Thursday, August 17, 2017

Seeing The World - And Pennsylvania

The summer athletic travels of those representing Princeton may finally have ended.

TigerBlog isn't sure of any remaining international competitions for the summer of 2017 for Princeton and its coaches and alums. It's been quite a successful few months, with medals earned in major international competitions in places like Israel, Bulgaria, Italy, England and New Zealand. Is TB missing other places?

To that list, you can add some other exotic locations. Like Tokyo. And Lancaster.

You know. Lancaster. The one in Pennsylvania.

TigerBlog will start there.

Kat Sharkey made the long trip all the way to a few exits out on the Pennsylvania Turnpike to Lancaster, to a rather fascinating little venue called Spooky Nook. Though it sounds like the name of a town in a Washington Irving story and from the inside reminds you of a really big airport terminal, Spooky Nook is an athletic venue and one of the hubs for indoor and outdoor field hockey in this country.

It was also the site for the Pan American Cup field hockey tournament last week. Sharkey, a 2013 Princeton alum, would be the tournament's leading scorer as the U.S. won bronze, defeating Canada in the third-place game.

For all of the great players Princeton field hockey has had through the years, none of them has ever scored more than Sharkey. In fact, Sharkey is the program's all-time leader in points (245) and goals (107), has the two highest individual point totals for a season (85 in 2012, 74 in  2010) and the single-game records with six goals and 12 points (at Richmond, Sept. 10, 2010).

That's a lot of goals.

Sharkey already has experience at the highest levels of international field hockey, having played in the 2016 Olympics for the United States. The Americans had a great start to that tournament and got into the medal round, only to fall short against Great Britain in the quarterfinals.

Sharkey was one of three Princeton alums in Rio a year ago, along with the Reinprecht sisters, both of whom have retired after playing in the last two Olympic Games. Sharkey also teamed with the in 2012, when Princeton won the NCAA championship.

TigerBlog figures Sharkey will still very much be in the mix three years from now, when the Olympics will be in Tokyo. If she does go there, she can ask Courtney Banghart what it's like,

Banghart, the head coach of women's basketball at Princeton, spent the last few weeks as an assistant coach with the United States U23 team, ahead of the Four Nations tournament in Japan. What is the Four Nation's tournament? TigerBlog wasn't sure, so he looked it up:
The 2017 U24 Four Nations Tournament provided meaningful competition and development opportunities. The USA's participation in the tournament was intended to help further develop the USA Basketball athlete pipeline and to help prepare athletes for possible future participation in the USA Basketball Women's National Team pool.

The United States team featured top college players from around the country. Not surprisingly, the Americans swept the other three teams there - Australia, Japan and Canada.

The event for the U.S. was about, as it said, player development and international exposure. And, for that matter, coaching development.

Banghart was an assistant for the U.S. team. The head coach was Louiville's Jeff Walz.

The fact that Princeton's coach was chosen for her spot with USA Basketball shows just how much national respect Banghart has piled up in her first 10 years with the Tigers. The record that she and top assistant Milena Flores, the only one who has been with her for all 10 years here, has put together is astonishing.

Princeton, before Banghart became head coach, had been to zero NCAA tournaments and one WNIT. In her first two years, as she began to build her program, she went 7-23 and 14-14.

Since then, it's been eight years, eight postseasons, with six NCAA tournaments, an NCAA tournament win (the first in program history) and an NCAA at-large bid (the only one in Ivy basketball history).

Her record for the last eight years is 187-50. In the league during that time? It's 100-12. That's insane.

A hundred wins against 12 losses. That's basically winning your league games nine out of 10 times.

Success that like gets noticed, and it's helped Banghart get involved in coaching on the national team level. The experience that she had this summer can't help but give her even greater perspective as she comes back to Princeton, where her team will be lead by sophomore Bella Alarie, who won a silver medal with the U.S. team at the World U19 Championships in Italy.

It's been that kind of summer for Princeton's athletes and coaches.

Compete. And see the world. Even the part of it that's called Pennsylvania.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Somewhere Around 470

Bill Bradley scored 2,503 points as a Princeton men's basketball player, in three years, without a three-point shot.

How does TigerBlog know that? Because that's what the record book says.

It's been that way since TigerBlog first started to cover Princeton sports. Bill Bradley - 2,503.

TigerBlog has never bothered to confirm that. How would he, for that matter? He's seen a game-by-game listing of Bradley's point totals for his career, one that, by the way, showed TB the single most fascinating stat about Bradley's unreal career here.

It's not the points. It's not the fact that has the 11 best single-game performances in program history. It's not that it's more than 50 years later (30 of them with the three-point shot) and nobody is within 858 points of him and only three players - Ian Hummer, Douglas Davis and Kit Mueller - are within 1,000 of him.

Nope. It's that in his three varsity seasons at Princeton, Bill Bradley never failed to score fewer than 16 points in a game.

Or at least that's what the game-by-game says.

Now, let's keep in mind that that game-by-game list was hand-written. What if, as it was being chronicled, there was a "26" written in instead of a "25" or "27.?" Who would ever know? TigerBlog would have to go back and find every box score from every game Bradley played here and cross check against that hand-written game-by-game list.

Then again, maybe the hand-kept box scores back then were wrong. Or the computerized ones now? Maybe someone was given a basket that Bradley scored, or the opposite.

What's the point of this?

Well, it's that there's a certain leap of faith involved in some things. Like historical records.

Bradley has 2,503 career points because a list in the record book says he does. That's all.

Now, what do you do if you have two lists that contradict each other and no idea where either list originated. That's the case for TigerBlog when it came to answering a simple question: How many Ivy League championships has Princeton won.

TigerBlog can answer that fairly accurately in one way. It is true that Princeton has won more, a lot more, than any other school.

On the other hand, he's not sure yet what the absolute exact number is. He can say it's around 470. Is that good enough?

Well, no, it isn't. So where's the problem coming from?

TigerBlog has two spreadsheets that list all-time Ivy League championships, one for Princeton, and one for all eight league schools. The problem is that they differ slightly.

The other problem is that TigerBlog has no idea where the original spreadsheet originated. He just knows that it's been on his desktop for years, decades.

Did he put it together a long time ago when he started? That's as possible as anything else, including that he found the file and has just kept adding to it each year.

