Friday, November 21, 2014

Closing Kickoff

The blur that is the Ivy League football season will have come and gone by nightfall tomorrow.

It's really hard to imagine another season has come and gone.

TigerBlog remembers watching the first game of each basketball season or each lacrosse season and thinking to himself that he couldn't believe a whole year had come and gone, and that was nearly 30 years ago now. Hey, this basketball season has already started, and lacrosse season is less than three months away, even if it seems like yesterday that TigerBlog was driving back from Long Island after Princeton's season-finale against Cornell last spring.

There was a time when TigerBlog was sure that sportswriting was just a passing phase, and he used to tell himself that this year would be the last one. Whatever year that was. Football would start, and he promised himself that when the spring ended, he would move on. Find a different career.

And he never really has. While he's gone from sportswriting to here, he'd hardly call this a completely different career.

Time in this business is always measured by the passing of the seasons. Not the fall, winter, etc. The sports seasons.

And no season flies by like Ivy League football. It seems like five minutes ago that Princeton was on its way to San Diego to start the 2014 season. Now it has but one game left.

Princeton hosts Dartmouth tomorrow at 1. Your ticket to the football game gets you into the basketball game at 11 against Incarnate Word. If you have a basketball ticket, you'll be given one for football when you get to the game tomorrow morning.

If you're wondering about the 11 a.m. start, it was agreed to so that Incarnate Word can get back to San Antonio tomorrow evening.

If you're wondering who Incarnate Word is, this team is no joke. The Cardinals are in their second year of Division I, and they went 9-5 in the Southland Conference last year. The overall record was 21-6.

This year, the team is 2-0 with two big blowouts, though Princeton is its first Division I opponent. The Cardinals seem to be able to score points, with 89 and 94 in the first two games this year and an average of 82.1 a year ago.

So that's the basketball game.

The football game is the last of the year. Princeton, the preseason league favorite, will not be winning a second-straight championship.

One thing to root for if you're Princeton is for Yale not to score 50 points against Harvard. The 2013 Tigers scored an Ivy-record 437 points; Yale has 387 heading into its game tomorrow against the Crimson.

Speaking of the Crimson, they are 9-0, 6-0 in the league, and have already clinched at least a share of the Ivy title. Yale comes in 8-1, 5-1, with only a loss to Dartmouth, who is 7-2 but 5-1 in the league, having only lost to Harvard.

So, if Harvard wins, it wins the outright title. If Yale wins, it ties Harvard. If Yale and Dartmouth win, then there is the first three-way Ivy championship since 1982.

Princeton, currently 5-4 overall and 4-2 in the league, would finish tied for second with a win and a Harvard win.

The game tomorrow is the last chance to see Princeton's Class of 2015, a class that started out 1-9 and won an Ivy League championship as juniors. This class had two bonfires for sweeping Harvard and Yale.

It played a leading role in the scoring record. It had some epic games, including the two wins over Harvard. Hey, if you're adding it all up, Harvard is on a run where it is 29-1 against everyone else and 1-2 against Princeton. That's not too bad.

It's a pretty strong resume for the Class of 2015.

Now they have one last game to play.

TigerBlog has always thought that it was toughest to walk away from football than any other sport, to know you've played for the last time. It's not like there are too many pickup tackle football games out there. Basically every other sport here can be played to some extent post-graduation, in some league or club, but not football.

Plus, football is so physically and mentally taxing and is such a sport of week to week to week routine. Letting go of all that has to be tough.

Princeton's seniors play for the final time tomorrow. One hole in the resume is that this class has never beaten Dartmouth, so there's a chance to turn that around.

No matter what, though, this has been a really special class for Princeton football.

One game to go. TigerBlog is shaking his head.

Where did those 10 weeks go?

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Magic Jesus Birds

TigerBlog was driving alongside the Delaware River recently when he came across a bunch of birds who appeared to be standing on top of the water.

In reality, it was probably an illusion of the sun as it reflected off a very shallow amount of water on top of the sand, as the river was very low. At first glance, TigerBlog saw a bunch of birds who appeared to be able to walk on water.

His first thought was to then Google "Magic Jesus Birds," and of course what came up? Larry Bird. Magic Johnson. And a bunch of biblical passages.

He should have seen that coming.

TB isn't sure how he got through the first 35 or so years of his life without the ability to instantly look stuff up. When he was a kid, he had things called "Encyclopedias," which were gigantic books that were basically an alphabetical listing of everything that ever happened.

He doubts either of his kids has ever seen one, though they have both spent time on Wikipedia.

TigerBlog used to have a flip phone, and he was a bit resistant in switching to an iPhone, for fear of being completely tethered to the flow of information. Now? He's googling things like "Magic Jesus Birds" on a whim.

His most recent search was for the oldest intercollegiate athletic events of all time.

The first intercollegiate athletic event in Princeton history was on Nov. 22, 1864, and was a baseball game against Williams.

The most famous "first" in Princeton athletics is the first football game. That game was played on Nov. 6, 1869, and was the first college football game ever.

That first baseball game, though, preceded it by five years.

From what TigerBlog has read about the Princeton-Williams baseball game, it was on a Thursday and it rained for a few days before the game, only to clear up just in time. He's read a flowery account of the day, which included the game - a 27-16 Princeton win - and then a dinner reception at which the Princeton players hosted the Williams players, complete with singing.

Incidentally, TigerBlog is amused by the fact that the first football game in Princeton history ended 6-4 and the first baseball game in Princeton history ended 27-16.

Meanwhile, back at the oldest athletic events in American history, TB isn't sure where Princeton-Williams baseball ranks.

Apparently the first intercollegiate athletic event in American history was a rowing race between Harvard and Yale in 1852.

As for Princeton-Willliams baseball, it wasn't the first time Williams had played the sport against another school. TB emailed the head of athletic communications at Williams, Dick Quinn, who pointed out that Williams and Amherst played baseball in 1859.

