Thursday, March 8, 2012

Hoping For 26

TigerBlog was walking in from Lot 21 this morning with one of his OAC counterparts, and the discussion started down the direction of Carmelo's effect on the Knicks and whether or not the Celtics could possibly miss the playoffs.

Then, all of the sudden, the conversation turned on a dime, and the last 75% of the walk into the building and ultimately to the mail room next to TB's office was focused on fencing.

Zoltan Dudas, Princeton's amiable fencing coach, joined the walk, and the rest of the time was spent talking about the sport, the upcoming NCAA regionals and then championships and ultimately some of the shadier sides of the sport, collegiately and internationally.

Dudas has had a pretty good run here the last three years, having won five Ivy titles (three women, two men). He has Princeton in position to take a run at the NCAA championship (Ohio State is the favorite), which the women's team would have won last year had there been separate men's and women's champions instead of one co-ed champ.

For TigerBlog, moments like that are one of the best parts of working at a place like Princeton.

For many people who work in college athletics and especially for fans of college athletics, it's all about BCS football an big-time men's basketball. And yes, those in many ways define so much of what goes on college sports, for the good and the bad.

Here, though, there are 38 varsity sports, and they are treated in many ways equally.

Sure, there is way more that goes into putting a college football team on the field than a college fencing team.

At the same time, there is a general institutional philosophy to having a broad-based athletic program, one where each team is entitled to the same basic considerations.

That's one of the reasons why TB likes the Ivy League's unofficial all-sports points standings so much.

A cynic, of course, could point out that another reason he likes them is that Princeton has won 25 straight years.

Another cynic might further argue that if Princeton hadn't won each of the last 25 years that it wouldn't be an unofficial designation.

Princeton has already extended its streak of winning at least one team or individual national champion, something that the men's squash team saw to with its win over Trinity in the national finals. That streak now sits at 41 straight years.

And the chances for a 26th straight win?

The standings looked this way at the end of the fall:
1. Yale
2. Columbia
3. Dartmouth
4. Princeton
5. Harvard
6. Brown
7. Cornell
8. Penn

Now, after Princeton won six winter Ivy championships - m/w fencing, m squash, w basketball, m swimming and diving, m indoor track and field - the standings look like this:
1. Princeton
2. Harvard
3. Yale
4. Columbia
5. Cornell
6. Dartmouth
7. Penn
8. Brown

The points are awarded based on finishes in the 33 official Ivy League sports, so for Princeton, that means that men's and women's water polo, women's lightweight rowing, sprint football and men's volleyball do not count.

Teams get eight points for a first-place, seven for a second and so on down the list, even if there are fewer than eight teams in that sport. If teams tie for a place, they split the points, so if there is a tie for third, each team gets 5.5 points.

As of now, Princeton has 117.5 points to Harvard's 110.5, followed by Yale with 95.

The race is closer now than it is in most years, and making up seven points is certainly possible.

TB will be keeping an eye on it as the spring goes along.

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