Friday, January 29, 2010

The Swimmer, The Diver & The (Curtis) Painter

It was Dec. 27, 2008, and there was still one undefeated team remaining in the NFL. The Indianapolis Colts led the New York Jets 15-10 with less than six minutes left in the quarter. Curtis Painter trotted on to the field. Peyton Manning did not.

A nation gasped. Many were personally insulted that the Colts did not push for the undefeated season. Some agreed with the decision, since Indianapolis had nothing at stake in those final 20+ minutes. And at least one person toasted a Rypien Cup fantasy football title, since Manning was now a far less dangerous opponent (sorry, Pat).

One month later, the Colts are now preparing for the Super Bowl. Without the added pressure of 19-0 (again, sorry, Pat) or a key injury that occurred in a meaningless game, Manning should leave Miami next weekend with a second title. Where that puts him in the rankings of top quarterbacks ever can (and will) be debated later, but the NFL championship is the only concern in Indianapolis right now.

Whether it's NFL football or high school soccer, teams start the season with one goal — winning a title. History can be made in the pursuit of that goal, but should never overshadow it.

At Princeton, several teams with their eyes on that goal will compete this weekend. Basketball teams, who have no postseason tournament to rely on, compete in their first full Ivy League weekends with the knowledge that any loss could be fatal down the line. Hockey teams play ECAC weekends for the potential of home ice in the postseason, an advantage that goes far beyond crowd noise and actually plays a specific role in game strategy. Squash teams will host Yale in what could easily become Ivy elimination matches for both the men's and women's squads.

And then there is swimming and diving. Both the men's and women's teams will welcome Harvard and Yale to DeNunzio Pool in a rivalry that has dominated the sport for generations. In this TigerBlogger's opinion, this is the best Ivy rivalry of any that will be contested this weekend, even more than the mighty Cornell-Harvard men's game that has dominated basketball this decade. Yes, this decade.

Princeton, Harvard and Yale have dominated the Ivy League in this sport. Since 1990, outside of a pair of women's titles at Brown, the Ivy League men's or women's champion in swimming and diving has been Princeton. Or it's been Harvard. Or it's been Yale. Case closed.

You might figure this weekend's competition would go a long way in deciding the 2010 Ivy League champions. You'd be wrong.

As opposed to regular season results, both Ivy champions are decided in a conference meet, which is scored differently than a dual meet. For instance, if a Princeton swimmer finishes an event this weekend 1st and 4th, and a Harvard swimmer finishes 2nd, 3rd and 5th, Princeton gets 11 points and Harvard gets eight.

Finish that same way one month from now, Princeton gets 58 points and Harvard gets 80. Big difference. In dual meets, having the best swimmer in each event matters. In conference meets, depth is most important.

So like that first Jets-Colts game, this weekend really doesn't matter when it comes to that championship goal. So maybe Rob Orr or Susan Teeter (a fellow UT Volunteer, like Peyton Manning) will rest their starters this weekend. Curtis Painter for the 200 fly, perhaps?

Not on your life.

Take one step inside DeNunzio this weekend and you'll know why this meet matters. There is a pride at stake this weekend that can't be measured by a trophy. For followers of all three programs, this weekend can matter just as much as the championship weekend. That one is about I-V-Y. This one is about H. It's about Y.

And for two of the most loyal alumni and fan bases at Princeton, it is certainly about P.

It is about a men's team defending DeNunzio Pool the way every past one has in a dual meet. It is about Alicia Aemisegger — who is forging a career that holds its own against any man or woman ever at Princeton — swimming one last time at home against the colors of Crimson and Blue. It is about two Princeton programs who truly believe in HYP and what it means to everybody associated with the program.

The Ivy League championship can and will be decided later.

For one weekend, the purest forms of competition and rivalry take a backseat to nothing.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Marketing 101

Back when TigerBlog was in college, he used to love to get mail. TB lived in a large group of dorms under one common structure as a freshman and sophomore, and there was a large mailroom near the main gate.

Usually when something was in the mailbox, it was a bill or junk mail. Even in those cases, there wasa great anticipation when there was something staring back at you when you looked into the little window by your box. And then there were those moments when TB - in the pre-email/texting/facebook days - would get an actual letter, or even better, a package. Those days were great.

At some point each morning here at HQ, the day's mail is dropped off in the mailroom, up on the balcony of Jadwin.

When you need a break from whatever you're doing, there are worse ways than sorting the mail. There are rows of mailboxes in the mailroom, which at one time were in alphabetical order but now are almost random. The key is to know where, say, the marketing stuff goes or the men's swimming or whatever without having to stop each time and look.

The office that gets the most mail, by far, is football, which sometimes has so much that it needs its own mail bins on the floor for the overflow.

As for TB, the feeling of looking into the mailbox isn't quite the same as it was more than a quarter century ago in West Philadelphia. Still, it's always fun when something different beyond the usual University publications or invoices shows up, whether it is an odd request or the newest edition of Inside Lacrosse or a handwritten note (usually from older alums either praising or criticizing something).

Earlier this week, TB saw something a little different. It was a small piece of orange paper, regular copy paper, with simple printing on it. The paper was an invitation to come see the Princeton women's tennis team play in its two matches yesterday, and it included a reference to free bagels and coffee. Women's tennis coach Megan Bradley had put one in each of the boxes in the mailroom.

As an aside, TB has never had a cup of coffee.

Anyway, the first match was at 10 a.m. Sure enough, beginning at 9:45 or so, there was a mass exodus from the balcony down to E-level, as everyone went to get a bagel and check out the tennis. Some stayed longer than others, but clearly everyone had gotten the invitation, read it and acted on it.

What's the lesson? Well, it has something to do with not making things more difficult than they need to be.

TigerBlog isn't sure what story he read or where it was or even what it was about, but he does remember a Princeton student who was quoted as basically saying that the most effective way to get information on events is through the little table tents they have in the dining halls.

In other words, you can have the most sophisticated marketing plan in the world, but it doesn't necessarily mean much. The key is getting the basic information that people want to them, and doing it in a manner that will stick.

Here at HQ, we have tried almost everything in terms of marketing. We have identified target audiences (students, faculty/staff, local families with kids). We have tried focus games. We have tried basically every combination of ticket pricing, ticket availability, ticket packaging.

We've spent thousands of dollars printing ticket brochures. We've been in schools, in the Valpack, online, in emails, in text messages, on facebook. We've had huge mailings and no mailings. We've had a billboard on the New Jersey Turnpike and our events listed in calendars everywhere.

Slogans have been big. We've gone through a few, and those slogans have been meant to convey messages that have run from wanting fans to be part of the great athletic tradition of Princeton to understanding how close, welcoming and affordable Princeton athletics are.

Our basic pattern is to try something and give up on it quickly in favor of the next idea. Among our problems is that we have no way of measuring success, because there are so many variables. What crowd sizes are considered good and what are considered bad?

For football, there is a small sample of home games each year. Then, if you put one on a Thursday or Friday night for TV, the sample gets smaller. Then there's the weather. Or start times. And we have no vehicle for market research.

So where does that leave us?

Well, TB feels that marketing moving forward is similar to what media for us has become. We have the ability to go directly to our fan base, rather than going through a middle man (advertising in another outlet, for instance). Also, printed materials aren't the way to go.

Our efforts may be best served by developing databases by sport, by fan type (families? faculty/staff? local corporation), by any number of categories and then going directly to them via email or text or Twitter. Perhaps we're better off creating simple, emailable (or through mobile apps) reminders of upcoming events, not for every time there is a game, because these would end up getting deleted, but a few times a year.

In this way, our marketing focus can reach across most of our 38 sports and not just for our five ticketed sports.

As for those ticketed events, our pricing is already so affordable that the answers extend beyond that. Maybe instead of only season-ticket plans by sport, we should institute a way to buy a certain number of tickets, which can be used across all different sports. Fans could buy a 10-ticket plan and then use four for football, two for men's hockey, two for women's basketball and two for lacrosse. Our all 10 for men's basketball. Or any other combination.

Tie-ins with local sponsors is another way to go. In this way, sponsors get an extra bonus for being part of Princeton athletics, and Princeton gets to introduce people to be part of something they might not otherwise have thought of. Or maybe it's Hamilton night or Lower Bucks night or Hopewell night?

All of these efforts then get tied into providing the right atmosphere and experience once fans are in attendance. This is something that TigerBlog thinks Princeton does a great job with already.

And then we need to not overlook the obvious. In this era of the highest speed, highest sophistication, multiple platform ways of communicating, there is a place for something really simple, like an invitation on a small piece of orange paper.

As the parade of people to the tennis match Wednesday morning proved, sometimes simple sells best of all.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Stay Out Of Lane 4

TigerBlog often likes to drift over to the end of the mezzanine of Jadwin, or even into the balcony itself, and watch basketball practice for a little while.

It's been a source of pretty good entertainment through the years. Some of the funniest comments TB has ever heard have been uttered by Princeton basketball coaches, male and female, during practices.

The first coach TB watched run practice was Pete Carril, who could be counted on for something classic on a pretty much daily basis. TB remembers vividly a moment from 20 years ago, when Carril ripped his own shirt down the middle, so that it sat like an unzipped sweatshirt, as he screamed at one player "You should've gone to Yale; you would've been that guy's problem." Or the time he grabbed Jose Ramirez Del-Toro by the collar and dragged him up to Princeton's two starting guards a few days before the 1996 Princeton-Penn playoff game, announcing "I will put him in the game if you guys back down to them."

Then there was Bill Carmody. One day, during a drill, one of the reserve players was beaten for a backdoor layup, which elicited an expletive from the defender. "Hey," Carmody said quickly to the player who had cursed. "The idea of the game is to get the other guy to say that."