The 150th anniversary of the Princeton-Williams game is two days away.

By pure coincidence, Princeton has home men's basketball and football Saturday, which is the 150th anniversary. The men's basketball team plays Incarnate Word at 11 a.m., followed by football against Dartmouth at1.

There is also home squash against F&M (men at noon, women at 2:30) and home women's hockey at 4 against Clarkson.

One ticket gets you into both the football and basketball games. There will also be 150th anniversary promotions and giveaways, including t-shirts commemorating the event. And of course, there is the Tiger Athletics Give Day coming up Dec. 2.

TigerBlog can't remember a day when Princeton had home men's basketball and football on the same day. Maybe it's happened before in a day/night situation - though TB cannot remember it off the top of his head - but this has to be the first time it's gone one right after the other.

It should be a pretty good day of athletics at Princeton. It's also a day of history.

It's easy to dismiss an anniversary like this as not that big a deal. Princeton Athletics started a long time ago. What difference does it make when? What's the big deal between 150 years or 140 or 136 or 152?

Old is old.

But there is something really special about all of this to TigerBlog. Maybe it's the history major in him.

So much has come from Princeton Athletics through the last 150 years. So many incredible people have participated. So many amazing games have been played.

You can use Princeton Athletics to trace the larger history of this country as well, as athletes have gone off to service in the highest levels of government and business - and gone off to fight in wars.

Princeton Athletics itself started during the Civil War. It changed schedules around both World Wars. It was impacted directly by Korea and Vietnam, and it suffered loss on 9/11, while also having great stories of courage and survival emerge from its alums on that day.

Princeton Athletics has had its championships and champions. It's provided an educational vehicle. It's been a leader in college athletics when it's been called for, and it's taken dramatic and difficult stands when those are what have been called for, all while maintaining the highest ethical standards, something that has not always been the case throughout intercollegiate sports.

It's provided entertainment. It's given little kids role models. It's provided the single-best connection between an army of loyal alums and a great University. It's given so many other great people careers in coaching and administration.

And all of this began 150 years ago Saturday, and so many people have been touched by Princeton Athletics in so many great ways ever since.

TigerBlog is lucky to have been one of them.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014

On Dreams Coming True

TigerBlog Jr. didn't sleep for one minute on his first night home from the hospital. Not one minute. Cried the whole time. All the way until 5 a.m.

TigerBlog, who hardly knew what to do with a baby, had never been so panicked. He had no clue what to do as the hours dragged by, baby crying, no end in sight, no sense of what the problem was.

Years later, one of TB's coworkers (John Cornell is his name), when told that story, said that the reason the new baby was crying was because TigerBlog had put a shortstick in his bassinet when he wanted a goalie stick.

That is not quite true. TigerBlog Jr. didn't have his first lacrosse stick until he was almost an entire year old, not until TigerBlog bought him one of those little, little kids sticks at Princeton's 1998 game at Hobart. TB has a picture of TBJ as he sat on a beach as a baby, clinging to the stick with one hand and holding the ball with the other.

TigerBlog Jr.'s first Princeton attire was a No. 10 Tiger basketball t-shirt, No. 10 at the time having belonged to Brian Earl. The first Princeton game he went to was a football game - again, TB has a picture of that moment.

Lacrosse, though, has always been TigerBlog Jr.'s favorite.

And it was always TigerBlog's dream that his son would grow up to play lacrosse at Princeton. TigerBlog knows now that his dream will not come true - but it's okay. TigerBlog has learned something about dreams, for both parents and children.

TigerBlog has never seen anyone love to do anything as much as his son loves to play lacrosse. He has said this a billion times - he could not have pushed his son into playing the sport if it wasn't something his son wanted. And want it? TBJ loves it. From the first time he ever started to play, he played - and practiced - very, very hard, with a joy and passion that can't help but be noticed. 

TBJ first started to play lacrosse in second grade. By then he already referred to Princeton's then-head coach of men's lacrosse Bill Tierney as "my friend Bill." He'd already been to the NCAA lacrosse Final Four. He'd already traded his little fiddlestick for a real lacrosse stick and had started down the path of his favorite pastime - throwing a ball against the garage door.

When TB registered his son for lacrosse in second grade, he was asked if knew anything about the sport. He mentioned his involvement with Princeton, and he was subsequently asked if he wouldn't mind running the brand-new first/second grade program.

And so he did. He took the 60 boys and organized them into four teams - Princeton, Syracuse, Johns Hopkins and Virginia. For one hour per week, he would split a field into two half-fields and have two of the teams play a mini-game with no goalies while the other two teams did drills. After a half-hour, he'd switch.

At the end of the season, TB's first and second grade brigade challenged the third-graders to a game. This time, though, his team needed a goalie. When he asked for a volunteer, only one hand went up - TBJ's.

Since then, TBJ has been a lacrosse goalie.

And lacrosse has been the biggest bond between father and son.

It was lacrosse that brought them together for hours and hours and hours, driving to Princeton games, to TBJ's games, to camps, to summer tournaments. TigerBlog coached his son for seven springs. He took him to countless Princeton games. He took him to every NCAA championship weekend to help work on the stat crew.

More than just the on-field part of the sport, lacrosse gave father and son a chance to learn about each other, to grow closer together in all aspects of life, to share time and experiences that shaped both of them and that neither will ever forget.

The sport also opened up to TBJ so many great experiences and so many great friendships, with the kids he played with in the spring and then on his summer club team and finally in high school. TigerBlog has picture after picture of these same kids, as they grew from little boys in oversized equipment to serious lacrosse players.

And good ones.

TB figured that of all these kids, if one of them played Division I lacrosse then that would be a lot. What he didn't realize was that his son had stumbled onto one of the most fertile parts of the country for lacrosse players, Southeastern Pennsylvania.

