Wednesday, July 6, 2022

Director of Athletics Allison Rich

NEW HAMPSHIRE RELEASE ANNOUNCING THE HIRING OF ALLISON RICH AS DIRECTOR OF ATHLETICS

There have been six Directors of Athletics at Princeton since the position was first held by Ken Fairman, back in 1941.

That's it. Just six.

Those six people grew the athletic program from where it was in the 1940s, when it was an all male school and where the Ivy League was still a decade away, to where it is now, which is to say a model for what college athletics should be. As TigerBlog wrote yesterday, Princeton had an incredible 2021-22 athletic year, winning 16 league championships and finishing 18th — by far the best by a non-Power Five school — in the Learfield Directors' Cup.

The culture of an athletic program is set by the athletic director. The expectations, the values, the policies — those all start with the person at the top. To that end, all six deserve the credit for what Princeton Athletics is today. From Fairman on, their efforts are all still being felt today in one or another.

At the same time, the ability to have a functioning athletic department requires a great deal of people, and it requires them to be pulling in the same direction. There has been an army of people who have worked to achieve the path the ADs have put forward, and all of those people deserve their credit as well.

There have been way more than six people who have worked on the Princeton Athletics senior staff through the decades. These men and women have complemented the ADs as they have gone about their tasks in areas such as business and finance, compliance, fundraising, external relations, events, programming, facilities and everything else that has needed to be done.

To work at Princeton on that level, you need a few things. First, you need to check your ego at the door. As TB said, these people deserve credit, but they also rarely get publicly recognized. 

Second, you have to buy into what is going on at Princeton and in the Ivy League, especially with the concept of broad-based athletic participation, which translates for the Tigers into 38 varsity teams and 1,000 athletes a year. If you don't, you won't last.

When you have a program as successful as Princeton's, others notice. They also look to bring your people into their own programs.

Look at Ivy League women's basketball, for instance, where three of the other seven schools in the league now have a former Princeton assistant coach as their head coach. 

This extends to the administrative side as well. Princeton Athletics has a long history of having its senior staff members go on to become ADs elsewhere. 

To that list you can now add Allison Rich, who was announced yesterday as the new Director of Athletics at the University of New Hampshire.

Allison is a 1991 Princeton graduate who has spent the last nine years on the department's senior staff, as the head of the compliance efforts and as the Senior Woman Administrator. Her role in the department and the University was much more than just that, though, and she was especially involved in the extensive efforts in Jadwin and across the campus related to student-athlete welfare. 

She has also been a leader on many issues on the national level.

TB can't begin to count the number of games Allison was at during her nine years, and, much like TB, Allison is very much a hybrid between administrator and fan, which took her to a ton of games because she simply wanted to watch.

Allison fits to a "T" what TB said above. There aren't too many others whom TB has worked with who more closely bought into the department vision and values, and she definitely was content to be in the background doing the important work she did, with direct results on the two most important areas there are in an athletic department: student-athlete experience and student-athlete wellness.

Now she heads to New Hampshire, a member of the America East Conference for most of its 18 sports, though also a member of Hockey East.

TB knows that Allison never looked at her time at Princeton as a prerequisite for moving on to her next job, and he's pretty sure she's cherished the last nine years and always will.

She made a real impact on the department, and more importantly, on the student-athletes themselves. TB wishes Allison all of the best as she moves from being a Tiger to a Wildcat.

Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Finishing 18th

2021-22 Learfield Directors' Cup final standings

TigerBlog hopes you had a fun and safe Fourth of July weekend.

Did you see any fireworks? Beach? Barbecue? 

Did you watch "Yankee Doodle Dandy?" If you missed the latter, here it is again:

That clip is TB's favorite part of the Fourth of July. Here's one thing that TB just can't get into: the hot dog eating contest. Just the thought of it makes him queasy.  

Now that the Fourth is over, today is more about the 18th. Not the date of the 18th. The 18th, as in an 18th-place finish.

The official final standings for the 2021-22 Learfield Directors' Cup were announced at the end of last week, and Princeton finished in 18th place (not to brag or anything, but TB said Princeton would finish 18th after the baseball points were awarded when he wrote about the Cup two weeks ago). 

By the way, this is Princeton's best finish ever, beating the 21st-place finish of the 2001-02 academic year. 

In case you're wondering what the Directors' Cup is, it's a competition to determine the best overall collegiate athletic programs in all of the divisions. Schools are assigned points based on NCAA championship qualification and success, and the team with the most points wins.