Richard Barron, the former women's coach, would be good for a laugh or two with some of his comments, especially the ones about decisions his players made on fastbreaks. These were doubly funny, given Barron's propensity for the behind-the-back pass off the green screens on a 3-on-1 at lunchtime basketball.

Nobody's ever topped Joe Scott for the ability to get his point across by saying something unbelievably funny. One day, dissatisfied with his team's defensive effort, Scott said: "If I could get the other team to guard us like you do, I wouldn't have to think of plays." Stuff like that was a fairly common occurrence.

Practice for a team sport like basketball or football or lacrosse or others basically follows the same script. They all start with warmups, followed by individual drills that build up to group drills to finally full-team drills.

TigerBlog went to look for basketball practice earlier this week, only to find that the court was empty, as practice is being held at different times than normal because there are no classes or exams this week. What he found, though, more than held his attention.

Beyond the basketball courts obviously sits the indoor track. To be honest, it's not a sport TB knows much about or one in which he ever participated. He has gone to watch some meets here, and he worked down the hall from the track coaches for nearly two decades.

He has also seen track practice numerous times, even wandered into the middle of it looking for one of the coaches for one request or another on a handful of occasions. He's known some of the athletes and has admired their commitment to a sport that competes over two or three seasons.

TB has gone to the Heptagonal cross country championships for several years now, and it's a great event that features great competition mixed with great tailgating. He has see indoor and outdoor Heps, including the time when he saw 10-time event champ and Roper Trophy winner John Mack win a 400 meter preliminary by about 350 meters after two of the other four runners ran into each other at the start.

Until earlier this week, though, TB never really stopped to consider track practice, what goes into it, and how it is different from the pure team sports that TB usually sees.

There are probably close to 90 athletes between men's and women's track, and it seems like they spend the entire time about to run into each other. There are sprinters, distance runners, middle distance runners, field event participants, relays, everything. And they all are, for the most part, doing workouts unique to their specialties, all in the middle of dozens of others doing their own unique workouts.

Through it all stand the coaches, armed with stopwatches, making sure the right split times are being met (not exceeded or underachieved). They make adjustments to workouts on the fly, depending on any number of factors. They see all around them.

Peter Farrell is the only head coach of women's track and field Princeton has ever had. He and Fred Samara, the men's head coach, started on the same day more than 30 years ago.

Farrell sets up workout schedules two weeks at a time, and he forwards them to his athletes. He then tweaks them if necessary.

Farrell has on file workouts dating back decades, ones that worked and didn't work. He has the workouts that the great Lynn Jennings ran 30 years ago. His files include notes that say "what were you thinking?" and "don't try this again," as well as more positive reminders of things that went well.

For the most part, practice starts either at 3:45 for most or 4:30 for those whose classes (mostly labs) go to 4:20. They include warmups and then the day's workouts, which involve running certain distances in certain times with certain equal splits.

The way it plays out, traffic is coming not-quite-full speed or full speed, depending on the splits, pretty much non-stop. Mixed with that are the jumpers in the middle, as well as those doing different resistance-type stuff. And a whole group in the back, riding bikes and using weights.

Farrell talks about how former men's coach Larry Ellis, who was also the U.S. Olympic coach, had one lane designated for running in the opposite direction. Why?

"Every guy my age who was a runner who is having a hip replacement is having it on his left hip," Farrell says. "That's the inside hip."

The result is a scene that appears to be chaotic but really is quite choreographed.

"I have to tell the freshmen to stay out of lane 4," Farrel says. "Jogging is for lane 1 or lane 8. Lane 3 and 4? That's like Route 1."

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Getting The Message

From the first day that became a website until yesterday, the masthead read the same way:

" - The Official Website Of Princeton Athletics."

In case you didn't notice, that changed yesterday, when the second part was replaced by new wording: "Education Through Athletics ... An Unmatched Tradition Of Athletic Success."

Why the change? For starters, it's fairly obvious that the site is actually the official site of Princeton Athletics.

Originally, most - probably all - college athletic sites came directly off the main site of the institution. In the case of Princeton, the first athletic site was, which no longer exists. It was called "Tiger Web Lockerroom," an extension of a publication done for the two 1997 football games that were technically home games (vs. Fordham at the College of New Jersey and at Giants Stadium against Yale).

As schools started to go to .com sites, there was concern that going away from the school's established website would cause confusion as to what was the real athletic department website. At the time, who knew how many sites would be popping up, what shape they would take, what the would say, how they would promote themselves. In the more than 10 years that have followed, this hasn't proven to be a big deal at all.

So, with the question of what the official site is never becoming an actual issue, there's no need to have that text in one of the most visible spots on the site. If you go to the website of, say, yoo-hoo, it doesn't waste precious space by saying it is the official site of the company. It uses that space to reinforce its message.

The same is true of any product, from a chocolate soft drink to sneakers to fast food to hotels to anything else.

As an aside, all of these products have an affiliation with Princeton Athletics except for yoo-hoo, which is simply a TigerBlog favorite.

So, if this is true with any product, why not a college athletic department? The answer is "no reason."

Once that realization is made, the next question becomes what message are we reinforcing. In other words, what are we all about here? And how do we get that message out there in an effective, efficient way without having it be over-the-top?

Princeton Athletics has always been about providing the best student-athlete experience, on the field and off, while having athletics exist, as Director of Athletics Gary Walters says, "as an extension of the overall educational mission of the University."

In other words, athletics are not merely about winning. TigerBlog has written countless stories about former athletes, almost all of whom speak about the life lessons they learned through playing sports. And they don't do this to say what they think they're supposed to say; they're saying this because it's true.

Study after study speaks to the value of playing sports on the youth and high school level as a way of keeping kids out of trouble and more focused academically. It's obvious to TigerBlog that this extends through college as well, at least when a proper balance is permitted.

Athletes at Princeton (or anywhere in the Ivy League) are not bound to their teams by threat of losing a scholarship. They are free to walk away anytime they want. To be honest, TB has always been surprised that more don't choose to. Yes, there are some who do, but there are many, many more who know their playing time is going to be limited who stay with it.

Walters likes to use the phrase "Education Through Athletics" to sum up this end of what the message is. Yes, we're playing games, but those games do not occur in a vacuum. Instead, they are an integral part of the educational process.

But they do keep score of those games, and that is the other side of the message. Princeton's athletic success is a matter of historical record, and the fact that this is the Ivy League doesn't stop Princeton teams from aiming as high as they can.

The result is that Princeton has won the Ivy League's unofficial all-sports championship 23 straight years and has produced a team or individual national champion in each of those 23 years as well. Princeton has won more Ivy championships (34 more than second-place Harvard, 184 more than third-place Cornell and more than twice as many as the other five) than any other school in the league.

Princeton's athletic history dates back to 1864 and includes the first college football game five years later. Its story is one of national championships, NCAA championships, Hall-of-Famers - and all of this while operating a department that includes 38 varsity sports.

Princeton is hardly the most successful athletic program in college athletics. There are BCS schools who routinely win NCAA championships in a variety of sports and finish in the Top 5, Top 10, each year in the Directors' Cup standings. Still, Princeton is achieving what it is achieving with a budget that is a fraction of the major powerhouses - and doing so without athletic scholarships. When TB used the word "unmatched" in the new slogan, he did so meaning "unique" as much as anything else.

In other words, winning is a valued, just not at all costs. At the same time, simply saying "we lost but everyone is getting a great education" doesn't reflect the right emphasis either. That would be a crutch, and that's not what goes on here either. Instead, it's about a balance between the two.

To get that point across, the two-part slogan has now replaced the old words about being the official athletic site.

Education Through Athletics ... An Unmatched Tradition of Athletic Success.

Get the message?

Monday, January 25, 2010

The Big Easy

If the Jets-Colts game had been tied in the final 20 seconds of regulation and Mark Sanchez had thrown away at least a chance at the game-winning field goal with a really, really bad decision on a interception, how long would it have taken before his lack of experience came sailing out of every mouth and laptop?

Instead, it was Brett Favre, the quarterback with arguably the most experience ever in NFL history, who did so yesterday in the NFC championship game, costing the Vikings a shot at a field goal. It would be the last time Favre would touch the ball in the game, as New Orleans won the toss for overtime and then got a 40-yard field goal from Garrett Hartley on the first possession to win the game.

If this sounds familiar, Favre also threw an interception on his last touch against the Giants two years ago in the NFC title game, leading directly to the game-winning field goal in overtime.

As an aside, Hartley's kick would have been good had the goalposts been an inch greater than the width of the football itself. As clutch kicks go, this one was pretty impressive. Also, if the other team really wants to mess with the opposing kicker, then DON'T call a timeout and "ice" him. That's what he expects; if the Vikings had simply let it play out, then Hartley would have spent more than half a minute expecting a timeout and had to rush it at the end.

Meanwhile, back at Favre, TigerBlog has always found him to be somewhat overrated. Terry Bradshaw, for instance, called him "the best I've ever seen" on the Fox halftime show; has Bradshaw ever seen game films of himself as a quarterback? Favre wouldn't be in TB's list of the top 5 or 10 quarterbacks he's ever seen, let alone all time.

Or maybe TB is just so sick of the way Favre is shoved down the collective viewers' throats that his judgment is affected. Favre's story is familiar: He retired from Green Bay, unretired to play for the Jets and then destroyed their season last year, retired again, unretired again to play for Minnesota and then destroyed the Vikes in the end (granted, he did have a great statistical season and came very close to getting to the Super Bowl).