As it turns out, almost all of them are going to play in college. TigerBlog can count more than 30 current or former teammates of TigerBlog Jr.'s who are already playing or are going to play in college.

TigerBlog Jr.? Let him come here to Princeton. Let him play lacrosse. How perfect would that be? A dream come true.

A father's dream come true, anyway. TigerBlog had visions of his son at freshman athlete orientation, at the senior banquet - and every step in between. He wondered what he'd write his senior thesis on. He wondered what it would be like to come to work every day while his son was a student here.

For awhile, TBJ was in on it. He thought it was his birthright to play lacrosse at Princeton. Why wouldn't he? Almost every role model he had was a Princeton athlete, and the ones he knew best were lacrosse players. Why wouldn't he think he'd simply end up here. They all did. How hard could it be?

Last week TigerBlog Jr. signed a National Letter of Intent to play Division I lacrosse at Sacred Heart University, a Northeast Conference school, not an Ivy League school. TigerBlog actually was taken aback as he realized that after the years he's worked in college athletics, this was the first time he'd seen an actual Letter of Intent.

TigerBlog's dream is not coming true. As he said before, it's okay. Hey, there's still Miss TigerBlog, right?

As for TigerBlog Jr., it's his dream that matters. His dream was to play lacrosse in college - Division I lacrosse - and he's achieved that.

The Sacred Heart coach is named Jon Basti, who first coached TBJ at Princeton's summer camp a long, long time ago, back when Tierney let TBJ come even though he was well below the minimum age range for the camp.

TBJ is excited about the next step in his life. TigerBlog? He is too. 

First, he's happy for his son. Second, it's heart-warming to know that his child has worked his whole life towards a singular goal and it has come to be for him.

Now it's on TBJ to shape his college experience and his life beyond that.

No, it won't be as a Princetonian. It'll be as a Pioneer. And that's great.

But he'd never have gotten there without the help of a lot of Princetonians. Former players like Trevor Tierney and Jason Doneger and Ryan Boyle and Jared Keating and Peter Trombino and Tyler Fiorito and Chad Wiedmaier and Tom Schreiber and so many others who were so encouraging to him. Current players like Ryan Ambler and Will Rotatori and Bear Altemus and Jake Froccaro and Austin deButts and Justin Murphy.

And the former assistant coaches. Stephen Brundage, Mike Podgajny, Greg Raymond, Sean Nadelen.

And, more than anyone else, David Metzbower and the two head coaches at Princeton in his lifetime - Tierney and Chris Bates. Tierney, a young boy's hero. Bates, who taught that same boy invaluable lessons about lacrosse and life as he got a little older.

All of them gave him their time and helped him develop as a player and a person, and all of them helped bring him to where he is now.

As for his father? He spent hours shooting on his son in the backyard, first with tennis balls and then actual lacrosse balls. They had contests to see if he could score more than his son could save. They lost balls in poison ivy. They shot balls onto the neighbor's lawn. They knocked balls off the house.

And they did this for hours. For years.

Lacrosse, more than anything else, brought them together.

In the end, it wasn't to be Princeton lacrosse that they would share once he got to college. In the end, TigerBlog realizes, that dream wasn't the big deal.

The journey was.

The journey of a boy to a man, with a father proudly watching, helping, marveling, guiding - and the great sport of lacrosse bringing them together.

TigerBlog? He couldn't be happier.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Uninvited

TigerBlog should have taken the buffering as a bad omen.

He clicked on the link for the videostream of the NCAA men's soccer selection show, and it just kept buffering. Every now and then it would stop, briefly, and revealing a team or two or a piece of the bracket.

TigerBlog was sure he'd missed most of the teams. He was also, for some reason, pretty sure it wouldn't have mattered anyway, because he didn't think Princeton was going to see its name called.

TB was in his office on the Jadwin Gym mezzanine. Down on C level of Jadwin, near the squash offices, the men's soccer team had gathered hoping that its 11-3-3 record, 5-1-1 Ivy record, league co-championship and nine game unbeaten streak would have been enough for an at-large bid.

In the end, it wasn't.

It had to be a crushing moment for the team, who apparently had to deal with the same buffering. They got to the Zanfrini Room with such high hopes and left knowing that their season had ended, without getting a chance to participate in the NCAA tournament.

TigerBlog was at Roberts Stadium on Oct. 4 when Dartmouth scored in overtime to beat the Tigers 2-1. The game-winning goal, three minutes into the first overtime, came on a free kick about halfway between the sideline and the box, not far off the end line. The kick was perfectly placed, and there was nothing anyone could have done about the resulting header.

It was one of those moments were everyone froze, because it wouldn't have mattered anyway, because the set up and finish were too perfect.

That was Oct. 4. The loss dropped Princeton to 3-3-2, 0-1-0 in the Ivy League. It would be one month and 13 days later that the Tigers gathered in the Zanfrini Room for the selection show.

They did not lose again in the interim.

Princeton lost its opener 3-2 against an FDU team that went 4-12-2. It was Princeton's first game and FDU's third, and the Tigers led 2-0 before falling in the end. It was sort of what's expected for an Ivy team that is playing catch-up in game conditioning.

Princeton's only other loss was 3-1 to Georgetown on Sept. 17. Georgetown now finds itself as the No. 8 seed in the NCAA tournament.

TigerBlog is not an expert on the NCAA selections for men's soccer. He has no idea if Princeton deserved a spot or not in terms of criteria or anything like that.

He does know that what Princeton did from the loss on Oct. 4 through the disappointment of the selection show was impressive, and not easy to accomplish.

Princeton came all the way back from that loss to Dartmouth to tie the Big Green for the Ivy title. For about 11 minutes Saturday, after Princeton had beaten Yale, there was a hope for an outright championship. Then Dartmouth scored in the 11th minute against Brown and then tacked on two more, and well, that was that.

Princeton couldn't get the automatic bid if it tied Dartmouth, all because of that one game on Oct. 4.