The Division I winner this year was Texas, which was nearly 100 points ahead of Stanford, who has won the Cup all but three times. If you look at the 17 schools ahead of Princeton, the breakdown by conference is this:

* five SEC
* five ACC
* three Pac 12
* two Big 12
* two Big Ten

Those affiliations are, as an aside, where the schools are today. In the current climate, who knows where they will be tomorrow.

The schools who finished directly behind Princeton are Georgia, Ole Miss, Duke, Alabama and Oklahoma State. You have to go down to BYU in 29th place to find another non-Power Five school other than Princeton.

And remember, Princeton only scored points in 16 sports, as opposed to the maximum 19, because points are scored in men's and women's basketball, baseball, volleyball and then your next 15 best finishes.

It's even more extraordinary to do this one year after having only a handful of competitions due to the pandemic. What it really speaks to is the remarkable job that Princeton's coaches and athletes did of maintaining their team chemistries and cultures during the year away. It speaks to the self-motivation of the athletes, who were literally spread around the country and the world and yet still managed to train and practice as much as possible.

Once everyone reconvened back on campus, there were two full classes of athletes who had never played as Tigers and another class for spring sports that had barely any experience. With all of these newcomers and all of this uncertainty, it would have been easy to excuse the teams for not being at their best for the 2021-22 season.

But nope. Princeton came storming back, and the Directors' Cup results prove that. 

Think about it. You're a coach of a team that has been sidelined for more than a year. You have some players who were on campus in the spring of 2021. You have others who withdrew for a year. Then you have a whole contingent who are brand-new to what you're doing on a day-to-day basis, how practices are run, what expectations there are. In addition, they hardly know anyone and you hardly know them.

You can debate all you want about whether or not the 2021-22 athletic year at Princeton was its greatest ever.  It's not debatable that the challenges that were faced by coaches and athletes this year were so unique that there was no precedent to draw from. Everyone had to figure it out as they went along. Despite that, it was a year of incredible success.

Also, this is all about points from NCAA competition. It's not about how many conference championships you won (Princeton won 16 of those, with 13 Ivy titles and three from non-Ivy sports). 

In other words, you have to get to the postseason and then compete with all of the best, most fully funded athletic programs there are. To finish 18th? It's simply extraordinary.

Friday, July 1, 2022

Happy First Of July

It's the First of July, soon to be followed by the Fourth of July weekend.

In honor of such, TigerBlog offers you one of his absolute favorite songs by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band (a song with "Fourth of July" in the title):

Is that enough for the Friday before the big summer holiday weekend? Not quite. There's also these little snippets:

* TigerBlog walked into Jadwin Gym Wednesday afternoon and heard the sound of a bouncing basketball. When he looked, he saw the person doing the bouncing is a former Princeton two-sport athlete and Roper Trophy winner who is in two Halls of Fame.

Who is it? Hint - basketball wasn't one of the sports he played. 

The answer is Matt Striebel, who played soccer and lacrosse at Princeton (and if TB is remembering correctly, Striebel scored a goal in the NCAA tournament for both sports). He was a member of the 1998 and 2001 NCAA championship men's lacrosse teams at Princeton, and he then went on to a long career as a professional and international player that resulted in multiple championships.

In fact, Striebel is widely considered to be one of the best midfielders of all time. He's in the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame and recently was part of the 11-member inaugural Premier Lacrosse League Hall of Fame for professional lacrosse.

Striebel is in his 40s now, but he's still very much the same big kid he was when he played at Princeton. He has the same velocity to his life, in which he speaks quickly and loudly, with a lot of laughing mixed in, and TB means that in the best way possible.

He's one of those people you meet in life where every time you see him, you're reminded of why you liked him in the first place.

* Speaking of basketball, Princeton alum Devin Cannady will be playing for the Orlando Magic in the NBA Summer League in Las Vegas, beginning this coming Thursday against the Rockets. You can see Orlando's first four games on either ESPN or NBA TV, with the fifth game to be determined.

HERE is more information.

If you recall, Cannady first made it to the NBA in 2020-21 season and had a 17-point night before suffering a major leg injury. He made it all the way back from that to win MVP honors of the G-League postseason in 2021 and then averaged 10 points a game for Orlando while shooting 40 percent from three in five games to end last season.

* Women's lacrosse head coach Jenn Cook has added another member to her staff with the hiring of Molly Dougherty, a goalie who won an NCAA championship at the only school other than Princeton, Northwestern, Virginia, Maryland, Boston College or North Carolina to win one this century.

What was the school? James Madison, in 2018.