Anyway, when he compared the two (he has no idea where the other one came from), he found that they differ by one here, one there. His spreadsheet says Princeton has 463 Ivy titles. The other one says 472.

So now what to do?

TigerBlog's colleague Warren Croxton started on the website and then tried to go through each year individually, to crosscheck titles listed on the two different sheets. The Ivy League website is helpful, in that it lists year-by-year champions, but there are inconsistencies there too (not throwing the Ivy office folks under the bus; this all started because of Princeton's inconsistencies).

The only way to do this accurately is to go back to the beginning, which would be 1956-57, and create a new spreadsheet, one that lists each year and then has each team that won the championship that year in a column. Then TB will add up all the columns.

He's thinking it'll be closer to the 472 number than the 463 number, but he'll be honest about what he finds.

He can give you some numbers of which he's positive. Princeton has won 222 Ivy titles in the last 20 years, an average of exactly 11.0 per year. Only one other school (starts with an H) has ever reached double figures in an academic year. Princeton has averaged 11 for the last 20 years.

Also, Princeton's 222 in the last 20 years is 65 more than second-place Harvard. Cornell is third, with 100 exactly.

TigerBlog is positive of those numbers. Well, pretty positive.

Just kidding.

As for 2,503, he'll go with that without questioning it.

And 1492 and 1776 too.

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Back To Work

Imagine waking up one day in a place that you've been for the last 36 years and finding out that your address and zip code are now different.

Twilight Zone stuff, no?

That's what happened to FatherBlog. For the last 36 years, his address has been 570 Seventh Ave. Then, about a year ago, he got a notice that said the new address would be something on 200 West 41st Street, and with a different zip code and everything.

This was despite the fact that his office never changed. It was still on the sixth floor of the same exact building.

FatherBlog was on Fifth Avenue before he moved to Seventh. The address back then was 521 Fifth Ave. Don't ask why TB remembers that.

Anyway, FB was on Fifth Avenue for 17 years, meaning he's spent 53 years between the two locations. That's sort of a long time. TB's memories of 521 Fifth are of a huge lobby, with a bunch of stores in it. There's just a newsstand in the lobby of 570 Seventh, er, 200 West 41st.

TigerBlog's other memory of 521 Fifth was of walking from the Port Authority bus terminal across to Fifth Avenue. The other office, whatever the address, is much closer to the bus terminal and even closer to a parking garage, where TB would park when he went into the city. Parking in New York, by the way, is expensive.

As it turns out, FatherBlog doesn't want to stay in his office, regardless of the address. And 53 years apparently aren't enough time spent working in New York City every day, so he decided to try yet another address. This one will be on West 36th Street, which is good, because it puts him in good proximity to his two favorite lunch places, an Italian restaurant and a kosher deli.

So like TB said, that's 53 years worth of working in New York. That's 53 years worth of fighting traffic at the Lincoln Tunnel every morning. TB couldn't do that. He's annoyed when he misses the light on Route 1 and Washington Road.

TigerBlog had the same office for 21 years here in Jadwin. That's the one that was on the balcony.

He's coming up on two years down in the basement of Jadwin, next to the wrestling room. As they say in the wrestling room, in Jadwin "moving down is moving up."

The Jadwin lobby project is continuing, and it's getting into serious construction mode. There's a large tarp that stretches the length of the mezzanine now to keep the dust, and presumably some of the sound, out of the offices upstairs.

TigerBlog was talking to Brendan Van Ackeren of the Princeton Varsity Club yesterday afternoon, and Brendan said he had to close his office door because of the jackhammer. If the name Van Ackeren is familiar to you as a Princeton fan, it's probably because Brendan is married to Lisa Van Ackeren, the coach of the two-time defending Ivy League champion softball team. The two are expecting their first child next month, though Lisa hardly looks that far along.

There was plenty of noise in TigerBlog's office yesterday afternoon as well.

The women's soccer team was down here for preseason headshots. The arrival of the first team to get its pictures taken is one of the sure signs that summer is winding down.

The women's soccer team starts practicing today in advance of opening day of the 2017-18 Princeton athletic year, which comes up a week from Friday - egads - when the Tigers host Monmouth. Has the summer really zoomed by so quickly?

TigerBlog saw field hockey head coach Carla Tagliente and assistant coach Dina Rizzo as they walked out of the building yesterday morning. They'll start practicing Thursday.

A year ago, in their first season with the Tigers, the two led the team to the NCAA Final Four.

They'll all be back at it soon. Men's soccer. Water polo. Women's volleyball. Football. Cross country.

At the end of the year, TigerBlog will be able to tell you how many games Princeton teams have played. That's easy. It'll be between 600 and 700, like every other year.

The question of how many practices is a little more difficult.

Most teams have four or five practices for each game. Others have fewer. If you take an average of four, say, then that's around 2,500 or so practices for the academic year.

That's when the teaching is done. That's when the competition for playing time occurs. That's when so much of the experience that is playing a sport in college occurs, with everything that goes along with it.

The first one of those for this year is today.

Monday, August 14, 2017

More Fred And Chris

The World Championships of Track and Field in London didn't end the way TigerBlog would have hoped for his two favorite athletes.

Usain Bolt and Robby Andrews, that is. Both the nine-time Olympic gold medalist and the Princeton assistant coach came up injured in their last races in London this past week.

TigerBlog isn't 100 percent sure what happened to Bolt. He just saw pictures of the Jamaican unable to finish the relay. If that's the way his career ends, so be it. He's still the greatest sprinter ever, and one of the most entertaining athletes TB has seen in any sport.

As for Andrews, he was running in the semifinals of the 1,500 when he pulled his calf. Had he kept going, he said, it would have torn completely.

TigerBlog very much hopes that this is just a small bump in the road for Andrews, who will be 29 in 2020, when hopefully he'll run again in the Olympics.

While on the subject of track and field, there was the story last week about how Princeton men's head coach Fred Samara will be inducted into the U.S. Track & Field and Cross Country Coaches Association Hall of Fame as part of the Class of 2017. The ceremony will be in December in Phoenix.

Did you have the same reaction TigerBlog did, because this is what his original thought was: Wait, Fred Samara wasn't already in the U.S. track and field coaches hall of fame?

Samara has coached Princeton to 41 Ivy League Heptagonal championships. He's coached 200 outdoor Heps champions and 229 indoor Heps champs, not to mention NCAA champions and Olympians.

