Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Happy New Year

Go back exactly 10 years, to the last days of 1999. Think about how much different the world was.

The biggest worry most Americans had was whether or not computer software that was written years earlier would make things like ATMs and air traffic control go haywire when the year rolled to 2000. Y2K. Remember that?

How about Al Qaeda? How many Americans had heard of the terrorist organization as 1999 ended? Had to catch a flight 10 years ago today? How long before your departure time did you get to the airport? One hour? 45 minutes? If you took your shoes off as you went through the metal detector, someone would have said "yuck."

How about Barack Obama? Had you heard of him 10 years ago, when he was an Illinois state legislator? Or Sarah Palin? She was the mayor of Wasilla, Alaska, at the time.

Did you want to write a letter to the President of the United States? His name was Bill Clinton.

Had you ever heard of a hanging chad? Global warming? Did you care about health care reform? Steroids in baseball? Had you ever watched PTI? Seen a video on youtube? Listened to a podcast?

Blackberry? That was a flavor for water ice 10 years ago. Wanted to watch a movie 10 years ago? Well, you got in your car and went to the video store to rent a movie for your VCR. A GPS? You had to read a map or call for directions if you had to get someplace new.

When you said "I do," was your next thought: "I have to update my Facebook page?" Had you ever used the word "text" as a verb?

Were you a Tiger Woods fan? Did you find Chris Berman creative on ESPN? Think Tom Cruise seemed like he would be fun to hang out with? Did you root for A-Rod and the small market, underdog Seattle Mariners? Did you wonder if Peyton Manning could ever win the big one? Did you know he had a younger brother who was also a quarterback?

TigerBlog could go on like this all day, but you get the point. Actually, while we're on the subject, if you saw the letters "blog" used together, would you have had any idea what they meant?

It might not seem like a long time ago, but the last 10 years have been remarkable in terms of change. Of course, eras don't begin and end on Jan. 1 of years that end in zero, but they are a good barometer. For a decade that never really had a name ("the 80s, the 90s, the 00s?"), these have been extraordinary times.

Trickling all the way down to Princeton athletics, has just finished its countdown of the Top 10 athletes, male and female, of the last decade.

The No. 1 choices were swimmer Alicia Aemisegger and squash player Yasser El Halaby, and TigerBlog believes that it's hard to argue with either selection.

What about the decade to come?

Going back those same 10 years, El Halaby was a secondary school student in Cairo, Egypt, and Aemisegger was a sixth-grader outside Philadelphia.

Of the 20 athletes (10 men, 10 women) on the two lists, only four (Tora Harris, Greg Parker, Lauren Simmons, Rachael Becker) had started their Princeton careers by Jan. 1, 2000.

In other words, the top Princeton athletes of the next decade can be anywhere now. They can be sixth-graders somewhere, or they can be athletes who have already started at Princeton (Niveen Rasheed? Katie Reinprecht? Tyler Fiorito and Chad Wiedmaier? Someone else?). Or anything in between.

And when it comes time to write that countdown, who will do it? TigerBlog? Someone else at HQ? What will they write it on? A computer? Something that's replaced the computer? How will you read it? The internet? Or will that no longer exist, replaced by something else faster and more efficient?

Trying to predict what's going to happen over the next 10 years is impossible. Just look back at the last 10 for proof of that.

As FatherBlog would say, that's the end of today's lecture.

With one closing remark:

Happy New Year to all.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

The Best Games Of The Decade

TigerBlog smiled when he saw that Northwestern was now ranked in the Top 25 in men's basketball. The Wildcats came in at No. 25 in the Associated Press poll this week, which marks the first time in nearly 41 years that the team has been nationally ranked.

The head coach of Northwestern is, of course, Bill Carmody, who coached Princeton for four amazing seasons after Pete Carril retired in 1996. Carmody was Carril's assistant for 14 years prior to that.

This year's Northwestern team was expected to struggle after losing its best player, Kevin Coble, to a season-ending injury before the first game. Despite that, Northwestern is now 10-1 and ranked 25th, though it does face the brutal Big Ten schedule that begins shortly.

Still, it's good to see Carmody is doing well. It also got TigerBlog to thinking about the 1999 Princeton-Penn game at the Palestra, the one where Princeton fell behind 29-3, then 33-9 at halftime and finally 40-13 at the first media timeout of the second half before rallying to win 50-49.

There were eight coaches in that game, four on each bench. Of those eight coaches, seven are now head coaches, with the other still on the staff of one of the others.

And three of those coaches are head coaches of teams ranked in this week's AP Top 25 while a fourth is in the "others receiving votes" category.

Penn was led by Fran Dunphy, obviously, during that game; Dunphy is now the head coach at Temple and is ranked 18th this week by the AP. Dave Duke, who was on Dunphy's staff at Penn for the 1999 game, is an assistant coach at Temple now.

Gil Jackson, another Penn assistant in 1999, is now the head coach at Howard.

The 1998-99 season was Steve Donahue's last as a Penn assistant before he became head coach at Cornell. Donahue has taken the Big Red to the last two NCAA tournaments and his team is currently receiving votes in the AP poll.

As for the Princeton staff, Carmody is now the head coach at Northwestern, and John Thompson is now the head coach at 13th-ranked Georgetown. Joe Scott is the head coach at Denver, who though not ranked is 9-4 overall, 2-0 in its league and ranked second nationally in both field goal percentage (52.6%, behind only Syracuse) and three-point field goal percentage (43.6%, behind only Columbia).

The fourth Princeton coach that year was Howard Levy, now the head coach at Mercer County College.

As for the comeback game at the Palestra, TigerBlog would rank that as the best game for a Princeton team in the 1990s. Actually, taking all historical significance away, TigerBlog would rank that as the greatest single game ever played in Princeton athletic history.

Clearly, TB is in overdrive mode when it comes to decade review stuff, so all of this got him to thinking about what the best games of this decade have been. The current countdown of the top Princeton athletes of the decade (tomorrow brings the No. 1 selections) was originally going to be accompanied by a list of the Top 10 games as well, but the decision was made just to focus on the atheltes.

As for the top games of this decade, there are many choices. TigerBlog originally was going to just mention his four favorite, but instead he decided to come up with a Top 10 off the top of his head.

The last time he did this was when he named the top athletes of the 1990s and realized he'd left out a bunch of deserving ones, so forgive him if he's overlooking something obvious. Anyway, here's TB's Top 10:

10. Men's water polo defeats St. Francis in overtime to reach the 2004 NCAA Final Four
9. Ryan Boyle's late heroics rally Princeton to a stunning overtime win over Maryland to reach the 2004 NCAA men's lacrosse Final Four
8. Zane Kalemba makes 27 saves to shut out Colgate in the 2008 ECAC semifinals; the game was scoreless into the third period, and many of Kalemba's saves were amazing
7. Theresa Sherry scores in overtime to give the women's lacrosse team its second-straight NCAA title with an 8-7 win over Virginia in 2003
6. Emily Behncke scores in the final minute of regulation and Esmeralda Negron scores in overtime to give Princeton a 2-1 women's soccer win over Harvard in 2004, ending a decade-long losing streak at home against the Crimson
5a and 5b. Jeff Terrell throws for 445 yards and rallies Princeton to a 34-31 win over Yale that leads to the 2006 Ivy League football championship one week after Rob Toresco flips the ball to Terrell after he is stopped short on a 4th-and-goal and has Terrell score the winning TD in the second overtime against Penn. Pat McGrath then made a tackle on a botched extra-point attempt to give Princeton the 31-30 win. These would be separate games, but it was sort of like one continuous eight-day period.
4. Nate Walton has nine points, eight rebounds, seven assists and six steals to lead Princeton past Penn on the final night of the 2001 men's basketball season to give the Tigers the Ivy League title in John Thompson's first season as head coach. Princeton went into the season without Carmody and Scott, who had left to become head coaches, and five players projected to start or play significant minutes, including Chris Young and Spencer Gloger
3. Emily Behncek and Esmeralda Negron have a goal and assist and Kristina Fontanez scores a goal as Princeton defeats Washington 3-1 to advance to the 2004 NCAA women's soccer Final Four as a capacity crowd jammed into Lourie-Love Field to watch. No other Ivy women's soccer team has ever reached the Final Four.
2. B.J. Prager's fourth goal comes with 41 seconds remaining in overtime and gives Princeton a 10-9 win over Syracuse for the 2001 NCAA championship. Syracuse had blasted Princeton three times in the previous 13 months, including in the 2000 NCAA final and in the 2001 regular season, and Princeton had squandered leads of 8-4 heading into the fourth quarter and 9-8 before Mike Powell scored with 16 seconds left to force overtime.
1. Trinity 5, Princeton 4 in the 2009 men's squash national final. Yes, Princeton lost that match, but it's impossible to understand how great an athletic event that was unless you were in Jadwin Gym that day. As TigerBlog has said, if squash had the same profile of basketball or football, there is no question that the 2009 Princeton-Trinity final would be regarded as the greatest college athletic event ever played.

Anyway, there's TB list. With apologies to the obvious ones he's forgotten.

Monday, December 28, 2009

You'll Shoot Your Eye Out

If TBS still had its "A Christmas Story" marathon going, then TigerBlog would still be watching it. TB isn't sure how many days it would take for him to turn the movie off, though he's pretty sure he wouldn't quite reach his limit until at least New Year's Day.

For those who haven't seen the movie, "A Christmas Story" follows the story of nine-year-old Indiana fourth-grader Ralphie Parker, who lives with his angelic mother, tortured father and strange little brother while attending school with his friends and two bullies. For the coming Christmas, all Ralphie wants is a Red Ryder BB gun, yet every adult with whom he comes in contact shrugs it off by saying "You'll shoot your eye out," something to which Ralphie has no comeback, other than to wonder "was there no end to this conspiracy of irrational prejudice against Red Ryder and his peacemaker?"

For those who are unaware, TBS shows the movie for 24 hours straight beginning at 8 p.m. on Christmas Eve and continuing for 12 two-hour showings until 8 p.m. Christmas night. The first showing overalps as NBC shows "It's a Wonderful Life" Christmas Eve at 8 as well, which means that the first "A Christmas Story" ends just as George Bailey is getting himself into some bigtime self-awareness in Bedford Falls.