* When TB saw yesterday that USC and UCLA were planning on joining the Big Ten, the first thing he did was text the news to his colleague Andrew Borders, a UCLA grad, whose response was "wow." To that TB said "nothing screams Big Ten like UCLA vs. Rutgers."

The seismic shifts in the college athletics landscape probably dates to when Penn State first joined the Big Ten, back in 1993. TB was at the newspaper back then, and the conversation there was "how does an Eastern team join a Midwestern conference?" That was a long time ago.

The Ivy League has been fortunate through all of this craziness in that its eight members are set. Nobody is getting in. Nobody wants to leave. When it all plays out, though, it could have an impact on how NCAA championships work, what non-league opponents are available and who knows what else. These are wild times in college sports.

* TB saw this tweet from another of his colleagues, Elliott Carr:

As with the games themselves, the ability for those who work in college athletics to again gather in person has returned. Princeton was well-represented at both CoSIDA and NACDA, which held their conventions in Las Vegas this week.

Congratulations to Jen Babik, the former softball/field hockey great, who was inducted officially into the CoSIDA Academic All-American Hall of Fame. 

And congratulations to yet another colleague, Chas Dorman, who picked up his CoSIDA "Rising Star" award. 

* Have a great Fourth of July weekend. Stay safe.


Thursday, June 30, 2022

Cup Stuff

Apparently, the University of Mississippi was the last team in for the NCAA baseball tournament draw.

Then Ole Miss went on to win the Men's College World Series. It happens. It's probably a bit more impressive in baseball, which is double-elimination, meaning you need the kind of pitching depth that would probably have you solidly in the tournament come the selections, not to mention having to beat the best teams twice instead of once, which is infinitely easier.

Baseball was the last sport remaining to be added to the Learfield Sports Directors' Cup standings, and the NACDA website said that the final standings would be released either June 28 or 29. TigerBlog eagerly awaited the results to see if Princeton would indeed be 18th, as he said when he recently did the baseball math.

Alas, it doesn't seem the final standings were out yesterday. Hopefully today.

In case you were wondering where Princeton has finished every year since the Directors' Cup began in 1994, you've come to the right place. 

What kind of self-respecting historian wouldn't have that information.

2022 - ??
2019 – 30

2018 - 40
2017 - 48

2016 - 33
2015 - 41

2014 - 44
2013 - 35

2012 - 39
2011 - 38

2010 - 32
2009 - 40

2008 - 60
2007 - 63

2006 - 47
2005 - 42

2004 - 33
2003 - 34

2002 - 21
2001 - 24

2000 - 57
1999 - 31

1998 – 25
1997 – 60

1996 – 23
1995 – 29

1994  - 34

At one point, it was the Sears Directors' Cup, named, presumably, for the Sears Roebuck retail company and not the all-time leading scorer in Princeton's women's lacrosse history (who hadn't been born yet, by the way). Then it briefly became the United States Sports Academy Directors Cup before the current sponsor, Learfield Sports, took over in 2007.

The Cup is meant to recognize the top overall athletic programs in college athletics by awarding points for NCAA championship participation and success. Princeton prides itself on both of those, and its record through the years suggests that the athletic program has been quite a nationally competitive one.

What's better, all the years finishing in the top 30, or never finishing below 63? Keep in mind, this is every program in the country, and the top of the standings are dominated by Power Five programs.

Princeton has been the highest finishing Ivy League school in all but three of these years. It's regularly the highest finishing FCS school, and pretty much every year the top finishing non-Power Five school is either Princeton or BYU, which becomes a Power Five school when it joins the Big 12 a year from now.

The 2021-22 athletic year began with great uncertainty, since there was very little in the way of Ivy League sports a year earlier. Who knew what would have happen after a year away? 

Well, what happened at Princeton was extraordinary. There were 16 teams that won their league championship, including 13 in Ivy League sports. Those 16 championships equaled the all-time Princeton and Ivy League record, set in 1999-2000, back when Ford Family Director of Athletics John Mack was a senior.

Princeton found itself having to play catch-up this year after Harvard was the top Ivy school after the fall and the winter. In the final fall standings, Princeton was tied with Rutgers for 28th, while Harvard was 18th. After the winter, Princeton had moved up to 19th, but Harvard had moved up to 16th.

Then came the massively incredible Princeton spring.

The Tigers had 484.75 points through the end of the winter. They put up 383.5 more in the spring alone. Were the rules different for scoring, Princeton would have even more.

The way it works is that a school can get points in a maximum of 19 sports, but four of those are mandated to be men's basketball, women's basketball, baseball and women's volleyball. Princeton did not reach the NCAA tournament in three of those, so it only received points in its 16 highest scoring sports.