He has coached Princeton to seven - seven - Heps "Triple Crowns," winning the cross country, indoor track and field and outdoor track and field championships in the same year. You know who besides Fred has done it even once?

Nobody.

A former Olympic decathlete himself, Samara has run a program that has won big on the track, while also producing an army of loyal, dedicated, successful alums. He does all this with humility and class, with a philosophy of recruiting the right kinds of young men and then working hard to achieve the high goals that he sets.

Actually, the same is true of another Princeton coaching icon, Chris Sailer, the women's lacrosse coach. Also like Fred, Chris Sailer has recently learned of a major career honor.

Chris is already a U.S. Lacrosse Hall of Fame member, the result of a career that has seen her lead Princeton to three NCAA championships, 11 Final Fours, 24 NCAA tournaments and 13 Ivy League championships.

She has guided the team to three NCAA championships, 11 national semifinal appearances, 23 NCAA tournament appearances and 12 Ivy League titles.

The U.S. Lacrosse national headquarters is located outside of Baltimore. It is already the home of William G. Tierney Field, named for Bill Tierney, the men's coach at Princeton for 22 of the 32 years that Sailer has been the women's coach.

Late last week, U.S. Lacrosse announced that the walking path at the national headquarters will be named Chris Sailer Trail. The dedication ceremony will be held Oct. 21, when Princeton plays on Tierney Field as part of a four-team fall event.

From the story:
"In addition to leading her teams to great success on the field, Chris Sailer has been a tremendous advocate and representative of the sport during her career," said Steve Stenersen, CEO of US Lacrosse. "We're delighted and proud to recognize her at our facility."

The Intercollegiate Women's Lacrosse Coaches Association will also be honoring 11 former women's lacrosse coaches "to celebrate as trailblazers of the game for their exceptional work advancing women's lacrosse and the coaching profession during the Title IX era."

When TigerBlog first met Chris Sailer, she was the head women's lacrosse coach and the assistant field hockey coach. Games were played on Gulick Field, if TB remembers correctly, a grass field with almost no stands there. It was elevated above Lourie-Love Field, the old soccer facility.

Sailer has been exactly what U.S. Lacrosse says - a tremendous advocate and representative of her sport. And she has the same for Princeton Athletics as well.

In a year of great moments in Princeton Athletics, you could make a very strong case that the best was the women's lacrosse NCAA tournament game against Cornell on Sherrerd Field. Princeton pulled out the game at the end, shortly after the skies opened up for a massive rainstorm. It made for a great on-field contest.

The other part that was great about it was the turnout of Princeton students, way more male than female, cheering wildly through the rain. That only added to the moment, and was a testament to Chris Sailer for the way she has built her program and helped to build her sport.

Any list of the greatest coaches in Princeton history has to include Fred Samara and Chris Sailer. Oh, and if you think they're slowing down at all, or losing any of their intensity?

Princeton won 11 Ivy titles the last academic year. Fred Samara and Chris Sailer brought home three of them.

Friday, August 11, 2017

That Stings

TigerBlog was out on the bike the other morning when he got stung by a bee.

He never saw the culprit. He just knows that he had his right hand on his handlebar and then all of the sudden - wham, someone else showed up.

It had been awhile since TigerBlog had been stung by a bee. He didn't like it anymore this time than he did back then.

Still, being the tough guy that he is, TB persevered, making it two more times around the loop in Skillman Park, finishing as planned. TB has no idea what happened to the bee.

Do bees really die after they sting someone? Is that a myth?

If it's true, then that was an awfully big commitment on the part of the bee. For one thing, TB didn't do a thing to him. Why the violence?

For another, it was such a nice morning.

Is it really Aug. 11 already? Yikes does this month zoom by.

The coming forecast suggests that the next week will not see temperatures higher than 81 in Princeton, which is extraordinary for this time of year.

And what time of year is it? Well, it's time for things to start rolling around here again.

The first practices of the year for fall teams will be beginning. The first game is two weeks from today, a women's soccer game at home against Monmouth.

Remember how TigerBlog has been saying that he'll feel really old the day that the son or daughter of an athlete he covered at Princeton shows up on a Princeton roster. It hasn't happened yet - but it's coming really close this fall.

Julia Simkus will be a freshman on the women's soccer team. She is the daughter of Rich Simkus, the former Princeton men's basketball player. Oh, and Abby Simkus, a Penn grad.

It's not the same as when it'll be the child of someone who was competing here when TB covered Princeton for the newspaper or was already working here, but hey, Simkus' daughter?

When TigerBlog first started doing radio for Princeton, it was for men's basketball, way back when. The play-by-play man was David Brody, and he and TigerBlog would do the road games together. The first game TB did was at Michigan State in the 1989 Oldsmobile Spartan Classic, where Princeton defeated Arkansas-Little Rock and then lost to the host team in the final.

By the way, before Princeton played Michigan State, then-assistant coach Bill Carmody said that if Princeton was outrebounded by 15 or fewer, it would win the game. Princeton was outrebounded by 16 - and lost by two, 51-49. Why does TB remember that?

Also by the way, the Princeton-UALR game was the first TigerBlog would broadcast for the Tigers. It was the 1989-90 season. Who was the starting five?

TB will give you a few paragraphs to figure it out.

So anyway, Julia Simkus will be on the women's soccer team.

Even though the 2017-18 academic year is right around the corner, it's not quite the end of the summer for Princeton alums, or one assistant coach.

Robby Andrews, assistant coach for men's cross country, competed in the first round of the 1,500 at the World Championships in London yesterday afternoon. 

And the Major League Lacrosse playoffs begin this weekend, with Princeton well-represented.

Tom Schreiber, the MLL leader in assists for the regular season, is with the Ohio Machine, who will host the Florida Launch in one semifinal tomorrow. The other semifinal has Kip Orban and the Rochester Rattlers at Denver to face an Outlaws team that has Zach Currier, Ryan Ambler and Gavin McBride.

Currier finished his first MLL regular season 13th in the league in assists and tops among rookies, despite being a middie.

The Major League Lacrosse championship game will be held a week from tomorrow in Frisco, Texas.

TigerBlog was trying to remember which Princeton alums have won MLL championships in their careers.

