Thursday, May 31, 2012

Banquet Time

The etiquette of Lot 21 is by now an established part of every morning for TigerBlog.

Lot 21 is the parking lot outside Jadwin, and technically TB is talking about Lot 21A, which is the small part of it in the front that is reserved for athletic department staff.

Upon arrival, it is good manners to wait a moment or two for anyone else who has similarly arrived, rather than sprinting on ahead. It's possible to judge people based on how long they'll wait for someone in the parking lot, and the greatest sign of respect is to wait for someone who is just pulling in even on a rainy day.

Of course, the group mentality can get you a bit stacked up in the parking lot. If A waits for B and then C arrives almost immediately thereafter, it becomes proper to wait for C as well. Eventually, when D and E get there, it gets way out of hand and someone has to make a decision.

As for the inverse, the walk from the building to Lot 21 is about a three-minute venture, yet it is customary to identify someone who is leaving at the same time and then walk out in pairs or groups.

TigerBlog arrived this morning to find the parking lot almost completely empty, which is a rarity, and he walked in alone.

As is standard, he went in the side door and then was faced with the same two options that he's had for two decades: walk up the stairs on the immediate left or go straight and then to the stairwell on the right past the business office. This is always a tough choice.

Today TB went past the business office, and, as the door was open, he poked his head in to say hello to Phyllis Chase and Ryan Yurko, who along with Jon Kurian make up an ultra-friendly, ulra-welcoming group.

The business office today was cluttered with gigantic trophies, a sign that tonight must be the Princeton Varsity Club Senior Athlete Banquet. The trophies will make their way over to the grad college for the event, which unlike the last few years, figures to be held on a picture-perfect weather evening.

The trophies represent this year's championship teams, and while Princeton's Ivy League titles dropped from a record-setting 15 a year ago to 10 this year, judging by the looks of the trophies, the gross weight might be greater this year.

Either way, TB is glad he's not the one dragging them over there, especially the men's cross country one, which looks to be the size of a small car.

It's wild to TB that it's time for another PVC banquet, since the last one seems like it was 20 minutes ago, not 52 weeks ago. Of course, that's how it is in college athletics.

TB has two main jobs for the banquet, writing the script and putting together the slideshow/video of the senior athletes.

Last year's script ran 7,000 words, and TB resolved this year to substantially cut that count back, which he successfully did, coming in at just under 5,000.

The night always ends with the video, which has the live-action part to start  and then one action picture of every senior athlete, set to music. TigerBlog chooses the music, and here's a hint for tonight - one of the songs if by a group that is somewhat famously associated with the Jersey Shore.

Anyway, putting together one picture of each senior athlete is always an amazing process.

There are usually right around 200 senior athletes each year, and each one of them is represented, across 38 sports.

As TB goes through the task, he's always struck by the overwhelming diversity of athletic experiences, backgrounds, sports, athletes and all of it.

When you field 38 varsity teams, you're going to have athletes who have come here from wildly different backgrounds and who have competed here in wildly different ways.

How can the track and field athlete and the basketball player and the golfer and the hockey player have the same experience? They can't.

Team sizes differ. Attendance at events differs. Practices, team dynamics, squad sizes, skill sets - all of it varies from sport to sport.

And yet, as he puts the video together, TB can't help but be struck how all of these people come together under the banner of "Princeton Tigers."

The athletes always cheer for their teammates and friends when their names and pictures come up during the video. The pictures, by the way, are put in a completely random order, so there's no rhyme or reason to who will be next, until the end, when the award-winners appear.

TB also hopes that as they watch it, they see the big picture, that they've been part of something bigger than their next practice or next competition of next time they traveled together.

They were 1/38th of Princeton's program, one that's been in the intercollegiate athletic business since 1864.

Hopefully they realize that as the pictures go by, one after another. TB assumes they will.

Well, he hopes they will. He thinks they will.

But they definitely won't unless TB finishes the thing.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


TigerBlog was listening to Fred Samara as he spoke about what a gifted natural athlete Conor McCullough is, how he could have been a tight end, how far he could drive a golf ball, and he came back to the same thought he always has: How do kids end up in the sports (and positions) that they play in high school and college?

And, growing off that idea, there's the question of just how transferable athletic ability is. If you are a great basketball player, could you also be a great fencer? Or do you have some specific skill set that only lends itself to that particular sport?

Forgetting the obvious that you need to be 6-5, 300+ to play offensive line in the NFL or that it's hard for 6-3 to guard 6-11 in basketball, the answer to the skill set question is a little of both.

There are some athletes who could drift easily from sport to sport. There are others who found the one sport (and in certain cases, the one position) in which they could excel. So maybe the question should be what percentage does each answer get? In that case, TB would say more find their niche than could do just about anything, probably at around a 2-1 margin.

McCullough, though, is definitely in the "could do anything" category.

Every now and then, there is the freak athlete whose natural ability is just overwhelming, and that's what Princeton has in McCullough. As it turned out, he ended up as a hammer thrower because his father did the event for Ireland in the Olympics.

McCullough has destroyed the competition to this point.

He is the Princeton and Ivy League record-holder indoors (the weight throw) and outdoors (the hammer). At the NCAA regional this past weekend in Florida, all six of his throws eclipsed the best throw from anyone else in the field, a group of 48 other throwers that just happened to include the second- and third-best throwers in the country.

In other words, McCullough would have finished 1-2-3-4-5-6 in the competition, one that included the next two highest-ranked athletes in the country.

McCullough is probably headed to the Olympics, though not likely this year. Donn Cabral might be Olympic-bound in his event, the steeplechase, and he'll find that out in the Olympic trials in late June/early July.

Where McCullough and Cabral are both headed is the NCAA outdoor track and field championships in Des Moines, Iowa, June 6-8, and both could come back from the event with a championship.

Princeton is wrapping up an extraordinary year of men's track and field/cross country. The Tigers won all three Ivy League team championships, running their two-year streak to six, by the way.

Individually, Princeton is sending six men (and one woman, 1,500 runner Greta Feldman) to the NCAA championships. The six from one gender and seven total are both records for the program.

It goes way beyond the number of athletes who have qualified.

It's the fact that two Princeton athletes have legitimate chances - in fact may actually be the favorites - of winning their events and that the others have real chances at earning All-America honors.

For Cabral, his road won't end in Des Moines. He hopes that a year that started with summer training in high altitude in Utah and saw him go through three seasons at Princeton will end in London at the Olympics.

McCullough in all likelihood is in the wrong event to get to that stage this quickly, as the hammer throw is dominated by those who have reached full physical maturity and have international experience. In other words, by those who are where McCullough will be in four years or even eight years.

Cabral was a decent youth soccer player who turned to distance running in high school and took to it immediately.

McCullough is a freak of nature who could do any sport.
Different paths. Same goals.

On the same team.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Yeah Hounds

TigerBlog is a big fan of the on-line message boards, especially about subjects that hit close to home.

They're a great source to find out what people are thinking, what they know, what they don't know, what myths persist. In many ways, they're instant market research.

His favorite is probably the one on laxpower.

In the wake of Loyola's dominant run through the 2012 men's lacrosse season, one that culminated Monday in a 9-3 demolishing of Maryland in the NCAA championship game, TB went back to the "Loyola 2012" entry on laxpower to see what the general thought was in the preseason.

And what did he find? Among Greyhounds fans, there was some optimism that the team could make a run - in the ECAC, not nationally.

In fact, Loyola began the season unranked in either of the two major polls. Under the preseason Inside Lacrosse poll, there are 70 comments, and Loyola is mentioned in only two of them, both of which say that the team should have been ranked in the Top 20.

It's a rarity in lacrosse for a team to emerge the way Loyola did.

It's a rarity in any sport for a team that enters the postseason ranked No. 1 in both polls and No. 1 in RPI and to be the No. 1 seed in the tournament to be so generally disregarded the way the Greyhounds were.

TB fell into the same trap, and his selection of Duke from before the tournament and Final Four was way off, as the Blue Devils were thumped 16-10 by Maryland in the semifinals.