As an aside, TigerBlog can't help but choke back the tears when Harry Bailey leads the town in a toast by saying "to my big brother George, the richest man in town."

Meanwhile, back at "A Christmas Story," the movie is a bunch of somewhat related scenes that can be viewed in any order without losing the story, which makes it perfect for tuning in and out any time during the marathon. TigerBlog's favorite scenes are:
* the one where Ralphie curses "the queen mother of dirty words, F dash dash dash" and the subsequent explanation by Ralphie to himself of where he first heard it ("my father worked in profanity the way other artists worked in oils or clay") and then the reaction of Schwartz' mother when Ralphie pins it on his friend
* the scene at the end in the Chinese restaurant with the unfortunate duck
* the scene where they see Santa Claus at the mall
* the scenes with the leg lamp

It's a great family Christmas movie, and, sadly, another Christmas has come and gone, which means the marathon is on hold for another 12 months. TigerBlog has the movie on DVD, but it's not the same thing.

And so with Christmas behind us and the New Year's approaching, continues its countdown of the top athletes of the decade.

We've reached the Top 3 on the list, which includes the No. 3 selections Ryan Boyle of men's lacrosse and Caroline Lind of women's rowing. These two are in some ways similar and in some ways completely different, depending on your take.

Boyle scored some huge goals in his career, especially in the 2004 NCAA quarterfinals, but he was mostly known (and still is, for that matter), as a feeder, a player who made those around him better.

Lind, on the other hand, competes in one of the great group sports of all, rowing. In many ways, it's difficult to separate the contribution of any one rower from the others, but at the same time, Lind, like Boyle, helped make those around her better.

Lind and Boyle also have gone on to considerable success beyond Princeton: Lind has an Olympic gold medal; Boyle has a World Championship and three professional championships.

There are only two left on each list, coming up tomorrow and Wednesday. TigerBlog thinks the remaining choices are obvious, or at least he did, until athletic director Gary Walters came in this morning and mentioned that a different athlete, one who did not make the Top 10, would have been his No. 1 female.

"That's what makes horse races," he said.

Or, as Ralphie's dad would have said: "fragile? 'Frah-gee-lee.' Must be Italian."

That, by the way, has nothing to do with what we're talking about, but TigerBlog always thinks it's hysterical.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Welcome Back, Bob Surace

TigerBlog first started covering Princeton athletics back in the fall of 1989. Since then, he's been around literally thousands of Princeton athletes, first as a sportswriter and then in his time working here.

One of the very first Princeton athletes TB ever met was Bob Surace, who was the center on the 1989 football team that won the Ivy League championship. TB covered Princeton football during that season, and he has always remembered that he wrote a feature about Surace.

It's possible, in fact, that Surace was the first Princeton athlete about whom TB ever wrote a feature story. As the years have gone by and Surace's name has come up, TigerBlog always remembered talking to him so many years earlier and being impressed by him. It's the reaction that TB has seen hundreds of times since from other sportswriters after they interact with Princeton athletes.

Thinking back now, TigerBlog can't remember if he's spoken to Surace since his playing days, until late this morning, that is, when TB walked into Gary Walters' office to talk to Surace, the new head football coach here.

It's been more than 20 years since Surace wore his No. 64 jersey for the Tigers, en route to being a three-year starter at center and a first-team All-Ivy League selection. If TigerBlog passed him on the street, he's not sure he would have known who he was.

TigerBlog said congratulations, got a quote for the release and then started to say "I don't know if you remember me, but ..."

Surace cut TB off and said "you wrote for one of the Trenton papers. You wrote a story about me. Not too many people write about offensive linemen."

As far as TigerBlog is concerned, Surace is off to a good start.

TigerBlog met the media in Jadwin Gym and said all the right things, said them in the right way. Again, his voice is soft, but he is purposeful at the same time.

His comments suggested someone not wedded to one way of coaching, one offensive or defensive philosophy. He saw only one Princeton game on TV last year, the win over Yale, and talked positively about what he was watching. He spoke about building a staff and getting to work.

What about the job in front of him? Well, Princeton's new head football coach is obviously an alum, the first Princeton alum to be the head football coach since Bob Casciola from 1973-77, which makes him the only player in the last 50 years to go on to be head coach. Pretty much everyone who coached at football during the first 100 or so years of the sport was a Princeton alum, with notable exceptions Fritz Crisler (Chicago) and Dick Colman (Middlebury).

In addition, Surace's resume includes head coaching experience at Western Connecticut, a Division III school he led to an 18-3 record in 2000 and 2001. He also took Western Connecticut to the Division III playoffs in ’01 and won a game for the first time in school history.

He has spent the last nine seasons as an assistant coach with the NFL's Cincinnati Bengals. The team has been dealing with a great deal this year, success (first place in the AFC North and seemingly headed to the playoffs) and tragedy (the death of wide receiver Chris Henry and the death of the wife of another assistant coach).

Surace's father was a high school football coach, at Millville High in South Jersey. His wife Lisa (then Tanners) was a four-time letterwinner in soccer at Princeton.

All in all, it appears to be a nearly perfect background for a head coach at Princeton.

TigerBlog asked Surace for a quote for his release, and the new coach answered in a very soft voice. "I'm so excited about coming back to a place that is so special," he began.

TB has written dozens of releases about new head coaches, and the alums always start off with words like that. They have a different view of Princeton, looking back on the experience they had and wanting to recreate that for the players who come here to play for them.

The lead story on is now the story announcing Surace's hiring. The second story is the one that names Jeff Terrell as the No. 4 male athlete of the decade at Princeton.

There's a certain irony there, honoring the greatest player to play here in the last decade as the announcement of the new coach for the new decade is made.

Terrell represents the pinnacle of what Princeton football can be, a player who led a championship team, who delivered highlight reel plays, who put fannies in the seats, as they say.

TigerBlog welcomes Bob Surace back as the new head football coach at Princeton.

TB wishes him more than his share of Jeff Terrells in his career.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

TB Loves The ’90s

The No. 5 athletes of the decade in the countdown are Will Venable of basketball and baseball and Theresa Sherry of lacrosse and soccer.

The remaining schedule has the No. 4 picks announced tomorrow and then the top 3 rolled out in the beginning of next week, with the No. 1 selections on Dec. 30.

Both of the No. 5 picks are currently "working" in California, as Venable is an outfielder with the San Diego Padres and Sherry is the head women's lacrosse coach at Cal. TigerBlog remembers Venable for being unstoppable in basketball, especially against the better teams, and for some monstrous home runs that he launched.

TB remembers Sherry for the clutch goal she scored in overtime to win the 2003 NCAA championship in the Carrier Dome against Virginia and how she would sing the national anthem before home games in both sports.

Last week, TigerBlog asked the question of who would be the Princeton athletics Coach of the Decade, and some of the comments posted indicate that TB's choice of men's hockey coach Guy Gadowsky wasn't agreed with universally.

Today's question is a variation of the "decade review" theme: Who would have been the Top 10 athletes of the 1990s?

TB did this using the same rules as the ones for this countdown. An athlete had to play at least two years in the 1990s, unless it was an active athlete in 1999, who then had to play three years in the 1990s.

What TB found when he looked back was somewhat surprising. In fact, it might just be that the 1990s produced more great athletes at Princeton than any other decade.

Let's start with the women.

TB's Top 10:
1. Amy E. MacFarlane (field hockey/lacrosse)
2. Lisa Rebane (field hockey/lacrosse)
3. Cristi Samaras (lacrosse)
4. Jen Babik (field hockey/softball)
5. Mollie Marcoux (soccer/ice hockey)
6. Nicole Harrison (track and field)
7. Grace Cornelius (swimming)
8. Kirsty Hale (field hockey)
9. Mandy Pfeiffer (hockey/softball)
10. Kim Simons (field hockey/lacrosse)

What leaps out at you from this list? How about six two-sport athletes? This, in TigerBlog's mind, speaks to how different the culture was for female athletes when the college athletes of the 1990s were little girls. With fewer opportunities, the better athletes were able to take up spots on multiple teams growing up. Today, the pressure is to specialize at a very early age, and the long-normal double of field hockey and lacrosse is something that happens less and less.

As for the list itself, it's a pretty strong group with some of the greatest female athletes in Princeton history. MacFarlane, the No. 1 selection, was one of the best field hockey players in the world, and she remains (for the next two years at least) the only field hockey player ever to be a four-time first-team All-Ivy pick.

And the others? Babik was a Rhodes' Scholar. Rebane was the Ivy League field hockey Player of the Year - and was a better lacrosse player (she was Ivy Player of the Year in that sport too). Samaras destroyed the women's lacrosse record book. Marcoux and Pfeiffer could play any sport. Harrison and Cornelius were All-Americas.

And the men? That's where it gets outrageous.

Apologies to great athletes like Ugonna Ikpeowo (track), Chris Massey (lacrosse), Dennis Norman (football/track), Justin Tortolani (lacrosse), Darrell Oliveira (football), Mitch Henderson (basketball), Gabe Lewullis (basketball), Peter Yik (squash), Josh Sims (lacrosse), Reed Cordish (tennis), James Mastaglio (basketball) and many others who didn't quite make the final cut.

So how about these 10?:
Chris Young (basketball/baseball)
Bill Burke (track)
David Patterson (football)
Jon Hess (lacrosse)
David Morrow (lacrosse)
John Mack (track)
Jesse Marsch (soccer)
Michael Lerch (football)
Joe Thieman (soccer)
Sydney Johnson (basketball)

Pretty good group, no? Well, then consider this fact: None of those 10 are in the actual Top 10.

For the Top 10, TigerBlog came up with this:

1. Jesse Hubbard (lacrosse)
2. Kit Mueller (basketball)
3. Keith Elias (football)
4. Kevin Lowe (lacrosse)
5. Steve Goodrich (basketball)
6. Chris Ahrens (crew)
7. Scott Bacigalupo (lacrosse)
8. Brian Earl (basketball)
9. Sean Jackson (basketball)
10. Jeff Halpern (hockey)

How ridiculous is that?

Monday, December 21, 2009

Let It Snow

TigerBlog hates snow. He much prefers the beach, with a chair, a book, some sunscreen and a few snacks to bundling up and heading out to shovel snow.

Is there anything worse than shoveling snow? Seriously. Laundry? No problem. Supermarket? Dishes? Fine. Shoveling snow? No way.

