacrosse coach. TB offered the same quote each time: “Princeton does not comment publicly on ongoing coaching searches.”

TB, even in his newspaper days, never really understood the desire to be the one who broke the story, whatever that story happened to be. As soon as you know something, everyone else does as well. Still, the intensity with which multiple outlets pushed for information was interesting to watch.

Now that the search is no longer ongoing, Princeton can comment all it wants about the hiring of Chris Bates, formerly at Drexel, as the new men’s lacrosse coach here.

TigerBlog’s first comment is to say that this was definitely a 2009-era search. While TB is impressed with the final product of the traditional reporting done by several outside outlets (with no help from the inside, Inside Lacrosse and the Daily Princetonian both reported Bates as the new coach on Sunday), it’s been amusing to see the amount of attention focused on the Web towards the Princeton search.

There were a flood of names linked to the position that never should have been, and there were moments when information that was flat-out wrong was presented as factual. Most of this information was not on actual media sites like Inside Lacrosse or a newspaper but instead on message boards. Again, as TB has said often of late, the average person reading about the Princeton search will remember the names they saw and the reasons why those names were associated with the Princeton position more than they’ll remember where they read them and who wrote them. Again, the quantity of information is staggering, and there is no mechanism to hold the information to any sense of accountability or accuracy. It’s just how it works these days, and again, the sport of lacrosse has benefited from the Web as much as any sport out there.

TB’s second comment is about how the world of college sports information and media relations has continued to evolve. The words “press conference” never entered TB’s mind when learning of Bates’ hire; instead, we here at TigerBlog HQ began to figure out a way to blend together our official announcement, our own video Q&A and a blog entry with an eye on a chat in the near future.

As for the media, we wanted to make sure that the new coach was available to those who wanted to speak to him, but we never felt the need to set up a traditional press conference.

So, here is our multi-platform package. Enjoy.

* * *

Congratulations to John Mack, an Associate AD at Northwestern and a former Princeton athletic department staff member and 10-time Heptagonal track champion, who got married Sunday in St. Louis.

TigerBlog has 10 pictures hanging on the wall above his computer, and one of the 10 is of John Mack as he opens up a huge lead on the field in a 400-meter race. John Mack is one of TB’s all-time favorite Princeton athletes, as well as a fairly beloved figure among Princeton athletic staffers who were here before he left to go to Chicago.

Again, congrats to Mr. and Mrs. Mack.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Farrah, Michael – And The Princeton Athletics Year In Review

So Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson died on the same day?

If you weren't lucky enough to grow up in the 1970s, you probably don't understand what the fuss over Farrah was all about. If you're TigerBlog's age, you know that there have been very few American cultural icons who ever became as big as Farrah was in the 1970s, when her presence drove Charlie's Angels from being a silly show about three bored female police officers into a mega-hit that impacted hair styles, mass media and even the women's movement.

How big was Fawcett? The famous Farrah poster sold three million copies in February and March 1977 alone. Even with today's overexposure of celebrities and their lives, there are none who match up with the impact that Farrah had on Americana of the 1970s. (As an aside, TigerBlog remembers a commercial for a Farrah doll that had a torturous song to go along with it; TB couldn't get it out of his head for at least a decade).

If you weren't old enough for the ’70s and just remember her for some strange reality show and other projects that kept her on the fringes of fame, you might have wondered why all the hoopla as her cancer began to worsen. Why the hoopla? Because in her day, she was the Marilyn Monroe of the 1970s.

Of course, one cultural icon who did reach her level was Michael Jackson, whose death several hours after Fawcett's was, unlike hers, unexpected and as such completely knocked hers off of the main pages.

TigerBlog remembers the old TV show "The Jackson Five" and remains a big fan of some of the group's songs, especially "The Love You Save," "Never Can Say Goodbye" and "I Want You Back."

TB wasn't a big fan of the "King of Pop" as he drifted into a really bizarre world, and had TigerBlog Jr. and Little Miss TigerBlog asked to vacation with Jackson at his Neverland ranch, the answer would have been "uh, no." Still, one can't help but acknowledge the huge impact Jackson had on the world of mass media. His album "Thriller" sold 45 million copies and also helped change music from something you listened to to something you watched. TB never was a fan of much of Jackson's solo stuff (though he does remember his childhood friend Brad Zucker as he went through his "I'm Brad, I'm Brad" phase). Still, there is no denying that there was no bigger star in the world than Michael Jackson for much of the 1980s and 1990s (except for those of us from the Jersey Shore, where loyalty to Springsteen runs deep).

Usually, TigerBlog employs a segue of sorts from this part of his rant to the part that has to do with Princeton Athletics. Today's entry was going to be about the Princeton Athletics Year in Review, a written piece whose text is used in various places here at TigerBlog HQ.

Today, there will be no such segue, as Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson have nothing to do with Princeton Athletics, as near as TB can figure. Still, for someone in TigerBlog's age group, it was impossible to write something today without mentioning those two.

As for the year in review, 2008-09 was by almost any accounts an extraordinary one for Princeton athletics. In much the same way as great literature combines laughter and tears, so too did this past year, with its undeniable success (11 Ivy titles, two national championships, 25 of 33 teams in the top three in the Ivy League in their sport, a 23rd straight unofficial Ivy all-sports points championship) coupled with some epic defeats (men's hockey vs. Minnesota Duluth in the NCAA tournament, men's squash in the national finals to Trinity) and the departure of two of the coaching legends in school history (men's lacrosse coach Bill Tierney, men's/women's volleyball coach Glenn Nelson).

TigerBlog understands that when writing for the University, as opposed to an outside publication, a certain amount of spin is necessary. At the same time, there was no way to tell the story of all of Princeton's athletic success without touching on those two losses.

First, those losses are events that will be remembered by those who watched them or read about them forever. It is TigerBlog's contention that if men's college squash was as popular a sport as men's college basketball or college football, then the Trinity-Princeton final of 2009 would be remembered as the greatest collegiate sporting event of all time.

Second, if athletics on this level are supposed to be part of the educational experience, then who could argue the fact that those who came out on the losing end of those two events learned lessons that will stay with them until the day they die?

As for the year as a whole, Princeton teams played 586 head-to-head contests in 2008-09, not counting multi-team events such as a cross country race or golf tournament, and all of the teams combined for a 354-224-8 record, or a winning percentage of .611. That's pretty good stuff.

Not a bad way to end the decade, right? Oh yeah, the decade is coming to a close, and a new one will start, pushing the 1970s and 1980s further into the rear view mirror. Those days are far enough away that some of the biggest stars of those time are no longer here, and yet, for those of us who were just starting to figure the world out at the time, icons like Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson will stay with us forever.

The Old College Boo

Over breakfast this morning, TigerBlog was listening to a sports talk show discuss fan behavior at last night's NBA Draft and whether it is acceptable to boo, chant and shout reactions to a team's picks.

The argument against is that the fans are booing college players just starting their careers, effectively deciding the player's worth before he's dribbled a ball professionally.

Is it OK? Is it not? Should they just be used to it from all the razzing from student sections across the land?

TigerBlog thinks that part of the thought process behind fans booing at the draft (NFL even more famously) and at the games themselves has to do with money. It's ever more expensive to attend professional sports events, so perhaps fans feel the right to scream their frustrations/insults comes with purchasing the ticket. Maybe it's jealousy over the big bucks those on stage are about to receive. Who knows?

Discussions like this show how different a world Princeton athletics is in. It's hard to think of a time at a Princeton athletic event when fans booed a player in-game. Not during introductions or when a close referee's call goes one way or the other, but actual boos raining down during play. It's a pretty family-friendly place.

Why the difference? Is it because fans don't have to shell out a chunk of the monthly rent/mortgage payment to attend games here? Is it because people know these are college kids and not professionals? Is it different at other schools?

Perhaps another key difference is the relative unknown status college players have when they begin at universities. Sure, a kid may have all kinds of honors from high school or recruiting touts, but who's ever heard of an incoming freshman being dismissed as an awful choice before the first game? Either they play well and are lauded or they don't see much time and are an afterthought.

The need for fans to display their immediate reactions to draft picks probably comes from the same place as a fan's need for instant information. It's been discussed before on TigerBlog how game previews on are some of the highest-viewed stories. People want to have instant information in today's 24-hour news culture. Just as some fans can't wait for the game, they can't wait for the draft picks to get used to their teams and see how it all goes.

Your thoughts?

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Have You Mehmet NBA Center Chris Young?

“With the 18th pick in the 2002 NBA Draft, the Orlando Magic select Curtis Borchardt.”

What do those words have to do with a San Diego Padre pitcher, the first Turkish player to win an NBA title and a Hall of Fame basketball coach?

If not for one small decision, possibly everything.

As dozens of young men spend tonight waiting and hoping for their dreams to be realized, TigerBlog took the time to dream of a potential scenario that could have happened six years ago: What if Chris Young had chosen basketball over baseball?