In reality, TB hadn't seen enough of Loyola to know just how good this team was, and he senses that that is fairly common among those that sold the Hounds short.

They were a fun team - and by all accounts a likeable team with a very likeable coach - to watch, as TB did from Gillette Stadium, where he helped with official stats for the eighth straight championship weekend. In all, it was the 18th time in 21 years that TB attended the Final Four.

He's seen it grow from Princeton's first NCAA title, back in 1992 at Franklin Field, through the five that followed - all on college campuses - and now through the era of NFL stadiums as the venue.

When Princeton defeated Syracuse 10-9 in two overtimes on Memorial Day 1992, the game was shown on a two-week tape delay in a one-hour time block.

This year, every NCAA tournament game was televised live. Hey, for the entire season, it was a rarity to have a weekend go by without two, three, four or more games on TV.

This championship weekend consists of the Saturday Division I semifinals, the Sunday Division II and III championship games and then the Monday Division I final. The NCAA and ESPN have tinkered with start times through the years, but that basic format has been unchanged.
In most years, there is at least one incredible game, an overtime game or two, more games with dramatic fourth quarters than blowouts.

The 2012 tournament lacked pretty much any of that. The closest thing to a dramatic ending was in the Division II game, when Limestone had a possession in the final 30 seconds to try to get the tying goal against Dowling but couldn't.

Or even in the postgame celebration, when Massachusetts state troopers arrested six Dowling fans who hopped onto the field from the stands.

Other than that, the other games were all decided long before the final minutes. As for the final, it was a chance to see Loyola dominate on both ends of the field, and while it was ridiculously impressive, it was hardly dramatic.

Other than the DII arrests, the biggest topic of conversation was the continued dip in attendance during championship weekend, as each of the last five years has seen a decline. The 2008 final in Foxboro drew 48,970; the game this year in the same stadium drew 30,816.

The two big questions were 1) why and 2) what to do about it?

From TB's point vantage point, the situation isn't as dire as it's being made out to be.

Hey, look at this way, way more people went to watch the DII and DIII doubleheader (17,005) than went to the SEC baseball championship game (12,526). So some of it is relative.

There were the usual factors, of course, as to why attendance wasn't what it was in 2008:

* no Johns Hopkins or Syracuse, who have the biggest followings
* the economy, which makes disposable income more previous
* gas prices - since it was a long drive from pretty much anywhere to Foxboro
* the "we did this once" concept, in which casual fans who want to check out a variety of events once as opposed to going to the same one every time have already done so

Mostly, TB thinks it had to do with three things more than any other.

First, it's the money involved in going.

Second, it's something that had to be planned in advance. Fans who went to Gillette in the past had memories of traffic nightmares, and fans who went to Baltimore last year had memories of the overwhelming heat and humidity.

Third - and this is the one that will be impacting American sports attendance way beyond the lacrosse championships - is the ease of watching on television.

It's a lot of effort to get to Foxboro. It's not a lot of effort to turn on your HD TV and watch the game in the comfort of the house.

And in ESPN's Quint Kessenich, lacrosse has found its own version of Howard Cosell, an announcer that is either loved or hated but whom lacrosse fans flock to for his insights. It used to be that the youth/high school players TB knew would ask about players; now they ask him about Kessenich.

The NCAA lacrosse committee will be thinking long and hard about the future of the event. There is thought that maybe it should always be in Baltimore, the way the College World Series is always in Omaha.

Next year's event is in Philadelphia. The 2014 tournament is in Baltimore. TB thinks attendance will go way up for both.

TB will be at Lincoln Financial Field next Memorial Day weekend, at least he hopes he will.

And he hopes Princeton will be there with him.

Hey, why not? If Loyola could do it this year, why not the Tigers next year? Or any other team?

That's what the talk should be about. Not attendance.

About the Loyola Greyhounds and their great run to the championship.

Congrats to the Hounds.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Lax Thoughts

The first time TigerBlog saw Tom Schreiber play lacrosse, it was on the internet, of course. It was the last game of his high school career, the Long Island Catholic final, and TB saw highlights of it on MSG's website.

The game took two days to play, as lightning interrupted the game at one point. It would take overtime for Schreiber's team - St. Anthony's - to defeat Chaminade (featuring Schreiber's current teammate Will Himler). The game-winner came on as nice a pass as TB has ever seen in a lacrosse game, courtesy of Schreiber.

The first time TB saw Jesse Hubbard, there weren't nearly as many options. The University's official athletic website,, was still a half-decade away and blogging didn't exist.

TB saw Hubbard first in a magazine, Lacrosse Magazine to be exact, in a still picture from a high school all-star game.

He had the same first reaction to both players: Wow.

Jesse Hubbard found out this week that he is part of the U.S. Lacrosse Hall of Fame Class of 2012.

TB hasn't studied the history of each year's class, but he can't imagine that there have been too many that can equal the one that will be inducted this October. Brian Dougherty is arguably the greatest goalie of all-time. TB was shocked to see that Tim Nelson (North Carolina State one year; Syracuse the next three) wasn't already in; after all, Nelson's 221 career assists are the most in Division I history.

Roy Colsey was a Syracuse All-America in the early 1990s. Cindy Timchal and Missy Foote have coached teams to a combined 13 NCAA championships.

You can make a case for Jen Adams as the greatest women's lacrosse player of all time. You could make a case that no single person has impacted women's lacrosse as much as Kelly Amonte Hiller, as a player at Maryland and now as Northwestern's coach.

Hubbard is up there with any of the members of the Class of 2012.

A 1998 Princeton grad, Hubbard is Princeton's career leader with 163 goals, and his 53 in 1996 are the school single-season record. He had more games in his career with three or more goals than he had with fewer than three.

Hubbard had 33 goals and 43 points in 11 NCAA tournament games, in which Princeton went 10-1, by the way. His last three seasons were a 43-2 stampede, and each ended with the NCAA championship trophy.

Hubbard was part of an epic attack unit, including feeder Jon Hess and Chris Massey, whose 146 goals are second at Princeton to Hubbard. When he left Princeton, he went on to be the career leader in goals scored in Major League Lacrosse.

Hubbard's strength was, well, his strength, his legendary ability to shoot. He had unlimited range, and as his numbers suggest, he was an unstoppable offensive force.

TB saw 59 of the 60 games Princeton played during Hubbard's career. The only one he missed was the 1996 regular-season game at Virginia that Princeton lost before coming back to defeat the Cavs later that year in the NCAA final - on Hubbard's overtime goal (that game at UVa was the same day that Princeton defeated Penn in the Ivy League basketball playoff).

It was a privilege to see his career from so close, to see the way he could dominate any opponent, the way he could change games simply by catching and shooting.

Beyond that, Hubbard, Hess and Massey were about the three easiest players to root for that TB has ever run into in his time here. They combined for 121 points in those 11 NCAA games and 618 points in four years.

Hubbard now enters the Hall of Fame. TB assumes Hess will get there too and that Massey, the perpetually underrated one, will not. No matter. TB will always think of them together, not individually - and so in TB's mind, Hubbard's induction is really about the three of them together.

As for Schreiber, he has matched Hubbard by being the Ivy League Rookie of the Year as a freshman and first-team All-America as a sophomore. In fact, only four players at Princeton have ever done that, Schreiber, Hubbard, Scott Bacigalupo and Ryan Boyle.

Bacigalupo is already a Hall-of-Famer. Boyle will be there once he's done playing. Hubbard will be there this October.

TB isn't suggesting that Schreiber will be in the Hall of Fame one day. On the other hand, he's not saying he won't be either. And if he does get there, he'll be the second from his family, along with his father Doug.

Schreiber is one of four Princeton All-Americas, along with fellow first-team selection Chad Wiedmaier, second-team pick Tyler Fiorito and honorable mention pick John Cunningham.

Schreiber has two years remaining at Princeton; the other three will be graduating in another week or so. All three are among the best who've ever played their positions at Princeton.

