Monday, November 22, 2010

Unofficially, The Fall Is Over

The surest sign that summer is ending is when the local community pool closes. TigerBlog loves the community pool, with a chair in the shade, something to read and a cold drink. Every now and then, TB will actually go in the pool, usually after jumping off the high dive.

The pool opens Memorial Day weekend and closes Labor Day weekend, even though the weather is still great for the next week or so. The reason is that the lifeguards all go back to school.

Anyway, it seems like about 15 minutes ago that the pool closed. And yet, as of today's NCAA cross country championships, the fall athletic season at Princeton officially closes.

Princeton teams won four Ivy League championships in the fall season, taking the outright championship in men's soccer, field hockey, men's cross country and women's cross country. For a little perspective, five of the other seven Ivy schools did not win more than three for the entire 2009-10 school year.

In fact, five of the other seven schools did not win any for the fall of 2010 as well. Princeton's four titles were followed by three for Penn and one for Yale (there are seven official Ivy fall sports, but Yale and Penn tied for the women's volleyball title before Penn won the automatic NCAA tournament bid in a playoff).

Princeton came within one ball excruciatingly deflected off the line in overtime of women's soccer, where the Tigers had to settle for second place. Women's volleyball finished third, giving Princeton six of seven teams in the top three, while football finished eighth.

If you're a fan of the Ivy League's unofficial all-sports standings - and who isn't? - then here are the fall standings:

1. Princeton 45
2. Penn 39
3. Columbia 33
4. Dartmouth 32.5
5. Yale 28
6. Harvard 27
7. Brown 26
8. Cornell 20.5

The scoring, as a reminder, gives teams points for their placings in the final standings. First place is worth eight points, while second is worth seven, and so on. Teams split the points for tying for a position, so if two teams tie for third, then they both get 5.5 points. The winning team gets eight points regardless of how many schools have that particular sport.

For those who keep track of these things, Princeton has won each of the last 24 years.

The Ivy League is most decidedly not keeping track, since this is not an official award. TB assumes it won't become official until Princeton stops winning every year.

A year ago, Princeton won two Ivy titles but then had more NCAA success, as field hockey and men's water polo reached the Final Four and women's cross country finished fifth.

This time, Princeton won twice as many fall Ivy titles, but there were a few disappointments after that. The men's soccer team would loved to get a first-round bye, and clearly a team that went 7-0-0 in the Ivy League - which now has two teams in the Sweet 16 - should have gotten one.

And in field hockey, Maryland is the NCAA champion with only a single loss all year - at Princeton. Could the Tigers have challenged for it all had Katie Reinprecht not broken her leg, an injury she played through in the NCAA tournament?

And of course, the women's soccer team will be smarting for awhile after "losing" to Penn 0-0 in the Ivy championship game at Roberts Stadium. But with a lineup primarily of sophomores this season, Princeton is primed for the next few years.

The obvious question for the Princeton sports fan is this: Would you rather have a fall like Princeton just completed, or would you trade the four Ivy titles for one in football?

With apologies to every other sporting entity in this country - including the NFL - there is nothing that compares to big-time college football. On most of those campuses, the single most important person is the football coach, and so much of what goes on institutionally - image, fundraising, student recruitment - starts with football money and football success.

In the Ivy League, it's not exactly the same thing.

Here, the commitment and philosophy support broad-based athletic participation, with twice the number of varsity teams that most Division I schools have. The football (or men's basketball) coach is not the most powerful person on campus, and they buy into that philosophy. TigerBlog does as well, which is why he's stayed here all these years.

Still, fans don't have to so. Many fans can still think football/basketball first and everything else after that.

As the fall went along, TB wondered what Princeton fans were thinking about having the kind of success Tiger teams did while the football team struggled.

Again, the Ivy League offers seven fall sports, and Princeton won four. TigerBlog will take 57% of the league championships in any season - regardless of what sport they come from.

It's been a great fall for Princeton. After the cross country championships, it's all indoor events for the winter, until the next outdoor event, which happens to be Feb. 26.

Men's lacrosse at Hofstra. Well, maybe not all sports are created equal.


Anonymous said...

The Princeton football coaching staff needs to take a long look at what went wrong this year. You cannot blame it on injuries or just bad luck. It was the worst season in the history of the school. The coaches need to revamp their thinking and major changes should be made or it will just be more of the same next year. It should be less demanding on the players who are not on football scholarships. Practices should be shorter but concise leaving ample time for the players to devote to school work, etc. Coaches should respect the players and morale would skyrocket. Players would look forward to playing thereby increasing the chance for more wins. We also need bigger and more athletic linemen.

Brett Hoover said...

Actually. The last place team should get one point and work your way up from there. So in wrestling, a six-team league, the title is worth six points.

Awarding eight points for a non-represented sport is why your system was never adopted by the Ivy League :)

Anonymous said...

The football team more than struggled. Not sure how the coaching staff could have done much worse. The team has talent and to go 1-9 is hard to believe. Yes they need more size upfront, etc. but to go winnless in the Ivy League is hard imagine. Let's make changes quickly because nothing worked this year.

TigerBlog said...

Brett -

Should the wrestling champion be penalized because two schools don't have it? Should men's lacrosse be? Cornell is ranked No. 1 in the country in wrestling; should the Big Red win the league, should they only get six points?

As an aside, in the fall, all seven Ivy sports have all eight teams participate.

Brett Hoover said...

TB... It isn't a matter of penalizing wrestling, it is a matter of equitable distribution of points. Conversely, I suppose, should a horrible program that happens to be simply horrible in a sport with five teams deserve more points than a sixth-place team in a sport that is offered throughout the League? I don't think it is a penalty to give the winning team the most points with a even and similar point distribution to the other sports. In the end, the Orange and Black will still win!

Anonymous said...

Will Surace make some needed coaching changes? The season was a disaster for Princeton and major changes need to be made. The offense obviously needs help from lack of scoring in the red zone to more size on the line. I feel for the players as they worked extremely hard with little or no results in the win column. This season was not the fault of the players it was the manner in which they were coached.