Still, how does any of that translate into making him bigger than the game? How many shots of his mother and wife do we need to see (had Dallas beaten Minnesota last week, those would have been unnecessary Jerry Jones shots)? How many sideline shots? How much over-the-top glowing commentary? It's enough already.

And don't get TigerBlog started on the use of instant replay in the OT. The overtime, if TB is correct, went kickoff, two plays, penalty for first down, four downs to get a first down, completion for first down, three plays and then game-winning field goal. It took nearly 20 minutes of real time to play, as there were video reviews three times in a four-play span, all three of which took several minutes, killed the game's flow and, ultimately, confirmed the ruling on the field.

TigerBlog has been to New Orleans twice, both times because Princeton was there for men's basketball. The first time was in 1994, when the Tigers played in a holiday tournament at the University of New Orleans, and the other was in 2001, when Princeton's NCAA tournament game against North Carolina was at the Superdome.

Despite his limited time there, TB can safely say that there's no place else quite like it.

Both times that TB was there with Princeton, he remembers how all of the locals talked about how the city was below sea level and that the right storm was going to come along one day and basically wipe it away. Sadly, they proved to be right, as Hurricane Katrina essentially did so in 2005.

The tournament at UNO was played in the Lakefront Arena on campus, but Princeton stayed more in the center of the city, near the Superdome. That meant it was a short walk to Bourbon Street, and if you've never walked down Bourbon Street, well, try to get there. It has to be experienced.

Princeton beat Texas A&M in three overtimes in the first round of that tournament and then had to play UNO in the final the next night. With five players having played the majority of the first game, including a 55-minute night for James Mastaglio, a tired Princeton team fell to the home team 50-43 in the final.

TB remembers that game mostly for when Princeton coach Pete Carril yelled at one of the refs about the physical play of the UNO big men and had the ref respond: "You have big guys too." Carrl's response? "Yeah, but I didn't go down the docks to get them."

As for the NCAA tournament game, the hotel was attached the Superdome, which again meant it was in walking distance of the Bourbon Street. TigerBlog remembers the night before the game, when he and the rest of the Princeton contingent were hanging out on Bourbon Street with Jim Nantz and Billy Packer (TB may be the only person was a big fan of Packer's).

North Carolina, led by current NFL lineman Julius Peppers, thumped Princeton in the game, despite a huge second half from Ed Persia. TB's other big memory of that trip? The fact that he sent three boxes of media guides (remember those?) to the tournament site, only to find out when he got there that two of three boxes had football guides and not basketball guides in them. TB's reaction was something along the lines of "oh well."

Actually, since the postseason guide was there, nobody really needed the regular one. TB should have known then and there, in 2001, that media guides were no longer worth doing.

When Katrina hit and the Dome became the symbol of the city's misery, TigerBlog thought back to the good times he'd had there on his two trips. The great food. The great weather. Bourbon Street. The general feeling of being in a city that was a little different than any other.

TigerBlog doesn't usually get caught up in the "this team or city deserved it more than that city or team" when it comes to sporting events. To root for Syracuse in the 2004 NCAA men's lacrosse final against Navy, for instance, was essentially painted as unpatriotic, and TB remembers one of the SU players' saying: "Hey, we're Americans too."

Still, with the way New Orleans was almost wiped away five years ago, TB was happy that the people of the city had a city to call home and a building to play in, let alone a team in the Super Bowl.

And yet that's what New Orleans has today. It's a great accomplishment for the Saints, though they did need a little help from Brett Favre.

Friday, January 22, 2010

A Long Time Ago, They Had Things Called "Feature Stories"

TigerBlog has written more about Pete Carril than he has about any other single person, and it was TB's belief that he knew basically all there was to know about the Hall-of-Fame basketball coach.

And then he read a piece by Nick Miller in the Sacramento News and Review on Carril, who works with the Sacramento Kings, and he found out that Carril's father was a Real Madrid fan.

The fact that Miller was able to unearth something from Carri that TB didn't know, however, is hardly what makes the story worth reading.

TigerBlog has written four really long features on Carril, beginning back in the newspaper days (after his 400th win). He also wrote one for the Lafayette alumni magazine, a story that centered about a walk TigerBlog and Carril went on outside in the near-zero degree temperatures near the hotel before a game at Dartmouth.

When Carril was to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, the public relations staff there asked TB whom he would recommend to write a feature for the program, and TB recommended himself. That story began with a preamble that talked about how Princeton's bus would drive past the Hall of Fame on I-91 in Springfield, Mass., on its way to or from Dartmouth and how maybe Carril would have looked out the window and thought:
"maybe someday, but it's more likely that it never crossed his mind. Now the building that Pete Carril zipped past once a year has slowed down to open its doors to him. In doing so, it accepts as one of its own a man who never played a minute of professional basketball and never coached a national champion, a rumpled Lilliputian who would look as out of place in an Armani suit as he would in a Vera Wang gown, a man who competed against the obstacles and succeeded despite them, a man who never stopped believing that his teams could achieve anything they worked hard enough for, since, as he was most fond of saying, 'what good is being Spanish if you can't chase after windmills?' "

The fourth story major story that TB wrote about Carril was in 2006, when Carril was basically out of basketball for a season. It's another of TB's favorite stories that he's written.

With that foundation, as well as having covered Carril's teams for nearly a decade and having worked as the men's basketball contact for his final two years, TB has a pretty good background in the man. There have been any number of features about Carril written in any number of places through the years, and while many are good, they're also somewhat formulaic: "Yoda, old-fashioned basketball, Princeton offense, relating with today's pro players, blah, blah, blah."

Miller's piece is better than that. Most of the Carril features get the facts right but don't really capture his persona; Miller did both. It's definitely worth reading.

It also shows that there is still room for a well-written and (lengthy) feature story. Or at least it asks the question, and maybe TigerBlog's position that people like to read engrossing stories like this is in the minority.

Miller's story on Carril runs nearly 4,000 words, which might as well be the length of "War and Peace" by today's standards. The average blog entry runs between 250-500 words (TigerBlog averages around 1,000).

The Washington Post sent its Georgetown beat writer to Pittsburgh for the Hoyas' game against Pitt Wednesday night. The game story after the Hoya's win? About 750 words.

Yeah, but that is a game story. How about more featurish stuff?'s feature on Buddy and Rex Ryan?
Bill Simmons' story about watching LeBron James?

They're both about 1,000 words shy of Miller's Carril story.

TigerBlog is pretty sure that the trend towards "less is more" began with USA Today. Today, it's pretty much the rule.

Forget game stories, columns and features. Prevailing wisdom is that most of what people read today are those shorter blogs, or even Twitter and Facebook and the rest.

But is that really the case? Or is prevailing wisdom wrong?

For starters, it's hard to write a great feature story. The key is that you really have to know your subject, so you either have to have the benefit of working in a place for 20 years or you have to be given the opportunity to spend significant time around someone or an event or a team to properly learn what it's all about.

This takes patience and time, and it also could take money, if the outlet has to fly you and put you up.

TB is a big fan of Simmons, dating back to his days as the "Boston Sports Guy," when he has his own site and wrote every day. Jim McLaughlin, now the AD at Union College and back then a Princeton intern, first directed TigerBlog to Simmons' site.

These days, he writes really long stuff, but it's not the traditional feature or even column. It's actually what has become something of what the mainstream is now: observe on TV or from the stands and write what you think.

The days when newspapers would routinely have huge feature stories are gone. For that matter, most newspapers are essentially gone.

Still, TB though that Miller's Carril piece was tremendous. He'd talk more about it, but he's reaching 1,000 words, and very few people have actually made it this far.

Or have they?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

To You, Dr. Finney And Mr. Campbell

A construction project has been ongoing opposite Princeton Stadium for the last few months. Twice buried by snow, this project is rapidly reaching its conclusion.

Finney and Campbell Fields, which sit to the right of Princeton Stadium as TigerBlog looks out his window, are in the final stages of being converted from natural grass to FieldTurf. Each field is now lined for football, and Finney Field now has women's lacrosse lines, while Campbell has men's lacrosse lines. The project is part of the gift from Bill Powers, for whom the field inside Princeton Stadium is named.

From a practical sense, it makes perfect sense for a college (or high school or even rec department) to put in FieldTurf fields. Maintenance costs go way down, and they provide reliable practice venues for teams when natural grass fields would be unplayable, some for days or weeks at a time.

TigerBlog has parked his car adjacent to these two fields for more than two decades. Actually, he's gone through a bunch of cars in that time. And these two fields sat next to Palmer Stadium before it was torn down and next to Princeton Stadium since it was built.

In all that time, it never really occured to TigerBlog to see why these fields were called Finney and Campbell. With a little help from the Princeton Companion online, TB was able to learn a lot in a short time.

Finney Field is named for John M.T. Finney, who graduated in 1884 and apparently is the only person ever to play football for both Princeton and Harvard, where he attended medical school. Finney went on to build the medical school at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore into a leader in the field, and he was part of the first modern surgical treatment of soldiers in battle during World War I. He came very close to being the president of the University after Woodrow Wilson left in 1910.

Two of his sons would go on to become surgeons, and one of his sons and a grandson would become Princeton trustees, as he had been. The grandson, Redmond Finney, was a football/lacrosse star at Princeton before graduating in 1951. That Finney was the headmaster at the Gilman School in Baltimore from 1968-92, the longest tenure ever by a Gilman headmaster.

Finney Field has been called that since 1957, when the family donated the field in John M.T.'s memory, 15 years after he passed away at the age of 79.

Campbell Field's namesake didn't have quite the same life as John M.T. did. Tyler Campbell, a member of the Class of 1943, was a first-team All-America lacrosse goalie in 1941 and 1942 who never got a chance to play his senior season.