TigerBlog is vehemently anti-Ivy League basketball tournament because he likes the idea that the best team emerges over the course of a 14-game league schedule. He doesn't want to see a team rewarded for getting hot in a tournament and stealing in three days what another team earned in two months.

But he loves the Ivy lacrosse tournament. What's the difference? There are two.

One, basketball is double round-robin. Over 14 games, the best team emerges. Over seven games (or six in men's lacrosse), the difference isn't as pronounced.

Two, in basketball, there is no tiebreaker to determine the automatic bid. If there's a tie, then there's a one-game playoff for the bid.

The only thing that separated Princeton from Dartmouth was a goal on a free kick in an overtime. Princeton paid a huge price for that.

TB would love to see soccer and field hockey add the same four-team tournaments that lacrosse currently has. To do so, of course, the league teams would have to be okay with giving up a regular-season game, and TB has no idea what the league coaches in those sports think about a tournament.

Back when TigerBlog used to work in the newspaper business, every time one of the local teams made it pretty far in a state tournament or in a national tournament for baseball or softball or something like that, when the team finally lost, the requisite "they did great; they have nothing to be ashamed of" story would get written. It was like clockwork.

On the college level, those kinds of sentiments don't really apply. 

In this case, the story of the 2014 Princeton men's soccer team won't include an NCAA tournament bid. On the other hand, maybe that's okay.

The 2009 and 2010 Princeton teams reached the NCAA tournament and lost in the first round. Maybe that disappointment overrides everything else that happened that year. In 2010 Princeton went 7-0-0 in the league; do the players remember that more or the NCAA loss?

For the 2014 Tigers, there will be the disappointment of not getting into the tournament, but that will fade.

The memory of everything else that happened this year will be too strong.

Ivy League champs. A great run to end the year. Unbeaten after Oct. 4. It's possible no other team in the country will be able to make that claim.

Would it have been great to keep playing this week? Definitely.

Does that detract from what this team accomplished? No, not at all.

It was a great season, filled with great moments.

To the 2014 Princeton men's soccer team TigerBlog says congratulations on a job well done.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Another Weekend, Another Title

TigerBlog is jealous.

He found out that ESPN was going to be doing its awesome pregame show - College Game Day - from Harvard Saturday before the Harvard-Yale game and was jealous.

Yes, it's great exposure for the league. No, it doesn't involve Princeton - and therefore TB is jealous.

He goes through this all the time. Princeton competes against seven other schools in all these sports all the time, and of course a huge part of being in college athletics is to win.

And these schools are Princeton's rivals. So when something good outside of the league - like in NCAA competition - or something like the College Game Day event comes to one of the other campuses, what is the natural reaction?

To be happy for a league partner? To be annoyed that it's not Princeton?

In this case, it's definitely jealousy. How cool would it be to have College Game Day at Princeton?

Oh well. Another time.

TB also hopes that the College Game Day people don't fall back into the stereotyping of Ivy League that so often happens. People like you know what Ivy League sports are all about, how serious they are, how well the teams do outside the league.

When outsiders, as it were, come along, they know very little about just how strong Ivy League teams are. They tend to fall back to the stereotypes - nerdy kids, sports that aren't that serious, all that stuff, everybody's smart, that kind of stuff.

The ESPN presence will come before the kickoff between Harvard and Yale. Had Princeton been able to beat Yale Saturday, then it's unlikely the show would be in Cambridge.

Now, heading into the final weekend of Ivy football - boy, does that season fly by - Harvard is unbeaten, while Yale and Dartmouth have one loss each. Princeton has two.

As a result, Princeton cannot win a share of the championship, but Yale and Dartmouth can. Yale needs to beat Harvard, and that would be a co-championship. Dartmouth would get in on it by having Yale win and by having Dartmouth win in its final game, which just happens to be here Saturday.

Should Harvard win, it'll all be over anyway.

TigerBlog's focus this weekend was on Princeton's game at Yale, but not as much the football one as the men's soccer game.

Princeton went into the final weekend of Ivy men's soccer tied with Dartmouth for first place and needing only a win over Yale, who was 0-5-1 in the league and 1-12-3 overall to get at least a share of the league crown. Of course, as TB said last week, Yale had played 13 one-goal or tied games.

And now that number is 14. Princeton, using yet another Cameron Porter goal, escaped New Haven with a 1-0 win. As a result, Princeton earned at least a share of the Ivy League title.

If you're keeping track, that's three straight weekends with one Ivy championship, after men's cross country two weeks ago and field hockey last week. That's not too bad.

It was an emotional game for Yale, whose coach, Brian Tompkins, was in his final game with the program after 19 years. Yale desperately wanted to win, and it was not an easy one for the Tigers.

When it was over, there was hope that Brown could beat or tie Dartmouth and give Princeton the outright championship. TigerBlog wrote that in his story and then had to go back and update it one way or another.

At the World Cup (TigerBlog's two main focuses in soccer are the World Cup and the Ivy League), the last group matches all start at the same time, so nobody can do any scoreboard watching. In the Ivy League, Princeton's game ended just as Dartmouth's was starting.

Unfortunately, it was not to be. Dartmouth scored in the 11th minute (TB probably could have updated his story right there) and then added two more in the second half for a 3-0 win.

As a result, Dartmouth ties Princeton for the championship and gets the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

Princeton now waits for the NCAA selection show this afternoon at 1 on ncaasports.com. Princeton is right on the bubble, one way or another, but TigerBlog is optimistic that the Tigers will be rewarded for their 11-3-3 season, challenging schedule and 8-0-1 record in its last nine.

He and they will find out at 1.

Elsewhere this weekend, the women's hockey team won two overtime games against teams who are last place in the ECAC. Another way to say that is that Princeton swept its league weekend, and style points don't matter.