Finally, the NCAA lacrosse championships are this weekend at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough.

TB's pick to win it all is the same as his pick before the tournament started - Duke.

We'll find out how much he knows by Monday.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

The Sports Parade

When TigerBlog goes through the TV lineup, he usually makes stops at channel 126 (Military Channel), 181 (A&E), and 230 (Turner Classic Movies) and 231 (AMC), as well as the usual ones along the way. The last few weeks, when he's watched way more of the hockey playoffs than he usually does, he's figured out that NBC Sports is channel 90.

These days, he's looking to catch up on "Big Bang Theory," a show he was late getting into and still isn't 100% sold on, though he did laugh heartily when Raj tells his blind date that it's okay for her to wash her hands all the time but not Sheldon because "you're a dentist, and he's just nuts."

 As an aside, he's tried to get into "Mad Men," though with limited success to date.

Anyway, he saw that there was a movie called "The Sports Parade" on channel 230, so he went to the information button to see what it was about.

Turns out "The Sports Parade" is from 1932, and the description said it followed two former college football stars after their graduation as one goes in a successful direction and the other is constantly trying to get ahead.

The successful one, if TB may add, becomes a big shot in the newspaper business, specifically as the sports editor. The newspaper business as it was portrayed in 1932 bore little resemblance to the one that TB knew in the 1980s and 1990s.

What made the movie even more interesting was the fact that the two athlete/friends were Dartmouth guys. They played football, hockey and baseball actually.

There were a few scenes in the beginning that were supposed to be on Dartmouth's campus, and there was a large banner that read "DARTMOUTH" in the same block letters that TB has seen so many times when he's been in Hanover.

TB only saw the first 30 minutes of it or so, and he has no idea how it turns out. If the movie is from 1932, then the two guys played in the late 1920s or so.

TB, being somewhat along the same lines as Sheldon, immediately wondered how they did against Princeton, and the answer is - they didn't, not in football at least, as Princeton and Dartmouth did not face each other between 1916 and 1933.

At one point, the sports editor guy talks about how they'll be covering "Yale-Dartmouth at the Bowl," which is where every Yale-Dartmouth game was played back then. In fact, Yale and Dartmouth tied 0-0 in 1930 and 33-33 in 1931.

Princeton did play Dartmouth in baseball in those years, and the schools would play in hockey twice a year as well, once in Princeton and once in New York City.

Of course, Princeton and Dartmouth did not play in women's athletics back then, since Princeton would not admit women for nearly 40 more years.

Back in the present day, the NCAA women's rowing championships come to the area this weekend, as Mercer Lake is the venue. The hosts, by the way, are the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference and Rider (which doesn't have a rowing team, but that doesn't mean it can't be the host for the event).

Princeton is the defending first varsity 8 champion, but the overall champion is the team that wins the points championship, which puts it in direct contradiction with the way the Ivy League crowns its winner.

This year was the first time the Ivy League women's rowing championships were separate from the Eastern Sprints, and the Ivy champion for years had been recognized as the highest finished first varsity 8 boat at the Sprints. For continuity sake, the league carried that over this year.

Beginning next year, the winner of the Ivy League title gets an automatic bid to the NCAA event, but TB isn't quite sure what that means. Is it the first varsity 8 boat? The overall team winner?

Anyway, seven schools have won the NCAA women's rowing championship: Harvard, Yale, Brown, Cal, Washington, Stanford and Virginia. It's unlikely that Princeton breaks into that elite group this year, but the Tigers are coming off a fourth-place finish a year ago - and they are the highest ranked Ivy team in the final poll (sixth). The top five in the poll? Cal, Michigan, Virginia, Ohio State and Washington.

The racing begins tomorrow and runs all day, continuing all day Saturday and then wrapping up with the finals Sunday. The first varsity 8 grand final is 12:05.

Looking for something to do? Mercer Lake is in Mercer County Park, about 10 minutes from Princeton's campus.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

ID Morning

TigerBlog saw a headline yesterday on that proclaimed that college football season was a mere 100 days away.

TB thought about that and figured 100 days seems like a long time. After all, it's more than three months.

Then he thought back to 100 days ago, which would take you to Feb. 15, or only 10 days prior to the start of Princeton lacrosse season. And that feels like it was 10 minutes ago.

TB then looked at the Major League baseball standings and realized that more than a quarter of the season has flown by already.

TB had no idea that the Baltimore Orioles had the best record in the American League. He definitely had no idea that the Los Angeles Dodgers had the best record in the National League.

If the playoffs started today, the wild card games would be Toronto at Tampa Bay in the American League, with the Orioles, Indians and Rangers having won their divisions. In the National League, it would be the Mets at the Braves, with the Nationals, Cardinals and Dodgers all waiting.

How cool would that be?

It's a weird time here at Princeton Athletics.

Every regular season event for the academic year is over. There are still athletes competing in track and field this weekend at the NCAA regional in Jacksonville, with an eye ahead to the NCAA Championships in Des Moines in two weeks.

The NCAA women's rowing championships will be held this weekend at Mercer County Lake, and the men's national rowing championships are next weekend.

Princeton also has three tennis players competing this weekend in NCAA competition.

In many ways, the athletic year is over.

Still, until the last athletes compete, it's not really over.

And the feeling around here changes dramatically once three events happen in rapid succession: the Princeton Varsity Club banquet, Reunions and graduation.

Once all that happens, then it'll really feel like summer around here. For now, it's a bit of an in-between time, with some typical in-season responsibilities wrapped around the end of the regular run of game after game after game.

This morning, the members of the Department of Athletics needed to congregate in the lobby of Jadwin Gym to get new University ID cards.

TB lost his old one years ago, so he had to get a new picture taken for his. Unlike most people, TB likes his picture on his ID - and on his driver's license. 

As the process went on, he was struck by the fact that head football coach Bob Surace was waiting his turn patiently in line, behind other coaches and staff members.

TB couldn't help but laugh at the high percentage of BCS head football coaches who would view this as being completely beneath them and who would never lower themselves to standing in line. When TB brought this up to Surace, he laughed and told TB some stories he's heard about some of his head coaching colleagues from the BCS level.

Luis Nicolao, the ultra-successful water polo coach who took the men to the Final Four and the women to sixth place in the NCAA this academic year, just walked in as well, talking about how he had to get his ID picture taken.

In the meantime, Nicolao talked about some old Springsteen concert videos that could be seen on, before he went back to get in the ID line.

It's been that kind of morning around here.

TB can sense the end of the year and the coming of summer, even if it's not quite here yet. There are still all kinds of things to be done, though nothing at this moment seems all that pressing.

On the other hand, 100 days are going to go by relatively quickly. And it'll all be starting again soon.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Opening And Closing

Whenever someone from the Department of Athletics had a baby, the joke was that everyone should go visit at 2 in the afternoon.

Why? That's when the hospital in Princeton would have free ice cream.

TigerBlog is pretty sure that it was called Princeton Medical Center at one point. Yesterday, it was the University Medical Center at Princeton.

Today, it's the University Medical Center of Princeton at Plainsboro.

The old hospital on Witherspoon Street had a good run, going back 93 years. For the last four years, construction on the new hospital has been ongoing, leading to today's opening on Route 1.

TigerBlog Jr. and Little Miss TigerBlog were both born in the old hospital, as were any number of children belonging to members of the department and University.

At the other end of the road, the hospital was the last place TB ever go to see his old friend Jeb Stuart, who volunteered here in the OAC for years after "retiring" from running "Town Topics," the local weekly newspaper in town.

In between, TB had his own times in the old hospital, with a surgery here, a test there. Fortunately, it was never anything too bad.

He remembers every detail of the two times he went there for the births of his children, both of whom decided the middle of the night would be a good time to get the process going.

When TBJ was born, TB had gotten his hand caught in the garage door while leaving the house and had essentially crushed his fingers, not that anyone seemed to care.