Campbell left Princeton after his junior year to join the Army during World War II. According the Companion, Campbell:
"graduated from Officers' Candidate School as a 2nd lieutenant, he led his men on the invasion beachheads of Sicily, Salerno, Anzio, and southern France, was wounded twice and twice promoted in the field, reaching the grade of captain. He was killed in action in France while commanding an infantry company of the 7th Army, two years after leaving college."

His family created Campbell Field in 1962 in his memory.

TigerBlog has seen three Princeton varsity sports played on Finney Field - men's and women's lacrosse and sprint football. While Finney Field lacked any kind of conveniences (such as an actual scorer's table, let alone a press box), it was still a charming place to watch a game. TB will always remember it as the first place he saw Princeton men's lacrosse, and much of what TB first learned about lacrosse and Bill Tierney was on Finney Field.

The conversion from grass to FieldTurf also means the end of one of the great kinds of games any fan could hope to see - a mud bowl. What fan doesn't miss seeing a torn-up field, with players on both teams completely covered in mud? Well, that's never going to happen on FieldTurf, which of course is part of the point.

TigerBlog remembers two great mud games involving Princeton teams. One was the 1993 Princeton at Dartmouth football game, which featured sun, rain, snow and mud, all in about a 20-minute span. The other was the 1996 Princeton at Hobart men's lacrosse game, which featured essentially ankle deep mud as Jesse Hubbard scored eight goals in a 16-8 win. The picture of Hubbard as he shoots behind his back for one of the goals, completely covered in mud, is a classic.

There have been other great moments in the rain and mud as well, games that TB has been at and historic ones that were before his time. All of those vanish with the growth of FieldTurf.

Finney and Campbell Fields somewhat vanished long ago, overshadowed by the more popular game venues at Princeton. Most people who go by the fields every day, like TB, couldn't identify the fields by name.

But they have names. Finney Field, for pioneering surgeon and Princeton loyalist John M.T. Finney. Campbell Field, for war hero Tyler Campbell.

Their names shouldn't be forgotten.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Sleeping With Walruses

David R. Meiselman was always a bit different, from the first day that TigerBlog met him back in 1983 in West Philadelphia. That was the day that TB met his five of his six best friends from college, all in about a three-minute span.

It began when an unmistakably New York voice was bellowing from out the window of the 22nd floor of High Rise South, one of the three 24-story dorms that form Superblock on the West Philadelphia campus (at least that's what it was called back then; who knows what it is today). TB ducked his head out the window to see Charlie Frohman staring over at him and Paul Glazer and Adam Baker looking up at him from the 21st floor.

"Who are you?" Frohman said. After answering that question, Frohman moved on to what year TB was in. When informed he was a junior, Frohman said: "Yeah? I'm a junior too. How come I don't know you?"

With the introduction to those three behind him, TigerBlog then met two people whose room was opposite the elevator. One was Ed Mikus Jr., a Wharton School student who double majored in biology as well, just because he thought it'd be interesting. The other was Mikus' roommate, Meiselman, the only folklore major TB met in college. Actually, it's David R. Meiselman, or at least it was back then, when he preferred to be recognized by that most formal greeting.

After graduation, the group began to go in its separate directions, to write its individual life stories. Frohman, Mikus, Glazer and Baker were Wharton School types, and they have gone on to vastly different careers in the business world.

Glazer started out in California, relocated to Israel and now is back in New York as the head of Glazer Capital Management. Baker has stayed in the New York/New Jersey area and now runs his own travel agency; he is a frequent visitor to Jadwin Gym for Princeton-Penn games.

Frohman lives in Florida, where he owns several manufacturing companies. TB hears from Frohman several times a week. Mikus is a New Yorker as well, working in something called mortgage backed securities; when TB asked him what the first thing he does when he gets to work is, Mikus said: "I check out"

And Meiselman? There are so many stories that TB can't remember the ones that are real and the ones that are legend. Did he really buy a plane ticket to China and home from India and take only $100 with him after graduation? TB thinks that one is true. TB does know that the last time he heard from Meiselman, it was a postcard from the Serengeti in Africa, and all it said on the back was "I'm at home in the jungle."

That was until last week, when Frohman and Mikus forwarded a link to a video depicting Meiselman's (now known as David Mercy) current career - viking. No, not Minnesota Viking. Actual Viking, as in sailing the north seas. David is the American with the heavy beard who in the beginning is sleeping with his head on the walrus. Just watch; it'll make more sense.

And TigerBlog? Well, shortly after he met those guys, he began working in the newspaper business and now has spent more than 20 years covering Princeton athletics, nearly all of which he has spent working here at HQ.

From that small space on the 21st and 22nd floors, that group of college friends has literally spread out around the world. Were TB able to go back to that day when he first heard Frohman out the window and asked each person what path he thought his professional life would take, how close would each have come to getting it right?

In short, how did we all get here? Going back before meeting those guys, TB had a roommate freshman year who was determined to be a doctor. Today he is Dr. Seth Rubin, obgyn. He was so focused on that from Day 1, and he achieved his goal.

Frohman knew early on he wanted to be in business and wanted to be the boss; today he is both. Glazer wanted to be in finance; he is.

On the other hand, there are those who take the convoluted path to their career. BrotherBlog, for instance, tried his hand at a number of different things before starting law school at 37. And TigerBlog had no idea that he was headed for a career in writing and athletic adminstration through his first two years of college.

The Princeton Department of Athletics is an interesting place, as it is the home to people with vastly different skill sets and careers. And those different careers bring with them completely different pressures and levels of expectation, all of this under the banner of Princeton Athletics.

There the coaches, of course, and their own backgrounds and expectations are wildly varied, as would be the case at a school with 38 varsity teams. Some were born to coach and have nothing else on their resume; others came to coaching after trying different careers. Bob Callahan, the longtime men's squash coach, was an IBM man for years before he came to coaching; Julie Shackford, the women's soccer coach, was a Division III head coach at 23.

There are also athletic trainers (not actually part of the Department of Athletics, but close enough), a grounds crew, a business office, a marketing department, a ticket office, administrators, a compliance staff, fundraisers, club and recreation sports people - even athletic communications types.

It's fascinating to TigerBlog how differently each of these groups views what they do and how differently each person's path to working here has been. Some are former college varsity athletes. Some are completely unathletic. Some, it has always struck TB, don't even like sports very much. Others spend their nights off going to other sporting events besides Princeton's. Some are kids just starting out; others are lifers.

MotherBlog used to tell TB that he could never make a career in sports, but she was wrong. In fact, you can make a career in just above anything, and the one piece of advice TB always gives those starting out is that you have to find something that interests you, because you're going to be doing it for a long time.

Not everyone has the same motivations, interests, desires. It results in a million different paths to go down. The people here at HQ have all reached this point at this time, regardless of where they started.

As for the friends from West Philadelphia, they all started in the same place - and have all found their own patch of ice on which to rest their head on a walrus.

Of course, only one of them was nutty enough to take that literally.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Cleanup In Aisle Six

TigerBlog is a regular at two different supermarkets, a Giant and a McCaffrey's. Through the last, oh, 20 years or so, he's become basically an expert at finding anything he needs in either store.

The McCaffrey's tries to fool you by not listing "pasta" as one of the items in that aisle on the overhead signs, though TB figured that one out years ago. The general layout is a little different between the two, so that even a veteran has to stop and remember which store is which when looking for, say, Corn Flakes or canned peas. Give the edge in meat to McCaffrey's, though the Giant does have a great stuffed flounder for fish nights.

If you're shopping for kids, then the challenge is to make the entire run in one cart and for under $300. On the plus side, TigerBlog can buy things like Double Stuffs and ice cream sandwiches and pretend they're for the kids. And, of course, no matter what you do, you have to go back midweek to get more as you start to run out.

Usually TB's trip around the supermarket takes a little less than an hour, and usually there's a stranger on basically the same route, so that you're constantly passing each other aisle by aisle. TigerBlog's last trip to was to the McCaffrey's Saturday, and the stranger he saw through each aisle was a kindly looking grandfatherly type who was wearing a baseball hat that said "Cornell" in big red letters.

It took until the aisle with bread on one side and the chips on the other until TB could see that the Cornell hat had in smaller letters the word "physicians." By the aisle with the paper towels, the old man was smiling and joking around with the standard "see you in the next aisle comments." TigerBlog looked at his hat and thought only one thing:


TB is still not over last year's men's lacrosse season, which saw Princeton go 13-1 against the rest of Division I and 0-2 against Cornell. The losses to the Big Red cost the Tigers the outright Ivy League championship (the two shared the title after Cornell lost to Brown) and a trip to the NCAA Final Four.

Cornell would reach the national final before a miraculous finish gave the championship to Syracuse in overtime. Princeton, of course, blasted Syracuse at Giants Stadium during the regular season.

The two greatest rivalries within the Ivy League historically are Princeton-Penn in men's basketball and Harvard-Yale in football. Within each sport, there are other matchups that have traditionally matched the top teams, and in the league of today, there are some good ones.

Today, though, Princeton-Cornell men's lacrosse is the best one. At least according to TigerBlog.

Since Ivy League lacrosse began in 1956, Princeton and Cornell have dominated. Each has won 24 league championships, while the other five men's lacrosse schools (Columbia does not field a varsity team) have combined to win 22, and none of the other five has won more than the seven that Brown has won.

The two also remain the only Ivy schools to win an NCAA championships in the sport, something Princeton has done six times and Cornell has done three times (and came very, very close to making it four last Memorial Day).

These days, the rivalry has only gotten better. Because the Ivy League considers teams that tie for the league championship to be co-champions, Princeton and Cornell combined to win 14 championships (seven each) in the last decade.