Flash back to the 2001-02 NBA season. The Utah Jazz finished 44-38 that season after using NBA immortals Jarron Collins and Greg Ostertag as starting centers. The previous year, Utah started Olden “The Sheriff” Polynice for 79 games at center. (If you don’t get the reference, Google “Sheriff Polynice")

Suffice it to say, Utah head coach Jerry Sloan was looking for a new option. The 2002 Draft (which is the ugly stepsister of the incredibly better 2003 Draft) featured one star big man in Yao Ming, who went No. 1 overall to Houston. By the time it was getting close to Utah’s selection at No. 19, two more forward/centers had been taken: Nene Hilario and Melvin Ely.

You’re not likely to relive this draft on NBA TV anytime soon.

Utah wanted Stanford center Curtis Borchardt so much that it actually dealt its first-round pick and its second-round pick to Orlando to move up one position and secure the, as Wikipedia called him, “injury-prone” Stanford junior.

It is TigerBlog’s belief that Chris Young’s name would have gone there. While Young didn’t have the pure athleticism of Hilario and Ely, he certainly had the game to be a first-round pick after what would have been four years of college basketball. Not only that, his skill set would have been ideal for Jerry Sloan. He could set a pick, pass the ball and draw a defender out with his shooting ability, which included a capable although unspectacular three-point shot. He could flourish in Sloan’s pick-and-roll offense. He wasn’t as tall as Borchart, but at 6-10 with the ability to block shots and rebound, he could certainly play center in the NBA.

But Young chose baseball and didn’t play his final two years of college basketball. And Utah was so thrilled with Borchart that they signed a reserve from the NBA champion Detroit Pistons named Mehmet Okur two years later. For those unfamiliar with the NBA game, Okur has averaged between 14 and 18 points per game in the last four seasons and has started every game he played during that time. He isn’t your typical low-post center; instead, he scores off pick-and-pops and three-point shots – exactly the kind of game that could have suited Young.

Okur signed in 2004, two seasons after Young could have started a career in Utah. Okur was drafted in 2001, so Young wouldn’t have been eligible for his big free agent deal until 2005, but if you play along with TB, the guess here is that Young would have gotten the big deal from Utah in ’05, Okur would have signed somewhere else and Utah would still be an annual contender in the Western Conference.

For comparison’s sake, Okur made $8.5 million in the 08-09 season, while Young currently makes $4.6 million. That being said, a healthy Young could pitch at least one full contract longer than he probably could as an NBA center, so the money might not be far off in the end.

This is not meant as a criticism of the decision, because Young is a proven starting pitcher in the majors. Whether he would have been a proven NBA starting center, well, that’s left for the dreamers.


Daily reader Matt Ciciarelli, a former media relations contact for Princeton baseball, recently reminded TB of this former exchange between Chris Young and a reporter after a heartbreaking NCAA baseball loss in 2000:

Reporter: Chris, in the seventh or eighth inning, you looked to be laboring a little. Did the heat and humidity of Houston get to you a little?
CY: Not really. I grew up in Texas and have played ball in the heat all my life. July and August are normally much warmer than tonight.
Reporter: I know, but you grew up in Dallas.
CY (in his standard patient and polite fashion): So, it's still Texas.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Bienvenue, Quebecois

When TigerBlog turned the page on his desk calendar today, this notation appeared below Wednesday June 24:

St. Jean Baptiste (Quebec)

So, 365 miles north of Princeton in the province of Quebec, it's a national holiday. According to Wikipedia (where else would you go for basic info on some unfamiliar topic these days?), June 24 was declared Quebec's patriotic day in 1977, 69 years after Pope Pius X named St. John the Baptist the patron saint of French Canadians. There's your history lesson for the day.

The Wikipedia article goes on to say that the Canadian government then stepped up promotion of July 1, one week later, of Canada Day as the national holiday for the rest of Canada. That's nice too, but what does this have to do with Princeton?

Though the vast majority of Princeton athletes are from the United States, some come from the Caribbean, Mexico, Asia and Europe. Canada, however, is the most popular homeland for foreign Princeton student-athletes.

In all, 36 Canadians are currently on Princeton rosters between 11 teams. Not surprisingly, ice hockey claims 23 of those, with 13 men and 10 women counting O Canada as their true national anthem.

Only two of those Canadians, however, are from Quebec. And although the province has 527,029 square miles of land, more than 60 times the size of New Jersey (thanks again, Wikipedia), both Stephanie Denino '10 (ice hockey) and Emma Bedard '11 (lightweight rowing) are among the almost 2 million people who call the island of Montreal home, and both attended the same post-secondary school.

So, to Denino and Bedard, happy celebrating. The rest of the Canadians will have to wait a week for their big day, and of course, the fireworks and barbecues will come for most of the rest of Princeton's student-athletes a week from Saturday.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Mr. President, The Princeton Website Has Been Updated

Suppose, for a minute, that it's the early evening of Oct. 3. Princeton and Columbia have just finished their football game, and alums of both schools are checking out the Websites of both schools to find out as much about the outcome as they can.

Does that mean that in the White House, President Obama, Columbia Class of 1983, might be checking out

TigerBlog has often wondered who the most famous and influential people who come to are. will be 10 years old this October, meaning three Presidents have had a chance to go to the page. All three - Yale Law School grad Bill Clinton, Yale undergrad and Harvard Business School grad George W. Bush and now Obama – have some Ivy League connection. All three are obviously sports fans, especially Bush and Obama.

So maybe they have checked out the site. At least once? You couldn't see some interest on Bush's part on a Princeton-Yale game? Obama is a huge basketball fan whose brother-in-law is one of the leading scorers in Princeton basketball history? Maybe he read TigerBlog's Pete Carril feature? Or maybe the Princeton-Brown basketball recaps when Craig Robinson was still the Bears coach and Obama was winding down after a long day on the campaign trail?

And how about the first lady, Michelle Obama, who herself is an alum? Certainly she's been on our site, no?

Forget just the Presidents. Who else out there has seen The Website approaches one million page views per month during the peak months during the athletic year and has more than 80,000 unique visitors during those times. TigerBlog is starting to catch on as well. Certainly someone famous out there has stumbled upon it.

There is a huge list of alums in government. Samuel Alito, the Supreme Court justice, is an alum, as is the current nominee Sonia Sotomayor.

Robert Mueller, the director of the FBI, played lacrosse here. Maybe he posted something here on TigerBlog after Bill Tierney and David Metzbower left? Or maybe Buzzy Krongard, former CIA head and lacrosse Hall of Famer, did so?
Donald Rumsfeld played sprint football and wrestled; he has to be a reader. So, too, is the former Governor of Maryland Robert Ehrlich, a football alum.

There are a ton of Princeton alums in the entertainment world. How about Dean Cain? He's definitely a reader. TigerBlog remembers covering games when Cain was an All-America defensive back at Princeton (and running into him on campus after he'd become Superman on TV) and being impressed with how down-to-Earth he was (and probably still is). Cain was also a volleyball player here at Princeton and a huge Glenn Nelson fan; he definitely read Craig Sachson's piece on the longtime Tiger volleyball coach.

But what about his college girlfriend Brooke Shields? Does she read our site? David Duchovny has often said he played basketball and baseball at Princeton (records indicate he never lettered in either). He must be a loyal reader. How about Wayne Rogers, who played Trapper John in the series M*A*S*H? Trapper supposedly played football at Dartmouth; certainly the person who played him must be a reader.

Ethan Coen is a Princeton grad. Maybe between takes of filming, among others, "No Country For Old Men," Coen checked out some Princeton stuff. Of course, he couldn't have done so during the filming of "Fargo," since that was the years. Maybe he called the Tiger Sportsline?

TB knows that John McPhee, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author, is a loyal reader. How about the other great Princeton alums in literature and media?

Meg Whitman surely has two tabs open at once, one on ebay and one on What about the other Princetonians in business?

Or maybe we have a loyal reader who's not even a Princeton alum. It could be anyone. Bernie Madoff? The Pope? Bill Simmons? James Earl Jones? Sylvester Stallone? Anyone.

Actually, it got TigerBlog to thinking. If TB could pick five famous people to read and TigerBlog each day, which five would it be?

* LeBron James - would make a good commercial. LeBron wakes up, checks out and then goes on with his day
* George H.W. Bush - anyone who celebrates his 85th birthday by jumping out of an airplane is okay with TigerBlog
* Robert DeNiro - yeah, we're talking to you
* Bruce Springsteen - let him appreciate TigerBlog for once, instead of the other way around
* Morgan Freeman - because how great would it be to have Morgan Freeman call you on the phone one day and tell you in that voice how much he likes your blog?

So come on, all you famous readers out there. Let us know who you are.

TigerBlog knows you're out there.

Monday, June 22, 2009

There's A Place For Us

When TigerBlog stumbled upon "West Side Story" on TV the other night, his first thoughts were usually the same when he sees the movie:

1) you could never make a movie like that today; any Hollywood producer would laugh you out of his office. Despite that, "West Side Story" won 10 Oscars and is ranked as the No. 2 musical of all time by the American Film Institute.