As for LMTB, she made a quick appearance on the scene, leading to a nurse yelling out the window down the parking lot to the doctor to sort of hurry things up, all the while asserting that she had delivered hundreds of babies on her own before a doctor could get there, something that was later admitted to have been fabricated to keep everyone calm at the time.

Anyway, the hospital ceases operations today, with the entire show moved out of town and across Route 1 to the sprawling new campus.

When TB looks out his window, he sees Princeton Stadium, specifically the upper deck and press box that rise beyond Weaver Track and Field Stadium.

When TB first started working here, the view used to be of Palmer Stadium, actually into the old horseshoe stadium that was built five years before the hospital on Witherspoon Street.

Palmer Stadium was the home for football and track and field, and all there was between Jadwin and the stadium was a huge patch of grass. When TB stood on the balcony of Jadwin and looked out, there was an unobstructed view of the field, the goal posts and the rest of the stadium.

TB ran into Bob Cornell, the longtime SID at Colgate who has since retired and who at one point worked in athletic communications at Princeton, this past Sunday at the men's lacrosse quarterfinals at PPL Park in Chester, and when the subject turned to his old place of employment, the first thing he mentioned was carrying a ditto machine up to the Palmer Stadium press box.

For those who don't know what dittos were, they were rudimentary - and messy - copy machines that would make barely readable copies with blue ink. They were mostly used, as TB recalls, to recreate tests for 1970s students and to make copies of stats at games. They were known mostly for their amazing smell, which fascinated every kid who ever had to take a test but first held the paper up to his or her nose.

Palmer Stadium in its glory days was a wondrous place for college football. By the end, it was, well, a dump, a crumbling one at that.

Still, it had its charm.

Every now and then, TB will see a highlight of a game from Palmer or a still picture - maybe even the one with horses parked outside the stadium in its earliest days - and get a bit nostalgic for the old place.

It's the same with the hospital.

Buildings come and go.

One day, Princeton basketball will have a different home than Jadwin Gym, which, if TB's math is correct, has been the home for the Tigers for longer than any other facility the team has used.

One day, Princeton will have to build a new basketball arena, leaving those who competed here in Jadwin or who simply watched others do so to remember those times, those great games, those great events. And to share those memories with others.

Hospitals. Athletic venues.

The experiences in both will remain, long after the buildings are gone.

So best wishes to all who work in the new hospital and all those who require their care. May the good memories far, far outweigh the bad.

Monday, May 21, 2012

Win, Place And Show

TigerBlog has never bet on a horse race. He wouldn't begin to know how to read a racing form.

While he grew up in the shadow of Freehold Raceway, he spent way more time across the street from the track, at the Jersey Freeze, ordering milk shakes or brownie sundaes.

He did watch Secretariat run away with the 1973 Belmont Stakes, and he did see Affirmed and Alydar have their epic battles a few years later. Since the 1970s, he has basically only paid attention to the sport if the same horse won the Kentucky Derby and the Preakness.

Affirmed's three close wins over Alydar came in 1978, which capped a six year run that featured three Triple Crown winners, along with Seattle Slew in 1977.

Since then, no horse has won the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes in the same year.
 This past weekend, I'll Have Another became the 12th horse since Affirmed to win both the Kentucky Derby and Preakness. None of the previous 11 has won the Belmont.

I'll Have Another gets his chance in three weeks. The Belmont is a weird race, since when the Derby winner doesn't win the Preakness, it loses almost all of its appeal.

Only 11 horses have won the Triple Crown. And only one jockey has done so more than once. TB will give you awhile to figure it out.

Besides, when it came to racing this past weekend, TigerBlog was much more interested in the human kind.

Princeton senior Donn Cabral ran a remarkable race Friday night in Sacramento, winning the 3,000-meter steeplechase to break the American college record, one that lasted nearly as long as there hasn't been a Triple Crown winner.

Cabral's time of 8:19.14 was 0.17 faster than the time of Weber State's Farley Gerber back in 1984. It was also nearly 10 seconds better than the Ivy League record, which dated back to 1985.

Cabral, the NCAA steeplechase runner-up last year, is at the top of the stretch (if TB may mix metaphors or something) for his grueling year, one that has seen him compete in cross country and track and field for Princeton - winning three Heptagonal team titles along the way - all with an eye on being at his sharpest for the Olympic Trials.

His race in California was huge in that his time beat the Olympic qualifying standard.

The Olympic Trials will be held June 21 through July 1 in Eugene, Ore. The steeplechase has its preliminary round on June 25 and the final on June 28.

The top three finishers in each event at the Trials earn a spot on the Olympic team, unless they don't meet the qualifying standard. In the case of the steeplechase, that time is 8:23.10. As TB understands it, Cabral could make the Olympic team even if he doesn't come in the top three at the Trials, if the ones who do don't run the standard.

Meanwhile, TB continues to be amazed by Cabral and the way he is pushing himself this year to compete for Princeton and possibly into the Olympics. It's been wild to look out the window every day and see Cabral going through his workouts, especially with an understanding of what his ultimate goal is.

Friday night was a big step in that direction.

TB wishes him luck.

Meanwhile, the 11 horses who have won the Triple Crown are:

Sir Barton, Gallant Fox, Omaha, War Admiral, Whirlaway, Count Fleet, Assault, Citation, Secretariat, Seattle Slew and Affirmed.

Eddie Arcaro, who rode Whirlaway and Citation, is the jockey who did it twice.

Friday, May 18, 2012

Bob Bradley In 32,009 Characters

TigerBlog is more into Twitter than he thought he'd ever be.

It's a great source for links, quick information, pictures, pithy comments. It's replaced the quote in the newspaper as the go-to way for the more famous to make their statements on whatever subject it is they feel the need to be heard on.

For the less famous, it's also perfect for using as an in-game updating tool.

Here at Princeton Athletics, TB is pretty sure that Twitter is going to be a bigger and bigger part of the future. To date, Princeton's Twitter account - putigers - has been used in a somewhat rudimentary way, and a large part of the summer focus here will be figuring out how to maximize our usage of it.

Twitter, of course, limits entries to 140 characters.

It's not easy to be creative in just 140 characters, so in some ways, TB respects what it takes to achieve a level of Twitter creativity. On the other hand, it also further results in the destruction of the written word, grammar and even worse, the ability of contemporary society to focus on something for longer than 140 characters.

So while he sees the value in Twitter, TB is and always be a fan of writing that is longer than 140 characters.

And as such, he was a huge fan of the story that ran on yesterday about former Princeton head men's soccer coach Bob Bradley.

Okay, so Princeton isn't mentioned in the story. And describing Bradley as "former Princeton head men's soccer coach" is true but a tad misleading.

Bradley is of course the former head coach of the U.S. Men's National Team. It was two years ago that Bradley brought the U.S. team to Myslik Field at Roberts Stadium to train for the 2010 World Cup.

While in South Africa, Bradley led the Americans to a victory in the Group stage, something even more impressive considering 1) that England was in the same group and 2) the dramatic way in which it happened.

Bradley also led the U.S. team to a win over Spain, the top-ranked team in the world, and to other successes.

Despite his successes, Bradley was cast aside as soon as the team hit a few bumps.

The anti-Bradley contingent argued that he wasn't creative enough or emotional enough. TB would simply counter by pointing out that the U.S. was doing things under Bradley that it hadn't previously done, including having its top players become stars in Europe.

The story on talks about Bradley's new career path, as the head coach of the Eyptian national team.

It's a great piece, one that puts Bradley the man and coach in the context of the unfolding events and political instability in Egypt. The fact that Princeton baseball coach Scott Bradley - Bob's brother - came into TB's office while he was reading the story made it a little more surreal.

TB first met Bob Bradley when he was covering Princeton's run to the 1993 NCAA Final Four.

He has seen and spoken to Bradley a few times in the last 15 or so years, most recently over the holidays this past winter, when Bradley and his wife Lindsay were in Princeton.

Bob Bradley is thoughtful. He's passionate about what he does. He's ultra-competitive. He's genuine.