Princeton vaulted into 15th place prior to the release of the final update, which was waiting on the baseball championship. Princeton also is the top Ivy school (21 spots ahead of Harvard), top FCS school and top non-Power Five school.

Will Princeton be 18th? Will Princeton beat its 21st place finish of 2001-02? 

It looks like that won't be known until today.

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

The Mark Ellis Story

TigerBlog asked five people to describe Princeton strength and conditioning coach Mark Ellis in one word.

Here are the responses he got:

"Life-force"
"Relentless"
"Energy"
"Energy"
"Energy"

Those responses all came from members of the Princeton men's lacrosse program. They all experienced first-hand what is obvious to any observer of the team: Mark Ellis is a indeed a force of nature.

If you went to goprincetontigers.com yesterday, you saw the feature story that TB wrote about Ellis. If you didn't, you can see it HERE.

One of the best parts of a Princeton men's lacrosse game this year actually happened before the game. It came when the Tigers would walk out of the locker room, in a column of twos, with Ellis in front to lead the way.

This is what Ellis said about that:

I think it’s a special moment for me. I'm more anxious than when I was a player. With all the work you do, now it’s Game Day. You know how much time they put into it. You practice 200 days a year to play 15 or so games a year. I love those moments. They're very special. I tell them to embrace them.

Ellis has brought a combination of analytics and old-fashioned work ethic with him to Princeton, where he works with men's swimming and diving, women's tennis, men's soccer and women's diving in addition to men's lacrosse. 

He himself was a lacrosse player at Stony Brook and then, after tearing his ACL and graduating early, at Hofstra, where he earned a master's degree. He was also a professional player in the last two seasons of Major League Lacrosse. 

TigerBlog watched Ellis as he worked with the Princeton men's lacrosse team all fall and spring, eventually reaching the Final Four, helped by the qualities of speed, strength and just plain toughness that he helped bring to the program. He saw the way the players and coaches responded to him. He saw the innate leadership qualities he possesses. It was impossible not to be impressed by him.

During all that time, TB didn't know anything about his background. Almost nobody with the program did, until Ellis gave a speech to the team before it got on the buses to head to Hartford for Championship Weekend. 

Head coach Matt Madalon, the one who described Ellis as a "life-force," asked each of the coaches if they had anything they wanted to say. When it was Ellis' turn, he told about his brother Corey, who is basically the same age as the players on the team. 

TigerBlog wasn't there for it. He drove up separately. 

At the hotel the next morning, it was pretty much all anyone was talking about, just how moving it was and how touched they all were by what Ellis had said. They hadn't known that part of Ellis' background, and it made them consider their own perspectives on themselves and how fortunate they were to be part of Princeton University and the men's lacrosse program.

At that point, TB decided to ask Ellis if he could tell his story. He wanted to talk about the incredible impact that he had made on the players, and more than just on the field. And he wanted to tell the story of how he came to Princeton, what shaped him and what he had to overcome to get to where he is today.

When he interviewed Ellis, the two sat on a bench outside of Caldwell Field House. Their talk lasted more than an hour. It's one of the longest interviews that TB has ever done. Each time he thought he'd gotten to the end, there was more to ask, more that Ellis said that provoked deeper thoughts and issues. 

TB doesn't want to tell you too much about what Ellis said in his talk before the Final Four. He will let you know what Marquez White, one of the Tigers' shortstick defensive midfielders, said about it:

“That story made me feel that rather than just being the team that he worked with, we were his brothers that he wanted to see succeed.”

There's really nothing better that you can say about someone who coaches your college athletic team, is there?

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Coming Attractions

If you've never been to a sporting event at a service academy, then you really should get to one.

TigerBlog has been to a few at both the Naval Academy and at Army-West Point, and each time it's been an impressive experience, especially the playing of the national anthem. He's never been to either for football, which is probably even more of a spectacle. And that doesn't even count an Army-Navy game, which he'd also like to attend at some point.

If you're a Princeton fan, then circle Nov. 11 — Veteran's Day — on your calendar. It'll be on that particular Friday night that the men's basketball team will be playing at Navy as part of the Veteran's Classic. 

It'll be a doubleheader that night, beginning at 6 as St. Joe's takes on Houston. The Tigers will play the second game, at 8:30, and you can see it on CBS Sports Network if you can't get to Annapolis.

Navy went 21-11 a year ago, reaching the Patriot League final before losing to Colgate. The Mids might not have liked the way the season ended, but they definitely liked how it began, with a win over Virginia. 