Kevin Lowe definitely did. He remains the only player ever to score an overtime goal in an NCAA championship game and an MLL championship game.

Matt Striebel and Ryan Boyle won more than one MLL title. Trevor Tierney won one. TB is pretty sure Tyler Fiorito was the backup goalie for Chesapeake when it won in 2012 and 2013. Is that everyone?

If he's missing someone, TB apologizes.

Oh, and the trivia answer: Matt Henshon. Matt Eastwick. Kit Mueller. George Leftwich. Sean Jackson.

And with that, have a great weekend.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

You're Kidding

The Double-B turns three this week.

That's Blake Borders, by the way. He's the son of Andrew and Amy Borders. Andrew is TigerBlog's colleague here in the Office of Athletic Communications.

Blake is into cars, er, "vehicles," as he calls them. He has a big bag of them, the matchbox kind, and the bigger imagination that three year olds have to bring them to life. When Blake is here with his dad, there will be a trail of cars, as well as improvised roads, ramps and everything else.

By the way, as he turns three, Blake can claim something that you probably can't. He's been to all 50 states.

TigerBlog hasn't been. He's at 37.

Hanging out with Blake and his cars is tiring. It's been awhile since TigerBlog has had a three year old, and he forgot just how much energy they have. Of course, maybe TB had more energy himself that long ago.

It actually got him thinking something weird. He could be closer to the time that he has a three-year-old grandchild than when he had a three-year-old child.

Yikes.

As TigerBlog walked into his office, just before he got to play with Blake, he saw Jared Petty in the hallway. Jared has a summer internship at Princeton with the engineering department, and he was here with a group of engineers on some project in Jadwin.

Jared will be a junior at York College in Pennsylvania. He's one of TigerBlog Jr's. best buddies and has been since not they were not that much older than Blake Borders is now. They've been to a million events on this campus through the years.

TBJ and Miss TigerBlog will take with them for the rest of their lives the memories they have from their childhood times at Princeton. It's been a really special part of working here for as long as TigerBlog has, seeing his children come to games, go to summer camps, stay overnight in the dorms, walk up to Nassau Street.

Each September, Princeton Athletics takes a "team picture" of the entire departmental staff together. What would be really interesting would be to take a picture of the children of all of the people who work here.

TigerBlog isn't really sure how many kids would be in such a picture. It would be a lot.

The OAC is on E level of Jadwin, next to the wrestling office. Between the 10 people who work in those two offices, TigerBlog counts 13 children. There are at least 20 between the people who have the word "athletic director" in their titles.

There are more little kids than older kids, it seems. It's like an army of them sometimes.

Yeah. The more TB thinks about it, the more he likes the idea of a group picture of all of the kids of the people who work here. At the very least, he'll try to figure out how many kids that wouldn't be in total. Has to be at least 200, he'd think.

Speaking of families, the Princeton athletic family will be growing shortly with the addition of the Class of 2021. Wow. The Class of 2021 already?

TigerBlog has started to get the emails that are automatically generated whenever a coach adds a player to a roster, or, for whatever reason, takes one off. These emails come sort of randomly during the year, like when someone quits a team or withdraws from injury or something like that.

And then they come flying at TB in bunches, when coaches add incoming freshmen to the roster.

If he gets one for a larger-rostered sport, like track and field or football, then he knows that once he's gotten one email, then the flood will be starting.

Each of these emails, of course, is a different player, with a different story and a different path to Princeton. In the case of the incoming freshmen, they're home right now, in all likelihood, figuring out what they need to buy, what they need to bring, what to expect when they get here.

From the time they arrive, the Princeton experience will start to grab them. They will hear "Class of 2021," and probably "great Class of 2021," about 2,021 times before they ever go to a class.

For the athletes, they'll be meeting teammates, getting settled into their team's routines and cultures and starting down the path that will lead them, hopefully, to the 2021 senior banquet, all having had great, winning, championship athletic experiences with corresponding educational success, with time left over to give back to the community.

You know. Achieve, Serve, Lead.

For now, they're still with the high school friends, or on vacations, or working summer jobs - or all of the above.

Shortly, very shortly, they'll be here, no longer just names on emails, as their Princeton time starts to come to life.

It's exciting.

Ah, to be young, right? 

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Remembering Splithoff

John Mack, the 10-time Heptagonal track and field champ and 2000 Roper Trophy winner, texted TigerBlog yesterday and asked about Princeton athletes who had had injuries that "derailed," to use his word, their careers.

He was referring to the John Lovett news from the other day, the news that said that Princeton's Bushnell Cup winner and first-team All-America from a year ago would miss time this season after surgery.

TigerBlog quickly mentioned Mason Rocca, the men's basketball player. Then he gave John Mack another name: Dave Splithoff.

One of the most amazing moments TigerBlog has seen in all of his time covering Princeton sports was the 2000 Princeton-Colgate football game.

There are actually two things TB remembers from that game. The first was when he tore his Princeton lacrosse pullover in the press box after he caught it on a nail. That was a nice one too.

The other is the way that Splithoff, then a freshman, put together two of the most incredible drives you'll ever see in football.

Splithoff had never taken a varsity snap. He was only on the trip because of injuries and, if TB recalls correctly, he was the emergency punter.

With the Tigers down 34-0, Splithoff was given a chance in the fourth quarter. He stepped onto the field, and immediately he became Tom Brady, or Joe Montana. First he took Princeton 80 yards, on 13 plays, for a touchdown.

There can't be too many drives quite like the next one he engineered.

When he came back on the field, now down 34-6, he was backed up to his 1. As in one-yard line, three feet from his end zone.

Sixteen plays later, Princeton was on the Colgate 1, having traveled 98 yards. That's where the drive ended, on a fourth-and-goal, with no points.

But still. A 98-yard, 16-play drive? His two drives combined for 29 plays and 178 yards. He would go 5 for 8 for 99 yards, and he'd run for 30 more on five carries. Of his three incompletions, two were drops, including a sure touchdown

The next week against Brown, in his first start, Splithoff first broke the school record for consecutive completions with 14 and then threw for 289 yards and three touchdowns in a 55-28 win at home. Splithoff, whose consecutive completions record has since been broken by Quinn Epperly with a ridiculous 29 straight against Cornell in 2013, became the first freshman ever named Ivy League Offensive Player of the Week, and he added the ECAC Offensive Player of the Week award as well.