He talks about his time at Princeton with great fondness, and he remains close to many of the people who worked with and coached while he was here.

When TB would read what people would post about Bradley on various message boards when Bradley was the U.S. coach, TB would think "they don't know him at all. He's nothing like that."

What he is is a man who oozes strength of character, and as TB spoke to him far from the heat - figurative and literal - of Cairo, he couldn't help but think of how if anyone could handle that situation, it was Bob Bradley.

Knowing him makes him easy to root for as he attempts to get Egypt to the World Cup.

Don't know him? Read the story.

It's a little unusual for contemporary society, 32,009 characters to be exact, which would be more than 228 Tweets.

It's well worth it, though.

So is rooting for Bob Bradley now that the path to the 2014 World Cup is about to begin.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Feeling Grand

Remember when the UConn women's basketball player tore her ACL one point shy of the school record for points in a career?

The next game was at Villanova, and the coaches agreed that the UConn player would come onto the court in her brace and be allowed to make an uncontested layup, which would be followed by an uncontested Villanova layup at the other end of the court. The score would officially be 2-2, and the teams would go from there.

It became a pretty hot topic at the time, about the value of a record that a player surely would have gotten had she not been injured versus the integrity of the games themselves.

Back then, Princeton had a basketball media luncheon each week, with the women's head coach (at the time Liz Feeley), the men's head coach (Bill Carmody) and one player from each team.

Rich Fisher, who probably holds the record for most publications in Mercer County written for in a career, was covering one of the luncheons for one such publication, and he essentially said something along the lines of "this has nothing to do with Princeton, but what did you think of the UConn-Villanova thing?"

The two players both said something along the lines of "it was nice that she got the record," though it took them about a minute each to do so. Feeley then said basically the same thing, and though it was in a more cohesive form, it still took her about a minute as well.

Then it was Carmody's turn, and his answer was 10 words that TigerBlog will never forget:
"Al Kaline had 399 home runs; what's the big deal?"

Carmody was saying that records and milestones aren't what are important. Making shots is what's important.

Sports, though, are milestone-driven. Kaline did get a huge one - he had 3,007 hits in his career, a number that landed him in the Hall of Fame - but there's a bigger difference between hitting 399 home runs and 400 home runs than just the one more.

Baseball is by far the sport that emphasizes numbers the most, but it's not alone.

1,000 points. 1,000 yards.

1,000 blogs.

Okay, it's not quite like reaching the first two, but today is Blog No. 1,000 for TigerBlog, at least TigerBlog the blog, not TigerBlog the person. If he had to guess, TB would say he's at about 900 or so.

TigerBlog began on Aug. 28, 2008, and TB cannot remember why the Princeton OAC decided to create a blog in the first place. In fact, TB's memory on the subject is that it had something to do with wanting to do in-game blogging and to have a place for small news items that didn't need to go on the main webpage.

The first entry was this:
The new Myslik Field at Roberts Stadium hosted its first event on Thursday as members of the media were introduced to the new home of Princeton soccer. Head coaches Jim Barlow and Julie Shackford and members of both teams met reporters from area newspaper and television outlets. Look for articles in the upcoming issues of the Princeton Packet and Town Topics and on WZBN News.  

The second entry was about Will Venable's Major League debut.

When football season started, the blog was used as an in-game tool, but TB remembers thinking that 1) to do it right, the in-game blog had to be a bit more creative, 2) it wasn't right to blog for football and basketball but not other sports and 3) he didn't want to create more work for everyone in the office.

The in-game blogging lasted through the first few months, into basketball season. In fact, TB has saved the last email he ever got from Lorin Maurer (the Friends' group coordinator who was tragically killed in a plane crash), and the email is a forward of one from a member of the swimming and diving Friends' group who asks if their meets can also get live-blogging.

Eventually, TigerBlog started using TigerBlog as the subject of sentences, but not to refer to the author.

It's possible that TB realized that the number of people who read the blog were minimal, and that, coupled with the issues related to in-game blogging for one team and not others, led to a change in the approach to the blog.

It also was apparent that 1) it needed to be updated every day to maintain readers and 2) it would be adding to the work load of the office to do so.

In an effort to avoid that, TB took the lead in updating the blog. And he started to figure out that if he wrote about Princeton people and his experiences in covering them through the years, it had more appeal.

Ultimately, he started to get a little carried away, at least from the perspective of an official college athletic department site. Regular readers now know about TB's favorite movies, TV shows, songs, authors, teams and such.

Still, it's all tied into Princeton Athletics and promoting Princeton Athletics. And it often takes a stand on big issues in athletics, education, the Ivy League, the future of media, sportsmanship and such, which is what the real appeal is.

TB does wish he had a more thorough background in sports other than the ones he writes about the most, and he knows that there are those who are turned off by the number of times certain sports get written about versus others.

TigerBlog has become a huge part of TB's day, and it has been a very successful enterprise for the OAC as it has gone away from traditional publications to the blog, podcasts and video. Who knows what's next?

Anyway, TigerBlog turns 1,000 today.

Thanks for reading and indulging.

Hopefully, TigerBlog is in it for the long haul. The blog and the person.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Thanks For The Miracle

TigerBlog still hasn't figured out what his favorite English Premier League team is, even after all the time he's spent watching the league recently. He does know that he can't root for Manchester United or Chelsea, just because they win it every year. 

In fact, he usually is a fan of the three new teams each year, to see if they can avoid being one-and-done, as it were, in the EPL.

TB thought the end of the 2011 EPL season was wild, and yet it had almost nothing on the end of the 2012 season. This is extraordinary considering that there is no EPL postseason, especially when contrasted with the current NBA and NHL playoffs.

TB was going to talk about the EPL's final hours for 2012, except he decided to let men's soccer coach Jim Barlow do it instead. TB has a standing offer to all Princeton coaches to write guest TB's, yet only Barlow has ever taken him up on it.

Here, then, are Jim Barlow's thoughts:

One of my favorite soccer books is called /Soccer in Sun and Shadow /by  Eduardo Galeano.  In it he writes:

"Years have gone by and I've finally learned to accept myself for who I am: a beggar for good soccer.  I go about the world, hand outstretched, and in the stadiums I plead: 'A pretty move, for the love of God.'  And when good soccer happens, I give thanks for the miracle and I don't give a damn which team or country performs it."

On Sunday I witnessed one of those miracles.

While Mother's Day was jam-packed with great sporting events (Princeton vs UVA in men's lacrosse, the TPC Final Round, Game 7 of the Clippers vs Grizzlies, the Mets' ninth-inning meldtown vs the Marlins, the Red Bulls come from behind 3-2 win against the Philadelphia Union, just to name a
few), it was the Manchester City vs. Queens Park Rangers game in the English Premier League that may go down as the single greatest ending to a professional sports season of all time.

If you saw the game, no explanation is necessary.  If you didn't, no description may suffice.

But let me try.

Manchester City and Manchester United entered the final weekend of the EPL season tied for first place with the same record (27-5-5), but City held a significant advantage in goal difference, the first tiebreaker.

While both clubs possess huge payrolls and rosters filled with some of the world's best players, City had not won the English Premier League championship since its inception in 1992 (their last league title was in 1967-68).

United, on the other hand, not only dominated the city's  rivalry but also won an amazing 12 EPL titles since 1992.  Legendary United manager Sir Alex Ferguson (who visited Princeton two years ago) saw his team's hopes for the title all but destroyed when City won the Manchester derby 1-0 with just two weeks to go, but he did not concede that the title was lost, and his sound bites may have been intended to put additional pressure on his neighbors:

"If you had told me at the start of the season we would still be involved on the last day I would have settled for that, no question," Ferguson said to "The Guardian" web page. "But in the situation we are in you would have to say the odds are stacked against us."

City's usually stoic Italian manager Roberto Mancini remained optimistic after an impressive 2-0 win at Newcastle on the penultimate weekend: "We have two fingers on the trophy. But it is not enough, because we still have one more game and it is a difficult one," he told ESPN.