TB didn't realize that Princeton and Navy have played 34 times. The reason he never considered that is because he's never seen a Princeton-Navy men's games, and with good reason — the teams haven't played since 1977.

The series dates to 1908, but the majority of the games were played between 1947 and 1977. Princeton leads 24-10.

Princeton and Navy played twice in December 1965, and the Tigers won both. The first game was by a 72-54 score in a game in which Gary Walters scored his career high of 18, a figure he matched a year later in a 72-63 loss to Louisville. 

Bill Bradley, by the way, played three games against Navy and averaged 27.0 points per game, which is actually more than three points below his career average.

The day after the basketball game will be the Princeton-Yale football game, which this year will be in New Haven. TB knows all this because both the Veteran's Classic and the Princeton football schedule were announced yesterday. 

The football season will begin in Florida on Sept. 17, as the Tigers will take on Stetson. Is this Princeton's first game ever in Florida? He can't think of another one. He can think of games that Princeton has played in South Carolina, Virginia, Indiana, California and North Carolina during his time; he can't think of one that Princeton has played in Florida ever. Is he wrong?

The home opener is one week later, when Lehigh will be on Powers Field at Princeton Stadium.

There will be four home Ivy League games, against Brown (Oct. 14), Cornell (Oct. 29), Dartmouth (Nov. 5) and Penn (Nov. 19). 

If Princeton is to have another bonfire this fall by beating Harvard and Yale, it'll have to do so with two wins on the road.

Princeton will also play in two of the Ivy League's six games on ESPN linear TV, followed by the Harvard game in Cambridge on Oct. 21. Just like a year ago, Princeton will be playing on ESPNU on consecutive Friday nights, though this year one of the games is at home, as opposed to last year's trips to Cornell and Dartmouth. 

The two ESPNU games this year both have 7 pm kickoffs. 

Princeton went 9-1 a year ago and won the Ivy League championship for the fourth time in the last eight seasons (2013, 2016, 2018 and 2021). If Princeton can win one more Ivy title in the next four years, it'll mark the shortest elapsed time for five league championships in program history. Currently the record, as it were, is 13 years (1957, 1963, 1966, 1969).

Also, Bob Surace has won four league titles as Princeton head coach (and one more as a player, by the way). The only other Princeton coach with four was Dick Colman. 

For more information on the 2022 football schedule, including ticket information and promotions, click HERE.

Monday, June 27, 2022

Welcome To Summer

 How was your first full weekend of summer? 

In these parts it certainly felt like summer, with sunshine, some humidity and temps that reached the 90s both Saturday and yesterday.

What did you do? Hopefully you got outside. Or maybe you went to the movies? That's always a good way to get out of the summer heat.

Maybe you left for vacation. If so and you're reading, you get extra bonus loyalty points. 

TB went for a longer-than-normal bike ride yesterday, before it got too hot. He rides on the roads, and he did notice that there are a lot of people who like to ride motorcycles on their weekends. And they like to ride in big groups.

Motorcycles are really loud, as you might have noticed. At least you can hear them coming from behind you while you ride, though putting a motor on a bike seems to be cheating a bit.  

What's really startling is when someone passes you on their motorless bicycle. You can't really hear them coming, and then all of the sudden there is someone next to you. Every time that happens, TB says a quick "hey, how are you" and then wonders why they can ride so much faster than he can.

It certainly was a great beach weekend if that's what you chose to do. Miss TigerBlog and some of her recent graduate friends took full advantage, spending the weekend at the Jersey Shore. 

It hasn't been that long since those same grads who were on the beach would have spent such a weekend on lacrosse fields, playing at summer recruiting events. If you haven't experienced those, they are quite a sub-culture, that's for sure.

Whatever the sport is, summer is a big time for recruiting. In TB's case, he's spent a ton of weekends on sweltering fields watching his kids play, first as little kids and then eventually in front of college coaches, with their folding chairs, notebooks, binders and sun screen, all of them dressed in some shirt or hat or pair of shorts that gives away who they are.

TB liked to wear his Princeton stuff to those events and try to get the good parking where the coaches' park. It worked more than it didn't work.

Anyway, that's the roundabout path TB has taken to get to today's point, which is that for pretty much all college coaches, this is prime recruiting season. 

If you look on goprincetontigers.com, you've noticed some stories that announce incoming classes. For instance, there's THIS one, which talks about the men's soccer class. 

If you didn't read it, that class is the No. 5 class nationally according to TopDrawerSoccer.com. That's pretty encouraging. Remember, the men's soccer team had a perfect Ivy League season a year ago and produced an MLS draftee. 

How do you think such classes are put together? Step 1 is getting out on the fields and watching the players. Talent evaluation is hugely important. 