Cornell was 107-38 in the last decade; Princeton was 104-44. From 2000-09 Cornell reached the Final Four twice and championship game once; Princeton reached the Final Four four times, reached the championship game three times and won one of its six titles.

Cornell and Princeton each had four Ivy League Players of the Year in the last decade; Princeton had four Rookies of the Year to three for Cornell.

In the interest of full disclosure, Cornell did have the edge over the second half of the decade.

TigerBlog put together the Princeton men's lacrosse team of the decade during last season, and Cornell recently come out with its own version on its website.

The lists are filled with great players on both sides. If they played, who would win? Who cares, because they're not going to play.

The 2010 teams ARE going to play, with a regular-season game May 1 in Princeton. The two could meet the following week in Princeton, Ithaca or some other destination in the first Ivy League lacrosse tournament, and, as they did last year, could meet in the NCAA tournament.

Each team is dealing with graduation losses, but they also have some great players throughout both lineups back. The one matchup to watch for the next three years is Cornell attackman Rob Pannell against Princeton defenseman Chad Wiedmaier, with goalie Tyler Fiorito behind him.

And yes, Harvard and Brown are looking for big years, Penn and Dartmouth are rebuilding
under new head coaches and Yale is redoing its facility as it looks to the future as well.

But history - recent and "ancient" - says that Princeton-Cornell is the top rivalry in Ivy League men's lacrosse, and possibly in all of Ivy League sports.

How strong is that rivalry? Strong enough to make TigerBlog look skeptically at an old man in the supermarket.

Monday, January 18, 2010

I Have A Dream

Of everything that TigerBlog has ever read, there are two lines that have always risen above the rest.

The first is from the Declaration of Independence, the part that goes: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal." A bunch of rich white guys in Philadelphia came up with that 234 years ago, at a time when it would have been easy for them to have asserted that in the new nation, they should be a little more equal than the rest because of their wealth and standing. Instead, they said that equality is "self-evident" - TigerBlog understands why they said "men" instead of "people" – with its connotation that it's obvious and not worth debating.

The other comes from Martin Luther King Jr.'s "I Have A Dream" speech, the part where he said: "I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

TB was a baby when King (whose birthday is celebrated today in the national holiday that bears his name) made his famous speech in Washington, and the entire civil rights movement was a big part of TB's history degree West Philadelphia. And while this country is far from perfect when it comes to modern-day race relations, tremendous progress has clearly been made in TB's lifetime. For proof, look no further than the man who currently sits behind the big desk in the Oval Office.

If you're looking for the area above all others where people are judged by the content of their character and not by the color of their skin, it is the world of athletics. Can you help me win? That's how athletes are judged. Black fans and white fans – strangers who just happen to be sitting near each other – routinely high-five and celebrate their team's success and blast their failures, no matter what their political and racial views.

There are exceptions, of course, such as the career that Donovan McNabb has had as Philadelphia Eagles' quarterback. Still, it does say a great deal that the starting quarterback in Philadelphia has been a black man for much of the last three decades (Randall Cunningham, McNabb).

Princeton's ties to the civil rights movement are extensive, and no Princetonian has made a greater contribution than John Doar. For that matter, maybe nobody anywhere made a bigger contribution to the cause of civil rights in the United States than Doar, a former basketball player for the Tigers who graduated in 1944. He was a Northerner who grew up in Wisconsin and followed into his family business, the law.

TigerBlog first was introduced to Doar in the mid-1990s, when he wrote a feature about him for one of the department publications. Prior to that, despite how much TB had studied the turbulent era of the 1960s, he'd never even heard of Doar. His story, one that tells of his time at Princeton and its impact on him and later the direct impact he had on some of the greatest events of the 20th century as a lawyer for the newly formed civil rights division at the Justice Department (and later during the Watergate hearings), is fascinating.

Years later, TB nominated Doar for the NCAA's Inspiration Award, an honor he won four years ago. Doar wrote TB a hand-written note, saying he was "humbled" to win and "appreciative" of what TB had done to help; Doar is one of the most fascinating people TB has ever met.

Doar's basketball career at Princeton was interrupted by World War II (which ended before he was deployed as a bomber pilot), and he came back to post-war Princeton to finish his degree. During his final season, he played with Art Wilson, who would become the second black man to earn a degree from Princeton and was the first black athlete at Princeton. Wilson would be captain of the men's basketball team.

Hayward Gibson, the first black letterwinner in football, came to campus almost at the same time as the "I Have A Dream" speech. A few years later, Brian Taylor became Princeton's first truly great black athlete, and the idea of breaking down racial barriers themselves began to fade in favor of maximizing opportunities.

And while it's true that Princeton currently has only one black head coach (men's basketball coach Sydney Johnson), the level of opportunity for black athletes (and students, for that matter) at Princeton has never been greater.

Also, Princeton athletics is represented nationally in any number of areas by successful black alums, and not just by high-profile people like John Thompson at Georgetown and Craig Robinson at Oregon State in college basketball.

The "I Have A Dream" speech ends this way:
When we allow freedom to ring, when we let it ring from every village and every hamlet, from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all of God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing in the words of the old Negro spiritual, "Free at last! free at last! thank God Almighty, we are free at last!"

Like much of American society, Princeton athletics has made tremendous progress since those words were spoken on a summer day nearly 47 years ago. Are we there? No.

All we can do is keep trying.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Of A New Lexus And Soup

So Rick Pitino bought the Louisville men's basketball SID a Lexus IS convertible for his 50th birthday?

A 2010 version of the car has a sticker price starting at $38,490. TigerBlog assumes that Pitino, who makes millions and millions of dollars, went for a higher-end model.

TigerBlog himself has been the recipient of gifts from coaches in the past. Pete Carril, when he was the Princeton men's basketball coach, often brought TB soup for lunch, a tradition Carril had started decades earlier.

And of course there has been tons of Princeton gear through the years, as well as lacrosse and squash equipment for TB, TigerBlog Jr. and Little Miss TigerBlog.

Still, a brand-new Lexus? Uh, nothing quite like that has made its way to TigerBlog, though he will be turning 50 in the not-too-distant future. Maybe then?

TigerBlog has read any number of stories of late that refer to sports information people as unheralded, working tirelessly in the background so that "real" media people can do their jobs. And, predictably, TB laughs at those descriptions.

The blog entry on ESPN about Pitino's gift included this:
Sports information directors -- the college athletics department's public relations people -- have pretty thankless jobs, even when they rise to Klein's professional heights. (Ask any former student journalist: Those working below folks like Klein in SID departments have an even tougher job, and they almost always deliver the goods. This comes in helpful when you're trying to do a story about your school's star tennis player or something.)

Again, as TB has often said, maybe that was the case years ago. Now? It's so removed from what the profession has become, and TB reads into stories and comments like the one above an inability of most media members to realize that.

Still, the relationship between sports information contact and a team, especially the coach, is an interesting one.

There are three kinds of sports here at Princeton, those that require the sports information contact to be at home games to do stats, those that do not have any game management aspects to them and those that require the SID to go to home and away games. A big issue now is the value of having the SID travel vs. the expense it creates, and different schools (in the Ivy League and nationally) have much different views in this area.

Having the SID travel to away games in sports like football and men's basketball dates back decades and began due to the volume of media who would also going on the road. Over time, traveling expanded to include other issues, such as the ability to get accurate stats from the other school and largely to gender equity.

It was also a perk in many cases, as it offered a chance to get out of the office and be part of the team experience. What's the point of working in athletics if you're not going to watch the highest profile teams play?

Over time, though, all schools began to use uniform stat programs, which made the exchange of information simple. And, in many ways, it's easier for an SID to do the job from the home site rather than from the road. When a team travels, the SID usually goes on the bus, and the team isn't always excited about waiting around for someone to finish up when it's late and the destination is either the next day's opponent or home, which is often hours away.

TB routinely traveled on the bus with the men's basketball team when he worked at the newspaper, but has only traveled on the bus once with a Princeton team since he actually began working here, and that was on the men's lacrosse trip to Harvard in 1996. Other than that, TB prefers to drive himself.

Here at Princeton, the SID travels with football, men's and women's basketball, men's lacrosse and usually men's hockey. For lacrosse and hockey, it's largely for purposes of doing radio, which ties to corporate sponsorship.

TigerBlog has missed very few Princeton lacrosse games in the last 20 years, and there is no better way to learn about people and team dynamics - and then write about them - than by watching them interact off the field. Still, TB always tries to remember a line that Woody Allen used when he was playing the title character in "Broadway Danny Rose" - "in business, friendly, but not familiar." In other words, the SID should be approachable but doesn't want to be too much a part of what's going on.

An SID spends an extraordinary amount of time working with any particular team, and the SID comes to know basically everything there is to know about that team. It's a different kind of relationship than the athletic trainer, who often sits at practice and has a much more "hands on" dealing with the athletes. In the case of the SID, the time spent is similar to that of the athletic trainer, but that time is spent in front of a computer.

Because the SID cannot (and should not) get everything produced approved by the coach, it is imperative that the coach trust the SID completely. Coaches, by their nature, like to control what goes on with their teams, and that control extends to what public information is made available. If the coach does not trust the SID, then a natural friction will develop, which is bad for everyone.

If the coach does trust the SID, then the inherent understanding is that the SID is putting out information in the best interest of the program. Yes, there have been times when coaches have said to TigerBlog that they didn't like some of the ways he's written things or some of the facts he's used, and that's part of a give-and-take that can only exist with trust.

Sports information people operate - here at HQ, at least - with the idea that they're here first and foremost to help give the athletes the best possible experience. Think about it. Almost all of the information that comes out about any college program begins with the SID.