As a kid, TigerBlog would shovel the driveway to basically the width of MotherBlog's car and no more. He remembers one time when he was in high school and it snowed, and for some reason TB wasn't able to shovel (those details are fuzzy). MotherBlog had to pay a kid who lived down the street to shovel, and he dug out the entire driveway, which included a little extra part that went off at a 45 degree angle. His own house? Shoveled to the width of the family car.

Of course, the mere mention of snow sends people into a panic over basics such as milk, which leads to jammed supermarkets, like the McCaffery's was Saturday.

TigerBlog has also never understood the logic of "I love to ski" when talking about how much they like snow. How does the fact that it snowed here help anyone ski? As an aside, TigerBlog has gone skiing once in his life, and that was enough for him.

And snow here it did over the weekend, more than a foot in the town of Princeton. And shovel TigerBlog did, all the while being aware of the fact in a few days, the beautiful white scene around the area will be replaced by slush and mud that will bring more of a brown Christmas than a white Christmas to most.

So, as the region continues to dig out from a snowfall that was about 10 times last winter's total combined, a few thoughts:

* The snow forced the men's basketball team to turn around from Phiadelphia Airport and postponed yesterday's game at Maine, a game that will be rescheduled. The last time Princeton had a basketball game snowed out was in 1994, when the Friday night/Saturday night trip to Yale/Brown became a Saturday/Sunday trip to Brown/Yale. TigerBlog was on the bus for that trip, which was memorable mostly because of how long it took to crawl up 95 after the blizzard. TigerBlog also remembers taking a box score from the Penn-Yale game to Pete Carril's hotel room, knocking on the door that was clearly labeled "no smoking" and getting bowled over by the cigar smoke when Carril answered the door.

* TigerBlog has always hated to use lacrosse pictures that have snow visible on the sideline in the background.

* TigerBlog watched some of the Rutgers bowl game Saturday night, and the whole system of postseason FBS football is bizarre. There's one game that has been designated as the championship game and there are another 30+ that mean nothing. There is, of course, no possible justification for designated Alabama and Texas as more deserving than TCU or Boise State or especially Cincinnati to play for the national title, other than subjectivity. The fact that the regular season means so much is good (as opposed to college basketball, where it means next to nothin), but it's a system so obviously flawed that everyone knows it. On the flip side is Ivy League football, which TigerBlog loves. 10 weeks. 10 games. No off weeks. It has such a great rhythm to it.

* It's easy to root for Richmond in basketball, and it was great to see the Spiders knock off Florida Saturday night. Richmond's coach is Chris Mooney, about whom TigerBlog once wrote a feature story that began with this line: "Is Chris Mooney too good to be true?" Mooney, a 1994 Princeton grad, started every game of his career and finished with 1,071 career points in 107 career games. He reached 1,000 one night at Yale in what happened to be the 100th game of his career, and TB sort of got used to the idea that Mooney would score exactly 10 points every game. Mooney is an extraordinarily soft-spoken man, but he has a deep, burning competitive fire; his team is now 8-3.

* TigerBlog didn't realize that women's basketball had its own bracketology on TB doesn't really like bracketology as a concept, because there's no accountability for the picks. Still, TB does acknowledge that people love to read the updates each week, and in many ways, it confirms that people are much more interested in what comes next rather than a story about the last game. Anyway, the current women's basketball picks have Princeton as a No. 14 seed taking on No. 3 LSU in the first round, and that was before Princeton won at Houston yesterday. Yes, there is a long, long way to go between now and the women's selections, and Princeton has never played in the NCAA women's tournament. Still, it was nice to see some recognition for the big early season success the Tigers have had. And Niveen Rasheed (24 points, 14 rebounds against Houston) seems to be the real deal.

* Mike Colley won the Doyle Smith Award as the person who has done the most to promote the sport of lacrosse, and the honor was presented at the USILA convention last week. Sadly, it was presented to Colley's mother and not to Colley, who passed away last summer at the age of 46. Colley was the lacrosse sport information contact at Virginia, and he actually replaced Smith, for whom the award is named, when Smith passed away several years ago after a long battle with Parkinson's. Smith was the first person to write the rules of keeping stats for lacrosse many years ago, and TigerBlog knew Smith well. There have been few kinder, more caring people who have ever lived than Doyle Smith. TB was part of a committee two summers ago to update Smith's work, and Colley was part of that group. Sports like lacrosse have their own small, close-knit groups that work together all the time, and TB worked closely with Colley for a long time as well, and he was another kind, caring person. It's hard to imagine a coming lacrosse season without him. Hopefully the award, voted on by the college coaches, was a sign to his mother about what the lacrosse world thought of her son.

* TigerBlog first met Corey Zucker in the third grade, he recalls. One of five kids (four brothers and a sister) who have been a second family to TigerBlog, Corey has been by TB every step of the way since, oh, 1970 or so. TigerBlog could write volumes on the Zucker family (and maybe will some day), but for now, the focus is on the next generation of Zuckers. TigerBlog remembers clearly the day Jonathan Zucker (Corey's oldest son) was born (Princeton played Yale in basketball that day as well). Last week came the news that Jonathan had been accepted early decision to Cornell, which disappointed TigerBlog, as he is now a huge archrival of Princeton's. Still, TB can't help but say congratulations to the whole family Zucker family and wish Jonathan the best in Ithaca. Just not during lacrosse season - or any time the Big Red plays Princeton.

Friday, December 18, 2009

Coach Of The Decade is currently counting down the Top 10 male and female Tiger athletes of the decade. Today's posting was the No. 7 athletes, current senior Liz Costello of cross country and track on the women's side and Greg Parker ’03 of the wrestling team.

The next three in the countdown will be released next week, and the final three will be released the week after, ending with the No. 1 selections on Dec. 30.

It's been a fun project to do, and judging by the page view numbers, it's been well-received. TigerBlog has certainly gotten feedback from those at HQ who all have an opinion. Even one disgruntled alum called to complain that he was ineligible because he only competed for one year (okay, he wasn't quite disgruntled, just joking around, and at least he read the fine print).

The whole thing got TB thinking about a different question: If you were going to select a Princeton Coach of the Decade, who would it be?

TigerBlog didn't set any limits to who his selection for top coach would be other than it had to be someone who coached at Princeton this decade. Before considering who deserved the honor, TB went back and checked to see how many coaches who were the head coach of their sport on Jan. 1, 2000, are still the head coach today.

TB didn't really have any preconceived notions about it, other than it seems like there's been some turnover through the years. Somewhat surprisingly, he found out that 16 head coaches (eight men's teams, nine women's teams - Luis Nicolao of water polo coaches both) have been here the entire decade. It seemed like a lot to TigerBlog, but that's not the point.

So who was the Coach of the Decade around here? That was the next part that got TigerBlog thinking. It could be just about anyone.

Between Jan. 1, 2000, and the end of the 2009 fall season, Princeton teams combined to win 117 Ivy League titles, 42 more than the next-highest school. Princeton teams won 13 national championships, and 13 athletes won individual national championships.

None of this happened accidentally. It's a tribute to the coaching staff as much as anything.

So where to start? There are a lot of good choices:

* Kristen Holmes-Winn has been the field hockey coach for seven seasons and won six Ivy titles. She also took Princeton to the 2009 NCAA Final Four, and with her team of mostly freshmen and sophomores, Tiger field hockey is positioned well for a serious NCAA title run in the near future.

* Bob Callahan won seven Ivy squash championships and reached five national finals. Princeton players won six individual championships this decade.

* Julie Shackford won five Ivy League women's soccer championships and reached six NCAA tournaments. Her 2004 team became the first women's soccer team in league history to reach the NCAA Final Four, and she was the Division I Coach of the Year. She also broke the record for career wins at Princeton by a men's or women's soccer coach.

* John Thompson won three Ivy League championships in four seasons as men's basketball head coach. He took the Tigers to two NCAA tournaments and one NIT.

* Bill Tierney won one NCAA championship, played in three NCAA finals and reached the Final Four four times in men's lacrosse. His last 10 Princeton teams won seven Ivy League titles and played in eight NCAA tournaments.

* Peter Farrell won six Ivy titles, including four in cross country, where he built the women's team into one of the five best in the country out of more than 340 teams.

* Nicolao went to two NCAA Final Fours.

* Gail Ramsay won three national Howe Cup championships and two Ivy League titles.

* Greg Hughes was a head coach for one year, but he made it count, putting together a dominant lightweight men's crew that won the national championship.

* Lori Dauphiny won four Ivy League women's open rowing championships, and her 2006 team was probably the greatest first varsity 8 boat in women's collegiate rowing history.

* Rob Orr won six Ivy swimming and diving championships.

* Scott Bradley (edited version, TB apologizes for initially forgetting Bradley) won five Ivy championships and advanced to five NCAA tournaments, winning two games while there. Bradley had eight 20-win seasons and produced 14 draft choices, of whom three are currently in the Major Leagues.

* Susan Teeter won eight Ivy swimming and diving championships and has had Princeton consistently ranked in the Top 25 nationally.

All of them are excellent choices. You could even make a case for wrestling coach Chris Ayres, who has Princeton moving down the path towards becoming highly competitive after years of struggling.

Still, if TigerBlog had to choose, he'd come up with these two, one male and one female:

Chris Sailer won two NCAA women's lacrosse championships, played in three championship games and reached the NCAA tournament all 10 years. Her teams also won five Ivy League championships, and Sailer herself made the U.S. Lacrosse Hall of Fame.

Guy Gadowsky inherited a men's hockey team that was 8-50-4 in the two years prior to his arrival. He equaled that win total his first season and then took the program to where it had never been before: to consecutive NCAA tournaments. Princeton won the 2008 Ivy League and ECAC championships and reached the ECAC final four again in 2009, and Gadowsky's teams have been consistently ranked nationally while sending an army of players to the professional ranks.

If TB had to pick the No. 1 Coach of the Decade at Princeton, he'd go with Gadowsky.

Hey, this was fun. Maybe next, TigerBlog can rank Princeton's top SIDs of the decade.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Public Addressing

John McAdams, for those who don't know the name, is the best public address announcer of all time. He was truly a public address announcer, since he had no other job. Amazingly, he made his entire career behind the microphone at games, doing the games of any number of teams in the Delaware Valley.