2) TigerBlog can't help but think back to the time his high school put on its own production of "West Side Story," in which BrotherBlog played "Doc" because he couldn't sing or dance. Also, TB's best friend then (and now) Corey Zucker played one of the Jets. This was in 1979, TB recalls, and it wasn't until at least 1990 that Corey stopped walking around whistling the tune from the prologue and snapping his fingers to it.

A few days before seeing "West Side Story," TigerBlog saw another favorite movie from awhile ago, the original version of "The Taking of Pelham One Two Three." That movie features the crusty railroad supervisor's great line: "what do they expect for 35 cents, to live forever?" Of course, the New York City subway today costs $2.00.

Anyway, "West Side Story" was released in October 1961; "The Taking of Pelham One Two Three" was released 13 years later in the same month.

While the all-male student body at Princeton was looking around Central Jersey for a date to take to see the musical love story that had just been released, the Princeton football team, coached by Dick Colman, was reveling in its 9-3 win over Penn four days earlier. Princeton that year went 5-4 in football, including 5-2 in the Ivy League.

The Ivy League awarded 19 championships in the 1961-62 academic year, and Princeton teams – perhaps distracted by having everyone around humming "Tonight, Tonight" – won only two of them, in lacrosse and tennis. In fact, the best athlete at Princeton that year wasn't a varsity athlete at all but instead a member of the freshman baseball and basketball teams from Crystal City, Missouri named Bill Bradley.

To watch "West Side Story" is to be reminded of the time in which it was released, a time when the country could still be enthralled by an old-fashioned movie musical. It was a time of peace, of suburban expansion, a time when probably fewer than 10% of Princeton students could have picked out North and South Vietnam on a map. Princeton itself was still years away from co-education, and the Civil Rights movement and then the women's movement were just starting to reach their most dramatic moments. John Kennedy (then the President, in a world was more "Camelot" than "West Side Story" at the time) Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King were all alive.

Fast forward 13 years, and much had changed. A look at the difference between the two movies, both set in New York, shows that. "West Side Story" depicts a New York City that is completely fictionalized, with empty streets and caricatures of locations. "The Taking of Pelham One Two Three" shows realistic street and subway scenes. In "WSS," the gang members wear jackets and ties to a rumble; the costumes and hair in "Pelham" show how the early 1970s were a time of uncertainty, of mistrust of institutions, a time of individual expression.

Even Princeton looked completely different by 1974. Princeton now had women students and its earliest women athletes, a group that TigerBlog often refers to as "pioneers." The Ivy League awarded championships in 24 sports in 1974-75, 22 of which were for men's sports and two of which were for women's sports.

Princeton teams won four championships in 1974-75, including a women's basketball championship that became the first of many women's Ivy titles in school history. The other three championship teams were tennis again, as well as a three-way tie for the men's squash title a co-championship in men's fencing.

It's amazing to sit here now and think about the fact that the Ivy League would award 22 men's championships and two women's championships. Today, there are 33 Ivy League sports, 17 for men and 16 for women. Beyond just that, women's teams in the early days of the 1970s had inferior uniforms, facilities, athletic training, sports information and any other kind of support compared to men's teams.

TigerBlog has interviewed many of those early women athletes, many of whom are proud of their role in the evolution of equality in athletics here and some of whom are angry about what they endured. The idea that Princeton's administration would even undertake that kind of policy today is unthinkable.

Another movie that was on TV last week was "Yankee Doodle Dandy," a 1942 release with James Cagney as George M. Cohan. It's another TigerBlog favorite, but don't get TB started on Princeton athletics back then, though it's a fascinating subject as teams began to reflect the realities of World War II.

No, for today, we'll stick with a movie from 1961 and a movie from 1974. Oh, and TigerBlog has not seen the remake of "Pelham," with Denzel Washington, John Travolta and Tony Soprano, that has just been released, but it can't possibly be as good as the original. Not without Walter Matthau.

Friday, June 19, 2009

From the Home Office in Wahoo, Nebraska

TigerBlog (the Colgate Class of 2001 one) remembers the day well. It was the Thanksgiving week of 1997 and TB was home from college for a few days during his freshman year. It was also a week that the Late Show with David Letterman was in reruns. So, 11:35 rolled around and TB tuned in.

The guests and the comedy shtick are not what TB remembers, but the part that stands out was watching Dave pick Henry, one of TB’s college friends, out of the audience and sign him up to take tractor-trailer driving lessons in downtown Manhattan during the taping of the show. A native New Yorker, Henry did not yet even have his driver’s license, but there he was trying to back the truck into the loading dock at the neighboring building.

Back then TB used to watch Letterman every night. Now, the times have changed. With Mrs. TB and little Miss TB around, TB’s schedule has changed and 11:35 now seems like 3:30 in the morning.

Last week, the story of Letterman and Sarah Palin’s feud took center stage on the news. TB hasn’t watched Letterman in a long time so in trying to catch up on what was going on, TB revisited a bunch of old Top 10 lists and came across April 14, 2009. The Top 10 Questions To Ask Yourself Before Becoming A Somali Pirate.

The whole Somali pirate situation has intrigued TB for some time now. Not enough to take a cruise along the coast of Eastern Africa, but enough to read the stories when they come out and follow what is going on there. So, upon seeing the heading,, TB figured to he’d check out the list.

Then came number three. (You can see the whole list here)

‘Will I get along with Ross Ohlendorf? (Sorry, that's a question to ask yourself before becoming a Pittsburgh Pirate)’

Now that is random. How did they choose Ohlendorf among all the Pirates? Did Ohlendorf know? How’d that happen?

TB went to the source and sent Ohlendorf an email. April 14 was a Tuesday, Pittsburgh’s off-day after playing their home opener a day earlier. Ohlendorf pitched the following day so it was an early night for him. It wasn’t until the next day in he clubhouse that teammate Nate McClouth filled him in on what had happened the night before.

“I was pretty surprised to hear about it,” recounts Ohlendorf. His Dad and some other friends saw it as well and eventually told him over the coming days. He has since seen it on Youtube as well.

As for how it came about, Ohlendorf wasn’t sure. He had just heard that the show’s writers are big Yankees fans and they needed a Pittsburgh Pirate for the sketch and naturally chose the former Yankee.

“Being on the Top 10 was really cool,” added Ohlendorf. It is really cool.

TB’s friend Henry still gets occasional royalty checks from re-airs of clips of his episode. Apparently the last check he got was for 17 cents. Not sure if Ohlendorf will get any royalties from his episode, but he certainly has an interesting story to tell.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

A not-so-long summer

When Michael Maag of the track & field team crossed the finish line last Friday night in the 5,000 meters of the NCAA Championships in Arkansas, the 2008-09 Princeton athletic season crossed the finish line with him.

After more than 700 contests between 38 sports, summer started in Princeton Athletics at the end of Maag's run. It started a break of 12 weeks before the women's soccer team plays Hofstra at Roberts Stadium Sept. 4 at 6 p.m. in the first athletic contest of the 2009-10 school year. Men's soccer (at Lehigh) and women's volleyball (at Delaware) will also start that evening.

It seems like a long time, but it's just 78 days from today until the official hibernation of Princeton Athletics ends. Fall sport student-athletes will be arriving on campus only a little bit before their first contest, beginning another school year and slowly descending into the cooler times of fall and winter.

For some schools, however, a 12 week break would feel like an eternity. Consider the five schools still alive in the College World Series, which is the last athletic event on the NCAA calendar. Two of the five teams -- LSU, Arkansas, Texas, Arizona State and North Carolina -- will end their seasons on June 23 or 24, depending on whether the CWS final goes to two or three games.

So, right there is a late start to the summer. Instead of June 12, it's almost two weeks later. But the other end gets trimmed as well for these schools. Of the four whose fall schedules were available, all four have a regular-season women's soccer game on August 21, another two full weeks before Princeton's first athletic event on Sept. 4. That August 21 date doesn't count the Aug. 14 exhibition games against other Division I schools that all four of those women's soccer teams have. There's another week.

Whether it's two months or three, the summer isn't necessarily downtime for coaches, student-athletes or support staff at any school, Princeton or otherwise. Coaches (at least some, and in certain periods of time) travel to see recruits compete on summer teams. Some student-athletes play their sports in the summer, like the baseball players who go to the Cape Cod League or any of the other collegiate summer programs. Others intern in their fields of study in preparation for a life after college, and others enjoy the time away from classes and practice to travel and do the same thing that those who never put on a uniform do.

For the support staff, it's a time of preparation. Those of us here at TigerBlog HQ spend time tending to, turning things over from 2008-09 to 2009-10. There are rosters to be changed, bios to be written for freshmen, bios to be updated for returners, new and innovative plans for our Web site to be implemented behind the scenes. We also take time to refresh from long hockey and basketball seasons spending Friday and Saturday nights traveling from rink to rink and gym to gym throughout the northeast.