The next weekend, he ran for three touchdowns against Harvard - and then broke his jaw on the final play of the game. It was never the same for him after that. He's still 11th all-time at Princeton in career passing yards, but he would get hurt again, a shoulder TB thinks, and finish his career as a defensive back.

 For those three games his freshman year, though, Splithoff was electric. For those three games, it looked like the future of Princeton football was being built around this freshman quarterback, the one who played with charisma and style and skill and fearlessness.

And then he was gone. TigerBlog remembers the conversation the Monday after the Harvard game, when the news first came out that Splithoff had broken his jaw and was done for the year. It was like a cruel joke.

The 2017 Princeton Tigers are deeper than just Lovett, of course. There all kinds of pieces back from last year's championships season, and when the preseason poll came out yesterday, there were the Tigers, tied with Harvard at the top.

It was hardly a consensus vote.

Princeton and Harvard both had 120 points, with Princeton with six first place votes to five for Harvard. Penn was in third, but a close third, with five first-place votes. Brown was sixth, but the Bears did get one first-place vote.

Of course, for preseason polls, it's best not to put too much faith in them. Princeton has won league championships more than once when picked to finish sixth.

Hey, it's not even time practice to start yet. There is such a long way to go between now and November.

Does the poll tell you anything? Only that nobody is a sure thing.

Well, Splithoff might have been actually. Until the injuries came along.

But that doesn't shortchange the impact he had on Princeton football. He was part of something amazingly special during those three weeks his freshman year.

The drives against Colgate were the appetizer. The game against Brown, he simply dominated from start to finish. He was just an inexperienced freshman, a boy among men, but a boy that none of the men could handle that day.

The game against Harvard he kept Princeton in, and then that was that for the year.

It's not always a fair game, football.

So yeah, John Mack. Dave Splithoff. There's an answer to your question.

Tuesday, August 8, 2017

Lost Lovett

TigerBlog's first football exposure for 2017 was to watch the first episode of Season 2 of "Last Chance U."

If you don't have Netflix, you're missing out. That's where the best shows are these days.

"Last Chance U" is the story of the football team at East Mississippi Community College, located in the town of Scooba, which is about 50 miles east of Philadelphia, the one in Mississippi. It's also 1,000 miles south of the Philadelphia in Pennsylvania, and seemingly even further than that - at least figuratively - from the big-time Power 5 football where many of the players at East Mississippi started out and how to get back to at some point.

The school is up front about what it's doing. It's taking players who have all the football talent in the world but are not on major Division I rosters for any number of reasons, mostly including academic or legal issues. East Mississippi is trying to turn them around, get them back to Division I and win some football games in the process.

The first season of the series was a pretty fascinating look into the dynamics that exist at the school, and it made stars out of the coach and some of the players and especially the woman who worked tirelessly and endlessly in the academic support role.

Season 2, at least through one episode, seems like an extension of the first, only with different faces on board. And, TB believes, the woman leaves her role at the school. And, interestingly, the first five minutes introduce all of the new faces - and show why they had to leave where they'd previously been playing.

It continues to amaze TigerBlog the way so many shows are on TV these days in which relatively unimpressive, unaccomplished people have cameras following them around and all of the sudden they achieve fame, notoriety, wealth and everything else, without anything that really distinguishes them. TigerBlog usually isn't a fan of such shows, but he likes "Last Chance U."

Maybe it's because it's about a college football team? Maybe it's because there isn't a whole lot of pretense to it. On the other hand, imagine if you had cameras that followed you around all day and then had that broadcast on television, followed by instant fame as everywhere you went people said "hey, there's that person from that show on that channel."

Wouldn't it make you feel fascinating? How would TB react if there were cameras in his office all day recording his every move? Coming up next week, watch TigerBlog eat his tuna and avocado sandwich - and then everyone did, and found it to be great television.

Anyway, the head coach of the team seems to be the one most aware that cameras are everywhere. The rest of them just go with the flow.

If you've never seen "Last Chance U," check it out. TigerBlog has also watched "Ozark," which was okay, and tried "Gypsy" but never got into it. He's heard "Orphan Black" is good.

Meanwhile, in football news closer to home, Princeton head football coach Bob Surace announced yesterday that John Lovett will not be available for the start of the 2017 season. Here is his statement:

"John Lovett had surgery during the offseason, which stemmed from an injury he played with during the 2016 season and, unfortunately, did not completely heal during the offseason. The surgery was a success, and he will miss time this fall. He will continue to be a tremendous leader for our team, and we look forward to his healthy return to the field."

Lovett had quite a 2016 season, when he was the Bushnell Cup winner as the Ivy League Offensive Player of the Year and a first-team All-America. He had ridiculously insane numbers, with 20 rushing touchdowns (and at least one in every game) and 10 passing touchdowns, with one receiving TD tacked on.

Those 31 touchdowns are a Princeton single-season record. They're also more than five league schools had last year.

Keith Elias is the most dominant football player that TigerBlog has seen at Princeton. Lovett last year approached that level of dominance, in a different way, but on the same level.

With Lovett's versatility, Princeton's offense led the Ivy League, and the Tigers went 8-2 overall and 6-1 in the Ivy League, sharing the championship with a Penn team Princeton beat 28-0. In that game, Lovett ran for one TD and threw for another.

Princeton has played a very unique style of offense the last few years, especially with its use of multiple quarterbacks. Chad Kanoff is back for 2017, but Princeton is in the strange position of having only one of its quarterbacks available now, as if they were cornerbacks, not quarterbacks.

Plus, Lovett is an incredibly exciting player to watch.  You never know what he's going to do, but he's usually going to be the focal point of every play. And he's awesome in short yardage situations - not only the ones that took him into the end zone 20 times but the others that kept drives alive on third and fourth downs.

But hey, that's the nature of football. You have to be ready if someone is unavailable. TB is pretty sure Surace and his staff have a Plan B in mind.

At the same time, TB feels badly for Lovett. He had to be primed for a big 2017, and now that's been pulled out from under him.

In football, you need that "next man up" mentality. You also need to remember the last man. What he's going through isn't easy - and TB hopes he can get back quickly. 

Monday, August 7, 2017

Tyler, Julia - And Usain

TigerBlog spoke to Mark Eckel over the weekend after he wrote about his retirement this past Friday.