Princeton University was among his many employers, as McAdams did games here in any number of sports. Most notably, he was the PA announcer for the four women's soccer NCAA tournament home games in 2004 (all wins, as Princeton reached the Final Four) and at Princeton Stadium for football from 2000-2004.

He did minor league baseball games in Delaware, college games all over the Philadelphia area, Philadelphia Eagles' games, high school games - basically anything. More than anything, of course, he was the voice of the Palestra and the Philadelphia Big Five for nearly 25 years, beginning with TigerBlog's first year at the University of West Philadelphia and continuing until McAdams passed away. He is a member of the Big Five Hall of Fame, along with all of the great players and coaches. His signature introduction? "Good evening and welcome to the Palestra, college basketball's most historic gym." It ranks up there with being welcomed to Madison Square Garden, the "world's most famous arena."

He would call on average 300 games a year, which adds up to nearly 10,000 games in his lifetime. Perhaps the most famous was the legendary Duke-Kentucky game in the 1992 NCAA tournament, arguably the greatest college basketball game ever played.

McAdams was a giant of a man, weighing more than 400 pounds when TigerBlog first met him a long, long, long time ago. It's possible that TB has never met a nicer person or greater gentleman than John McAdams, who died nearly five years ago at the age of 64.

TigerBlog followed McAdams as the PA announcer at Princeton football (a plaque with McAdams picture on it sits outside the PA booth), and TB fills in as well as the PA announcer for Princeton men's and women's basketball when Bill Bromberg, the regular announcer, cannot make a game. One such game was the men's game against Monmouth last night.

TB's basic approach to doing public address is to try and imitate McAdams, who had a simplistic style that focused on some basic things: keep it crisp, don't shout, stay composed, don't be a homer, have a rhythm to your voice. His word flowed easily, and that's basically what TB tries to do as well.

TigerBlog spends most of his time during Princeton men's basketball home games on the radio, so he's forgotten a bit of what it's like to sit next to the bench. TB's first game on the radio for Princeton was in 1989 in East Lansing, Mich., when the Tigers played the University of Arkansas-Little Rock and then Michigan State in a holiday tournament.

Since then, TB has been part of a rare three-man college basketball radio team along with David Brody and Rich Simkus, and he's also worked with play-by-play men Peter Peretzman, Andy Castin, Ed Benkin, Tom McCarthy, Dan Loney and now John Sadak. There are some pretty good voices in that lineup.

There was a stretch in the mid-’90s, though, where TigerBlog didn't do radio. As the sports information contact for men's basketball, he usually found himself sitting in the first seat next to the bench, which is a great place to watch game, and not just because of the closeness to floor.

Much of that came back to TB last night as he watched the Princeton-Monmouth game and watched and listened to the Tiger bench and the officials. With a radio headset on, none of that is audible.

The amount of communication between the officials and the head coaches (and even assistants) and between the three officials is amazing. It's non-stop. They call each other by their first names as if they're either brothers or best friends, and the coaches frame every argument/comment as if it's ludicrous that the official could even remotely disagree with their version of what happened.

During TB's days sitting next to the bench, he remembers some extraordinarily funny moments. Bill Carmody used to have running conversations and commentaries while the game was going on, often touching on subjects that had nothing to do with the game. Pete Carril, as could be expected, had some great things to say. There was this interaction once after a player went the wrong way:
Carmody: "How dumb can he be?"
Carril: "Don't sell him short. He's very dumb."

Princeton was playing a game (TB believes it was at Iowa State) that was officiated by the ref who been part of Bobby Knight's most famous meltdown a few years earlier. At one point, frustrated by a call, Carril yelled out: "No wonder that guy threw a chair at you."

At a game at Marquette, Carmody complained to ref Ted Valentine that the foul totals were 10-0 at one point. "Fouls are 10-0," Carmody yelled. Valentine came back with the perfect response: "I know. As soon as they commit one, I'll call it."

In New Orleans, Carril was talking to one ref about how UNO's big men were being too physical. "You've got big guys too," the ref said. "Yeah," Carril answered, "but I didn't go down to the docks to get them."

There was nothing quite like that last night. Still, sitting next to the bench was fun.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Nine March Days

TigerBlog continues to rehab his knee and hold on to his dream of one day returning either to lunchtime squash or basketball or even, dare he say it, over-40 lacrosse.

TB actually has this belief that he's going to be 100% in another few months, only to hurt himself all over again the first day back. For now, though, his workouts are limited to the exercise bike.

And so it was yesterday afternoon, when TigerBlog went down to ride one of the bikes in Jadwin. Before he could, he looked around HQ for something to read, and he stumbled upon a brochure he'd put together nearly 14 years ago, one to commemorate the end of the 1995-96 men's basketball season.

The brochure included some original text that TB wrote, box scores from three games and accompanying newspaper clippings. TB remembers putting this together for a postseason event for the Friends of Princeton Basketball.

For those who don't remember, the end of the 1995-96 season featured a loss to Penn in the final game of the regular season that left the Tigers and Quakers as Ivy League co-champs, a win over Penn four nights later at Lehigh for the league's bid to the NCAA tournament, a first-round win over defending NCAA champion UCLA in Indianapolis and finally a loss to Mississippi State in the second round. For some reason, TigerBlog didn't include the MSU box score.

If you're any kind of Princeton basketball fan, you're not exactly unfamiliar with those days. You also know that Pete Carril announced his retirement as Princeton basketball coach after the win over Penn in the playoff by scribbling "I'm retiring. I'm very happy. Bill Carmody is the new Princeton coach" on a blackboard in the lockerroom.

TigerBlog was the first person in the Princeton lockerroom after the win, and Carril was the second. TB saw Carril write something on the board and then walk into a smaller coaches room, at which point TB read what Carril had written and realized that his night had just gotten somewhat more involved.

Eventually, after what seemed like a long time, everyone else came into the room. TB was situated so that he could see the players and hear but not see Carril, and TigerBlog remembers the stunned looks he saw as everyone began to figure out what was happening.

When Carril and the players got to the postgame interview room, Carril dropped the bombshell on the assembled media, some of whom immediately looked at TigerBlog as if to say "hey, we already have enough to write about with this game, and now this?"

Back on the bike yesterday, TigerBlog began to read through the brochure, and it brought back all kinds of memories. It also pointed out certain things that TB had forgotten.

For instance, Penn shot 2 for 18 in the first half of the playoff game and made only eight baskets for the whole game, but 30 for 38 foul shooting for Penn made it a game. TigerBlog did remember that Donald Moxley was hounded into an 0 for 14 shooting night, but he forgot that it was Gabe Lewullis who did the hounding. He knew Steve Goodrich and Mitch Henderson fouled out, but he didn't remember that Goodrich had scored 26 points against Penn in the 14-point loss at the Palestra four nights earlier.

As he went through the brochure, TigerBlog began to read the newspaper stories. Brian Dohn covered the games for the Trentonian, and he would leave to write for the Los Angeles Daily News. Chris Thorne, one of the nice guys in the history of the newspaper business, wrote for the Star-Ledger.

Mark Eckel wrote for the Trenton Times, as he still does, when he's not busy being the athletic director at Trenton Catholic Academy. One of Eckel's stories had the classic headline: "Princeton Wins, Carril Quits."

There were also two columns written by perhaps the best sportswriter TigerBlog has ever read, the Star-Ledger's Jerry Izenberg. TB hasn't been star-struck in meeting too many media people in his life, but he did grow up reading Izenberg's columns, and it was a thrill to actually get to know him later on.

There were also a ton of clips from national papers after Princeton's win over UCLA. TigerBlog remembers the basic theme of "smart Princeton" beat "athletic UCLA," and headlines likes "Brains Over Bruins" were the norm. To be honest, it was a bit over the top and somewhat simplistic, giving all the credit to the genius Carril and little of it to the players, which included a future NBA player and some of the best players Princeton has ever had.

For the cover of the brochure, TigerBlog had chosen the Daily Princetonian front page from the day after the UCLA game, including the headline "David 43, Goliath 41." And who wrote one of the two stories on the front page? Grant Wahl, who has gone on to become one of the premiere sportswriters in the country today with Sports Illustrated.

There were two things that stood out most of all, though. First was a picture of the coaches celebrating after the final buzzer of the playoff game. In it were Carril, Carmody, Joe Scott and John Thompson, while Sydney Johnson (the captain) was visible in the background. In other words, it was one picture with Carril and the four Princeton head coaches who would follow him.

Second was a bunch of articles all praising Johnson for his leadership abilty, his maturity, his composure. One included a quote from Johnson that stated his career goal was to be a history professor after he got his Ph.D.; obviously, Johnson is now the Princeton head coach.

Mostly, though, the brochure brought back a flood of memories from a time nearly 14 years ago when TigerBlog got to see from the inside one of the great moments in college basketball history.

He thought back to how unlikely it seemed that Princeton would win the playoff game - until he saw Carril in practice the day before, when he challenged his guys not to back down against a Penn team none of them had ever beaten and against whom Carril had lost eight straight. He thought of how cold it was outside Stabler Arena before the playoff game. He remembered the conference call the day before the playoff game, when Carril didn't realize the phone was muted when he made an off-the-cuff comment.

He remembered how Johnson had hugged him after the playoff win. He remembered going out to dinner in Indianapolis after Princeton beat UCLA and how the waiter - followed by the rest of the steakhouse - cheered when TigerBlog gave his Princeton University corporate credit card. He remembered crouching by the far basket with CBS' Andrea Joyce for the final three seconds after Princeton had taken the lead, three seconds that took more than seven minutes to play. He remembered getting calls from every sports talk radio station in the country, all wanting to talk to Carril or Johnson or another player.

The brochure was entitled "Nine March Days That Will Last Forever," and clearly those nine days will never be forgotten by anyone who was part of the Princeton program at the time.

For TigerBlog, they remain the nine coolest days of his 16 years at Princeton.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Sydney Johnson vs. Jerome Allen, Part II

So as of yesterday, Jerome Allen is now the head men's basketball coach at Penn, at least until the end of the year. For those who don't remember, Allen is perhaps the best Ivy League basketball player of the last 25 years, or at the very least, one of the five best by any possible selection process.

TigerBlog began covering Ivy League basketball in 1989, and Allen is the best player from the league he's seen play against Princeton.