The cross country teams did well at the NCAA regionals, but only Megan Curham qualified for the national championships. The women's basketball team swept two games in Pittsburgh; the men split, winning at home against Rider and losing at George Mason.

Women's volleyball finished third in the Ivy League (Harvard and Yale tied for the title). The men's hockey team was swept on the road. The field hockey team was eliminated in the NCAA tournament.

Was it a good weekend?

Any weekend with an Ivy title is a good one, TB supposes.

He's really happy for Jim Barlow and his team. A great deal was made about how the football team went from 1-9 and 1-9 to an Ivy title.

The seniors on the men's soccer team were 1-5-1 in the league as freshmen. Now? Ivy champs.

Is the season over?

TigerBlog hopes not.


Friday, November 14, 2014

Is It Fall Or Winter?

TigerBlog wore shorts Wednesday. Then it snowed yesterday.

What's going on around here?

It was a perfect 65 degrees Wednesday evening. There was snow sticking to the grass last night.

Is it fall? Is it winter?

Well, it's basically both. At least if you look at a busy, busy Princeton sports calendar.

Basketball season opens today. Football has a huge game tomorrow. And then there's everything else.

There are 18 athletic events between today at Sunday, featuring 13 different teams (if TigerBlog is counting right). The breakdown by season - six fall (football, women's volleyball, field hockey, men's soccer, men's cross country, women's cross country) and seven winter (m/w basketball, m/w hockey, m/w fencing, wrestling).

Obviously the biggest games involve the fall teams. The winter ones are just getting started.

Do any of the fall teams control their own destiny? No. Nobody controls destiny. Destiny is something that just happens. That's why it's destined. 

Anyway here are some of the highlights:

* Men's Soccer 

Princeton enters the last day of the regular season tied for first in the league with Dartmouth. Princeton is at Yale at 3; Dartmouth hosts Brown at 5. Harvard, who is at Penn at 7, will still be in the mix if both Princeton and Dartmouth lose.

Basically, here's how it goes.

Dartmouth controls its outcome - not destiny. A win and the Big Green get no worse than a share of the league title and the league's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

Princeton would get a share of the championship with a win, but it needs a win and a Dartmouth loss or tie to get the NCAA tournament bid. There can be a two-tie for the championship with Harvard and Princeton, Harvard and Dartmouth or Princeton and Dartmouth or a three-way tie between all three. Princeton gets the automatic bid only with an outright championship or a tie with Harvard.

Princeton and Dartmouth have 13 points. Harvard has 11. Princeton has beaten Harvard and lost to Dartmouth. Harvard and Dartmouth tied. You get three points for a win and one for a tie.

Do the math.

* Football

Princeton is at Yale at 12:30 in a match-up of teams who are tied for second, along with Dartmouth, at 4-1, a game behind Harvard. Dartmouth is home with Brown, and Harvard is at Penn. It's just like soccer.

Next week's schedule has Princeton home with Dartmouth and Yale at Harvard.

If Harvard wins out, then the Crimson will win the outright title. Should Harvard lose, then the door is open for a co-championship.

The problem for Princeton is that the only way Yale can go into the game against Harvard with a shot at the championship - assuming a Harvard win over Penn - is to beat Princeton. While this would give Yale maximum motivation for the game against Harvard, it would also eliminate Princeton. On the other hand, since the game against Harvard is The Game against Harvard, maybe motivation won't be an issue no matter what happens.

Yale leads the Ivy League with 343 points scored, on a pace for 429 points for the season. Princeton set the Ivy record a year ago with 437.

* Field hockey 

Princeton finds itself where it traditionally does, in the NCAA tournament.

Two years ago Princeton defeated Maryland in the semifinals and then North Carolina in the championship game. Last year Princeton was eliminated by Maryland in the quarterfinal.

This year, after Princeton won another outright Ivy League championship and then defeated Monmouth in the play-in game Wednesday (when it was sunny and close to 70, by the way), the Tigers find themselves at Maryland in the first round.

The Terrapins defeated Princeton 8-1 during the regular season in the only game the Tigers played that really got away from them. Princeton, as always, played a brutal non-league schedule, and only the Maryland game was more than one or two goals.

* Women's basketball

The Tigers are preseason co-favorites in the Ivy League, along with Penn. Princeton ends the regular season at Penn on March 10, which is about four months from now.

Princeton is on the western side of the state right now, as Princeton is at Pittsburgh to open its season today at 11. The Tigers will then play Duquesne Sunday morning.

* Ben Badua's weekend

Ben Badua is the field hockey and women's basketball contact in the Office of Athletic Communications.  This is what his weekend is like:

He's currently in Pittsburgh for the women's basketball game. Then he's going to rent a car and drive to Maryland for field hockey tomorrow morning, before driving back to Pittsburgh for the Duquesne game. Then it's back on the bus to get home.

* Cross-country regional

Princeton competes today in the NCAA Mid-Atlantic Regional at Penn State. The women run at noon in a 6K; the men are at 1 in a 10K.

The top two teams in each race automatically advance to the Nov. 22 NCAA championships in Terre Haute, Ind. There will also be at-large bids awarded, based on a point system that TB doesn't even pretend to understand.

In addition, the top four runners from teams that do not qualify will also get spots in the NCAA championship field.

Princeton is ranked fourth in the region for both the men and women.

* Women's hockey

Princeton is home this weekend for games against Union tonight at 7 and RPI tomorrow at 4. Both opponents are 1-8-2.

The Tigers received a vote in the USCHO Top 10 poll this week and are 4-1-1. Princeton hasn't allowed a goal in its last 104:32, all of which was last week against RIT, including a 0-0 tie last Saturday.

Princeton is 20-1-1 all-time against Union, though 0-1-0 in the last one game of the series. Union defeated Princeton 2-1 in the last meeting between the two.

* Men's basketball
 
Princeton opens its season against Rider tonight at 7 on Carril Court at Jadwin Gym. It's not exactly a long bus ride for the Broncs, whose campus is about six miles down Route 206. 