Mark wanted to know how TB remembered the story about how Mark had said he was going to write a game story and a column about Gabe Lewullis after Princeton beat Penn in the 1996 Ivy men's basketball playoff game. TB responded that he remembers everything.

Maybe not everything. TigerBlog, though, does have a good memory. Maybe it's because he likes to do puzzles. Keeps the brain stimulated.

Mark told TigerBlog something he'd never mentioned before. He said that the playoff game in 1996 was one of the two "craziest" nights he's had in the business. The other one, he said, was the "Fog Bowl" that the Philadelphia Eagles played against the Chicago Bears at Soldier Field on New Year's Eve 1988. The fog that rolled in that day limited visibility for the NFC playoff game to absurd levels, but the teams played through it.

Chicago won the game 20-12. TigerBlog's memory of seeing the game was not being able to see the game because of the fog. It was, as Mark said, definitely crazy.

He didn't remember that Randall Cunningham threw for 407 yards in the game. Hey, TB never said he remembered every detail of everything. Just most.

One thing TigerBlog didn't mention about Mark was that in addition to all of what he covered, including Super Bowls and Stanley Cup finals, he also covered a lot of women's athletics and did a lot to promote women's athletics at a time when not a lot of male sportswriters did.

Princeton, of course, has one of the best women's athletics programs in the country. It is a place of equality of opportunity, and it's a university and a department that takes huge pride in the accomplishments of all of its athletes, regardless of gender.

The current Courtney Banghart "10 on 10" series that is reviewing the women's basketball coach's first 10 years at Princeton is the product of TigerBlog's colleague Warren Croxton. Warren, by the way, has successfully completed one full year of marriage, so congrats to him and his wife Michelle.

The series is focusing on the major storylines of Courtney's tenure to date. For all of her on-court success, and there's been a lot of it, maybe her biggest impact is something that TigerBlog has said many times before - the way she has grown the fan base for her program to include a large portion of men and boys.

It's true of a lot of Princeton sports. Hockey. Lacrosse. Soccer. Field hockey. So many. There are way more men watching women's teams play now than there were when TigerBlog first started out. That's for sure. 

This past year as an extraordinary one for Princeton women athletes. The 10 finalists for the von Kienbusch Award were a wildly remarkable group, easily the deepest and best that TB remembers.

Two of those 10 had big weeks this past week as they continued their athletic careers post-Princeton.

Tyler Lussi scored the first goal of her professional career, with a goal in the 39th minute that would be the difference as her Portland Thorns defeated Houston Saturday.

Lussi, the all-time leading scorer in soccer at Princeton for men or women, fought her way through a crowd in the box and knocked a right-footed shot into the goal.


Meanwhile, if you went east instead of west from Princeton, you could have found Julia Ratcliffe, who was competing for New Zealand in the World Championships of Track and Field in London.

Ratcliffe, a 2020 Olympic hopeful, finished 25th in the women's hammer throw. That's in the entire world, which is, you know, really impressive.

Lussi and Ratcliffe followed Olivia Hompe, who had a huge World Cup tournament this summer for the English women's lacrosse team. The list of Princeton women's athletes who are succeeding way beyond Princeton is very long indeed.

As for the track and field championships, assistant men's track and field coach Robby Andrews runs in the 1,500 Thursday.

Oh, and Usain Bolt lost. Finally.

Bolt, who won the 100 and 200 and was on the winning 4x100 relay team at each of the last three Olympic Games, is one of the most dynamic athletes TigerBlog has ever seen. Usually you want to root for the underdog. In the case of just a few athletes all time - you know, like Michael Jordan - you root for their greatness, for the opportunity to see the very best ever in their primes.

Bolt has been one of them.

And so what that he lost at the World Championships. It changes none of that.

So anyway, here's to your marriage Warren. May it be the first of many.

Oh wait. That's not right. But hey, you know what TigerBlog means.

Friday, August 4, 2017

Congrats To Mark, And Also To Mark

TigerBlog begins the first Friday in August by congratulating a pair of Marks.

First, there is Mark Eckel. If you're a fan of the Philadelphia Eagles, or a Princeton fan going back 20 or so years, then you know the name.

Mark has been a longtime fixture in Trenton area sportswriting, beginning back when he was a high school student at St. Anthony's, which became McCorristin, which became Trenton Catholic. There aren't many people who have spent more time involved with sports in the Trenton area.

Now his new home is in Myrtle Beach, in a condo overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. He has officially retired.

Princeton men's lacrosse coach Matt Madalon likes to talk about how he had every job on the coaching ladder, starting out as a volunteer, before he became a head coach and how valuable experience like that can be. Mark is the sportswriting equivalent.

He covered high school sports for a long time in the Trenton area. And Little League and Babe Ruth and American Legion and everything else. He had just moved up to cover some pro stuff, like the Flyers and Eagles especially, when TB first started in the newspaper business, back in the early 1980s.

The Eagles would become his primary beat, and he is an authority on how to cover an NFL team. He clashed with coaches, players, front office personnel and other media members, but there's not a person associated with the Eagles for the last 30-something years who doesn't have equal parts respect for and funny stories involving Mark during his tenure.

Well, maybe one person. Rich Kotite.

Mark has been a fixture on Philadelphia sports talk radio and television. He's written books about the Eagles. 

Mark also covered a ton of local college events, especially here and at Rider. He was on the Princeton beat for men's basketball and men's lacrosse during the glory days of the mid-1990s.

He was there the night Princeton beat Penn at Lehigh in the 1996 in the Ivy League playoff game for the NCAA bid, and he was there five nights later when Princeton beat UCLA in Indianapolis. It was his story after the Penn win that had the famous headline: "Princeton Wins, Carril Quits."

Back on that night, TigerBlog was the first one in Princeton's lockerroom other than Pete Carril, and TigerBlog was the first one who saw that Carril had written on the chalkboard that he was retiring. A few seconds earlier, before he walked into the lockerroom, TB had been talking to Mark, who outlined for him that he was writing two stories, a game story and a column on Gabe Lewullis, then a freshman who had a huge game for Princeton, right near his hometown of Allentown. Gabe, by the way, is an orthopedic surgeon today.

When TB came out of the lockerroom, Mark asked him if he was getting Lewullis for him.

"You're not writing about Lewullis," TB said.