So, that's summer around here. It may be shrinking, spring seasons creeping into June and fall seasons into August, two months with "summer" written all over them, but it's something. And it'll be gone before we know it.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Shades of Blue

It's been a week of contemplation for some of Princeton's coaches, and family seems to be the big winner.

Last week, Princeton lost one of its most lauded mentors in any sport when Bill Tierney chose to be closer to three of his four children and take an opportunity in Denver. Just yesterday, the man who many thought would be the obvious choice to replace Tierney, longtime assistant David Metzbower, came to the same realization and opted not to assume the role of the man he'd assisted for almost 20 years at Princeton.

Now comes more unexpected news when Kathy Sell, after five years as Princeton's head women's tennis coach, felt the pull of family ties and decided to head to North Carolina. Her parents and sisters now live in the Tar Heel State.

Clearly, home has been a strong motivator for Sell. She was a Moorestown, N.J. resident before playing collegiately at Duke (making her favorite shade of blue a darker one than most of her future neighbors) and then spending time at the University of Oregon to pursue a graduate degree and begin her coaching career.

Soon, Sell came home and took the job at Princeton, just a short trip up I-295 from Moorestown. Now that home has moved, so too does Sell.

Sell's departure makes it four sports without a head coach as the summer begins in earnest, and all three sports that were eligible have won an Ivy League title in the last couple years. Glenn Nelson, the head coach of men's and women's volleyball, was the first to end his Princeton career just a year after helping the women's team to a 2007 Ivy title (there is no Ivy League men's volleyball), and Tierney's decision came just weeks after his team won an Ivy championship.

Sell's team wrapped up its first Ivy League title since 2000 on April 19, and less than two months later, Sell is gone.

Princeton's women's tennis team had a winning Ivy League record in all five of Sell's seasons and never saw its Ivy winning percentage decline with her as coach. The Tigers went 4-3 in the league in each of her first two seasons, 5-2 in each of the next two seasons and 6-1 in 2009, the team's best record since a 7-0 season in 2000. The team's overall record was above .500 every year, culminating in a program record 18 wins this past spring. Under Sell's leadership, Princeton returned to the NCAA tournament for the first time since that 2000 season and came closer to winning an NCAA team match than it had ever come, losing to Florida International 4-3 on the last singles bout of a sweltering afternoon in Miami last month.

Events like these give us at TigerBlog HQ a chance to reflect on how much has changed in just a handful of years. Since longtime women's tennis coach and Sell's predecessor Louise Gengler retired after the 2004 season, 15 other programs have seen coaching changes. Out of 38 sports, considering all the different personalities involved, that more than 60% of Princeton's coaches are still at their posts five years later says a lot for the draw of being a head coach here. It means that the people behind the title of "coach" have decided to set down roots here, that many have chosen to remain rather than pursue other opportunities.

For the almost 40% that have moved on, certainly there were a variety of reasons why. Family, as we have seen this week, is a big motivator. Perhaps a desire for a different geographical location or a general change of scenery are others.

Whatever the reason, everyone at TigerBlog HQ has the same wish for all those who follow their own path away from Princeton: Whatever your pursuits, good luck.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Goodbye, Metz

TigerBlog spent the morning finishing his story announcing that David Metzbower was going to be the next men's lacrosse head coach at Princeton. When Princeton AD Gary Walters asked TB to come down the hall and meet with him and Metz, it all seemed so simple.

Until the words came out that Metzbower was in fact turning down the Princeton job and instead leaving the University. Metzbower has spent the last 20 years as the top assistant at Princeton under Bill Tierney, the Hall-of-Fame coach who left last week to become the head coach at Denver.

TigerBlog has known Metzbower for every one of those 20 years. He has given his all to Princeton lacrosse, and he is hugely responsible for 19 winning seasons, 17 10-win seasons, 16 NCAA quarterfinals, 14 Ivy League championships, 10 NCAA Final Fours, eight NCAA finals and of course six NCAA championships.

Since the 1990 season, Princeton men's lacrosse is 230-65. Tierney's record in that time is considered 230-65; Metzbower's is recognized as 0-0.

Tierney would be the first to say that that disparity isn't fair or an accurate representation of what the two brought to the program. In fact, Tierney was the first to say it, back on Memorial Day 1998, when he dragged a reluctant Metzbower to the postgame press conference and gave him equal credit for the third straight national title. To say that Metzbower was taken aback by the attention would be short-changing the situation.

Through the years, any time anyone with the program - former players, current support staff, anyone - ever talked about him, the conversation nearly 100% of the time started with a smile, a chuckle, a quick shake of the head and then the utterance "Metz."

TigerBlog remembers the time about a decade ago when Metzbower said that he'd rather be "David" instead of "Dave" in the roster. TB thought it was funny then and even more funny as time went by, since neither TB nor anyone else in Princeton lacrosse has ever once called him either. He's not "Dave" or "David," or "Coach" or "Coach Metzbower" or anything else for that matter. He's "Metz." Sometimes, in less formal circles, he's "Metzy."

When it became apparent that Tierney was leaving, TigerBlog thought back to his own experiences as a way of defining him as a person rather than just as the head coach that people saw on the sidelines. In that same spirit, when it became obvious that Metzbower was the choice to replace Tierney, TB started to think of Metz in the same way.

TB thought back to the biggest disagreement he and Metzbower ever had. It came when games first started to be televised from Class of 1952 Stadium on a regular basis. Metz liked to set the team video camera up right next to the booth, but that's where the TV cameras wanted to go. Before one game, Metzbower put up yellow caution tape where he wanted his camera; TigerBlog took it down for the TV people. It led to the only mildly heated exchange we had in the 20 years we worked together.

Metzbower was the last person in the locker room after the 1998 and 2001 NCAA championships, as he had to go retrieve the video equipment. It was sort of how he viewed his role. Whatever needed to be done, he did. Whatever he could do to complement Tierney, he did.

Tierney isn't exactly a computer genius. Metzbower is. Before a game, Tierney would do the radio pregame show or talk to the TV people; Metzbower would warm up the goalies. They were the perfect combination, the strong personality of the front man and the ego-free assistant.

TB isn't sure which was more difficult to contemplate, Princeton without Tierney or Tierney without Metzbower. Now it's Princeton without either one.

Was it hard for Metzbower to sit back all those years and see all of the acclaim that came to Tierney? He would always say no, that didn't bother him, that didn't matter to him. In similar cases, the assistant has had to say those things, but at the same time it's obvious that the opportunity to be a head coach is a driving force.

TB always figured that Metzbower was to Tierney as Carmody was to Carril, to borrow from the SATs. It's now been proven not to be the case. Carmody was a loyal Carril assistant for more than 15 years who was mostly in the background while the head coach became a Hall-of-Famer, but Carmody was and remains a great lead singer himself.

That was never Metzbower's style. He loved coaching lacrosse, coaching the army of players past and present who today received an email from him apologizing if he's let them down, as if such a thing is possible after all the time he's been here.

Metzbower looked at the opportunity in front of him and contrasted it with what was important to him at this stage of his life. The easy decision would have been to move forward and be the head coach. The tough decision is to walk away, to say "hey, I've been away from my family too long, missed too much time with my wife and two kids." To say "this isn't what I want."

And that's what he said.

TigerBlog remembers the day Tierney told him that Metzbower's wife had had their first child. Stunned, TigerBlog said: "I didn't even know they were expecting." TigerBlog had seen Metzbower pretty much on a daily basis for the previous nine months, but it wasn't and isn't Metz' style to talk about himself. And now, after all the years away from them, he was simply read for a change.

And so a day that began with this release: "David Metzbower, whose unassuming style often masked his role in building and coaching a six-time NCAA champion and 14-time Ivy League champion, has been named the head coach of men’s lacrosse at Princeton University" ... quickly morphed into this one:

"David Metzbower has turned down an offer to become the head men’s lacrosse coach at Princeton and will be leaving the University."

Metz had good reasons for what he's doing, and in typical fashion, he didn't want to waste too many words talking about it. And especially about him.

So TigerBlog will do it for him. David Metzbower is one of the greatest figures in Princeton men's lacrosse history, and Princeton University has been lucky to have him here for the last 20 years.

He'll be missed.

Monday, June 15, 2009

What Does Yav Know Anyway?

When TigerBlog used to cover high school sports back in the day, he used to be fascinated to hear comments about how this reporter hated that school or that reporter loved that coach and that's why the coverage was always so slanted. In reality, it was rarely true or even in some cases completely the opposite.

When TB made the jump from the newspaper to come here to TigerBlog HQ, he made it a point to reach out to the sports editors at the local papers he did not work at to ensure them that there would be no bias towards the paper he'd just left.

TigerBlog took one class in journalism in his life, back when he was either a sophomore or junior in high school. His memory of the class is pretty fuzzy, though he remembers a nice teacher who meant well and who ultimately didn't teach much practical journalism knowledge, save for the main point that journalists are supposed to be objective.