Of course, that little fact didn't mean the teams were frequent dance partners through the years. In fact, there was a small gap in there were the two had nothing to do with each other.

The gap began on Dec. 11, 1946, when Cappy Cappon led the Tigers to a 59-37 win. And who was the Princeton coach when the teams next played?

John Thompson. That would have been on Nov. 28, 2001. In other words, it was about 55 years between games.

Why? It never made sense to TigerBlog. In fact they've only played three times since, including in 2011-12 and 2012-13, though not last year.

Thursday, November 13, 2014

The Passing Of A Man Of Unflinching Courage

TigerBlog was saddened to learn of the death yesterday of John Doar, Class of 1944.

It has been TigerBlog's great privilege to meet so many incredible people during his time at Princeton. He has shaken the hand of two sitting U.S. Presidents (Bill Clinton, George W. Bush) and met U.S. Senators, Congressmen and Governors. He has met business leaders and media megastars. He has met entrepreneurs and philanthropists. He has met authors, coaches, athletes, intelligence leaders, soldiers.

Of anyone he has met at Princeton, nobody has impressed him more than John Doar did.

When TB first came to Princeton, he'd never even heard of John Doar, which is unfathomable as he looks back on it, since TigerBlog was a U.S. history major at Penn and John Doar was one of the towering figures of 20th century American history, specifically the Civil Rights Movement.

TB actually joked with Mr. Doar once about that, how he'd never heard of him, how his name managed to somehow escape the many classes he'd taken at Penn that should have talked about him in depth. And Mr. Doar's response? He wondered why anyone would make a fuss about him.

Well, the answer is simple. He was a man of unflinching courage who made a direct impact on this country and who helped so, so many people who never knew what he did for them.

Doar was a Minnesotan who came to Princeton and was a basketball player here. After that he went to Cal Law School and then practiced before joining the Civil Rights Division at the Justice Department. While there, he led the way in integrating the South, either through the legal process or, if necessary, staring down angry mobs who thought they were going to intimidate him or prevent him from doing what he knew was right.

When James Meredith integrated the University of Mississippi on Oct. 1, 1962, there was John Doar, next to him in the iconic picture. It took extraordinary grit to do what he did, and he was a man of extraordinary grit.

TigerBlog wrote about him often. He nominated him for the NCAA Inspiration Award, an award Doar would win. And what did he do? He wrote TigerBlog a hand-written card - in pencil, no less - thanking him for nominating him.

Here are a few times TB wrote about Doar:

The White Man In The Picture
John Doar and John Carlos
A Thursday With Mr. Doar

Finally, TigerBlog would like to let Howard Levy, Princeton Class of 1985, Princeton's career leader in field goal percentage in men's basketball, longtime assistant basketball coach here and now the head coach at Mercer County Community College, as well as a lawyer, to have the final words here today on John Doar.

So before that, TB would like to say rest in peace John Doar. And thanks for everything you did.

And now, some thoughts from Howard Levy:

I met Robert Doar ’83 when I was a freshman in 1981. Back then he was called Bobby or BD. He played JV basketball his first two years and was brought up to the varsity because of his tenacity — Coach Carril once addressed our entire team and said that “none of you can even be a  pimple on Bobby Doar’s ass.” Through Bobby and his younger brother Burke ’86, also a JV hoop player, we learned about and got to meet his father, John Doar, who passed away this week at 92.

I knew about the Neshoba County murders from a TV movie I saw as a kid, and someone in high school told me that the refrain from American Pie (“drove my Chevy to the levy. . . ’’) was about this, so as soon as I heard Mr. Doar was the guy that convicted those “good ol’ boys drinking whiskey and rye,’’ I was a Doar groupie. Then I learned that Bobby was named after Robert Kennedy and Burke was named after Burke Marshall. And he was counsel to the House Impeachment Committee going after Nixon. Wow!  I didn’t learn until later that one of his first hires there was a young attorney named Hillary Rodham. (When Mr. Doar was in Princeton in 2013 for the 50th Anniversary Commemoration of the JFK Justice Department, he told me that Bill and Hillary, as Yale Law School students, invited him to give a talk, picked him up in an old car and took him back to the train afterwards.Years later President Clinton told him how meaningful and influential he was to them).

I met Mr. Doar several times at Princeton and worked at his 40th reunion in 1984. My Junior Paper was entitled “The Neshoba County Murders—Impetus for Change in Mississippi?” I can’t remember the grade, but I remember the professor’s main comment—“too much reliance on your interview with John Doar!” Actually, it was almost total reliance. The amazing thing about that was that Mr. Doar gave me many reasons that the government prevailed in that case, and he never mentioned his lawyering as a factor. One can read his closing argument, however, and the value of his lawyering is apparent.

Mr. Doar was the one “great man” that I have known. We stayed in touch over the years through various milestones in the Doar family, and I would make a point to see him when he was in Princeton, whether to give a talk or for a reunion, and I never felt that I was in the presence of a great man, just a very, very good one—humble, smart, caring and hard working.  He got to know my wife and children and was always interested in our lives much more than talking about himself. I’ve always heard that so many “great men” are not “good men” but clearly Mr. Doar was both.

The last time that I saw Mr. Doar was at his 70th reunion last spring.  I picked up Coach Carril and we met him at the hotel and had a great time catching up.  You could see that he was slowing down physically but was still as sharp as ever mentally, proud of his children and grandchildren, one of whom, Andrew is a varsity soccer player at Princeton, and hopeful for the future.

He had a great life.  I will miss him.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

#TAGD

TigerBlog used 10 different calculators, an abacus, pen and paper, his phone and a team of Nobel-winning mathematicians to make sure that 1864 + 150 actually does equal 2014.

The first intercollegiate athletic event in Princeton history was a baseball game against Williams, way back on Nov. 22, 1864. To put that in a bit of context, by the way, Princeton played Williams in a baseball game while the Civil War was going on.