The current Princeton coach is Sydney Johnson, obviously. If you're making up a list of the best Ivy League basketball players of the last 25 years, Sydney Johnson isn't in the Top 5, but he is in the Top 50. Maybe even the Top 25.

And if you're looking for clutch players TigerBlog has seen play basketball in the Ivy League, Johnson is in the Top 5, probably even in the Top 1.

Between the Penn coach and the Princeton coach, you now have three Ivy League Player of the Year awards (two for Allen, one for Johnson) and five first-team All-Ivy League selections. You also have five Ivy League championships and NCAA tournament appearances, as well as two NCAA tournament wins.

Penn-Princeton basketball dates back to Valentine's Day 1903, and the teams have met at least twice a year every year since. During almost all of the 50+ years of formal Ivy League play, Princeton and Penn dominated men's basketball, like no other two schools dominated any other conference.

From 1963 through 2007, Princeton or Penn represented the Ivy League in the NCAA tournament every year except for three: 1968, 1986 and 1988. From 1989, the year Princeton almost defeated Georgetown in first round, through 2007, only Princeton and Penn went to the tournament from the league.

The chronology went like this: Princeton from 1989-92, Penn from 1993-95, Princeton from 1996-98, Penn in 1999 and 2000, Princeton in 2001, Penn in 2002 and 2003, Princeton in 2004 and Penn from 2005-07.

The 1990s saw Princeton or Penn have nationally ranked teams more often (six times) than not (four times), and Allen and Johnson were the catalysts for some of those teams.

Allen graduated from Penn in 1995; Johnson graduated in 1997. Allen's teams went 42-0 in the Ivy League his last three years, when the Quakers featured a backcourt of future NBA players Allen and Matt Maloney. Johnson's teams went 12-2 and 14-0 in the league his final two seasons (Pete Carril's last and Bill Carmody's first), and it was Johnson who made the biggest plays in Princeton's win over Penn in the 1996 playoff after the teams tied for the title.

Johnson and Allen went head-to-head four times, during the 1993-94 and 1994-95 seasons. TigerBlog went back and dug up the binders from those seasons, which wasn't all that long ago in some ways and was a different dinosaur in others (no school webpages, hand-written box scores instead of computer stats).

Penn, who clearly had the better team in those two years, went 4-0 in those games, but Allen and Johnson had very similar stats: 42 points, 19 rebounds and seven assists for Allen, compared to 41 points, 16 rebounds and seven assists for Johnson. TigerBlog can't be 100% sure, but he's pretty sure that it was Johnson who hounded Allen into a 1 for 12 shooting night at Jadwin Gym in 1994.

Johnson was known for his defense, and he remains the only player ever to be named Ivy League Player of the Year without averaging double figures in scoring. Still, he did score 1,044 points in his career, and he does hold the Princeton record for consecutive three-pointers made (11).

For his part, Allen ranks seven all-time at Penn with 1,518 points. Since he graduated, two players – Ugonna Onyekwe and Michael Jordan - passed Allen and a third - Ibby Jaaber - tied Allen on the all-time scoring list. All three were Ivy League Player of the Year, but TigerBlog thinks Allen was the best of those four.

Maybe the one thing in which TigerBlog most feels cheated through the years of watching Princeton basketball is that the Allen/Maloney Penn teams didn't overlap directly with the best years of Princeton's great teams from that era (1990-91 or 1996-98). It was fairly obvious in the preseason of 1989 and 1990 that Princeton was going to win the league, that Penn would do so in the next three preseasons and that Princeton would in 1997 and 1998. Only 1996 (and 1999, two years after Johnson graduated) were question marks, and look how those two years turned out.

Imagine if the Allen/Maloney teams came along two years later. Would you have wanted to see a game with these starting fives:
Penn (1995) - Allen, Maloney, Eric Moore, Scott Kegler and Shawn Trice as seniors
Princeton (1997) - Johnson (senior), Steve Goodrich (junior), Mitch Henderson (junior), Brian Earl (sophomore), Gabe Lewullis (sophomore)

You wouldn't have watched those teams play? Granted, someone would have had to lose, but who knows? Maybe if they'd come along at the same time, the Ivy League could have gotten two teams in the tournament.

Now the two players who most drove the rivalry (actually the three players, including current Princeton assistant Brian Earl) who most drove the Princeton-Penn rivalry are charged with building back to its prominence (though in Allen's case, it may be on an interim basis only).

TigerBlog hopes they both succeed. Ivy League athletics isn't quite the same without a dominant Princeton-Penn men's basketball rivalry.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Who's No. 1?

TigerBlog is fascinated by ridiculous arguments and the fierceness with which people will debate them. Along those lines is the question of when the current decade ends.

TB has heard people vehemently say that, because there was no year "zero," that all decades end with the years ending in zero. Then there are others who think that the decade ends in the years ending in nine and that the new decade begins in the years ending in zero. He has heard the "zero" people and the "nine" people get pretty heated about it.

As an aside, TigerBlog watched much of what is one of the final NCAA championships of the decade, if you listen to the "nine" people, the men's soccer game between Akron and Virginia. It led to some great notes:
* Because the semifinal and final were tied after overtime and thus officially considered ties, Akron went undefeated (23-0-2) but did not win the NCAA championship, something that's hard to do in an NCAA tournament
* Akron was unscored upon in six NCAA tournament games - and did not win the championship
* Akron played 220 minutes in the semifinal and final and did not score or allow a goal

As a further aside, penalty kicks is a tough way to decide a national championship, and TB would rather have seen the game go until one team scored, regardless of how long that was. Knowing they had to score to win would have, in TB's mind, changed some of the way the teams played, and the resulting chances each would have taken would have led to a counter the other way.

As a final aside, the Akron goalie made two of the clutchest saves you will ever see when he stopped PKs in rounds 4 and 5, either of which would have won the game for UVa. And then, just when it looked like Akron was going to make a miracle comeback, the Zips sent their final chance over the goal.

But what was the point here? Oh yeah, if you google "what year does the decade end," you get taken to yahoo answers, which has a thread debating this issue. The responses are pretty evenly split down the middle.

Here at HQ, we have no such doubt. We're definitely "nine" people, and for us, the current decade has fewer than three weeks remaining.

To that end, beginning tomorrow, will start its countdown of the top 10 male and female athletes of the last decade.

The rules that we used were that to be considered, an athlete had to have played at least two years of his or her career in this decade, which eliminated great athletes like John Mack who graduated in 2000 and Chris Young, whose career went from 1998-2000.

As for current athletes, they had to play for three years, because those who are freshmen or sophomores are going to be judged more for being part of the next decade. As an aside, that rule led to discussion here at HQ that asked what current athletes would be on the 2019 decade top 10. The answers we came up with? Niveen Rasheed (women's basketball) and Katie Reinprecht (field hockey) for women and maybe a Chad Wiedmaier or Tyler Fiorito from men's lacrosse for men.

Besides, the project of selecting the top 10 male and female athletes of this decade was tough enough. Given that nearly 3,000 athletes are eligible for our two lists, it's a daunting task.

The easy part was separating out the top 25 or so on both lists. The hard part was going from there.

The lists are completely chosen by the staff here at TigerBlog HQ. The selections will be revealed on in reverse order, with the following schedule:
No. 10 - tomorrow
No. 9 - Wednesday
No. 8 - Thursday
No. 7 - Friday
No. 6 - Dec. 21
No. 5 - Dec. 22
No. 4 - Dec. 23
No. 3 - Dec. 28
No. 2 - Dec. 29
No. 1 - Dec. 30

Feel free to agree or disagree.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Traffic Report

Here at TigerBlog HQ, we have a monthly departmental staff meeting, an event that mostly discusses issues of relevance to coaches.

Every now and then, TigerBlog gets a speaking role, usually to talk about things like the webpage and decisions that are pending about communications. That was the case at the most recent one, held yesterday.

When TigerBlog worked in the newspaper business in the last century, he thought of athletic communications offices as if they worked for him, and there are still many media types who think the same way. In fact, CoSIDA (the College Sports Information Directors of America) has in its code of ethics language that speaks to the relationship between the media and sports information offices. There was also a story, which TB can't find, on CoSIDA's site that basically said that even in this changing world, sports information's first responsibility is always to the media.

TigerBlog held onto his sportswriter view of the world when he first started working on the other side of the fence, but as time has gone by, he's made about a 180-degree turn. As an aside, TigerBlog loves when people say they've made a 360-degree switch from their previous position, which would of course put them back at the same point where they started.

Yes, here at HQ we still spend our time helping the media, but not nearly to the extent that we used to. In fact, as TigerBlog has said before, we have gone from being 95% a media relations office in the mid-1990s to being 95% a media outlet of our own today.

Also, as we make big-picture decisions, our area of focus has changed to where the needs of the media do not make the list of constituents on whom we focus. Instead, our decisions are centered on, in no order: recruiting, corporate sponsorship fulfillment, revenue generation, marketing, fans, alumni.

TigerBlog's talk at yesterday's meeting was about traffic on and what it says about what we do. The main Princeton site generates nearly 1,000,000 page views per month, which TigerBlog already knew, but with the help of google analytics (a great tool), TB found out some other information that he didn't know.

Today's quiz: From how many countries did people access and TigerBlog in the last 30 days? The answer will be revealed below.

For his talk, TB printed out a list of all stories in this calendar year that have generated a minimum of 1,000 page views, and what he found was pretty interesting.

Of the top 13 stories in terms of page views this year, only one was a game recap. For the record, it was the game story after Princeton defeated Syracuse in men's lacrosse in the Big City Classic, which ranked eighth with 2,577 views.

There were 66 stories on the list that had generated at least 1,000 page views, of which only 17 were game recaps. It sort of goes to what TB thinks, which is that people don't read game stories anymore.

It used to be that almost all of your information on who won or lost came from a game story, usually in the next day's newspaper. Now? Forget it.

TigerBlog was at one of the six performances of "Meet Me In St. Louis" that he saw in an eight day span while Georgetown was playing Butler in men's basketball. How did he find out the score? On his cell phone, which also told him leading scorers and other stat leaders. If it hadn't been for his cell phone, he could have found out the score and stats in a dozen other ways, none of which would have involved a game story. In fact, TB never read a game story, on Georgetown's website or on any other site. What did he read? A blurb in a notes column about Georgetown's Greg Monroe in the daily "Sports News Today," which, by the way, is a tremendous product, one that is emailed to TB each day (for free, but that's another story).