As an aside, most of what TB learned about journalism, he learned while working in the early 1980s at the Trenton Times, learned it from people like Bob Tennent and Harry Chaykun and Bruce Johnson and Jim Gauger and Rick Freeman and especially Harvey Yavener. Those six had about 100 years of newspaper experience by that point; it's a shame that the newspaper business has evolved to the point where most of those guys ended up taking buyouts.

Getting back to the today's point, the subject of objectivity is a fascinating one, and it has so many direct offshoots that apply to today's media.

TigerBlog knows first hand that by simply covering teams on a regular basis, you develop some sort of like or dislike for the team itself, the coaches, the players, their fans. It's natural. The key is supposed to be not showing that like or dislike pubicly in any way. It's a lesson not enough in the modern journalism field remember or learned in the first place.

Still, that's always been a part of writing. Today's issues go so far beyond that issue.

With the explosion of writers (sports, politics, anything) who have made the jump from newspapers or magazines to being on radio or television, another line has been crossed. For starters, there is Yav's message from 25 years ago: "the news is the news; your covering the news is not news." In other words, don't make yourself part of the story. Today, the most famous writers are the story.

TigerBlog took some degree of pride in being an anonymous face at games when he covered them. In fact, TB is pretty sure that Steve Tosches never knew who he was for the entire first season he covered Princeton football. There was something proper about that.

Now, you can't have a story about UConn's basketball coach's being discharged from the hospital without the accompanying "ESPN's Andy Katz reports that Jim Calhoun has left the hospital." Today, some of the most famous people in sports are not athletes or coaches but are instead media members.

Of course, this takes us to the subject of conflicts of interest. It used to be that you wrote for the newspaper and it came out every day and that was that. Now, you're on TV and the radio and write for a few websites in addition to your regular job.

Look at Mark Eckel of the Trenton Times, and lest you think we're about to pick on Mark, keep in mind that he's TigerBlog Jr.'s godfather. In addition to working at the Trenton Times, Mark is also on the radio several nights a week in Philadelphia and a contributor to numerous other sites. Suppose for a minute that Mark learns exclusively that, hypothetically, the Eagles are going to release Brian Westbrook (and they can do this before any game against the Giants that they want). Suppose it's 11 a.m. The paper is already out and isn't coming out against until the next day. Maybe he's going to be on the radio. Maybe he writes for a few football sites. What's his responsility now? He can't possibly hold it for the paper, because the world will know by then one way or another.

Actually, Mark is only tangentially with the paper still, as the Times, like most every other paper, has undergone restructuring. His day job now is as athletic director at Trenton Catholic Academy (formerly McCorristin High or, before that, St. Anthony's High). TCA has made two personnel moves since Mark took over, hiring a baseball coach and a soccer co-coach. Both of these stories got major space in the Trenton Times. Will all high school coaching moves do the same?

How does all this impact Princeton? Our main function used to be to assist other news outlets; now we are a news outlet, with and TigerBlog. This will only grow in the future as we develop more and more internal outlets for content.

What's our obligation now to the media? We want fans to come to our sites for information, for any number of reasons. Some is to control the message. Some is revenue driven, with an ability to show corporate sponsors the number of eyeballs that make it to our site.

TigerBlog remebers a picture taken during the 1994 Princeton-Dartmouth football game in Hanover. It showed David Patterson, the great Tiger linebacker, as he chased down a back through the snow flakes. It's definitely in the top 10 of Princeton pictures TB has ever seen (No. 1, of course, is the one of Mitch Henderson with his arms extended with a despondent Toby Bailey behind him after the 1996 Princeton-UCLA game).

TigerBlog wanted to use that picture on the cover of the 1995 football media guide, which he did. The first time TB saw the picture, though, his thought was that he didn't want another outlet to run the same picture before he had a chance to on his guide. Then he realized how silly that was, because here at TigerBlog HQ, we weren't competing with any other outlets.

How the times have changed.

Friday, June 12, 2009

The Next 200 Major Leaguers

TigerBlog weighed in on the coverage of the Major League Baseball Draft a few days ago. After two more days of listening to draft picks, there are a few more things that come to mind…

Each year there are more than 1,500 players selected in the draft. Add to that a large number of Latin American players that are signed through a different process and you have more than 2,000 players assigned to Major League Baseball teams each season. That’s roughly 65 players per team. Sure, not every drafted player signs a contract. Some college juniors return for their senior seasons and many high school seniors opt to go the college route. Let’s say that for whatever reason 10 picks don’t sign per team and you have about 55 new players per team entering the system each season.

So, where do you put them? Well, most teams have Short Season A and Rookie Ball teams that do not start their seasons until late June. Divide your new players in half and assign them to a pair of teams and they have a place to play.

What immediately stands out in TigerBlog’s mind is the logic that if you’re adding more than 50 players into the system each year, roughly the same amount of players are being dropped from the system.

Using just Princeton as the example, three new Tigers entered the system in the last three days as David Hale, Brad Gemberling and Jack Murphy were all drafted. Conversely, Spencer Lucian, Steven Miller and B.J. Szymanski, who played in the Minor Leagues last season, are now moving on to the next stages of their lives, with Lucian continuing playing in Spain this summer.

Speaking of this year’s draft, Princeton had three players chosen for only the second time in program history. The only time more Tigers were taken came in 2004 when five members of the two-time Ivy League champion were chosen in the first 20 rounds of the draft. That was quite a draft for Princeton, which saw the same amount of players drafted in the first 20 rounds as traditional baseball powers like Rice, Tennessee, UCLA and Vanderbilt. Two of the players chosen in that draft have played in the Major Leagues–Ross Ohlendorf and Will Venable–and a third, Tim Lahey, is currently playing at the AAA level.

Back to the draft, after the televised pomp of the opening three rounds which TigerBlog touched upon here on Wednesday. The draft went back to the conference call that it usually is for rounds 4-50. It makes for stimulating radio…

Arizona’s representative states… With its 24th round pick, Arizona selects ID number 1234 Brad Gemberling, a right hand pitcher from Princeton University in Princeton, N.J…

MLB answers back… Arizona selects ID number 1234 Brad Gemberling from Princeton. Los Angeles Dodgers are next…

And on it goes for hours. It makes it tough when you really are only concerned with where three of the 1,521 drafted players are chosen. Somewhat shockingly, TigerBlog was actually able to see/hear two of the three picks live.

Anyways, congratulations to the 1,521 players drafted over the three days of this year’s draft. TigerBlog will keep close tabs on three of those players, but can’t help but wonder how many of those 1,521 players will one day actually wear a Major League uniform.

Looking at historical trends provided by Major League Baseball, the answer is 200 or 13%. Now if only we could guess which 200. That seems high to TigerBlog, but good luck to all the players in their attempt to make it to the Big Leagues.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Tierney's Move And The Changing Media

TigerBlog looked down at his desk and saw the men's lacrosse guide staring back at him. On the cover are the nine then-seniors-to-be, standing arm-in-arm on the shore of a lake. The wording under the picture reads:

"Princeton Men's Lacrosse • Class of 2009 • Upper Lake at Glendalough, Ireland • June 11, 2008"

It dawned on TigerBlog that in had been exactly one year since the trip to the lake, which other than the lacrosse games themselves was the highlight of the trip to Spain and Ireland last June. It began with an excruciating drive on a nasuea-inducing bus through Dublin rush-hour traffic and then up a winding mountain road, followed by a long hike through bug-infested woods. And then, out of almost nowhere, came the lake, a place with seemingly magical powers that at once lifted the malaise of the entire group in a cool burst of mist and wind, surrounded by a hundred different Irish greens in the hills that surrounded the lake on three sides.

Jack Burke, our tour guide in Ireland, said the lake is like a "drug." Even John McPhee, the author and academic-athletic fellow who was on the trip, was impressed by the sheer beauty of the place ... and McPhee has written about nature's best all around the world.

Ah, one year later, and much has changed. By now the news that Bill Tierney is leaving Princeton to become the head men's lacrosse coach at Denver is "old." At the same time, the manner in which the story of Tierney's departure has been told is most definitely "new," which of course is a recurring TigerBlog theme.

The first place TigerBlog saw anything written publicly about Tierney and Denver was on the forum. If you go right now to either laxpower or or any number of other message boards, you can see literally thousands of comments about Tierney, ranging from the flattering to the insulting to the hateful to anything in the middle. There are comments, accusations, conspiracy theories, arguments, counter-arguments and everything else, almost of all of it written anonymously.

In fact, probably 80% or more of what TigerBlog has read about Tierney has come from someone hiding behind an unknown moniker. As an aside, TB has read things that he knows for 100% certainty are not true, and yet he believes them for a few moments and begins to question what he knows to be factual, proving again one of TB's deepest held beliefs, that people believe everything they read, no matter where they read it or who wrote it.

