Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Finish Line

TigerBlog was a longtime member of the Jadwin Gym lunchtime basketball game, and in fact the email that now goes to 72 different people each day was originally a group of about 10 or so that TB put together years ago.

He even came up with the subject line that lives to this day: "noon hoops."

It's been a few years since TB has actually played basketball in Jadwin at lunchtime, though he can make the claim that he played at lunch with Pete Carril, Bill Carmody, Joe Scott and John Thompson - as well as about 200 others.

TB wrote about his lunchtime hoops experiences earlier this year, when he was finally able to return to playing squash after a 21-month absence due to a knee situation.

These days, he's back in the squash routine full-time. In fact, TB isn't the only one who plays these days, and one of the relative newcomers, athletic department computer guy Dan Joyce, is organizing a department squash ladder and something he calls a "box" competition.

Anyway, TB was on his way to play when he asked his usual opponent it it seemed possible that it had been 10 weeks since they had been at Lehigh for the opening of the football season. Of course the answer was "no way."

In reality, it was only nine weeks and two days since the football opener, and yes, it seemed like it flew by.

Football season in the Ivy League is a total sprint, 10 games on 10 straight Saturdays, starting later than the rest of the world (high school, college, pro, Pop Warner, anyone) and ending before most.

It has a great rhythm to it - and then it's over.

As any Ivy football fan will tell you, there are a few issues with the way Ivy football works:

* the 10-game schedule, which is the reason why the season starts later than the rest of the college football world

* not having any built-in weeks off

* the Ivy League's decision to have its Bushnell Cup winner announced at the National Football Foundation dinner in New York on Dec. 6

* and of course, the granddaddy of all Ivy League sports discussions, the inability of the Ivy League football champion to participate in the FCS playoffs

Let's skip to the third and fourth.

In year's past, when the All-Ivy football team was announced, the Bushnell Cup winner (Ivy League Player of the Year) was the headline of the story. Today, when the 2010 All-Ivy team is announced, the Bushnell winner won't be part of it.

Instead, the announcement will be made in two weeks as part of a Heisman Trophy-style ceremony. TB is fine with this, because it figures to be a better experience for the winner (and finalists, which TB assumes there will be) and it'll spread the Ivy football exposure a little wider.

As an aside, TB understands why Trey Peacock won't win the award, but he would have had around 110 receptions and 1,300 yards or so if Tommy Wornham hadn't gotten hurt.

Getting back to the granddaddy, the FCS field was announced Sunday, with a field of 20 teams that includes four first-round games to play into the final 16. Among the teams that will be playing include Patriot League champ Lehigh and NEC champ Robert Morris, so clearly an Ivy League team would fit nicely into the bracket.

And yet it doesn't happen.

At the same time that Penn, the 14th-ranked team in I-AA, is finished with football season, the men's soccer teams from Dartmouth and Brown are getting ready to travel across the country to play in the NCAA Sweet 16.

TB still doesn't understand why a league that had three at-large bids couldn't muster an RPI high enough to get its outright champion a bye. But hey, he'll get over it. At some point.

The point here is that many Ivy football fans will make the case that if it's okay for the soccer teams to play this exact week (on the other side of the country, no less), how could it not be okay for the football teams?

The answer is that it's obvious that the same standards aren't in place. No rational person could make the argument that football postseason would be any different than postseason in any other sport.

The point is that the powers that be (the presidents) are aware of this double standard and are okay with it. There can be many reasons for it (the foundation of the league was based on that principle, the Harvard-Yale game), but the winning argument isn't that it's okay for other sports so why not football.

And, with the current climate, TB figures this discussion will go on for awhile, all with players who know they came to play in a league that didn't allow postseason participation.

Ivy League football is a sprint. The season from Game 1 to Game 10 runs just 64 days, compared to a minimum of 127 days for hockey, 121 days for basketball and even 78 for an Ivy lacrosse team or two.

Teams build momentum, while others fall off the pace early with no way to get back in the race. The in-league schedule rarely changes, and the rivalries all date back decades and even centuries.

It's certainly unique.

And then it's over. Just like that.


Wally said...

The double standard for football is unfair and, as far as I know, lacking any public justification from the Ivy Presidents (I'm sorry, but interfering with the "Bushnell Award Winner Announcement" really doesn't cut it as an excuse).

Football players should have the same chances as all other athletes in the league.. More important, it would be GREAT exposure for the league.

Anonymous said...

I agree that football in the Ivy League would be much better if post season play was an option. It is difficult enough to recruit players due to the stringent academic requirements but it makes it more difficult with no chance of playing past the limited 10-game schedule.

Anonymous said...

I would guess the football team was just glad to get this season behind them.

Anonymous said...

I have heard that the morale among the football team is extremely low and a few players have or are thinking of quitting the team. The reasons apparently are not only the 1-9 season record but how the coaches treat the players and even argue at times among themselves. I hope the program will reassess each and every coach and the manner in which they coach and treat the players. If the coaches don't take a totally different approach toward it's players/practices the program and overall morale will continue to be at the bottom of Ivy league. It will also make recruiting very difficult with such a reputation of how players are treated and coached. If nothing changes I can see no more than 3 or 4 wins next year, at best.