On Sunday, City, with the EPL's best home record (17-0-1), hosted Queens Park Rangers, who sat in 17th place (out of 20 teams) and owners of the EPL's worst road record (3-14-2). But QPR also had something to play for.

In England, the bottom three teams are relegated to a lower division, costing their club millions of dollars and forcing them to dump much of their payroll (their spots are filled by three teams who are "promoted" from the second (called Championship) division (can you imagine that in the NBA, NFL, or MLB??). A QPR win or tie would not only keep them in the Premiership but also give United, playing away at Sunderland, the chance to win the title. A City win and the title was theirs.

With all EPL games on the final day (dubbed "Survival Sunday") starting at the same time, the stage was set for an incredible finish.

And what a finish it was.

United got off to a good start and was taking care of business at Sunderland, going ahead 1-0 on a first-half Wayne Rooney goal.

City also started quickly, and led 1-0 at the half while completely dominating in possession and chances. At halftime, despite City losing their star midfielder Yaya Toure to injury, I was so sure the title was City's that I went to walk a friend's dog and didn't make it back to my television until 10 minutes into the second half.

I missed a lot.

QPR had tied the game early in the 2nd half on Djibril Cisse's counter, and then QPR captain Joey Barton, who earlier in his career made over 150 appearances for City, was red carded for an elbow to City striker Carlos Tevez's face.

Incredibly, playing a man down, in the 66th minute , QPR went ahead 2-1 on another counter finished beautifully by Jamie Mackie. Very quickly, fear and shock set into City's Etihad Stadium.

Man City fans were in tears. Forty-plus years without a title and now it was going to slip away at home on the final day. Could they endure another year of watching their neighbors hoist the trophy? QPR fans shed tears of joy as the squad looked destined to avoid relegation. The usually emotionless Mancini was going crazy on the City sideline, gesticulating wildly at his players and yelling as if his life (or at least his job) depended on the next 20 minutes.

The stubborn QPR defense, despite being outshot 44 to 3, held on tight. The 90th minute came and the score remained QPR 2; Man City 1. The fourth official indicated that there would be 5 minutes of injury time.

At about this time, the final whistle blew in Sunderland and United won 1-0. Players, coaches, and fans looked at the scoreboard and began celebrating their 13th EPL title in 20 years. With City down 2-1 this late in the game, surely the trophy was theirs.

But, in a moment, everything changed.

In the 92nd minute, on their 19th corner kick, City leveled the score when Edin Dzeko rose above the QPR defense and headed home David Silva's cross. They had tied it. I pulled my chair about two feet from the television and yelled "they
still have two minutes."

A minute after Dzeko's equaliser, City burst into the QPR box, and Mario Balotelli, a contoversial, tempermental substitute who had fallen out of favor with Mancini many times during the season, collected a pass from Sergio Aguero in the box, slid to
control it and send it back to Aguero, and watched as the Argentinian star pushed it past a defender and drilled it past the oncoming QPR keeper. It was bedlam. And, while QPR fans began to face the reality that they were being relegated, word spread that Bolton (the team behind them in the standings) had conceded a late goal to keep QPR safe in 17th place.

Everyone at the Etihad was happy. The stadium went from despair to  ecstasy in two seconds. When the final whistle blew seconds later, the fans mobbed the field. City were finally champions. Pictures from the Stadium of Light in Sunderland showed an incredulous United team, having gone from joy to sorry as word spread that City had done the impossible.

"They did it. They did it." I could not stop screaming these words so loud that I scared the neighbors, and I'm not even a City fan. I had witnessed a miracle, and I didn't give a damn which team performed it.

The best thing about these events was that all of these games were shown in the USA on national television. Ten years ago, we only would have been able to read about these games. Now, these games are making converts of former soccer bashers.

Including TigerBlog. When I first met TB, he would have known as much about the EPL as I know about rocket science. Now, you can't bother him on a Sunday night when he's watching the EPL Review Show on Fox Soccer Channel. And, it would have been TB writing this blog had he not been in Charlottesville on Sunday.

As we have been creating more beggars for good soccer, there may be some taking place on Myslik Field today (16th), Friday (18th), and Monday (21st) from 4-6:30 as the USA Women's National Team has chosen to prepare for the Olympics at Roberts Stadium. These three sessions are free and open to the public.

Hopefully in a couple of months in London, we will see them performing miracles the likes of Manchester City's on Sunday.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

No Event Meeting

The first email TigerBlog saw today said "no event meeting" in the subject line.

And before TB gets into that, why is it such a big deal if you have no subject line at all? Why should your iPhone give you an error message that says "no subject line; send anyway?"

Okay, back at the event meeting.

The meetings are a Tuesday at 10 staple here in the Department of Athletics. As you would surmise, the time is spent discussing the most recent events and then the ones for the coming week, making sure all the details are thought out. There is also time spent talking about larger issues that recur at our events.

TB often sits in meetings, either here with events or league-wide ones, and thinks of the Ivy League sports fans out there and wonders what they would think if they saw how the decision-making process works, what people talk about, how decisions are made.

If nothing else, fans would come to have a greater understanding that in the league, there is nothing arbitrary about how policy evolves.

At the same time, he also wonders what it would be like if those meetings included the fan perspective. Yes, there is no knowledge of the inner-workings of the league. At the same time, it's easy to get caught up in the procedural nature of Ivy administration and lose track of the view of the fan who comes to the venue or buys the videostream or listens on the radio or any of it.

This is especially true for event meetings, where the responsibility of the athletic department is to balance its own policies and staff needs with the idea of catering as much as possible to the customer. It's not always an easy balance to strike, and it has led to some serious disagreements at our meetings.

What made the email about this particular event meeting different than some others is that the text included this: "even meetings are done for the year."

It also had a bunch of exclamation points after that. TB, as an aside, does not use exclamation points. He barely uses them in his every day life, let alone in writing.

The idea that the final event meeting of 2011-12 has been held is wild to TigerBlog.

He's mentioned this often in the past, but when you work in college athletics, the calendar becomes a little different. Each month, each season, each time of year is radically different. Football season and lacrosse season are vastly different. Winter sports and different than fall sports.

The requirements for staffing and within each office vary wildly from season to season. It's one of the great parts of working in college athletics.

It also creates an atmosphere where the year just flies by.

It seems like yesterday that soccer and field hockey were starting. Now, aside from the tennis, track and field and rowing national championships, the athletic year has come and gone.

Another one.

TB used to work in the newspaper business, where the sports section was known as the "toy department." He remembers going to the athletic kickoff luncheon at Trenton State College (now the College of New Jersey) each year and thinking "one more year of this and then it's time to grow up and get a real job."

That, of course, was more than a quarter-century ago.

Another athletic year has basically come and gone. The next one will be here soon enough.

Each year has its own story to it. Some teams are up one year and then the next year it's another team that puts it all together.

Princeton has won 25 Ivy titles the last two years. Of the 25, seven sports won twice and 18 won once.

There were two national championships in 2010-11 - Todd Harrity in men's squash and the women's open crew. There have been two this year to date - men's squash as a team and Jonathan Yergler individually in fencing.

It's one of the best parts about working here, how each year begins as something of a blank slate.

And then they zoom by.

Another year's event meetings have come and gone. It won't be long til we're back on D level at 10 a.m. on Tuesdays.

Monday, May 14, 2012


TigerBlog was on Route 29 in Virginia, about an hour outside of Charlottesville, when the phone rang.

When he saw the name "Sachson" in the caller ID, he knew exactly what the subject of the conversation would be.

"Men's lightweight rowing," said Craig Sachson, TB's colleague in the OAC. "1. Harvard. 2. Dartmouth ... and three ... Princeton."

And with that, Ivy League competition for the 2011-12 academic year was over. Oh sure, there are still some teams and athletes who are competing in national championship competition, with some track and field athletes awaiting word today.

As for Ivy League championships, well, this weekend's rowing championships were the last ones to be contested.

And now that those are over, the Ivy League's unofficial all-sports points championship has been officially decided, or at least as officially as something unofficial can be.