TigerBlog has received a few requests from newspapers to speak with Tierney, Director of Athletcs Gary Walters and some of the players, but there haven't been many. Those that TB has received seem so out of touch with the way the world is working these days. TB has been on newspaper Websites that have linked to, with only a paragraph or two written as introduction.

Beyond that, there is the issue of trying to be all things to all people that newspapers haven't addressed. If there is a small story in a newspaper about Tierney, why go there when with the same number of clicks, a lacrosse fan can go to a sport-specific site and be inundated with coverage? Factor this across all sports, all of which have their own sites?

And what of the "new" media? Let's look at Inside Lacrosse and its coverage as an example. IL followed the story all weekend, updating its site often. It didn't need to wait to print anything; in fact, by the time the next issue of the magazine comes out, the story won't be fresh to anyone.

IL's coverage fit all kinds of criteria for media today: 1) it was timely, 2) it was multi-media and 3) it invited immediate feedback and participation from readers.

Here at TigerBlog HQ, the difference between when Tierney left and when Pete Carril left 13 years earlier is dramatic. When Carril retired, TigerBlog write a short release and then did his best to assist as many media outlets as possible. When Tierney left, the media was secondary to getting information onto (which didn't exist in 1996) and especially on TigerBlog and then getting those links to as many other sites as possible.

As a result, Tuesday's readership on TigerBlog was the second-highest single day total ever (sadly, first was the day when colleague Lorin Maurer was killed in a plane crash).

As for last year's trip and the news a year later that Tierney was leaving, TigerBlog remembers being on the plane home and talking to the coach, jokingly, about where the team would be going on its next trip, in the NCAA-mandated four years. Tierney, who had put in a great deal of time in the planning and administration of the trip, took a deep breath and came back with his own sarcastic reponse, which was something along the lines of "go without me next time."

Who knew he would turn out to be serious?

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Those Were The Days

When TigerBlog was a kid in the early 1970s, he used to watch the Saturday night lineup on CBS each week. While TB could have it wrong, his memories are of some combination of "All in the Family," "Maude," "M*A*S*H," "The Jeffersons," "The Bob Newhart Show," and lastly "The Carol Burnett Show."

When TigerBlog was a junior in West Philadelphia, the entire 22nd floor of High Rise South would gather in the room of RA Jani Scandura to watch NBC's Thursday night lineup: "The Cosby Show," "Family Ties," "Cheers," "Night Court" and finally "Hill Street Blues," which might be the greatest show in television history not named "The Odd Couple" or "The Sopranos." Of course, being wild West Philadelphia college students, we'd then go out until 4 a.m. every night. Or something like that.

Anyway, getting back to the point, those lineups were television at its finest. The Major League Baseball draft, televised last night, is quite possibly at the exact other end.

TigerBlog only paid tangential attention to the draft, as his interest extended only to see where Princeton's David Hale went. It was hard not to notice, though, how tedious televising the draft was.

It's bad enough that the NFL draft has spawned a whole side profession of Mel Kiper Jrs. and his wannabees, who analyze up and down players who 1) they'd never heard of before, 2) have never actually seen play and 3) have a greater than 50% chance of being busts. It's bad enough to read the next day about which team's draft got an "A" and which got a "D," when the reality is that there will be no way to accurately grade until five years or so later.

The problem is that often in television (news, sports, entertainment, reality; doesn't matter), any bad idea is worth copying and expanding. As such, the NFL draft started it, the NBA draft copied it (though at least the NBA had the common sense to limit it to two rounds and move it along into one semi-concise evening) and now baseball is next.

If anything, the baseball draft makes for worse television, because teams are almost exclusively drafting players nobody has heard of and players who won't reach the major leagues for a few years. It's not as if the a team can fill its need for a first baseman or closer by plugging in its first-round pick.

Baseball has so many problems right now it's hard to count them all. Steroids have made every new star a suspect. Outrageous ticket prices in new ballparks have resulted in empty seats everywhere. The economic model where a team like the Yankees can have one player make more than the entire Pirate roster is a joke.

As TigerBlog likes to say, baseball's lucky that it has a 150 year head start on lacrosse in the national consciousness.

In that vein, it's easy to see why baseball would try to stress the positive aspects of the draft. It's just that it's too contrived, and it makes for awful television.

Instead, TigerBlog would rather go back to CBS of the 1970s or NBC of the 1980s. Maybe MLB Network would have been better of with the Sammy Davis Jr. episode of All in the Family.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Former Men's Lacrosse Coach Bill Tierney

TigerBlog stood in the back of the lockerroom four times as a Princeton men's lacrosse national championship celebration played out in front of him (TB was still a newspaper reporter for the first two).

TB was also there for two other NCAA finals that went the other way. He stood off the side, in the background, for big wins and crushing losses, Ivy League championships and losses that ended Ivy titles hopes, great days and tough days.

He's heard Bill Tierney talk to his guys behind closed doors in every possible situation, heard Tierney run the gamut of every possible emotion, string together words that are forever embedded into TigerBlog's memory.

Bill Tierney won 238 games as the head coach of Princeton men's lacrosse. TigerBlog was there for at least 200 of them, including every one of the last 89 and 163 of 167 since TB became the men's lacrosse contact prior to the 1995 season.

And yet when word started to come that Tierney was considering a move to Denver and then later when the Hall of Fame coach confirmed it, TigerBlog's thoughts didn't turn to any one of those wins, any one of those championships, any of those postgame talks.

Instead, TB first thought back to 2006, when TigerBlog Jr. was in third grade and getting ready to play in the Liberty Lacrosse Tournament. The day before the tournament, the mesh on TBJ's only goalie stick broke. Quietly, TBJ whispered to TigerBlog: "Can you call Bill Tierney and ask him what we should do?"

Realizing that it was too late to get the stick restrung, TB did in fact call Tierney, who answered his cell phone while away recruiting. When informed of the problem, Tierney told TigerBlog to go to his house and then told him the code to the garage door opener. Tierney said there'd be four or five goalie sticks there; just grab what you need.

Later on, when TBJ went to Tierney's house to return the sticks after the tournament, Tierney told him that he'd used the stick that Trevor Tierney had used in the 2001 NCAA championship game and that TBJ should keep it.

That's who Bill Tierney is. Yes, he's a Hall of Fame coach. Yes, his move to Denver is one of the most intriguing moments in Division I lacrosse history. Yes, he won 14 Ivy League championships and six NCAA titles and went to 10 Final Fours and eight championship games in 22 seasons at Princeton.

There's also the undeniable fact that before Tierney came to Princeton, the sport of lacrosse hardly existed in the area around TigerBlog HQ. Today, as it's getting harder and harder to field youth baseball teams, every kid out there has a lacrosse stick, and this growth is directly attributable to Bill Tierney.

And yes, he's often a volatile figure on the sidelines during games, and that volatility – and the fact that he won big – made him a polarizing force in lacrosse. All you need to do is read a lacrosse message board to see that he is loved and he is hated and there isn't much in the middle.

Sadly, those who only see the fiery coach are missing more. Much more.

TigerBlog saw Tierney stop practice several times in the mid-1990s to accommodate media people who arrived late for scheduled interviews because of what he saw as a responsibility to help grow the game. TB has seen Tierney at camps, working easily with kids to whom he was lacrosse royalty. TB has seen Tierney talk to youth coaches, who had the same feeling as the kids, and spend literally hours talking about the game itself and his philosophies of coaching.

Earlier this year, a teammate of TBJ's collapsed at the end of a game. A healthy 12 year old who had just played a full game of lacrosse suddenly went down, with a racing heart and trouble breathing. A 911 call later, the boy was off to the hospital. It wasn't until two days later and every test imaginable that it ended up being something reasonably normal for a very tall, very thin, very athletic kid to have happen.

The next day, TigerBlog was telling Tierney the story, mostly focusing on how scary it was. At this point, there had been no follow-up news saying that the boy was fine.

"How can I help?" Tierney asked. "We'll send him a note. Get all the guys to sign a jersey for him. Anything at all. Let me know."

This past season, Tierney and his team became involved with Connor McKemey, a 14-year-old South Carolina lacrosse player who was burned over 85 percent of his body in a house fire at Christmas. This happened while his father was serving as a Marine in Iraq. The team's association with Connor began when Tierney simply wrote the boy a note.

That's Bill Tierney. That's the coach who is leaving Princeton now, who is heading West to help grow the game, to give himself one last new challenge in his coaching career, to be closer to his family, to work with Trevor.

When TigerBlog was walking out of Jadwin Gym yesterday, he saw Pete Carril in the parking lot. Carril stopped and gave his salutory "yoooooo" greeting. After a small chat, Carril continued into the buiding. TigerBlog had written the release about Carril's resignation from Princeton 13 years earlier, and now TB had his laptop with him, ready to write the same about Tierney.

It dawned on TigerBlog that these two men, Carril and Tierney, are quite likely the two greatest coaches in the long history of Princeton athletics. Sure, you can make a case for others, with a list too numerous to write down here.