What are people reading about on Well, judging by the page views, items that are read more than game stories are: game previews, game stats, player bios and general information on things like tickets.

What does this mean as far as decision making? Maybe the traditional game story has become obsolete. Maybe just a paragraph of the score and a leading scorer, followed by notes, with no play-by-play but heavy on what the result means and what's up next for that team? With video, of course.

The game story on a college website, of course, grew out of a release that was sent to the newspapers and other media outlets. If the game story changes, then the newspaper would be left with just a sentence or two. Is this a problem?

Also, player bios were something of an afterthought in the past, there to be updated once a year after the, what were those things called, oh yeah, media guide was done. Now? They need to be updated after each contest - keep in mind there are around 1,000 athletes at Princeton - preferably with video.

And sites like the ticket site have to be high priorities, since that's where people are going. This turns into revenue. Frequently updated bios turn into a recruiting edge. Features and pregame stories drive web traffic, which in turn helps with corporate sponsorship, which helps in all sorts of ways. And on and on.

Game stories? Whom are they helping?

Oh yeah, for the answer: in the last 30 days, people from 134 different countries went to and people from 60 different countries went to TigerBlog.

What does that mean? What does any of it mean? The web traffic numbers are interesting.

The challenge is to figure out how best to use them.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Name That Stat Line

And now it's time to play "Name That Stat Line."

Team A
26 for 44 from the field (59.1%), 10-19 from 3 (52.6%), 27 for 43 from the foul line ... Won 89-82 (45 points in first half, 44 points in second half)

Player A (from a different game)
21 points, 7 for 13 from the floor, 0-0 from 3, 7-10 from the line, 10 rebounds, six assists, no turnovers, five steals ... In 23 minutes ... Team won by 26

Pretty good lines, no?

So, where to start. Let's go with the team first.

The team stat line belongs to the University of Denver men's basketball team from its game against Cal State-Northridge Tuesday night. The Pioneers won the game 89-82, improving to 6-2 on the season.

Denver, of course, is in its third season under head coach Joe Scott, who is obviously familiar to Princeton fans as a former player, assistant coach and head coach. Scott inherited a team that went 4-25 in the 2006-07 season, the year before he arrived; the Pioneers have gone 11-19 and 15-16 in Scott's first two full seasons.

Going back in time, here are the season records for the Air Force Academy basketball team in the years preceding Scott's arrival as head coach:
1995-96 - 5-23
1996-97 - 7-19
1997-98 - 10-16
1998-99 - 10-16
1999-2000 - 8-20

And here is the Academy's record in each of Scott's four years as head coach:
2000-01 - 8-21
2001-02 - 9-19
2002-03 - 12-16
2003-04 - 22-7 (Mountain West champion)

As for Denver, the Pioneers are shooting 52.3% from the field and 44% from three-point range and averaging 71.1 points per game.

Every Princeton fan knows that Scott's three-year tenure as Princeton head coach was, uh, rocky, and the point here isn't to revisit any of that. Instead, TigerBlog is amazed at the success that Scott has had at his two Colorado stops, contrasted with the lack of success here at his home school.

TB is not alone in being fascinated by this, judging by the numerous emails and comments he's gotten.

Let's leave it at that.

Besides, there's the matter of the other stat line. That one belongs to women's basketball freshman Niveen Rasheed, numbers she put up Tuesday night against Rider as Princeton's women improved to 6-2 as well.

Rasheed's line against Rider is about as good as a stat line gets. Forget the 21 points and 10 rebounds. How about six assists, five steals and no turnovers. And doing all this in just 23 minutes?

Through eight games, Rasheed leads Princeton in scoring, rebounding, assists and steals. Her 17.8 points per game average translates over four years to roughly 1,922 points, or 239 points better than the current Princeton women's basketball career record.

Of course, TigerBlog isn't trying to jinx her or anything.

Rasheed came to Princeton from the Bay Area, where one of her AAU teammates was Lauren Polansky, another Princeton freshman basketball player. In fact, there was an excellent story in the San Francisco Chronicle about the two from this past January.

The story talks about how the two play together on the court and are great friends off the court, despite the fact that Rasheed is Palestinian and Polansky (who has started five of the eight games this year as well) is Jewish. Beyond just that fact, there are also quite candid comments from Rasheed's mother about the Middle East situation and about Polansky and her mother about the role her late father played in her basketball development. It's one of the better stories about Princeton athletes that TigerBlog has read in recent memory.

As for Rasheed, she has been the only player to win Ivy League Rookie of the Week honors this season, which means she's won it four times already. With her big night against Rider already in the books, she's got a leg up on No. 5.

And, she's scored at least 14 points in every game to date. Of all of the accomplishments of Bill Bradley at Princeton, the one that TigerBlog finds more impressive (and hardly ever mentioned) is that Bradley never scored fewer than 16 points in a game in his three varsity seasons.

Rasheed, of course, has miles and miles to go before any actual comparison with Bill Bradley would be remotely appropriate. Still, to play her way into the same paragraph as Bradley in her first six games says a lot.

So did her stat line against Rider.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Dr. Michael Cross, Director of Athletics

On the videostream, he was "Dr. Cross," dressed in his best suit with his brand-new red tie and "Bradley" pin.

Here at HQ, he's "Mike," the guy down the hall for the last 10 years, who came here with a Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 1999 with a career goal to be a Division I athletic director and now leaves Princeton 10 years later having achieved it.

Mike Cross – Dr. Michael Cross, according to his new school – has been named the Director of Athletics at Bradley University. He begins his new role effective Jan. 1.

When TigerBlog first heard that Mike Cross was leaving to become the AD at Bradley, he checked Bradley's website to see how many sports the school has. The answer is 14, or 24 fewer than Princeton has. There is no football at the school. Or lacrosse or hockey or fencing or squash or field hockey or water polo or swimming or crew or sprint football or wrestling or men's volleyball or others.

What it does have is a team in the model mid-major basketball league, the Missouri Valley Conference. The same Bradley website that showed Mike's picture as its lead story had a recap from the previous night's basketball game, and the accompanying picture of Carver Arena showed all 11,000 seats filled.

It's a huge change from a school like Princeton, with no athletic scholarship, 38 sports, and more than 1,000 athletes. Bradley's release has a 139-word description of the athletic program's recent success, of which 84 words are about men's basketball. The release also recognizes Bradley's success in graduation rates, which has been best in the MVC in nine of the last 10 years.

When you spend your entire career at Princeton, or even the 10 years that Cross did, you get a bit of a skewed view of college athletics. Cross spent considerable time in meetings at Princeton talking about marketing for football and basketball, and the issues he will face in those same meetings in Peoria will be considerably different.

For starters, there will be no football meetings, with no questions about ticket prices, start times of football games, parking and everything else. In basketball, marketing takes on a whole different focus when demand either equals or exceeds supply.

Beyond all that, though, when the news broke, TigerBlog thought mostly about Mike himself.

Princeton athletics is an interesting place, with a blend of people in it for the long run with people who are just starting out in their career who have come through the department with the goal of being there for a short time and then moving on. TigerBlog never had the feeling that Cross viewed Princeton as a prerequisite; TB said often that when Cross looked back on his career one day, he'd remember his time at Princeton with great fondness.

Gary Walters, Princeton's AD, is clearly the face of the department and its most visual spokesperson. Cross has spent the last few years as No. 2 on the depth chart, the "first among equals," as Walters called him.

It's not an easy role to fill, because clearly someone like Cross spends that time on the verge of becoming an AD of his own while also following the lead of the current boss. When TigerBlog was asked Tuesday afternoon what kind of AD Cross would make, it wasn't as cut-and-dried to answer the question, because now that he's the boss, it'll be interesting to see what directions he might go in. That, coupled with the types of challenges he'll face at Bradley that he never saw at Princeton, make the situation interesting.

What is unchanged, though, is who Mike Cross is. He's very smart, for starters, and that's where TigerBlog started when tried to sum up Cross on the phone. He's also very funny. It's a good combination.

TigerBlog and Cross had some great discussions in recent years about any number of topics, and TB didn't always agree with him. At the same time, TB and Cross were on the same side of way more issues than they were in opposition.

At the first meeting Cross attended after he was hired 10 years ago, he made an analogy of something to an old abandoned building, one with a broken window. If the window is not fixed, Cross said, the building will soon have other broken windows.

TB has never forgotten when Cross made that point, and it's something he's kept in mind through the years. The point is that problems need to be fixed immediately, that weakness needs to be corrected immediately. If not, they won't stay the same; they'll expand beyond their original point.

Mike Cross spent the last 10 years fixing the first broken window he found in the Princeton athletic department, so that other windows wouldn't follow. It wasn't always an easy task, with the needs of so many teams and coaches and athletes and administrators and other constituents.

As TB said before, he was always certain that Cross wouldn't look back on this time as a prerequisite, something he had to do to get the next job, and when it finally came time to leave, an email from Cross basically said the same word for word.

Mike Cross will remember his time at Princeton with great fondness, he said.

TigerBlog will remember Mike Cross as his friend.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

For the Good of the Sport

It was a surreal image. Watching Princeton play USC and UCLA face Loyola Marymount in the NCAA Water Polo Semifinals at DeNunzio Pool and then looking beyond the pool deck through the windows to the outside where the first snowfall of the season was blanketing the ground and the trees surrounding the pool.

Water polo is a sport centered on the West Coast in California where the teams play outdoors. No team that doesn’t call California home has ever won a national title in water polo and only five times since 1969 has the national champion been crowned in another state. But for three days last weekend, the center of the collegiate water polo world was Princeton, New Jersey, even though three of the competing teams all were from towns within miles of each other in Los Angeles.

One of USC player's admitted concern entering the weekend about the unknowns of actually playing indoors and worried if there would be problems communicated in the noisy environment.

It was a great event by all accounts and thanks and congratulations go out to all the Princeton staff members that put in their time and effort to making the event special.

An overriding theme that struck TigerBlog throughout the weekend felt from all four teams, committee members and others connected to the water polo world was the sport’s awareness of itself, where it fits in to the college sports landscape, and what it needs to do to gain more awareness and grow. Ultimately, that is one of the main reasons why the NCAA committee awarded Princeton the opportunity to host this event several years ago.