First place: Princeton, 191.5 points.

Second place, Harvard, 190.5 points.

As a reminder, teams are awarded points based on their placing in the Ivy League standings or in the Ivy League team championship, if that's how the league determines its winner. The team that comes in first gets eight points, with seven for second, six for third and on down.

Eight points are awarded even if there are fewer than eight teams in that sport, such as men's lacrosse. Also, if teams ties for a position, they split the points between those two spots, so a two-way tie for third, for instance, would get both schools 5.5 points.

Princeton has now won this unofficial title for 26 consecutive years. The closest prior to this year was back in 2004-05, when Princeton edged Harvard by 2.5 points.

TB knew that Princeton was up by one over Harvard heading into the last two weekends. The Crimson were in the softball playoff, which meant that a win over Penn there would mean another point (TB had already entered the first seven).

Assuming Harvard would win (which it did), that left track and field and rowing.

Princeton went plus 6 on Harvard at the two Heps championships, meaning that Harvard needed to win big with its boats.

The Princeton women didn't win, but they did take third place by less than one-tenth of a second, or else that would have been another point. In all, Harvard would make up five points in the three rowing championships and ultimately finish a point short.

And which was that point?

Was it the one that Princeton got in men's soccer, when it twice came from behind and then won 3-2 against the Crimson? Hey, if Princeton lost that game, it would have been a two-point swing in the standings.

Or was it wrestling, where Princeton also defeated Harvard? Or was it Harvard's loss to Penn and/or Yale in men's lacrosse? Or any number of other outcomes throughout the year that swung it?

The first thing TB did when he came into work today was to double-check the math, and in fact Princeton did win by one point.

Last week, there was discussion in the office about whether or not there would be a responsibility on the part of the OAC to publicize the standings if Princeton did not win. After all, Princeton has trumpeted its successes in this unofficial competition for more than two-and-a-half decades now.

Ultimately, TB isn't sure what he would have done.

He's also glad that he didn't have to find out.

Friday, May 11, 2012

So Long To Another Teammate

The Ivy League released a statement yesterday that said that the league's athletic directors had voted against putting forth a proposal for conference tournaments in basketball for men and women.

TigerBlog, as even the most casual reader knows, is completely 100% against basketball tournaments not only in the Ivy League but also in almost any Division I league.

What else do you want him to say on the subject?

The other big news out of the Ivy League was the television agreement.

TB has been asked this a lot since that announcement, and yes, Princeton's existing ESPN contract is still in force and supersedes Princeton's involvement with the Ivy League deal, though TB anticipates cooperation between the two when it comes to scheduling the Tigers for both.

What else do you want him to say on that subject? Well, in this case, maybe he'll have a little more next week.

Today, though, he wants to talk about Dan Joyce.

Just like so many others, Joyce is entering "dead to us" territory, having committed the egregious sin of leaving the Department of Athletics, where he's been the OIT guy.

Of course, "dead to us" is a compliment. It's sort of bestowing emeritus status to people who used to work here and who have left to pursue whatever it is they want to pursue.

And so it is with Dan Joyce.

The athletic department is an interesting place in terms of the wildly different backgrounds of the people who work here, with one added dynamic. TB isn't talking about coaches, who are essentially all former athletes.

He's talking about the staff people.

Some are huge sports fans. Others are not and just happen to work in athletics.

They've come here in much the same way, TB presumes, that other people come to their professions, except for that added dynamic.

To work in the athletic department - any athletic department - is to embrace the idea that you're not just keeping to yourself, doing your stuff and moving on. Your job is part of a larger machine, all of which blends into putting teams into competition, and so you have the extra sense of being part of a team.

And that makes the people you work with your teammates as much as your coworkers.

And now Princeton is losing one of its teammates.

And who is Dan Joyce?

Well, he's an interesting guy. He's an OIT guy, which mostly means that he likes to take things apart and put them back together. He sees the world in a logical way, where this piece fits into that piece and then ultimately the whole unit works.

When TB thinks about Dan Joyce, the first memory he has is the time he walked out to Lot 21 and saw Dan as he took apart a car engine. In fact, TB is pretty sure that Dan did that just for the fun of it.

That's the nature of being in OIT.  And it's not easy.

TB would guess that 95% of the questions that Dan has been asked through the years here have been simplistic, ones that could easily be solved with a little effort on the part of the asker. Anytime TB has asked Dan something, he's been pretty sure that the first thought Dan had was along the lines of "that's so easy."

Dan Joyce is a tremendous person. He's tall, skinny, never gets flustered, laughs easily, makes fun of himself at all the right times, never passes in lunchtime basketball and is generally the kind of person you love to work with in a place like this.

He's also a great family man, and ultimately it was that aspect of his life that has taken him from Princeton to Michigan.

Today is his last day at Princeton. In the lobby of Jadwin there's a gathering to say goodbye to him, complete with breakfast sandwiches and M&Ms.

It's not the first farewell event TB has been to for a co-worker he's liked a lot here. And it won't be the last.

Like the rest of them, TB wishes Dan and his family all the best. And he'd like him to know that it's people like Dan Joyce that have made and continue to make the Princeton Department of Athletics a great place to come to everyday.

And now he's dead to us.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Today, Through Sunday

TigerBlog isn't quite into the whole celebrity thing.

One time, back when the men's basketball team was playing in Madison Square Garden, Michael Kay (who does the Yankees' games on TV and has an ESPN radio show) was broadcasting the games.

When he came up to TB to talk about the Tigers and get pronunciations and do all the things that announcers do, TB asked him what his name was. When he said "Michael Kay" with a look that said "you know who I am," TB said "Matt?"

Of course TB knew who he was. It's just a little way to keep everyone grounded, at least a little.

As a result of this basic anti-celebrity mindset, TB wasn't doing somersaults when he found out that "The Today Show" was going to be stopping by the boathouse.

TB has watched more of the "Jeopardy" teen tournament in the last two weeks than he has of "The Today Show" + "Good Morning America" + any other morning show in his entire life added together.

The four hosts of "The Today Show" - Matt Lauer, Ann Curry, Al Roker and Natalie Morales - were on campus last week to learn to row. TB assumes this is somehow related to the coming Olympic Games, which are televised by NBC.

The segment aired today between 8 and 9. TB didn't see it. He assumes at some point he will.

The crux, as he understands it, was that the four on-air personalities had a lesson in how to row and then had a race against some of the Princeton rowers.

TB further surmises that the rowing will be of greater intensity this weekend, when the final three Ivy League championships of the year are crowned, in the sports of men's lightweight rowing, men's heavyweight rowing and women's open rowing.

Women's lightweight rowing is not one of the 33 official Ivy League sports.

It used to be that the three Ivy League rowing champions would be the first varsity eight boats that finished the highest at Eastern Sprints, and that still holds for the men.

The women, however, are rowing in uncharted waters, as it were.

The men, racing on Lake Quinsigamond in Worcester, Mass., have the traditional Eastern Sprints format.

Neither the Princeton lightweights nor heavyweights are the favorites going in, but both have done well many times in the past under such circumstances.

The women aren't a prohibitive favorite but have as good a chance as anyone else of coming in first.

This time around, the women are racing at the Ivy League championships, minus the other schools that compete in Eastern Sprints, with the event to be held on the Cooper River in Cherry Hill. Why? Because beginning next year, the winner of the Ivy League championship earns an automatic berth in the NCAA championships.

Oh, and TB just paused for six minutes to see a replay of the segment from "The Today Show," and it's about as fluffy as you would expect. Or, as TB would say if he was more cynical, i's just another over-the-top attempt to make the hosts seem like they are even more special and important - all in the name of cross-promoting another network property.

Good thing TB isn't cynical.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Bed Rest

TigerBlog's cousin Jill and her husband Dan are expecting their first child. She's at almost 33 weeks, so the big day is rapidly approaching.

It hasn't exactly gone smoothly though.