Then, when Carril made his announcement to the media about his retirement in the next few minutes, Mark, seated in the front, turned around to look at TB and laughed.

Mark loved to cover Princeton. He's always talked about what a great change of pace it was for him from the Eagles.

He loved lacrosse, a sport he had no knowledge of prior to connecting with the Tigers and Bill Tierney. He loved Princeton basketball, and all of the coaches who followed Carril.

Some of TigerBlog's best memories of his tenure here have been the long road trips to and from Princeton basketball he'd make with Mark, and Tom McCarthy.

He's not the warmest and fuzziest guy you ever met. He is among the funniest. He's also loyal, and he's no nonsense. There's nothing phony about him, that's for sure.

There are no current Princeton athletes who have ever been interviewed by Mark Eckel. It's been awhile since he's been around here. He has to be in the top 10, though, of people who have written the most in newspapers about Princeton Athletics.

He's in the top five since TB has been around, that's for sure.

Congratulations to him.

And congratulations to another Mark, this one Mark Miyashita, who is leaving Sacred Heart University to become the head men's lacrosse coach at his alma mater, Canisius. Miyashita - Coach Sheets, as he is known - did a lot to help turn the Pioneers program around.

He's also done a lot for TigerBlog Jr. in his adjustment to college lacrosse and development as a college player and a college student. It's great to see him get his first head coaching chance. He's one of those guys you meet who just impresses you from the start with his demeanor, intelligence and passion.

Congrats to that Mark as well.

As for the rest of today, there are three weeks until the first Princeton game of the 2017-18 academic year. Three weeks. That's a bit insane.

And it's another summer weekend. Enjoy it.

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Silver Bella

TigerBlog had an appointment yesterday to talk about where he currently stands with his retirement.

The person with whom he met was a very nice woman. She asked him what he's looking for out of retirement. He said a beach house and a French bulldog.

Is that asking too much?

She told him that her best advice about his retirement was to think of a lot of topics for the blog, because he'll have to be doing it for a few more decades.

Hey, no problem. There's always something to write about.

Some days it's easier than others. Like today.

TigerBlog had hoped to write about a gold medal for Bella Alarie at the U19 World Championships in women's basketball, held in Italy the last two weeks. Unfortunately, Alarie and her USA teammates had to settle for silver after falling to Russia 86-82 in the championship game Sunday.

Alarie was a first-team All-Ivy League selection and the Ivy League Rookie of the Year this past season for the Princeton women's basketball team. From opening night of the season, when she put up 24 points and seven rebounds against Rider, it was clear that Alarie was someone really special.

TigerBlog has said this about her before, but she is the most unique - and complete - women's basketball player Princeton has ever had. She's 6-4 on Princeton's roster and 6-5 on Team USA's roster, but she's hardly a back-to-the-basket player, though she could be if that's what you want.

She's a guard. She can get from above the three-point line to the basket in two steps. She can shoot three's. She can beat a press. She can run the break with the ball or on the wing. And she can defend.

In her freshman year, she set the Princeton record for blocked shots in a season. She also put up 377 points, which, if multiplied by four, takes her to 1,508. If she can improve by 59 points per season - or two per game basically - over her freshman year, then she'll break the Princeton career record of 1,683, held since 1990 by Sandi Bittler Leland.

There's a big jump to international basketball of course. Alarie was a starter at the World Championships for the Americans, and she averaged 7.3 points and 8.1 rebounds per game for the tournament.

You don't think that experience is going to translate to an improved Alarie when she gets back on the court at Jadwin Gym?

In an athletic program filled with standouts across 37 sports, Alarie is as much a must-see as any Princeton athlete whose last name doesn't rhyme with the field in the football stadium.

In all seriousness, if you haven't gotten a chance yet to see her play, make sure you do. You'll be impressed.

It's been a big summer for Princetonians in Europe. There's Alarie. There's all of the success at the Maccabiah Games in Israel and the World U23 Rowing Championships in Bulgaria.

To that list, you can add the World Championships in track and field, which are about to begin in London.

Princeton is represented there by recent alum Julia Ratcliffe and current assistant men's coach Robby Andrews. 

Ratcliffe is competing, obviously, in the hammer throw. She was a four-time All-America at Princeton and the 2014 NCAA champion, as well as a runner-up once and a fourth-place finisher this past year.

She's from New Zealand, though she's still spent a lot of time on this campus this summer training and competing. She's funny, laid back, extremely intelligent, really personable, really likeable - and one of the greatest female athletes in school history.

She just missed qualifying standard for the 2016 Olympic Games, despite being her country's record-holder in the event. Hopefully she'll be in the 2020 Games, in Tokyo.

Hopefully, too, Andrews will be there as well.

Andrews was in the Olympics last summer, the ones in Rio that began just about one year ago. Andrews was in the semifinals of the 1,500 when he was DQ'd on a really, really close call.

Had he not been ruled out of the final, he would have definitely been in the hunt for a medal.

Since then, Andrews has hardly given up. He came back to win the U.S. championship last month, defeating the 2016 Olympic gold medalist in the process.

To get to the World Championships, he needed to run the qualifying standard of 3:36.00. In fact, his winning time at the U.S. championships was more than seven seconds off the qualifying time.

He needed to get to 3:36 or below by July 12. On July 7, in a meet in New York, Andrews ran a 3:35.25.

That put him on a plane to London. By three-quarters of a second.

Like Ratcliffe, Andrews is laid back and really personable and really easy to root for. TigerBlog will be doing just that when they compete in London.

And so that's one more blog closer to retirement. Don't worry. TB has a million of them.

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Busy Body

Jadwin lobby, Day 2. It's still not finished.

That's okay. As TB said yesterday, it's going to look great when it's done.

One thing TigerBlog forgot yesterday was to tell you the leading scorer for Princeton in the first game played in Jadwin. He does this a lot. He asks a questions, figures he'll wait a few paragraphs to give the answer and then forgets all about it.

The answer was Chris Thomforde. How many of you got that?

What else can TB tay to you today?

Oh, the Yankees traded for Sonny Gray. If you've seen the movie "Donnie Brasco," then you know who Sonny Black and Sonny Red were.

TigerBlog can tell you that, with one week left in the Major League Lacrosse regular season, Denver and Ohio have clinched home games in the semifinals and Florida has also clinched a playoff spot.