This was touched upon throughout the weekend from the championship banquet held on Friday night to USC’s post-game press conference following Sunday’s championship game. The coaches, players, media and fans kept pointing to the importance of the weekend in representing and growing the sport. Sure, it may have been the coaches and student-athletes saying the right things, but it was a theme that kept coming up and seemed very sincere.

Any championship event is the pinnacle of its sport. In water polo, there are the Olympics and then the NCAA Championships. As Princeton’s Mike Merlone mentioned following the team’s win in Sunday’s third-place game, “the NCAA final four is the goal of every age-group, club and high school water polo player in the country.” By bringing this event to the east coast, a new set of eyes was able to see it, and that was an important aspect that was not lost on anyone.

In addition to simply bringing the sport to more people, part of the ‘for the good of the game’ also centered on the importance of the east coast teams to the sport. Of the 41 teams that play men’s water polo, 17 are on the east coast. Obviously the top teams in the sport play on the west coast, but the success Princeton had this weekend and the inroads that Navy and St. Francis have also made in recent years have shown that the east coast teams are getting stronger and showing that they belong.

Princeton head coach Luis Nicolao said just that on Sunday after his team’s win. “We talked about showing that we belong out here and can play with these teams. I think we did just that by beating a very good Loyola Marymount team and getting our program’s first-ever NCAA game.”

That point was not lost on anybody. When asked about it in the championship press conference, USC’s Jordan Thompson, the tournament’s Most Valuable Player, summed it up by saying, “Princeton is a good team. We prepared for them yesterday the exact same way we prepared for UCLA in the championship game, and every other game this season.”

TigerBlog would say that is belonging.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Meet Me In St. Louis

Back in the old house on Villanova Drive, there was an upstairs room in which the walls were decorated by the Playbills of literally dozens of Broadway shows. MotherBlog and FatherBlog were big fans of the theater, and they took young TigerBlog and BrotherBlog to see as many shows on the Great White Way as they did Knicks' games at Madison Square Garden.

The result has been TigerBlog's lifelong love of theater and sports, two pursuits that TB has always thought of as very similar. Both are about teamwork, about creating something where the whole functions beyond just the individual. In both there are countless more hours of preparation than there are performance, and in both the final product is put out there for all to see and judge.

Yes, there are differences as well, such as the fact that in sports somebody wins and somebody loses. And there is the physical nature of sports (though dancing can be quite challenging, as can performing on stage night after night). TigerBlog Jr., who has considerable experience in both sports and music, summed it up this way: "They're both cool, but I've never gotten jacked up playing the bassoon."

The biggest similarity between sports and theater, though, is that they require genuine talent, and it's obvious when you're watching the most talented perform. It is TigerBlog's contention that for the most part there is little in the way of talent that separates your average major movie star from the tens of thousands who never make it; the key is being in the right place at the right time and having the right look. In sports and theater, the right look doesn't look right if it's not backed up by substance.

All of which brings us to the Newtown Community Theater's current run of "Meet Me In St. Louis," whose cast includes a chorus member named Little Miss TigerBlog. As an aside, the Newtown Community Theater is the oldest theater in the United States.

The average old-time American musical is heavy on music and light on drama, though most have their heavy moments. "South Pacific" is centered around World War II. "Oklahoma" has a genuine bad guy; "West Side Story" kills off its three main male characters. And don't get TB started on "Fiddler on the Roof."

"Meet Me In St. Louis" doesn't have anything that approaches that level. It's centered around a family anticipating the 1904 World's Fair in St. Louis, and other than the questions of whether or not Esther and Rose will get their men and whether or not Mr. Smith will actually follow through on moving the family from St. Louis to New York before the start of the Fair, there's not much there other than good clean fun and really breezy songs that get into your head and stay there:
"Meet me in St. Looie, Looie; meet me at the fair. Don't tell me the lights are shining, any place but there."

TigerBlog saw a few dress rehearsals and has seen several of the performances, and of course he came away with a few thoughts that weren't really the point of the show.

First there is the character named Warren Sheffield, who is refered to several times as a "Yale man" during his courtship (that's what they called it back then) of Rose, the oldest Smith daughter. Upon hearing that there was a "Yale man" named Sheffield, TigerBlog immediately thought of John Sheffield, the first-team All-Ivy tight end from Yale this past season.

Sheffield (the tight end) caught 61 passes for 612 yards and finished his career third all-time at Yale with 126 receptions; he had three catches for 44 yards against Princeton. TigerBlog wondered if Sheffield's family history at Yale dated back more than 100 years and began with a fictional character.

Then there's Lon, the only male of the five Smith children. The entire Smith family is proud of the fact that Lon has been accepted to Princeton; in fact, one of the key scenes revolves around Lon's going-away party before leaving for New Jersey.

Because the World's Fair was in 1904, and the Smith family was afraid their proposed move to New York the winter before would force them to miss it, then Lon would have arrived on campus in 1903, making him a member of the Class of 1907.

As the son of a Midwestern lawyer, Lon was probably the norm for Princeton's all-male population at the time. John Truitt, the next-door neighbor and love of Esther's life, plays baseball and basketball in the show, and it's likely Lon was an athlete as well.

Was he an athlete at Princeton? Football was the big sport at the time, obviously. If Lon Smith was a football player, his final two years were the first of Bill Roper's tenure as head coach. Roper still holds the record for career wins by a Princeton football coach with 89, including a 16-2-1 record his first two years that featured the 1906 national championship. Maybe when Lon went back for the wedding of Esther and John or Rose and Warren, he did so as a national champion.

Esther is carrying a tennis racket in the first scene of the show, so maybe that was the Smith family game. If Lon played tennis, he came to Princeton at the right time - the team debuted two years earlier.

In fact, Princeton athletics added tennis, hockey, swimming, basketball and soccer between 1900 and 1906. Prior to the start of the 20th century, Princeton had football, track and field, golf, baseball (the first intercollegiate sport, dating to 1864), rowing and lacrosse, a sport that was dropped between 1894 and 1920.

It wasn't until 20-30 years after Lon graduated that Princeton added fencing, 150-pound football and squash; it wasn't until more than 60 years had passed that women were allowed to attend Princeton.

Let's assume for a minute that Lon had a good experience at Princeton, probably following into his father's career.

As for the current production of the show in Newtown, Lon is played by Justin Derry, whose list of credits in his bio is fairly long. During one scene in the second act, Lon is back in St. Louis for Christmas 1903, and he teaches the locals a dance he's learned in Princeton called "the Banjo," which is one of the highlights of the show. It also features a two-row kick line, which caused TB to think back to high school theater and Mr. Green, who said that a kick line would always make an audience applaud. Sure enough, Mr. Green was right.

The cast is a mix of adults, current 20-something types and kids. Rose (Kristin Kaufmann, also the show's choreographer) and Warren (Brent Minder) have a great duet to "Raving Beauty," and Esther (Amelia Arrigo, one of Little Miss TigerBlog's after-school teachers) has her own great duet with John (Michael Bryant) to "You Are For Loving" and a beautiful solo rendition of "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." They are all extremely talented, and Kaufmann, Arrigo and Martha Ellen Smith (Mrs. Smith) have stunning voices.

But for TB's money, the show is stolen by two little girls. The first is Julia Mitchell, a fourth-grader who plays the youngest Smith daughter, Tootie, with a stage presence that would make actors 10 times her age jealous.

The second is Little Miss TigerBlog, who appears in only two numbers, "The Trolley Song" ("clang, clang, clang went the trolley; ding, ding, ding went the bell") and the finale.

LMTB has no previous theater experience and knew no one other than Arrigo prior to this show, and she now performs in the chorus on the same stage where she stood all by herself six weeks ago to audition, because it was something she decided she wanted to do.

TigerBlog told her before opening night that the world is filled with people who sit in the audience, but it takes a special courage to get up on the stage.

In sports, and in the theater.

Friday, December 4, 2009

A 19-Year-Old Grudge Comes To An End

Back in 1990, TigerBlog split his fall covering Princeton football and Trenton State College football in his newspaper days. TSC played most of its games on Friday nights, while Princeton played on Saturdays.

That year, for Princeton fans who don't quite remember, was the 3-7 season that came after the 1989 Ivy League title and the five-year run that followed that included three eight-win seasons and two more league championships.

TSC in 1990, though, was another story. The Lions (coached by one of TB's all-time favorites, Eric Hamilton) dominated that year, with a defense that pitched five straight shutouts to end the regular season. TSC then advanced to the Division III playoffs, were it knocked off highly regarded Ithaca on the road in the first round to reach the quarterfinals.

As an aside, TigerBlog cannot remember too many more home crowds that were more stunned than the fans at Ithaca that day. TB also remembers how cold it got in the pressbox when he and Dana O'Neil (now of, then of the Trentonian) were left to write their stories without heat or lights.

Anyway, Trenton State had to play its quarterfinal game against a team that was transitioning to Division I-AA, a team that had been preparing for the move with its last few recruiting classes and which had no business playing in Division III in 1990.

That team? Hofstra, which crushed Trenton State.

TigerBlog has always liked the people at Hofstra, especially longtime SID Jim Sheehan, who was with the football team in 1990 and is still there today. TigerBlog makes it a policy to root for lacrosse coaches named "Tierney," so he likes Hofstra (when the Pride isn't playing Princeton). It's a nice campus (though getting there is a nightmare, since it can take anywhere from a little over an over to about five hours depending on traffic), and TB has always been treated well there through the years. Shuart Stadium is a great facility.

But he never got over the fact that Trenton State's best football team ever was denied a shot at a Division III title because of a Division I-AA team, and he never rooted for Hofstra in football again.

All of this came soaring back to TB's mind yesterday, when he heard the news that Hofstra had dropped football. It was basically an economic decision, and the Pride became the second CAA school in two weeks to drop the sport after Northeastern did so as well. Ironically, four of the remaining eight teams in the Division I-AA playoffs are from the league.

TigerBlog was listening to WFAN yesterday afternoon, when a great deal of air time was devoted to discussing the situation. What struck TigerBlog the most was a call from a current Hofstra student, who pinned the blame on the school's inability to promote the sport.