These recruiting events are everywhere these days. They have games all day and into the night. And if you're a coach, you have to be out there. You have to watch hundreds and hundreds of players to find the ones who can make you better, and at Princeton, that means athletically and academically.

For a lot of coaches that TB has spoken with through the years, this is actually one of their favorite parts of the job, as bizarre as that might sound. You have to love it though, because once you lose the fire, that's it. 

As TB was riding yesterday, he got a call from Princeton head men's lacrosse coach Matt Madalon. He was out on the fields, as he was during the week, as he will be on basically every weekend. Multiply that by pretty much every sport and every coach, and you have a pretty good understanding of what the life of the college coach is like. 

It certainly has its glamorous moments, but it is also a grind. It's also competitive. These coaches see all the same faces at all the same venues, the coaches who are also there to evaluate and start to build their own classes. 

So enjoy your summer weekends, Tiger fans. Get to the beach. Go water skiing. Enjoy vacations.

The seasons will be here soon enough.

And, maybe, while you're doing all that, give a thought to the men and women who coach the teams you like to watch, and think of how they're spending their summers. It'll make you root for them even harder.


Friday, June 24, 2022

More On Title IX

TigerBlog wrote about the 50th anniversary of Title IX yesterday.

The actual 50th anniversary of the signing of the legislation was yesterday. While it's not clear to TB that this was the original intent of the law, Title IX has done an extraordinary job of creating opportunities in athletics for girls and women.

He read a story yesterday that said that there has been a 1,057 percent increase in participation in high school sports for girls and a 614 percent increase in participation in college sports by women since Title IX was enacted. 

When TB read that, he thought immediately of Carol Brown, one of the great early women athletes at Princeton. Actually, you can change that to simply one of the great women athletes Princeton has ever had.

Brown, who was on the first swimming and rowing teams for women at Princeton, won a a bronze medal at the 1976 Olympics as a rower. She was poised to win gold in 1980 before the boycott of the Games by the United States.

What makes her story even more amazing is the fact that she was not a high school athlete. This is an excerpt from TB's book on the first 50 years of women's athletics at Princeton:

She spent the first twelve years of her life in the Philadelphia suburbs before the family moved to Illinois. It was there that a law – a real, genuine, on-the-books-for-decades law – made it illegal for girls to play high school sports. Because of that, she spent most her time singing in choirs and playing four musical instruments. Her athletic experience was limited to summer swim club teams. “It wasn’t like there were some sports for girls,” she says. “There were none. It just wasn’t there. It also wasn’t like my friends were doing them either. Nobody was. They didn’t exist. Maybe if they had, I wouldn’t have gotten into so much trouble in school. I was always in trouble for talking and being disruptive.”

There was really a law that prohibited girls from playing high school sports. That's astonishing.

The same story that mentioned the rise in participation also said that less than one percent of college athletic budgets went to women's sports programs at the time of Title IX. TB couldn't find the percentage today, and it's definitely skewed by football spending anyway, but it's way, way higher than one percent obviously.

When women's athletics began at Princeton, there was a five-year plan to implement varsity competition. As a result, there was no immediate budget for the women, who actually began to compete in weeks, not years, which meant that funding everything and anything had to be done on the fly.

Speaking of coaches, at the time Title IX became the law, essentially 90 percent of coaches for women's college teams were women. Today? That number is 42 percent.

That is something that TB wouldn't have guessed.

Which two sports have the highest percentage of women who coach the women's teams? That would be field hockey and lacrosse, which is probably explainable at least partly because field hockey isn't a sport that is widely played by men in this country and the way lacrosse is played by men and women is very different. 

Princeton has 19 varsity sports for women (including rugby, which has its varsity debut season this year), of which six have men who are the head coach: cross country, water polo, fencing, soccer, swimming and diving and lightweight rowing. 

The first full year of women's athletics at Princeton was 1971-72, with the first six varsity teams (there had been two tennis players, a swimmer and diver and then a full tennis team who competed in 1970-71). Of those first six teams, four were coached by women and two by men, which is the same basic percentage as now.

As TB said yesterday, Title IX has been the driving force for change in athletics for women. The participation numbers show that clearly. 

It's an anniversary well worth celebrating. And TB will leave you with this, also from his book, about the immediate aftermath of when the law was signed and two early women athletes, Janet Youngholm and Abby Rubenfeld:

In what might have been the defining moment for Title IX at Princeton, Janet Youngholm almost played a third sport besides basketball and rowing. Or at least, she wanted the chance to play that third sport. It happened after the passage of the law in 1972. She pushed back on a Princeton rule that said that women could not play on men’s teams in contact sports after an ECAC and NCAA rule removed all reference to sex from the regulations. If anyone was going to address the issue, it would be Youngholm, along with another early woman athlete, Abby Rubenfeld.