There are four other teams who are either 7-6 or 6-7. 

He's paid much closer attention to the Major League Lacrosse than Major League Baseball. There was a time when TB would know where every team was in the standings, where he'd watch a lot of baseball over the course of a season. Now? He roots for Tom McCarthy, the TV voice of the Phillies, and any Princeton players who happen to be playing.

He does know that the Astros, Dodgers and Nationals are having big years. And that the Yankees have done surprisingly well. And that the Mets - Barlow's team, by the way - aren't.

He also knows that Princeton has two alums on Major League Baseball rosters and 10 alums playing professional baseball this summer. You can get information on all of them right HERE.

Princeton has had a great run in producing professional baseball talent. Among the most recent group of Major Leaguers were former Princeton two-sport athletes Will Venable and Chris Young, who were both dominant basketball players as undergrads.

Young's long career in the Majors appears to have ended, though he does have the distinction of owning a World Series ring, which he won with the Kansas City Royals in 2015.

The two Princeton alums on Major League rosters now are Danny Barnes, who is with Blue Jays (though he's on the disabled list at the moment) and Matt Bowman with the Cardinals. The Blue Jays, by the way, lead Major League Baseball in attendance.

Bowman? He also leads the Majors in something - appearances by a pitcher.

In fact, Bowman has been in 54 games, or two more than half of the 106 that the Cards have played so far. He is 2-4 with one save, but those numbers hardly describe his worth.

With the way baseball is played these days, a team needs arms like Bowman's. It's already Aug. 2. Erwin Santana of the Twins has the most complete games in the Majors. Any guesses how many he has?

Four.

Go back 10 years, and the league high was seven complete games. Go back 30 years, and the league high was 18 games.

In other words, starters don't go deep in games, and bullpens need a lot of depth.

It's also interesting that going back 30 years, the back end guy in the bullpen didn't only pitch in save situations. The top seven closers that year combined for 237 saves, but they also combined to finish 399 games. In other words, they'd pitch a lot in non-save situations.

This year, the top seven closers currently have combined for 192 saves. They also have combined to finish 262 games. In other words, closers are much less likely to get into non-save situations today.

It is, by the way, the dopiest thing in all of sports, pitching a closer only in save situations. There is nothing else in all of sports that TigerBlog can think of where strategy is dictated solely by stat keeping rules. So many games are lost in the sixth and seventh while presumably your best short reliever sits in the bullpen, waiting for the ninth inning to get there.

On the other hand, it works out well for Bowman, and he's a Princeton guy.

He pitched again last night, going two-thirds of an inning, in the eighth, of a 3-2 loss to the Brewers. It was an odd game, as Milwaukee scored three times in the first and then was shut out the rest of the way.

Bowman, by the way, was never a first-team All-Ivy League selection at Princeton. He was, in 2011, a second-team selection - as a shortstop. 

Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Lobbying In Jadwin

Cindy Cohen stopped by last week.

Cindy, as you may or may not know, won more games as a Princeton head coach than Pete Carril did. Pete won 514 games in men's basketball. Cindy won 560 in softball.

Her record in 18 years as the head softball coach was 560-277-3, a winning percentage of .669. She took Princeton to 12 Ivy League championships and two Women's College World Series appearances.

When you make the list of the greatest women coaches in the history of Princeton Athletics, Cindy Cohen's name is way up near the top.

TigerBlog was still in the newspaper business when he first met her, and she's been an all-time TigerBlog favorite ever since.

Cindy left here and had a long second career, as an athletic administrator, first at the University of Rochester and then at William Paterson University.

She hasn't been back to Princeton too often in the interim. When she was here the other day, TigerBlog took her on a walk around Jadwin Gym, where her office had been for all the years she worked here.

At every turn, obviously, they ran into people who work here now. Almost none of them knew Cindy. The ones who did gave her big hugs.

TigerBlog actually has a list of people who work here in the athletic department, ranked in terms of seniority. It's the top 18. TigerBlog ranks 16th.

He actually wonders how many total people have worked in this department with him in all of the years he's been here. Five hundred? More?

If he sat down and tried to write out the names of everyone who's worked here with him, how many would he come up with? Maybe he'll try that and see how many he comes up with. It'd be an interesting summer project.

Anyway, as he and Cindy walked around Jadwin, he was struck by her comments about the physical appearance of the building. In some ways, she would say, things looked very much the same as the day she left. In other ways, there were major differences.

It's like when TigerBlog goes back to Penn. There are parts of the campus that are identical to the way they were when he was there 35 years ago. There are parts that have been completely overhauled.

Jadwin is a complex building, with so much of it underground, its hallways and stairways that link it to DeNunzio Pool and Caldwell Fieldhouse and its design to fulfill its main purpose of being a multipurpose facility. The basketball arena is a small part of the entire building.

Jadwin is approaching 50 years old. The first basketball game ever played here was on Jan. 25, 1969. Princeton beat Penn 72-64 that night. Serious extra credit if you know who Princeton's leading scorer in the game was, with 20 points.

If you're not going to be in Jadwin Gym until the start of this coming basketball season, then the place will look way different than you remember it.

The Jadwin lobby is currently undergoing a major renovation project, one that will give the main entry point of the building a completely new look. It'll be modern, and it will celebrate the great history of Princeton athletics at the same time.

TigerBlog has seen the mockups, and he's excited for what the final product will look like.

The renovation project began yesterday. Basically everything has been cleared out of the old lobby, and it had something of an eerie feel to it when TB was there yesterday morning.

For starters, he wasn't supposed to be in the lobby in the first place, since it's closed off. He accidentally took the elevator from E level all the way to the top.

By the afternoon yesterday it was clear that a construction project was about to begin. The lobby, as TB said, is locked off, and the entrance to the building is now on the side closest to the pool.

TB figures it'll get pretty busy, pretty quickly there. By the way, HERE is the original release on the announcement of the lobby renovation.

The construction is supposed to be completed by Nov. 1. When it is, you won't recognize it. That's definitely for sure. The end result will be well worth it.

What else can TigerBlog tell you today?

Oh year. It's August 1. That means that the first athletic event of the coming year is this month, though that's for later.

August always seems to zoom by. TB assumes this one will as well. Enjoy it. If you have a list of things you want to get done by the end of summer, now's the time to start working on it.

September will be here soon enough.