TB couldn't help but laugh when he heard the student say that often times, students have no way of knowing whether or not games are home or away and therefore don't know if there is a game to go to that weekend. The WFAN host rightfully shot this down, asking how much time per day that the student spend online.

Hofstra, for its part, recently revamped its website to launch TB also knows that Hofstra does a great effort in marketing, but it's also obvious that Hofstra suffers from some of the same problems that Princeton does in athletic marketing.

For starters, there is really no way of judging how successful marketing efforts are. TigerBlog has asked this question a million times in meeting and here: Do people not come to games because they don't know about them or because they know but don't want to or can't come? Beyond that, what's an acceptable attendance level for football, basketball, hockey? How do you know if you're successful in attracting every single person who wants to be there, even if that number might not seem really high?

Hofstra's home attendance averaged a little more than 4,000 per game, while Princeton's was nearly double that (8,178). This was in a year when Princeton went 4-6, including a 1-5 start, and played five home games that included one Thursday night and three on rainy Saturdays. For TB's money, that's a pretty good job of getting the word out.

Still, there is the issue of the student and his claims on WFAN. TB is pretty sure there are similar students at Princeton who would say the same thing, that Princeton does nothing to market to its students.

Clearly, though, football at Princeton or in the Ivy League is not a cash cow. There is great competition from movies, birthday parties, youth sports and other activities, not to mention the fact that there are a million games on TV each week.

The image many fans nationally have a college football is of sold-out stadiums with 60,000 or 70,000 or more fans packed in, but the reality is that there are many schools like Princeton and Hofstra that have programs that have been around for decades that play to much smaller fan bases.

The big question is whether or not Princeton or another Ivy League school would ever drop the sport. On the one hand, TigerBlog says no, because football is so tied in with history and tradition, annual giving, general alumni support and other important institutional functions. Football was the foundation of the Ivy League, and it's as cemented on the eight campuses as anything else, it would appear.

New economic realities, though, have had a huge impact already and may continue to do so. It's hard to say what direction anything in higher education is going to go in, especially athletics.

Still, TigerBlog can't imagine Princeton and the Ivy League without football.

As for Hofstra, it's a tough situation for the coaches and players, and TB wishes them all well. Why not? Hofstra no longer has a team, so TigerBlog can let his 19-year-old grudge go.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Princeton 1, Alabama 0

Paul and the gang at physical therapy do a pretty good job of keeping the magazine choices fresh, which comes in handy during the 20-30 minutes that TigerBlog is now able to ride the bike. Granted, it's a long way from again being able to play squash, which is TB's ultimate goal.

During his three-times-per-week visits to physical therapy, TigerBlog has read a diversified selection that has included U.S. News and World Report, Time, ESPN the Magazine, Popular Mechanics, National Geographic and another magazine whose name TB doesn't remember that had a great story in it about Stonehenge.

Mostly, TB reads Sports Illustrated, a magazine that he had a subscription to from roughly 1974 through 2000. Of late, there was a great story about Joe Paterno, and the NBA preview issue was good.

TigerBlog read the story in last week's issue about Alabama running back Mark Ingram, who has led the Crimson Tide to an undefeated season heading into Saturday's SEC championship against Florida. The crux of the story is that Ingram has made a serious run at the Heisman Trophy while his father, who shares his name, sits in jail near Kennedy Airport awaiting sentencing for a bank fraud and money laundering conviction. The elder Ingram had fled rather than report for prison last winter and was captured a short time later.

TB remembers Mark Ingram as a key member of the New York Giants' second Super Bowl-winning team. It was Ingram who made maybe the biggest play in the Super Bowl win over Buffalo when he evaded five tacklers to pick up a first down and keep a touchdown drive alive.

The talk of the younger Ingram as a serious Heisman threat is not new, but there was one fact in the story that TigerBlog found astonishing: Alabama has never produced a Heisman Trophy winner.

With all of the great players who have played football at 'Bama and with all the national championship teams the school has produced, how could it be that nobody has ever won a Heisman?

Once that reality was digested, TB's next thought was this: Princeton leads Alabama 1-0 in Heisman Trophy winners.

It's been 58 years and two days since Dick Kazmaier won the 1951 Heisman Trophy (now on display in the Jadwin Gym lobby) for Princeton, a feat no Ivy League player has matched since. He was the main cog in Charlie Caldwell's single-wing offense, which today is making a comeback under the name "Wildcat."

Equally skilled at passing and running, Kazmaier accounted for 55 touchdowns and more than 4,000 yards of total offense. He helped Princeton to undefeated seasons in 1950 and 1951, when Princeton was ranked first in the East and sixth nationally.

He was also named the 1951 Associated Press Male Athlete of the Year.

Kazmaier's story is a familiar one to Princeton fans. He grew in Maumee, Ohio, and was an undersized back on the freshman football team. He was drafted by the Chicago Bears but passed on the NFL to go to Harvard Business School, and he went on to a long career in business and philanthropy.

The first time TigerBlog met Kazmaier, he had a conversation with him about a deli in Connecticut that both love (Rein's Deli in Vernon, which, though not a sponsor of Princeton, TB can't recommend enough). Through the years since, TB has had a chance to spend some time with Kazmaier on several occasions, and there is no doubt that Kazmaier ranks as one of the gentlest, most unassuming people TB has ever met.

He is soft-spoken and almost apologetic about winning the Heisman, as if that individual honor has detracted from the more important accomplishments of his Princeton teams. His number at Princeton, 42, which was later worn by Bill Bradley in basketball, has been retired across all sports at the University; there is a statue of him in the lobby of Jadwin as well.

The Kazmaier that TigerBlog has met long ago left behind his football days, and so it was with great interest that TB saw the picture of Kazmaier on the cover of Time magazine from Nov. 19, 1951. In the picture, Kazmaier looks serious and athletic and, well, tough. There are only small portions of his face from 1951 that are recognizable in 2009. It's a fascinating portrait.

TigerBlog has long suspected that if you ask Dick Kamzaier to write down on a piece of paper the five best football players in Princeton history, or for that matter the five best players of his era, he would give you back a list that didn't include his name. It's a hunch, just as TB has a hunch that if you introduced him to someone as "Dick Kazmaier, Heisman Trophy winner" that he would get embarassed. These are hunches that speak to the humble nature of the man.

And who's to say? Maybe he isn't the best player in the 140-year history of Princeton football, but that doesn't matter, because his was the career that was stamped with college football's ultimate individual honor.

The Heisman Trophy. Princeton 1, Alabama 0.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

California Dreamin'

TigerBlog spent a week in Los Angeles back in 1987. It was a trip essentially to visit TB's college friend Paul Glazer, who said that he would be there and that TB and TB's friend Mark Eckel could stay there for the week.

Instead, Paul found out he had to leave on business and had just rented out his extra room to a guy named Ken, who had answered an ad for a roommate the day TB arrived. So, instead of hanging out with an old college friend for a week, TigerBlog instead got to share an apartment with Eckel and a total stranger.

On the last night, Ken took us to a party in Manhattan Beach, and of course Eckel ran into someone who had been a student of his friend (and TB's friend) Ray Clark at Hightstown High years before. Summed up briefly: Eckel goes to California with a friend of his to stay with a friend of his friend's, only that friend isn't there, so they stay with a stranger instead, who takes them to a party at his own friend's house, where Eckel runs into someone who knows his friend from back home.

Small world, no? And this was after Eckel ran into someone he went to grammar school with at Universal Studios.

Anyway, as part of the trip, TB checked out some of the local colleges, including UCLA and USC. For the record, he liked UCLA's campus better but thought Pepperdine was better than both of those – and any other one he's seen since.

TB and Eckel did not go to Loyola Marymount, but even with L.A. traffic, it wasn't that far out of the way.

According to Mapquest, it's 10.84 miles south (mostly on I-405) from UCLA to Loyola Marymount and then another 17.4 miles east (mostly on I-10) from LMU to Southern Cal. Also according to Mapquest, it's another 2,784 miles from USC's campus to Princeton's.

TigerBlog remembers when the idea of hosting the men's water polo Final Four was first brought up, though he can't remember exactly when it was. It was clearly a long time ago, because TB does remember that 2009 seemed so far away at the time.

Now, though, the 2009 men's water polo Final Four is here, and it features Princeton along with the three L.A. schools who are located so close to each other and are getting read to fly across the country to DeNunzio Pool. Maybe the NCAA should have chartered one plane and put all three teams on it.

As an aside, the men's water polo TigerCam video of the team's trip to the Eastern championships two weeks ago is tremendous. Not to beat a dead horse, but nobody can tell me a water polo media guide would have the same impact on anyone.

The event begins Saturday at 3 when Princeton takes on USC, followed by Loyola Marymount and UCLA. The final is Sunday at 2, and there's also a third-place game at noon; tickets are going quickly.

As far as TigerBlog knows, this is the fifth time an NCAA championship event will be held on the Princeton campus. The first was in 1975, when the NCAA wrestling championships were held at Jadwin Gym (Iowa won). Palmer Stadium hosted the men's lacrosse championship in 1981, when a crowd of 13,943 watched North Carolina defeat Johns Hopkins 14-13.

The women's lacrosse Final Four was held at Princeton twice, first in 1990 when Harvard defeated Maryland 8-7 and again in 2004 when Virginia defeated Princeton in the last NCAA final not won by Northwestern.

And now it's water polo's turn. It's a tremendous opportunity for the sport to be showcased far from its Southern California base, and judging by the ticket sales, the response has been great.

College athletics when viewed through the lens of major media outlets is 95% about football and men's basketball. College athletics in reality is about so much more, and that's why the NCAA's marketing campaign of "going pro in something other than sports" is genius.

One of the best parts of being at a school like Princeton is to see so many different sports and to get a feel for the athletes each sports attracts. In the case of water polo, the Princeton team has a roster of 21 players, 13 of whom are from California.

Beyond geography, though, water polo is a sport that requires its athletes be in ridiculous physical shape, and it's an incredibly physical game. Maybe nothing at Princeton (crew? ice hockey?) can equal how hard these athletes have to push themselves physically during the course of a game.

For the uninitiated, the players have to tread water throughout the entire time they're in the pool, and pretty much anything goes under the surface.

Beyond that, it's one of the sports with a small community, so basically everyone knows everyone else.

And if you can't root for Princeton coach Luis Nicolao, who can you root for?