 

Youngholm was a born fighter who always stood up for her beliefs and what she thought was right. She rowed into Newark Bay to try to prevent a munitions ship from leaving to go to Vietnam; she and her fellow protestors were hauled in by the Coast Guard using hooks on the sides of their boats. She was also arrested in Princeton at one Vietnam War protest and had to pay a $100 fine in order to get released in Trenton and back to campus in time for rowing practice.

 

“I think I still owe them some money,” she says, again laughing. When she tells the rest of the story, though, she is deadly serious. Youngholm and Rubenfeld were big football fans. Rubenfeld, for her part, had played flag football in high school in Florida. On Princeton football gamedays, they would throw a football around, head into Palmer Stadium for the game, and then go back to throwing their own ball around, joking that they could probably play for the team. Then, when Princeton, with the rest of the Ivy League, announced the rule that women could not play contact sports with men, things took a different turn, especially after quotes like this one, from a medical doctor no less, began to appear in newspapers such as the New York Times: “I am concerned about the lack of adequate protection for the breasts and their post-reproductive function of feeding.”To Youngholm and Rubenfeld, it wasn’t about playing contact sports. The issue was equality. To challenge this, the two women set their sights on playing on the lightweight football team, or more exactly, having the University affirm that they had the right to play on the lightweight football team, if they wanted. First Youngholm and Rubenfeld met with Baker, who said that it was a University policy, not an athletic department one. Director of Athletics Royce Flippin said pretty much the same. That left them in the office of Dean Adele Simmons, which didn’t get them anywhere either.

 

“Title IX had passed,” she said. “Now we had the law on our side. We said that they couldn’t do this. It wasn’t right. Abby and I got on a train and went into New York and spoke to a lawyer. We asked [the directors and Dean Simmons] again, and again they said ‘no,’ so we said ‘okay, the next person you’ll hear from is our lawyer. Then the dean said ‘wait,’ and we sat down again. We told her that if they got that rule off the books, then that’ll be that. And they did. The point wasn’t playing football. It was having them say ‘no, you can’t.’ There was a larger point to be made. Context matters. If we had to make the point by going out for lightweight football, then we would have.”

Thursday, June 23, 2022

37 Words Turn 50

I Can Do Anything — Stories From The First 50 Years Of Women's Athletics At Princeton

Here you go. Here are the 37 words that have had the greatest impact on college athletics, not to mention so many other parts of American society:

"No person in the United States of America shall, based on sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving Federal financial assistance."

That's the entirety of the text of what is known universally as Title IX. It was written in 1971 by Indiana senator Birch Bayh, and it was signed into law by President Nixon on June 23, 1972.

That was 50 years ago today (it was also six days after the break-in at the Democratic National Committee headquarters at the Watergate complex that ultimately led to the Nixon's resignation).

Today there are still inequities between men's and women's college athletics. They are nothing, however, like what existed prior to the enacting of the law. And those inequities continue to be addressed, with more progress made all the time.

The idea that anyone at Princeton would ever suggest that something be done for the men's team and not the corresponding women's team is ludicrous. It has never happened once in any meeting TigerBlog has ever attended, or, for that matter, any he hasn't.

The concept of equity is ingrained in everyone who works here. It's started from the top, from every Director of Athletics with whom TB has worked, and even before then.

TigerBlog has always wondered what women's athletics would look like were it not for Title IX. He'd like to think that societal evolution would have trickled down to athletics (and other educational endeavors) because it would have been the right thing to do, and not just because it was the law.

On the other hand, he's not that naive to think that doing the right thing would always win out. And, there is something he's 100 percent sure of, and that's progress wouldn't happened at the rate it has.

Princeton's women's athletic teams have been wildly successful, from Day 1, which was even before the law was enacted. Today the women have the same access to athletic training, strength and conditioning, nutrition, video boards, marketing, web coverage, travel, facilities and so many other things that allow the women to have the same kind of experience as the men. It wasn't always like that.

The women's athletic program wasn't even two full years old when Title IX became the law. The earliest women pioneers had to deal with all sorts of inequities that helped define their own experiences here.

As TB learned during the interviews for his book on the first 50 years of women's athletics here, Princeton's early teams had to deal with some hostile men's coaches (including a famous quote of "over my dead body will women row out of my boathouse), lack of access to facilities (including having the women's basketball team have to practice on Dillon courts while men's pickup games went on around them), volunteer coaches (actually no immediate budget for women's sports and arduous travel (driving in station wagons, sleeping on mattresses on gym floors at away games).