If the coach and SID are on the same page, then great relationships are the natural result. TigerBlog has experienced this first-hand, and the satisfaction of knowing that the coaches and athletes appreciate what is being done is huge.

Of course, it hasn't quite reached the point where TB has had to give a coach a ride in the new car that he just received as part of that appreciation, but hey, there's still time.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Give It A Rest

There are currently six schools nationally that have a sprint football team, with a seventh (Post, in Connecticut) on the way next year.

One former member of TigerBlog HQ has the distinction of having three of those seven schools on his resume and a fourth as his last name, though that's not quite the point.

If you are on one of the campuses, you are familiar with sprint football, with the weight limits, with the history of the league, all of it. When someone says "sprint football," you immediately know exactly what they're talking about and jump right into the conversation.

If you're part of the 99% or so of colleges that don't have sprint football, you have no idea what it is. When one of the sprint football types talks to a non-sprint football type about the sport, the immediate response is a very puzzled look, followed by some explaining.

The college athletic calendar here at Princeton has the same element to it.

Essentially, the college athletic year is basically the same across the board, regardless of school. You have your fall sports, your winter sports and your spring sports and then nothing in the summer.

Sure, some schools have more sports than others, which makes the overlap of seasons more pronounced at some places. For instance, Princeton has 38 varsity sports, and on a normal November or March weekend, more than half of them could be competing. The national average of sports for Division I teams, on the other hand, is about half of what Princeton has.

But there are differences in the average school year that have long ago become the norm on one campus that are completely foreign concepts on others. Princeton basically has two of these.

The first is that fact that fall practices start so much later than most of Division I. By the second week of August, most of the rest of the country is already back in business, getting ready for openers in fall sports that now often come later that month, rather than in September or even after Labor Day.

The Ivy League has actually changed its rules to allow soccer and field hockey to start practices a week earlier than they used to, and the results have been very positive.

Still, even with that, the "fall" rolls around later in the summer here than it does most places. TigerBlog remembers one year back at the paper when he stopped at Princeton to do something on the start of football practice and then went to Rutgers for the football opener.

But that kind of scheduling is uniform across the league. Princeton is currently in the middle of the other scheduling anomaly, and this one is now pretty much unique to the Tigers.

Each January, as the winter sports season kicks into highest gear around the country, Princeton athletics grinds to a halt for a little more than two weeks for first semester exams. There are no games and very few practices, most of which are informal gatherings with a handful of players represented.

The men's basketball team is currently in the midst of a stretch of no games between Jan. 6, a win over Marist, and Jan. 24, a home game against Goucher. TigerBlog took the liberty of looking up how many Division I games would be played during that time, and the answer is 946. That's nearly 1,000 Division I men's basketball games in between Princeton games; the number for women's basketball is basically the same, TB assumes, and therefore isn't looking it out.

It also creates a situation where the basketball season gets split almost exactly in two parts, beginning with an assortment of spread-out games and concluding with a sprint.

The Princeton men are 8-5, and the season began on Nov. 14 (at Central Michigan). This means that the Tigers played 13 games in 53 days from the opener through the Marist game; add the 18 days off, and Princeton will have played 13 games in 71 days.

The final 14 games of the year after the Goucher game are all Ivy League games, and they will be played between Jan. 29 and March 9, or a 39-day stretch.

The same is basically true of all of the winter sports. For instance, the women's basketball team has played one league game, but they'll go with 13 more in the same 39 days as the men.

The men's hockey schedule would be the same, except for the fact that that season begins with 13 games in 44 days, takes a 15-day break, continues with five games in 12 days and then takes 15 more days off before finishing with 10 games in five weeks and then the playoffs. The women's team takes 20 days off and then sprints through its final four regular-season weekends and into the playoffs as well.

Of course, no schedule is more interesting than squash. The men's team has a 45-day break from match play, which will then be followed by eight regular-season matches in 18 days and then by the national championships a week later.

The women's team goes 53 days between matches and then flies through four league matches in 11 days (determining, like the men, the Ivy title) and eight total matches in 24 days before the national championships a week later as well.

And of course, to those who compete or work here, this is all perfectly normal, just another part of the year. For those of us who have been here for a long time, it's even more so.

TigerBlog remembers covering men's basketball at the paper or being the men's basketball contact here at HQ and having some big Ivy games before the break and then waiting through two free weekends before getting back at it.

Now, it seems like more years than not, Princeton does not play a league men's basketball game until after the break, by which time every team in the country other than Princeton and Penn has played in conference. And Penn has usually completed its Big Five games, which is sort of like a conference. As for the rest of the world, many will have reached double figures in league games before Princeton plays one.

The first semester exam break used to be the measuring stick for TigerBlog about whether or not his lacrosse guide was getting done on time. Now, with that no longer an issue, TB has been using that time in more efficient ways.

Like watching basketball on TV.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

23 Clarinets, One Bassoon

TigerBlog Jr. pulled the bassoon/tenor sax double last night at the middle school winter concert.

It was quite a show the kids put on. Four different groups played: the sixth grade concert band followed by the school orchestra, the jazz band and then the 7th and 8th grade concert band; all four were very good.

TBJ went tenor sax in the jazz band and then bassoon in the orchestra. In sports terms, it's sort of like swimming the 100 free and the 1,650 free or running the 200 and the 5,000. Actually, the best comparison would be playing attack in the first half of a lacrosse game and goalie in the second half. They're somewhat related, but not quite all that close.

The bassoon is an odd instrument. It's a double-reed instrument that looks like an oversized clarinet and plays a deep, low, soothing sound. It's not a very commonly taken up instrument, and the 7/8 grade concert band roster featured 23 clarinets and one bassoon. For some reason, TBJ loves it, in much the same way as he loves playing goalie in lacrosse; he is gravitating towards trying to excel at things that not too many others want to do.

TigerBlog looks at events like last night's in much the same way as he did when Little Miss TigerBlog was in "Meet Me In St. Louis" last month.

The lineup was filled with kids with whom TBJ has played sports through the years, including one named Corey Gavin, whom TB coached in flag football and lacrosse for about three or four years. Back in the fourth grade, TB remembers the complete joy he felt when Corey finally scored a goal in lacrosse, something he did in the last game of the season. TB can still see it, as Corey took the ball at the goal line extended, came in front and fired one in. He then sprinted off the field to the sideline, where his coach gave him a big hug, with a tear or two welling up. Corey is now one of the better seventh-grade sax players around.

TB looks at theater and music as a cousin of athletics. In many ways, sports are closer to playing music than anything else, in that you have to be responsible first and foremost for your own preparation, for your own work ethic, for your own willingness to turn off the TV or shut off the video games and to practice, practice, practice. Only then can you make your best contribution to the team - or the orchestra.

TigerBlog can't remember who was the one who said it about the other, but it involved Magic Johnson and Larry Bird as one essentially said: "Every time I think about relaxing, I ask myself what he's doing, and then I go practice."

Middle school students aren't quite at the point where they need that level of commitment, and in fact too much too soon is as bad as not making an effort at this stage. Still, they're getting awfully close to the point in their lives where they do need to start to push themselves.

Ultimately, that's going to be the biggest difference between being okay or good or being good and great. Talent is a start; hard work is what makes the difference.

TigerBlog wrote a story about Brian Earl when he was finishing his basketball career at Princeton. In that story, Earl talked about how he became such a good outside shooter, one whose 281 career three-pointers were the most in the Ivy League until earlier this season, when Cornell's Ryan Wittman broke it. Earl's 281 threes are still 46 more than the next-best total in school history, held by Sean Jackson (who granted only played 2.5 seasons).

Earl talked about coming home from school in junior high school and shooting at a basket in a barn, over and over and over. That's how he developed his talent.

The most legendary example at Princeton is Bill Bradley, whose work ethic became immortalized in John McPhee's "A Sense Of Where You Are," which began as a magazine story in "The New Yorker" before becoming the first of McPhee's 28 books. The title refers to a sense of where Bradley was on the court in relation to the basket and how scoring from any particular spot became second nature after taking 100, 500, 1,000 shots from that distance and location.

Current senior swimmer Alicia Aemisegger, the No. 1 Princeton female athlete of the last decade, is known for her amazing work ethic and how much time she put in to becoming one of the best swimmers in the country.

Their stories are not unique. It's easy to play video games, to text, to watch TV, to sleep late. It's hard to walk away form those things and practice in solitude, whether it's swimming laps, shooting basketballs (or hockey pucks or lacrosse balls or soccer balls), running, lifting weights and any other athletic endeavor or practicing bassoon or sax or trumpet or any other instrument over and over.

It's a simple formula: talent + work = a sense of where you are.

One other interesting aspect of the concert involved technology. During the event, almost the entire audience was recording, whether it be on a cell phone, an i-phone, a flip cam or any other really, really, really small device. When it was over, pretty much every kid was carrying an instrument in a case in one hand while turning on/operating/texting/updating his or her cell phone. And these are middle school kids.

It got TigerBlog thinking about marketing, of course. We used to talk about "getting in the backpacks" as a way of spreading the word, and this clearly referred to getting printed materials to kids in schools to bring home to their parents.

Now it's more important to think in terms of "getting into the cell phones." You want to reach kids and their parents these days? That's how to do it.

Almost every kid has a cell phone by sixth grade, and the texting and other ways of communicating are non-stop.

Well, hopefully not non-stop. They're reaching the age where they need to start getting a sense of where they are.

Hopefully they'll stop texting long enough to make that happen.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Rooting Interest

TigerBlog knows a guy who was born in Iowa and then essentially grew up in South Jersey. He has lived in the New Jersey/Philadelphia area basically his entire life, including college and almost all of his time spent working (except for two years in Ithaca). For all TB knows, he has never been to Texas.