When TB stumbled upon that date, it dawned on him that the 150th anniversary of intercollegiate athletics at Princeton was nearly here - though only if 1864 was 150 years ago. For some reason, it took TB awhile to be comfortable that in fact that's true.

It is, isn't it?

Athletics had always been a part of campus life at Princeton, and there were baseball games against outside teams prior to 1864. The first game against another actual college team, though, was the one against Williams.

Here's a thought TigerBlog has about that game. How in the world did it get scheduled?

Who decided "hey, let's schedule Williams in baseball?" And then how did they go about it?

Somebody here must have known someone there, TB supposes. Then what? A letter? No wonder it took until Nov. 22 to get a baseball game played.

The first football game was played five years later. Princeton vs. Rutgers, Nov. 6, 1869. Everyone knows that.

TB gets how that happened. The schools are 20 miles apart or so.

Princeton and Williams? TB wishes he could get the back story on that one.

Baseball was Princeton's first sport. Football was second.

Before the 1900s, Princeton was competing in intercollegiate athletics in six sports, having added heavyweight rowing in 1872, track and field in 1876, lacrosse in 1882 and golf in 1897.

Basketball, hockey and tennis were next. By 1906, Princeton fielded teams in wrestling, swimming, soccer and cross country. Following next were lightweight rowing (1920), fencing (1925), 150-pound football (now sprint football) and men's squash (both in 1931).

From there, there was a 40-year break. See if you can guess why teams were suddenly added in 1971.

Yes, obviously the answer is that Princeton finally admitted women. Shortly after that, women's teams were added, first in tennis, field hockey, rowing, squash and basketball.

Today, Princeton's athletic department has 38 varsity teams and 1,000 varsity athletes. Scheduling is a bit more modern than TB supposes it was in 1864.

For the record, the most recent is women's lightweight rowing, added in 1998.

The 150th anniversary itself is a week from Saturday, when Princeton hosts Incarnate Word in men's basketball at 11, Dartmouth in football at 1 and Clarkson in women's hockey at 4.

On that day, one ticket will get you into both the men’s basketball and football games; there is free admission to the women’s hockey game. There will be t-shirt giveaways at all three games as well as 150th themed promotions.

The next big event comes up on Dec. 2, when there will be a Give Day of fundraising, which will feature competition among all of Princeton's Friends Groups.

The event is known as "Tiger Athletics Give Day," with the hashtag #TAGD. It even has its own website, which you can access HERE.

TigerBlog is fascinated by the thought of Princeton Athletics in the 1800s. What must it have looked like? What kind of spectacle was it?

And how competitive was it?

What must Princeton-Williams baseball in 1864 have looked like? The final score was Princeton 27, Williams 16.

Clearly the pitching wasn't overwhelming.

From what TigerBlog has read, that game was played on a Thursday afternoon. The weather wasn't favorable, with rain the morning, and it was wet throughout.

After the game, the Williams players were invited to a dinner with the Princeton players. TB has a vision of the incredibly wealthy young men of the day, talking about baseball and the possibility of ending up in the war.

Now it's 150 years later.

Princeton Athletics is going strong. What will it look like in another 150 years? Will the people then wonder what this era looked like? TB doesn't like his chances of being there to find out.

In the meantime, the 150th celebration is coming. Goprincetontigers.com is counting down with a series on the history of each team. The 22nd will be a big day, and then of course comes the Give Day.

As the campaign says, it's a great day to be a Tiger.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Saying Goodbye

The single most competitive person that TigerBlog has ever met has coached her final game at Princeton University.

It's hard for TigerBlog to think about Princeton women's soccer without Julie Shackford, just as it was hard once for him to imagine Princeton men's basketball without Pete Carril or Princeton men's lacrosse without Bill Tierney.

For 20 years, she was the face of the program. And what a run she had with the Tigers.

Her record at Princeton was 203-115-29, meaning that she averaged more than 10 wins per season at a program that averaged 7.7 in the 15 years before her arrival. She went 42-21-4 at Carnegie Mellon before coming to Princeton; Carnegie Mellon didn't have a program before she started one.

To put that in historical context, she is one of only five coaches in Ivy League history - three men's, two women's - to reach 200 wins. 

She led Princeton to six Ivy League championships and eight NCAA tournament appearances. No other Ivy League coach has ever taken a women's soccer team to the NCAA tournament more times.

Her 2004 season was her best, as she took Princeton to the NCAA Final Four, something no other Ivy women's soccer coach has ever done. She was the Division I coach of the year that year as well.

In 2012 she led Princeton to another 7-0-0 league record, making her one of two coaches to have done so twice. She was the regional coach of the year in 2012 - her third such honor - after Princeton won an away NCAA tournament game for the first time in program history, at West Virginia.

Her 2004 Final Four run featured four NCAA wins, all at home. The quarterfinal game was against Washington on a very cold night, when 2,504 fans packed into antiquated Lourie-Love Field.

Today, Princeton soccer plays on beautiful Myslik Field at Roberts Stadium. It's part of Shackford's legacy, the momentum for the new facility having grown from that Final Four run.

When it came to coaching at Princeton, she was demanding. Strong-willed. Fierce. Intense.

TB once heard her scold her team for playing soft, yelling this at them: "You're playing like girls out there. You need to be women."

The second he heard her say that, TB was immediately struck by it, by how perfectly it sums her up.  Don't play like men. Play like women. Strong women. Because women can do anything, on their terms.

And an army of women who came through Princeton benefited. And as a result, they stayed loyal. Very loyal.

Year after year they came back, to watch, to support the current team, to continue to share their lives with each other and with the woman who had coached them.



They were there Saturday night, when Shackford - they all call her "Shacks" - finally had coached her last game. And now they were at a reception for her in the Frick chemistry building, there to show one more time just how much she meant to every one of them.