Carril and Tierney, though, rise above the rest, for their longevity, for their success (and in Tierney's case, the lack of success that immediately preceded him) and for how each impacted the very manner in which his sport was played. And if you want to have two others on your list, that's fine, but Carril and Tierney have to be in the conversation.

Bill Tierney coached at Princeton for 22 years, and TigerBlog had watched him up close for 20 of those years, the last 15 literally from inside the lockerroom. TB watched as the program Tierney built from the ground up rose to the top of the sport on six different occasions and was there for so many glorious wins that he couldn't possibly say which the greatest one was. Was it the 2001 championship game? Maybe the 1998 playoff run? Maybe 2004? Or 1992, the first time? Or 1994, the year that proved 1992 wasn't a fluke? Where to begin? Which game to think of first?

And yet for all of that, on the day that Tierney announced he was leaving Princeton, TigerBlog's thoughts turned first not to a single one of those days but instead to an upset eight-year-old boy, a stick and how Bill Tierney did everything he could do to help.

What else is there to say?

Monday, June 8, 2009

Luke, I Am Your Father...

Men's lightweight rowing coach Greg Hughes is a favorite here at TigerBlog HQ for two reasons. One, he is a forward thinker who has been greatly helpful in our move towards more technological material online.

Two, he makes Darth Vader sound like Mickey Mouse.

Hughes has been a favorite around the boathouse for a much longer time, though. In 1996, as a senior on the men's lightweight crew, he helped Princeton surge to a national championship by the slimmest of margins — .01 of a second. Basically, it's the amount of time it took you to read that last sentence, multiplied by 500.

As the heavyweight assistant coach, he guided a 2003 novice crew that won the Royal Henley regatta and would eventually become a senior class that won the Ivy League title and finished second at nationals.

It was the summer of 2005 when he got the chance to replace his former head coach, the retiring Joe Murtaugh. TigerBlog remembers the moment he saw Hughes in Gary Walters' office, put two and two together and immediately thought that this was the perfect fit. Since then, it's been an upward climb that culminated in the perfect 2009 season.

Men's lightweight rowing is a sport full of parity. The league powers include Ivy League schools, as well as Navy and Georgetown. It's a small pool of young men who can get into those schools, and an even smaller pool that can handle the weight restrictions and still row at a high level. It's a sport where A beats B, B beats C and C beats A. Then they get to the championship weekend, and D wins. And really, nobody saw D after it lost to E, which got killed by A, B and C.

That parity existed this year, except for A. Princeton was A. B might have beaten C, lost to D, tied with E and never raced F. It didn't matter. None of those letters even touched A.

When Princeton was challenged each week of the regular season, it always won. When Princeton had to race two times to win its first Eastern/Ivy League title, it won. When Princeton took four weeks off, flew to Sacramento and had one race to win the national title against a field of letters looking for the stunner, it won.

And it won in style. Five hundred meters into the race, the gold was all but decided.

The driving force has been Hughes, a determined and driven coach who strives for excellence in a sport he obviously has deep respect for. He didn't like a school newspaper headline once that referred to a previous year's win as a "rout" because he thought it disrespected the other school's rowers. He cherishes Sprints because, to him, it's the ultimate in competition.

The program has taken a step forward every year since he's taken over. That trend can't possibly continue next year. Perfection can be matched, but can't be topped.

But if you're going to try matching it, Greg Hughes gives you a chance.

Friday, June 5, 2009

Remember That Feat: Men's Tennis

The spring of 2009 marked 45 years since a highly noteworthy achievement in Princeton men’s tennis history, yet there’s no mention of it in the program’s online record book.

Miami’s men’s tennis media guide devotes a whole page to it – page 30 of the 2009 publication, to be precise – but the historical note came to TigerBlog’s attention only after an alumnus mentioned it to head coach Glenn Michibata during reunions weekend.

The lack of info from Princeton’s side wasn’t out of negligence, however, and the alum who reported the achievement explains why.

Alexander Wellford Jr. ’64, now an attorney in Tennessee, e-mailed Michibata to say that Princeton had played Miami in a 1964 match that didn’t count toward Princeton’s record, per Ivy League rules.

(As an aside, the Ivy League has different rules than the rest of Division I in many sports regarding the number of contests teams can play and how early the season can start. In soccer, for example, most other Division I teams can play 20 and start in late August. Princeton can only play 17.)

Since it wasn’t an official match for Princeton, it’s not in the official Princeton record book. But it sure counts for Miami.

The 5-4 win (the three doubles matches used to count individually and now collectively count as one point) ended a string of 137 wins for Miami since 1957. It’s a record that still stands today and is unlikely to be broken since, as the Miami write-up reports, teams now play dual matches in the NCAA tournament. That format has been in place since 1977, and Miami reports that only three teams have gone undefeated since.

Impressive streaks have gone on in other sports, such as the Indiana men's swimming streak of 140 dual meet victories from 1966-1979, as noted by fellow men's tennis alum Herb Fitz Gibbon '64. You can be sure whatever team that eventually broke Indiana's streak was pretty excited about it too.

(As another aside, the Princeton women’s tennis team was part of another long winning streak when it traveled to Stanford this past March, though no such streak-snapping win occurred. The Cardinal have won 151 home matches in a row since 1999.)

The unofficial matches must have been something of a regular occurrence. By Princeton’s record, the Tigers have faced Miami only eight times, all between 1935 and 1998, with Miami leading 6-2. By Miami’s count, the teams have faced off 39 times, with Miami leading 33-5-1. That means Princeton trails only Clemson, Duke, Florida, Florida State, Rollins College, South Florida and Yale as more popular Miami opponents. Perhaps the Tigers and Bulldogs made cooperative ventures to the Sunshine State before spring arrived in the Northeast.

But enough about the ‘Canes. Princeton was more than an upstart in the 60s, as the win against Miami came during a winning streak that lasted 52 matches from 1960 to 1965. The Tigers won five straight EITA titles from 1961-65, and all those wins went on the record of John Conroy, who retired in 1971 as Princeton’s winningest coach.

Conroy had an outstanding career record of 259-37 and has been surpassed in wins only by David Benjamin, who coached Princeton from 1975-2000. Glenn Michibata, with 112 wins, is third on that list after taking over for Benjamin.

As long as Princeton sports have been around, which for some sports means since the 19th century, plenty of little-known nuggets of information like this have to exist. Sometimes, all it takes is 45 years and a tip to unearth them.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Tough Night For The Big Kid

Scott Bradley, for those who don't know him, is the biggest kid in the Princeton Department of Athletics.

Yes, he's a former Major League Baseball player and the overwhelmingly successful coach of the Tiger baseball team, and yes, he's sneaking up on 50 years old. Still, he's basically a big kid.

So you can imagine how the big kid was looking forward to Wednesday night. And why not? It couldn't have aligned better for Bradley in terms of viewing choices.

"Let's just say it ended up not being a great night of television watching," he said, chuckling.

Consider the lineup:

Former Princeton pitcher Ross Ohlendorf to face the Mets at 7.

Former teammate Randy Johnson, whose no-hitter Bradley caught when they were both with the Seattle Mariners, on the mound for the Giants against the Washington Nationals, going for his 300th career win, no less, also at 7.

Former Princeton pitcher Chris Young, on the mound against the Phils at 10. And oh, factor in Will Venable, just recalled from Triple-A and in the Padres' lineup as well.

And to top it all off, Bob and Michael Bradley, Scott's brother and nephew, were to go at 10 as well against Costa Rica in World Cup qualifying with the U.S. national team. Bob, the former Princeton player and coach, is the U.S. team coach; Michael is one of the best players on the team.

So what happened?

"Let's just say that having Ross get rained out was the highlight," Scott Bradley said.

The Mets-Pirates game was a no-go due to the weather. Johnson never got to pitch either, as his game was rained out as well.

As for the two that were played? Well, Young pitched well for six innings but took the loss, and Venable had an 0 for 4 night that included an error.

And that was nothing compared to soccer. The U.S. team gave up a goal in the first two minutes and the another one shortly thereafter to fall into a quick hole. The final was 3-1. Adding insult to injury, Michael Bradley picked up a yellow card and now has to sit out Saturday's home game against Honduras.

As an aside, TigerBlog is hardly a soccer expert, but he does remember that when the World Cup was in the U.S., games couldn't be played at several facilities unless they converted artificial turf to natural grass. The game last night was played on obviously rock-hard artificial turf, which TB dosn't understand.

"It wasn't good," Scott Bradley said.

Contrast that with the night of another big kid, Officer Paul Deppi of the Newtown (Pa.) police department. Deppi started Lower Bucks Lacrosse 16 years ago, and in all that time, he'd never, ever, ever been able to beat the rival neighboring power, Central Bucks. Until last night, that is, when LBL (TigerBlog Jr.'s team) beat Central Bucks 5-3 to advance to the Southeast Pennsylvania Youth Lacrosse Association 5/6 grade Final Four.