So who is this guy's favorite football team? The Cowboys, of course. How is that possible? Well, like many, his allegiance stems from the same basic thing: When he was a kid, his parents bought him something that had the logos of all the NFL teams, and the ones he liked the best were the star and the lightning bolt. Because the Chargers were never on TV, he became a Cowboys' fan.

It's a story similar to many others. There are fans of NFL teams because they liked their uniforms or had a favorite player years ago or had a jacket with the logo or anything.

TigerBlog? He grew up in Central Jersey, and he's always liked the Giants. It's the geography. Simple, but rare.

As a Giants' fan, TB has always hated the Eagles, Cowboys and Redskins. Because MotherBlog was a big Redskins' fan, TB cut the a bit of a break. As for the other two, TB can't stand them.

So when they were playing each other in the playoffs the other night, TB was rooting for both to lose. As that was impossible, he found himself rooting for the Cowboys. Why? Because of the offensive coordinator.

Jason Garrett is one of the great quarterbacks in Princeton football history, and he's also about as high quality a person as you'll ever meet. In the few times TB has interacted with Garrett, he has found him to be extraordinarily personable, accommodating and helpful. As Dallas' offensive coordinator, Garrett gives TB some consolation if the team wins.

So good for Dallas. Hey, TigerBlog will probably root for them again this weekend, as the whole Brett Favre thing is just too over the top now.

TB's position on Dallas started him thinking about other teams he now roots for and why.

In baseball, for instance, his favorite teams are the Pirates (Ross Ohlendorf) and Padres (Chris Young, Will Venable), though he's not holding out hope for a meeting in the NLCS anytime soon.

But those teams are too obvious. Princeton alums playing in the Major Leagues? A no-brainer. Same with Princeton alums in the NHL.

TB was watching Northwestern play Michigan Sunday afternoon, and he obviously was rooting for the Wildcats (who pulled it out in the last minute). Northwestern, coached by Bill Carmody with Mitch Henderson as an assistant, is part of the Princeton basketball tree in college basketball. It leads Princeton fans to root for:

* Georgetown - a perennial Top 25 (and usually higher) team, Hoya coach John Thompson is the only Division I basketball coach who routinely texts TigerBlog for updates during Princeton lacrosse games
* Richmond - rooting against Chris Mooney is impossible, especially for someone like TigerBlog, who saw about 100 of the 107 games Mooney played at Princeton
* Northwestern - Carmody was once asked in a postgame press conference about his team's reliance on the three-point shot, and, with TigerBlog standing next to him, replied: "If you're going to be part of our team, you have to be able to make threes. Our center can make them. Hey, our SID can make them."
* Denver - Joe Scott continues to turn Denver into the kind of team he envisioned for Princeton; why it didn't work out here will remain a mystery for TigerBlog for a long, long time
* Mercer County College - Howard Levy had his team practicing in Jadwin Gym before its weekend trip to Rhode Island, and he sounded a lot like his own college coach, only about 20 inches taller
* Oregon State - politics aside, TB rooted against OSU coach Craig Robinson while an undergraduate in West Philadelphia

Again, of course, those teams are obvious. Princetonians as head coaches?

So others on TB's list include:

* Siena men's basketball, whose head coach, Fran McCaffery, is responsible for changing TigerBlog's career path from law to writing and for which TB is eternally thankful. The short version is that Fran and TigerBlog used to work together in the psychology department in West Philly when Fran was a grad assistant basketball coach and TB was a sophomore. Fran then introduced TB to his brother Jack, who at the time was a sportswriter for the Trenton Times and has been at the Delaware County Times since. Jack got TB started in the sportswriting business in 1983.

* The Sacramento Kings. The presence of Pete Carril would be enough, but the Kings also have Rider alum Jason Thompson.

* The Oklahoma City Thunder. TigerBlog's favorite player from Georgetown was Jeff Green, who has developed into a very solid NBA player with the Thunder. It was a tough night last night for TB, when the Thunder took on TB's other favorite NBA team, the Knicks. If all goes well, both will be in the playoffs.

* Bradley. Michael Cross, who spent the last 10 years at Princeton, is in his first two weeks as the Braves' athletic director, and TB has already started making a regular daily stop. On a similar note, TB also roots for the West Coast Conference, whose commissioner is former Princeton athletic department member Jamie Zaninovich, come NCAA tournament time.

* Temple. TigerBlog has always been a Fran Dunphy fan, and it was always hard to separate out wanting to root for Dunphy from rooting against his Quakers. Now it's easy.

* Whoever is playing Duke and the Yankees.

* The U.S. men's soccer team. TB would root for America anyway, but having former Princeton coach Bob Bradley in charge has made following the team a higher priority.

* The English national men's lacrosse team. The upcoming World Championships are in Manchester, and the final is almost certainly going to match the U.S. and Canada (TB, again, will root for America, though Canada is on the short list of other countries TB routinely roots for). For third place, TB would like to see England beat out the Australians and the Iriquois. Princeton has played four games against the English in three different countries (Spain, Ireland and America), and the English coaches and players couldn't be nicer people.

So, that's the basic list. There are other individuals and teams who, for various reasons, TigerBlog usually roots for, but we've covered the main ones.

Oh, and there will be a new member of the list beginning Feb. 19. That would be University of Denver lacrosse, and TB figures they'll be vaulting pretty high up the list quickly.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Trivia Question

Trivia question: When Bill Bradley broke the school record for points in a game, whose record did he break?

TigerBlog will get to the answer eventually. First, a history lesson.

The first season for Princeton men's basketball was 1900-01, a 7-5 season that saw the Tigers defeat teams like New Jersey State Schools, Newark Academy and the Deaf and Dumb Institute, as well as teams like Columbia, Harvard and Drexel. Princeton also split with Lafayette that season.

The highest single-game point total in those 12 games was 14, which H. William Pall put up in a 38-21 win over Columbia. That game also marked the highest point total of the season; in no other game did Princeton or its opponent score more than 24.

By the next season, though, Pall's school record of 12 points in a game vanished, as William McCoy went off for 30 in a 66-17 win over Newark Academy. Who knows what rules of running up the score existed back in the first decade of Dr. Naismith's game?

McCoy's record stood for 31 years, until Lank Seibert scored 31 on Dec. 10, 1932, in a 69-24 win over Ursinus. During the 31 years that McCoy's 30-point game stood up, no player scored more than 25 in a game and there were fewer than 10 20-point individual efforts.

Ol' Lank got to keep the record for more than 20 years, until Bud Haabestad put up 32 against Colgate on Feb. 4, 1953, and then 33 on Dec. 17, 1955, against Michigan State in a game played at the Palestra. Haabestad would become Princeton's first 1,000-point scorer; his 1,292 points still rank eighth all-time in school history.

Fred Perkins scored 644 points during his injury-plagued career before graduating in 1958, but he did manage to become the first player in Princeton history to score 35 in a game when he did so on Dec. 19, 1957, at Rutgers.

And Perkins' record? Well, he did get to hold onto it for five seasons, until Bradley began to destroy the Princeton record book.

It actually took Bradley 14 games to break the record, which he set at 37 on Jan. 19, 1963, at Cornell (Princeton actually lost that game 73-67).

Since Perkins first did it in 1957, Princeton has had 28 games in which a player has scored at least 35 points. Of those 28 games, 20 of them were courtesy of Bradley, who also is the only player to reach 40 points in a game, something he did a startling 11 times. He also reached 50 twice, including the school record of 58 against Wichita State in his final game, the 1965 NCAA consolation game.

As an aside, that 58-point performance outburst remains the record for an NCAA Final Four game.

Of the other eight 35-point performances, three were by Brian Taylor (39 points against Rutgers and Kentucky; 36 against Cornell) and two were by Geoff Petrie (39 vs. Fordham; 35 against Davidson). Taylor's two 39-point games came 17 days apart in 1971, while Petrie's two big games came back-to-back on Jan. 24 and Jan. 26, 1970.

So, if TigerBlog gets the math right, that means 20 by Bradley plus three by Taylor plus two by Petrie equals 25 of the 28 35-or-more games. Perkins had his, which leaves two others.

One was Kevin (Moon) Mullin's 38-point day against San Diego in the 1984 NCAA preliminary round game at the Palestra. That game was part of a doubleheader; the other game saw future Knick Johnny Neumann score 30 as Richmond thumped Rider.

And the last remaining game? That one came courtesy of Noah Savage, who scored 35 against Brown in 2008 at Jadwin.

On the women's side, there have been three games in which a player has scored at least 35 points. The women's record is 38, set on Jan. 14, 1985, by Ellen DeVoe against LIU. DeVoe ranks seventh all-time at Princeton with 1,290 career points.

The other two games were 35-point outings by the two players who rank 1-2 in career scoring, Sandi Bittler and Meagan Cowher.

Of the 28 games in which a Princeton men's player scored at least 35 points, Savage's is the only one TigerBlog has seen in person.

TigerBlog, in fact, doesn't remember too many 30+ games that he's seen. Rick Hielscher did it against Dartmouth in 1995, with a 34-point night on 16 of 20 shooting. TB remembers Pete Carril's quote after that game: "If we have one guy who scores 34 points, it probably means we lost." He was right: Dartmouth won that game 64-53 as every other Princeton player in that game combined to shoot 8 for 37.

Spencer Gloger had a 34-point night against UAB in a game in which he hit 10 three-pointers. Kit Mueller had 32 against Harvard. Chris Young had 30 against Harvard, on 10 of 11 shooting; his night could have been 40 had he not left early in the second half with a cut that required stitches.