To be a Division I head coach for 20 years is not easy. You think you know the toll it takes, but you don't - not unless you see it up close, first hand.

TigerBlog knows. He's had great relationships with so many Princeton coaches, but he'll never be as close to any of them as he was to Julie Shackford. He helped her raise her kids - Kayleigh, Cameron and Keegan - from the time they were in diapers.

He was with her long enough to see what her life as the Princeton women's soccer coach was really, truly like. What the wins were like. How long it took her to get past each and every loss.

Why didn't she recruit this kid? Why didn't she play that kid more, the other kid less?

When you're the head coach, it falls to you to make the biggest decisions about the program. It's not easy. And then your record is so public. Either you won, or you lost.

It wears you out. It's why coaches get burned out.

If you go to a game and the team you're rooting for loses, it stinks a little. Then you go home and go about your day and hey, there are other things that take your attention.

When you're the head coach? No. It consumes you. Overwhelms you. The highs, and the lows. TigerBlog saw it from Julie Shackford so many times, for so many years.

To be able to do that for 20 years? It's way, way more impressive than you realize.

How did she do that? Like TB said, she is the single most competitive person he has ever met. She competed with him in anything she could - ping pong, beach soccer, the jumbles, crossword puzzles song lyrics, basketball in the street, anything. TB can't even write those without thinking back to them and laughing.

Now she is leaving, moving to Virginia and getting married. It's time for the next chapter in her life. TB is happy for his former partner.

She's earned it.

She spent 20 years here living a tough life, one that plays with every emotion a person has. One that requires you to constantly be accountable, often for things out of your control, like a shot that hits a crossbar or a ref who calls a penalty kick or a poorly timed pulled hamstring - or any number of other things.

You're responsible for some pretty formative years for your players, and it's impossible to underestimate how important that relationship can be.

It makes for sleepless nights. It makes for twisted emotions.

It takes a special person to do it.

And that's what Julie Shackford is.

And now that special person is moving on.

Like TB said, she's earned it - and he's happy for her. 

Monday, November 10, 2014

A Fairly Full Weekend

Let's see.

TigerBlog went to four Princeton athletic events over the weekend. He watched others on the videostream. He followed Twitter to get updates.

He announced. He wrote. He did stats.

It was a fairly full weekend. Of course it was. How could it not be, what with nine different teams who played on campus.

TigerBlog saw four of them live - men's water polo, women's hockey, men's hockey and football. He watched the women's soccer and men's soccer games on videostream. He kept track of Twitter updates for field hockey, sprint football and women's volleyball.

He actually saw a little of the women's hockey game Friday against RIT live. It was 3-0 Tigers - the RIT Tigers - when TB got there and when he left. Then he went to the pool for a little bit of men's water polo. He got back to his office to see the end of the women's hockey comebck on the videostream, including Morgan Sly's pretty overtime goal to win it.

He then had to help out doing stats at men's hockey against Cornell. This is something that TigerBlog has a demonstrated record of doing poorly.

Lacrosse? He can do that all by himself. He doesn't even need a spotter. Hockey is another story.

TB had what would appear to be the easiest job, doing the shot chart. All he had to do was write down the number of the player on each team who took a shot and where on the ice they were. If the shot was a save, he had to underline it twice. A blocked shot was underlined once. A shot that went wide was left alone. A goal was circled.

TigerBlog failed this miserably. First, because he was sitting in the press box at Baker Rink, he was at above and behind one goal. The paper with the chart, of course, had the goals to his left and right, as if he was sitting at center ice.

As a result, he couldn't figure out his left from his right on the chart without turning the paper 90 degrees. And then he couldn't keep straight which side was Cornell and which side was Princeton.

If he kept the paper turned to replicate the ice, then the numbers he wrote down would also be off by 90 degrees.

It was very stressful.

On the other hand, Colton Phinney had a great 40-save performance, with a few "wow" saves, as Princeton won the game 2-1. The Tigers were up 1-0 early, as in 3:14 in, on a goal by Aaron Ave. TigerBlog's shot chart had him shooting it in the other goal, by the way.

The next time either team scored was 56:01 later, when Garrett Skrbich scored into an empty net. Game over, right? Not exactly. Cornell scored with 16 seconds left to keep it interesting, but that would be it.

As for Saturday, he kept checking Twitter for the field hockey score, and Princeton won that one 4-3. By then, Columbia had lost 4-1 to Harvard.

It was the one scenario that would bring Princeton an outright Ivy title and the league's bid to the NCAA tournament. And it worked out perfectly.

Princeton, the Ivy field hockey champ for the 20th time in 21 years, is going to be a tough out come NCAA tournament time.

Then it was time to do PA at football.

The game dragged for nearly 3.5 hours, with 16 TV timeouts and 98 passes. And it wasn't exactly the most artistic game for much of it.

Still, it was exactly what Princeton needed. A win. And so here is where the Tigers are: tied with Yale and Dartmouth - its last two opponents - for second, one game back of Harvard, who play Penn and Yale.

The Tigers need two wins and at least one Harvard loss, but at least they still have a chance. A loss to Penn would have basically ended that hope.

After that, TB watched the second half of men's soccer on the videostream. Princeton was up 3-2 at the half, and that's how it ended.

Dartmouth defeated Columbia, meaning that Princeton and Dartmouth are still tied for first at 4-1-1, with 13 points. Princeton is at Yale (0-5-1); Dartmouth hosts Brown (2-2-2).

Princeton would lose the tiebreaker for the NCAA bid to Dartmouth because of the OT loss on Myslik Field at Roberts Stadium earlier this season. But Princeton also is right in the mix for an at-large NCAA bid either way, and a win over Yale means no worse than a share of the Ivy title.

And with that, TB was able to exhale.

These are the kinds of weekends that TB loves. Lots of teams. Lots of games. Lots to do.

This one was a pretty good one.