Some of the women came away from those challenges with bitterness. Others masked it simply by the desire to complete. They talk today about what a bonding experience it was and how it led to lifetime friendships.

The 2022 Princeton women's basketball team played its home games on the same floor as the men's team in Jadwin Gym. They both practiced in Jadwin, alternating days on the main court. The women had the same intro video on the same video board as the men. 

The Tigers won the Ivy League title and then the Ivy League tournament title. Then they flew on a chartered plane to Indiana for the NCAA tournament, where they won a game against Kentucky and then lost by a point to the Hoosiers. Both of those games were on ESPN.

The first Princeton women's basketball Ivy League championship was awarded to the winner of the league's tournament. Princeton won five games — in two days. The schedule was rearranged because nobody had considered that the players would need to eat.

This was held in December of 1974, not even at the end of the season. This was more than two years after Title IX became the law.

Progress wasn't immediate. It's not even complete today. There is no doubt, though, that Title IX, which turns 50 today, has radically changed college sports for the better.

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

A Winning Sequel

So TigerBlog saw "Top Gun Maverick" the other day, and here's his one-word review: Awesome.

Maybe TB would be a good reviewer. He never considered trying it before. 

That would be his style. One word to describe the movie. After that, a few paragraphs that go into a bit more depth.

In this case, he'd include this: "If you loved the original, you'll really, really love the sequel. In a lot of ways, this one is ever better than the first one. Unlike many sequels, this one isn't simply a run-it-back of the original. It has some of the same elements of course, like the great fighter jet sequences, but it's a completely different story with a main character who has clearly evolved with the times while staying true to himself."

See? Now you want to go see it, right? Chances are, actually, that you already have, since with more than $800 million in ticket sales already, it's Tom Cruise's highest-grossing movie, which is saying something.

TigerBlog also finished "The Offer," which is absolutely required viewing for any fan of "The Godfather." It's a 10-part series that tells the story of Albert Ruddy, the producer of the movie, and how the movie came to be. 

The person who plays Ruddy in the series is Miles Teller, who also plays one of the young pilots in "Top Gun Maverick." It's been a big few months for him, apparently.

The original "Top Gun" movie was also excellent, with the famous line of "talk to me Goose" and the great fighter jet scenes of its own. How did they film those? 

Speaking of things that TB has watched recently, he also watched the Val Kilmer documentary. Kilmer, who plays Iceman in the "Top Gun" movies, is battling throat cancer. This documentary is funny and inspiring.

The gap between the two "Top Gun" movies is a long one, a total of 36 years to be exact. "Top Gun" was released on May 12, 1986. TB saw that in the movies when it came out as well.

He went back through the Daily Princetonian archives to see if there was a review of the original. While he didn't find one, he found something better. 

The big sports story that day was about how the men's track and field won the Ivy League Heptagonal championship the weekend before. Back then, the Heps also included Army and Navy, as well as the eight Ivy League schools.  

What really leaped out at TB as he read the story was that Fred Samara was the coach back then (actually, he was almost 10 years into his tenure by then). TB knew that, but still. That's a long time ago, and Samara was already winning championships.

If you went to goprincetontigers.com yesterday, you saw THIS story. It's about how Samara has been named the Mid-Atlantic Region Coach of the Year, while Robert Abdullah has been named the Mid-Atlantic Assistant Coach of the Year.

There was also THIS story, which mentions how Princeton finished fifth in the U.S. Track and Cross Country Coaches' Association points standings. That's fifth in all of Division I, by the way.

TB has written about Samara many times before. Each year, though, it seems like he does something else that makes you shake your hand and marvel once again.

This year has been no different. Princeton rolled to Heps titles in cross country and indoor and outdoor track by wide margins, winning a 10th "Triple Crown." Princeton had eight indoor All-Americans while finishing fifth and then six more All-Americans while finishing seventh outdoors.

As for Samara, it's really hard to say what the most important stat of his coaching career at Princeton has been, but maybe it's this one: He's coached 452 Ivy League individual or relay champions.

That's an insane number. 

What's most amazing is that Samara has lost none of his competitiveness. He's the same as he's always been, which is a big part of the reason why he keeps churning out champions.

As you watch him, you know he's been doing this for a while. It's when you consider the gap between the two "Top Gun" movies and see the story about the 1986 Heps title in the Daily Princetonian that you really get a sense of just what he's done here.