And there you have the ups and downs of being a kid, even one in his 40s.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

All Clear

Don't worry, FatherBlog. TigerBlog's okay.

TigerBlog was in the middle of a conference call discussing the first year of the NCAA's men's lacrosse statistician's manual, which TB had helped put together last year. The group was talking about issues such as whether or not to give a ground ball to a defenseman who gains possession during a flag down situation when an email arrived explaining that a gunman was loose on the Princeton campus.

No other details were included, other than the rather obvious advice to lock the doors and stay inside. About an hour later, a follow up email came announcing simply "all clear."

The hour between the emails was one of eerie silence, broken by some nervous humor. There was also lots of speculation, either that the incident was on the other side of campus or a hoax. Even now, little is known about it, other than it appears to be over and people are starting to come out of buildings.

TB stopped off this morning at TigerBlog Jr.'s middle school for an event, and it conjured up memories of attending public school by the Jersey Shore in the 1970s. At no point during any of that time, or even during four years the University of West Philadelphia, did TigerBlog ever consider the possiblity of a "gunman on campus."

Princeton's campus is an open one in almost every way, and that's one of the great parts of this school. To walk around here is to feel in many ways insulated from trouble, from the problems that could arise in this modern world in major cities not very far from here or from the news stories that too often occur about school shootings here or there. TB is sure the people at Virginia Tech felt the same sort of insulation, before their horrific experience of several years ago.

While it was all unfolding, TigerBlog stopped to consider the possibility that someone would be coming down the balcony with a gun, randomly shooting. Even with the reports of what was going on, it didn't seem possible. TB even joked during the call. "If something happens and TigerBlog doesn't make it, make sure you guys get rid of game-winning goal. It doesn't reflect what it's supposed to."

So now it's a little after noon, and things here are getting back to normal. A Columbine-Virginia Tech situation, mercifully, never unfolded. There's still a bit of unease around, of course. Over time, it'll drift back to that feeling of comfort and insulation.

TigerBlog will go back to writing about the subjects he usually does, such as what today's was going to be about. It was going to start out with the question of which Princeton alum in the Major Leagues has the better ERA and then say it was a trick question, since Chris Young and Ross Ohlendorf, who both pitch tonight, have the same 4.55 ERA. TB was going to throw in something about how Princeton baseball coach Scott Bradley said that Will Venable was on his way back to the Padres from Triple-A, where it seemed like he hit a home run or two every game.

And then the first email came. And the morning changed.

As for this afternoon, TigerBlog's two new favorite words are "all clear."

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Pomp And Circumstance

Ah, graduation day. It takes TigerBlog back to 1977 and graduation from junior high. TB is still not sure why they have graduation for junior high. It's all the same kids in the same school the next year, so what's the point?

Still, graduation for the Pine Brook Middle School Class of 1977 was held at the local community college. As an aside, to show how the little farm town that TigerBlog grew up in has changed, Pine Brook is now an elementary school and the sprawling new Manalapan-Englishtown Middle School has taken over.

Anyway, at Pine Brook graduation 32 years ago, everyone had to line up by height, from shortest to tallest. TigerBlog was the fourth shortest boy in the class and stood behind one of his best friends, John Conte. TigerBlog then grew nearly a foot in high school, while John Conte today is one of the world's shorter concert pianists.

For some reason, TigerBlog remembers having to be fourth in line at middle school graduation more than anything else about either high school or college graduation. Maybe it's the fact that the ceremonies themselves aren't really what makes or breaks your experience as you go through high school and college.

For those graduating from Princeton today, and especially the more than 200 Princeton grads who were varsity athletes during their time here, the make-or-break of the experience happened long before the diplomas were handed out. Hopefully, it was a good run for all of them, and TB wishes them all well as they move forward.

TigerBlog was invited to the annual Monday before graduation picnic at Bill Tierney's house yesterday, when Tierney and his wife Helen host the seniors who are graduating and their families. During the event, assistant coach Bryce Chase pulled out the release TigerBlog had written on June 14, 2005, entitled "Tierney Announces Princeton Men's Lacrosse Class of 2009."

There were nine recruits in the class, and all nine remained with the program. Eight of the nine were huge contributors this past season, and most played considerably all four years. The ninth player in the group had three major knee injuries that forced him to withdraw for a year; he'll be a senior next year.

Among the comments from Tierney: "Mark is a very fast, left-handed athlete who possesses an accurate hard shot, both on the move and with time and room." The "Mark" in question was Mark Kovler; he would score 91 goals with that accurate hard shot and be a four-time All-America.

Looking at other recruiting releases from four years ago, TigerBlog found some other interesting stuff.

The field hockey release quoted head coach Kristen Holmes-Winn: "I could not be more pleased with the overall quality of this year's incoming class." Four years, four Ivy titles later, seems her optimism was justified.

Guy Gadowsky called Brandon Kushniruk "a winner and a leader." Kushniruk proved him right; he became captain of the team his senior year and was a key member of two NCAA tournament teams.

Bob Callahan called his men's squash recruits "one of the best classes Princeton has ever had." He may have sold Mauricio Sanchez, Hesham El Halaby, Kimlee Wong and the rest short; they won four Ivy titles and may be the best class in Princeton history.

Julie Shackford called Sarah Peteraf a player "with a big upside." Shackford also spoke of how Peteraf, from Hanover, N.H., was from a weaker soccer area and might need some time to adjust. Peteraf went from scoring four goals in her first three years combined to becoming one of the greatest clutch scorers in Princeton history and a first-team All-Ivy selection for the Ivy champion team her senior year.

On the other hand, there's the softball release that talks about Samantha O'Hara and her ability as a power-hitting catcher. O'Hara was unable to come back from a torn ACL she suffered at Princeton, though she became one of the great student workers in recent athletic department memory.

The releases are filled with names that have become familiar to Tiger fans and others who never became starters or even stayed with the programs. Each name, though, belongs to an individual, someone whose road through Princeton began with a few words on, continued with a unique path for each of them and ends today with a short ceremony in front of Nassau Hall.

Good luck to all of them. See you in the P-Rade.

Monday, June 1, 2009

You Didn't Take The Prerequisite?

TigerBlog used to think that Ivy League athletes were no different than athletes at any other school. Then came the 1998 NCAA championship game in men's lacrosse.

About an hour before the game, TigerBlog walked up the hallway from the tunnel at Rutgers Stadium, going past the Maryland lockerroom on the way to Princeton's. The music coming from Maryland's was deafening. There was no music in Princeton's. Instead, the room was quiet, with some small talk going on. Two freshmen who weren't on the 32-man roster for the game were near the door, and TigerBlog overheard their conversation, which was basically about how one couldn't take a class he wanted to the next semester because he didn't realize that he hadn't taken the prerequisite.

Since then, TB has thought that there is a uniqueness to an Ivy League athlete, in much the same way there is to an athlete at the service academies. Ivy League athletes buy into the Ivy League philosophy of having an athletic population that reflects the rest of the student body and sees athletics. At the same time, they recognize that in most cases there are no limits on the level of athletic success an Ivy League athlete or team can achieve.

By now, every Ivy League sports fan has read the Wall Street Journal article by Darren Everson entitled "Can the Ivy League Get Its Game Back?"

With all due respect to the article, TigerBlog asks the following question: What in the world are you watching?

Ivy League athletics are top to bottom extraordinary and in many ways a model for what college athletics should be. Teams across the eight schools have intense competition among themselves in 33 sports, and many - make that nearly all - of those sports are nationally competitive as well.

Ivy League men's hockey, which the article refers to as "becoming weaker," saw three of its six teams reach the NCAA tournament. The NCAA men's lacrosse tournament saw three Ivy teams in the field, with two in the quarterfinals and one in the final. Ivy teams are national factors in those sports, as well as across the board in sports like swimming and diving, track and field, soccer, field hockey, fencing, wrestling, rowing and others.

The article points to a decline in basketball, and while it's possible that there is some merit to the argument, TigerBlog looks back at the mid-1980s as another time when Ivy League basketball was being written off. In fact, the sport reached one of its most glorious eras in the 15 years that followed.

As for football, there are limitations from being in the Football Championship Subdivision. Today's "as an aside" moment is the fact that TigerBlog would love to have been in the meeting when the NCAA decided that the terms "Football Championship Subdivision" and "Football Bowl Subdivision" were the way to go.

Still, the Ivy League was founded on two principles: no postseason in football and no athletic scholarships. It's hard to end those two traditions. Besides, the Ivy League routinely is represented by players in the NFL, and there has been no shortage of players who are eager to play Ivy League football and be part of some highly competitive games.

The WSJ article shows a picture of Harvard in the 1920 Rose Bowl and refers to it as the "glory days." You could go on or or or any other other league sites and find much more recent pictures of the current glory days.

In other words, if you want to write a story about the decline of Ivy athletics, you can. Just like you can write about anything from any slant. It doesn't make it true.

Can the Ivy League fix its sports teams? The rest of college athletics should be so broken.