Gabe Lewullis (who is in his final year of residency as an orthopedic surgeon) played for four years at Princeton, and TigerBlog saw every game but one. Of course, Lewullis set his career high in that one with 30 points at UNC Wilmington.

Why bring this up now?

Well, Perkins started it when he sent a letter to Gary Walters, who gave it to TigerBlog. It was essentially a fact-checking letter, as Perkins was curious about where his night stood in Princeton basketball history.

As it turns out, it stands pretty close to the top.

And it makes him the answer to a pretty good trivia question.

Friday, January 8, 2010


It's possible that no team has ever won a more tainted championship than the one that Alabama won in college football last night.

For starters, Alabama and Texas had no more or less of a claim to the "national championship" game than did three other schools: Cincinnati, Texas Christian and Boise State. The idea that prior to the Boise State-TCU game, there was talk that the winner of that game would put itself in the Top 5 next preseason and therefore would have a greater chance at the next national title is absurd.

Forgetting all of the factors related to the legitimacy of playing for the national championship for a minute, there's also the issue of how the game played out. Texas lost its heart-and-soul, quarterback Colt McCoy, on the fifth play of the game, and the rest of the night was quarterbacked by freshman Garrett Gilbert, who had played not one significant snap of his career before that.

TigerBlog is filled with admiration for the Gilbert and the courage he showed to stand in there in such a tough situation. He actually put his team in position to win the game in the fourth quarter, which is amazing after the way his night started. And TB has great respect for McCoy, whose postgame comments were inspirational.

Still, TB also has no doubt that a healthy McCoy makes that a completely different game and quite possibly leads to a comfortable Texas win. Oh, and maybe if the game took place sooner than five weeks after each had last played, it plays out differently as well.

Add it up, and in TB's mind, it's hard to call Alabama "national champion," even if the Tide may very be the best team. Unlike any other sport, the college football format will never lead to a legitimate national champion. In basketball, if a team gets to the national championship game and the other team's star gets hurt, hey, they had to win five other games to get there. In football, it's like this: who starts out highly ranked, who gets the shot at the final regardless of whether or not there are other teams whose claim is as worthy, wait five or six weeks and then play what often results in a game that you would expect from two rusty teams. Throw in an injury to a player of McCoy's stature and it's even more ridiculous.

TigerBlog was trying to think of injuries that have hit Princeton athletes and how they affected teams and seasons. He couldn't think of one that happened in a national championship game like what happened to McCoy, but there are plenty of examples of players who got hurt through the years.

Injuries are part of the game, and you don't think about the teams that went injury-free in terms of what might have happened. Still, the legacy of so many teams would be different if that one key player had gotten hurt.

The first person TB thought of was, not surprisingly, a men's lacrosse player. In this case, he missed the NCAA final, but it was a bigger deal to replace him for the final 19 seconds of the semifinal.

Christian Cook, a first-team All-America defenseman, tore his ACl with 19 seconds remaining and Princeton ahead of Syracuse by one in the 1998 semifinal at Rutgers. The Orange had the ball, and out of the timeout, Jason Farrell replaced Cook. Syracuse chose not to put the ball in Casey Powell's stick on the restart, and Princeton shut him off the rest of the way to hold on. Minus Cook two days later, Princeton routed Maryland 15-5 to win its third straight NCAA title.

Another men's lacrosse player, B.J. Prager, tore his ACL midway through his sophomore season of 2000. The injury put Brendan Tierney into the starting lineup - and Tierney ended up scoring the game-winning goal in Princeton's 12-11 upset of Virginia in the semifinals that year.

Similarly, three-year starter Rochelle Willis missed almost the entire 2004 women's soccer season, but Princeton was able to overcome that loss and reach the NCAA Final Four.

Liz Costello hurt her leg during the 2007 NCAA cross country championships, which ended Princeton's shot at a Top 5 finish.

The 2008 women's lacrosse team was 10-0 and ranked second nationally behind Northwestern when Katie Lewis-Lamonica tore her ACL. The result was a 2-4 finish that included a quarterfinal loss at Northwestern; perhaps a healthy Lewis-Lamonica makes Princeton-Northwestern the final that year.

There are obviously numerous other examples, and there are probably examples of players who were hurt in big games years or decades ago that TB doesn't know about.

When TigerBlog thought about injuries, he thought about a few players whose careers are remembered for the brilliance they displayed when they were healthy and the fact that they almost never were. They are what TB calls "what-if players," as in "what if they had never gotten hurt ..."

One current player is Cam MacIntyre, a dominant hockey player who has basically been neutralized his last two seasons. Another recent example is Peter Striebel from men's lacrosse, who was hurt for basically his entire career until the second half of his senior year. Then, playing healthy for the only stretch in his career, he dominated, ultimately becoming drafted by Major League Lacrosse.

Mostly, though, there are two players from the last 20 years who leap out. First is David Splithoff, who electrified Princeton football for two games his freshman year before suffering first a broken jaw and then a shoulder injury. By the time he was fully healthy, Matt Verbit was the established quarterback and Splithoff was a defensive back.

And the No. 1 "what-if" player that TigerBlog has seen at Princeton is basketball player Mason Rocca. On those rare days when he was healthy, Rocca gave Princeton the most physically unstoppable force TigerBlog has ever seen play here. He could rebound. Score down low. Defend. Hustle all over.

Sadly, Rocca's career was one injury after another, maybe because of the way he played. He appears to have been able to stay healthy for his long professional and international career in Italy, and the result has been that he has blossomed into a great player in Europe, one just a hair below the NBA.

As for Princeton, well, we'll never know what might have been.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

"I Hit It"

TigerBlog once worked as a vendor at Veterans' Stadium in Philadelphia, back in the summer of 1983.

Among the highlights he remembers from that year was the longest home run he's ever seen hit. It came off the bat of Andre Dawson, then with the Montreal Expos.

For those who don't remember, the Expos came into the National League in 1969, named after the World's Fair that had been held there two years earlier. They played their home games originally in Jarry Park, which would basically be like converting Community Park in Princeton into a Major League Baseball stadium. The Expos moved to the Olympic Stadium after the 1976 Summer Games, and they lasted until 2004, when they relocated to become the Washington Nationals.

For those who do remember, the Expos are memorable mostly for the powder blue uniforms they wore and their cool hats, as well as having the misfortune of having their best season wiped out by the 1994 strike.

Anyway, TigerBlog was standing in leftfield with two trays of soda when Dawson launched one about nine miles high that took about 10 minutes to reach its cruising altitude before splashing down in dead center at the Vet. It was a staggering shot, one that stands out now, nearly 27 years later.

It was that home run that TB first thought of when the news came down that Dawson had been elected to the baseball Hall of Fame yesterday. This announcement came about an hour after TigerBlog had this conversation with Princeton baseball coach Scott Bradley:

SB: "Is Bert Blyleven a Hall-of-Famer?"
TB: "Sure. He won 287 games."
SB: "Nah. To be a Hall-of-Fame, you need something special that sets you apart, not just numbers."
TB: "He had the best curveball of all time."
SB: "It wasn't that great. I hit it."

One of the great parts about working on the balcony here at HQ is that you never know when a coach is going to stop in and leave you with a great line or a great story. Bradley can usually be counted on for that, as can women's track coach Peter Farrell and water polo coach Luis Nicolao, among others.

But that's not quite today's subject. Instead, we're focused on the Hall of Fame. Actually, let's make that plural.

Princeton is represented across many Halls of Fame, perhaps most notably the College Football Hall of Fame, where 21 players and five coaches are enshrined.

The Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame features two Princetonians, Bill Bradley (player) and Pete Carril (coach). The U.S. Lacrosse Hall of Fame continues to stock up on Princetonians, with 14 already there (most recently men's player Kevin Lowe and current women's coach Chris Sailer) and certainly a host of other players on the way.

Maybe Princeton's most Hall-of-Famer is Hobey Baker, who is enshrined for both hockey and college football.

TigerBlog figures there are all kinds of Halls of Fame for sports across the board, and with athletic history as loaded as Princeton's, there have to be several Tiger athletes and coaches represented.

One Hall of Fame that does not exist is the Princeton Athletics Hall of Fame. Maybe one day this will happen, and TigerBlog has been in many meetings where this has been placed on a wish list.

When the day comes, Princeton will have make a decision about its first induction class and then beyond.

In TigerBlog's mind, Princeton has four (or possibly five) athletic icons who rise above anyone else who has ever played or coached here: Baker, Bradley, Heisman Trophy winner Dick Kazmaier, Carril and possibly former lacrosse coach Bill Tierney.

Were it TB's choice, those four or five would be the first induction class, allowed to enter a year ahead of the rest (much like the first class at the baseball Hall of Fame was limited to Babe Ruth, Ty Cobb, Cristy Mathewson, Walter Johnson and Honus Wager). This would honor that group properly, though it wouldn't include any representative of Princeton's women's athletic history, so it would be difficult to accomplish for reasons of fairness and respect for the contributions that so many women athletes and coaches have made.

But the next problem then becomes this: who is the greatest female athlete in Princeton history? Or, if you open up the first class more widely, then who would be the next 5-10 male athletes/coaches or 10 or so women athletes/coaches (men had a more-than-100-year head start in athletics at Princeton and therefore have a much greater historical record to select from)?

It's not an easy solution to reach. Hopefully, one day Princeton will have an athletic Hall of Fame of its own; certainly the history of the school warrants it.

There are all kinds of hurdles that need to be climbed first, though. Where would it be housed? What format would it take? What costs would be associated with it and how would it be financed?

And then ultimately who would be included?

The last one could be the toughest part, though it would certainly be a fun discussion.