Jill went into labor at 25 weeks, and the result was that she was put on full bed rest in New York Presbyterian Hospital, which is affiliated with Cornell University.

Jill spent seven weeks in her room, in bed, able to get up only to go to the bathroom and twice in that time for ultrasounds.

The goals were to 1) stop labor, which is a relatively uncertain outcome at that point and 2) to have her in the hospital in case of emergency.

In such cases, if the mother-to-be can get to 32 weeks, she gets to go home and continue to be on bed rest.

And so that's where Jill is now. After seven weeks of arguably the nicest spring weather ever in which she was not permitted to leave her room on the seventh floor (TB is pretty sure it was the seventh floor), she's now at home in Manhattan, unable to leave there either.

TigerBlog stopped by on his way back from the Harvard-Princeton men's lacrosse game, and Jill's room had an amazing view of the East River facing south from 68th Street or so.

TB hadn't spoken to or seen his cousin Jill since she was a Cornell student and he used to stop by when Princeton would play games there, back in the early 1990s, when she was one of the editors of the Cornell Daily Sun. She went on from there to a career in TV, first as a producer with Dateline and later as an Emmy Award-winning investigative reporting producer for ABC News.

BrotherBlog, who manages to know everything about everyone in the family whether they're a baby or in their 90s, mentioned to TB that Jill was having a baby, so TB got her email address from BB and sent Jill a congratulatory note. It just so happened that that was on the day that Jill went into labor, at 25 weeks.

His response came a few days later and mentioned the predicament of full bed rest. And so TB embarked upon helping her about the only way he could - by playing hundreds of Scramble Words games on the phone with her.

Now that things are looking up for his cousin, TB feels better about pointing out to her that Princeton, with its men's track and field title this past weekend, has now done something 20 times that her alma mater has never done.

And what would that be? Reach double figures in Ivy League championships in an academic year.

Princeton first did so in the 1979-80 year, and so the Tigers have done it 20 times in 33 years.

The only other league school ever to do so is Harvard, who has done it four times and only once (2004-05) since 1989-90. Harvard could, in the interest of full disclosure, reach double figures this year by winning all three of the rowing championships, the only remaining league titles.

Princeton has the most Ivy titles all-time with 405, 55 more than the second-place Crimson.

The first goal every year for the teams that compete in the 33 official Ivy League sports is to win the league title, even if that team is a prohibitive favorite and is looking to go deep into the national postseason.

TB has been around teams that had next to no chance of failing to win the league title in any given year, and yet none of them have ever taken it for granted.

The Princeton Class of 2012 will graduate having reached double figures in league championships each of its four years. Considering that every other school in the league combined has done it four times, that's not too shabby.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Most Outstanding

TigerBlog was filling out his expense reports for the spring yesterday when he stumbled onto an interesting fact.

You know how much it is in tolls from here to Yale? It's over $30. In tolls alone.

And you know how much it is from here to Syracuse?


That's it. Here to Syracuse and back for a buck.

TigerBlog loves E-Z Pass, for all kinds of reasons, not the least of which are 1) the ease and 2) the lack of having to deal with cash. The only problem is that TB rarely keeps track of how much he's actually spending on tolls, until he goes and checks out his statement.

He's also pretty sure he's supposed to fill out his expense reports as he goes, rather than waiting for the end of the season.

Each month at the department staff meeting, the business office gives out a "Shiny Dime" award to the person who has done the best to fill out the right forms in the right way at the right time. TB has yet to win.

Anyway, TB's expense forms are all related to men's lacrosse, which, if you haven't figured it out by now, is his main sport here.

That fact actually struck him yesterday when he was writing about the men's lacrosse team's bid to the NCAA tournament, and doing so with a pretty strong background in what he was talking about.

If he had gotten into track and field as much as he had lacrosse, then yesterday would have been devoted to how cool an event Heps track and field is and the intricacies of how a track meet works.

Unfortunately, he doesn't really know much about all that stuff. Maybe he could get former Ivy League communications director Brett Hoover to write a guest TB about it, since Brett is to track and field as TB is to lacrosse.

One thing TB does know is that Princeton has more than its fair share of great track and field athletes.

In fact, 20 men and 20 women from Princeton earned All-Ivy League honors at outdoor Heps.

Princeton won the men's championship and finished second on the women's side. For the men, it completed another "triple crown" of winning the cross country, indoor track and field and outdoor track and field championships.

Remember last year when Princeton won 15 Ivy titles? Keep in mind that six of them came from when the women and men both had a "triple crown."

TigerBlog was amazed to see that Conor McCullough won the hammer by 41 feet over the next closest competitor.

He was similarly amazed to see that Eileen Moran won 38 of Princeton's 134 team points on the women's side. Moran, the sprinter, now has more than 100 points at Heps championships in her carer; in fact, TB thinks the number is 130.

And then there's Donn Cabral.

The NCAA runner-up in the steeplechase the last two years, Cabral won that event and the 10,000 meters - that's 13,000 meters, 28 hurdles and seven water jumps between them - to earn Most Outstanding Performer honors for the third time at Heps.

The Princeton track and field programs are a model of stability and success.

Yesterday, TB saw a bunch of men's and women's track and field athletes having a barbeque outside of Jadwin Gym, complete with hot dogs, hamburgers and whiffle ball.

TB might not know much about the sport, but he knows team camaraderie when he sees it. Not to mention overwhelming success.

This weekend was just another example of that.

Monday, May 7, 2012

We're In

TigerBlog has seen it before, seniors who have given their all for four years and come up short of their ultimate goal, and now here they were in the lockerroom for the last time, in their uniform for the last time, unable to come to grips with it all.

And so there it was again yesterday, that same scene, stuffed into the team room at Class of 1952 Stadium, where Princeton had just fallen stunningly 15-7 to Yale in the Ivy League men's lacrosse tournament final.

Tyler Fiorito, who had been on the wrong end of the shooting gallery all afternoon, put on his bravest and most courageous face and spoke about how he hoped that everything that he and his fellow seniors had given to the program would carry over into the future.

To a man, the Tigers were crushed.

It had the feel of a team that had lost an NCAA tournament game, not an opportunity to clinch an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. It felt like a team that knew there was no way to keep playing, not a team with Top 10 RPI and an 11-4 record.

TigerBlog, for his part, was still optimistic. He hardly though the Tigers were a lock for an at-large bid, but he hardly thought it was a lost cause either.

Standing in the team room or under the media tent a few minutes later, TB couldn't remember a time he'd experienced something like this. It was over - or was it.

Then he sat down to write and came up with this:

"This wasn't Princeton's day. The question is, will this be Princeton's night?"

The team was so sure it wouldn't be that it didn't even gather collectively to watch the selections. And then the suspense ended quickly: Princeton was in the third matchup revealed, Sunday, at fifth-seeded Virginia.

TB can just imagine the reaction that the Princeton players had, especially the seniors, who didn't want the game yesterday to be their last.

Yale has won nine straight games, and the team was ultra-impressive in beating Cornell and Princeton here this weekend. The Bulldogs' reward was a trip to fourth-seeded Notre Dame in the first round - and the possibility that if they both win, a rematch with the Tigers in the quarterfinals.

Even with the loss, though, Princeton had a great season. There is no doubt in TB's mind that Princeton is one of the top teams in Division I and that Sunday was just a bad day.

Princeton has won 11 games, of which 10 have been by at least three goals and nine have been by at least five. At their best, the Tigers have been as good as any team offensively and defensively in Division I.

If anything, the surprise that Princeton received a bid is due more to the NCAA selection criteria than it is to the quality of the team.

According to Tony Seaman, the head of the selection committee, Princeton got the last at-large spot ahead of Penn State, who would have been next.

To compare, Penn State is 9-6 and Princeton is 11-4. Princeton ranks 12th in scoring offense in Division I; Penn State ranks 45th. Princeton ranks sixth in Division I in scoring defense; Penn State ranks 10th.

In common opponents, both teams played Hofstra and Villanova, both going 2-0. Princeton beat Villanova 14-8; Penn State beat Villanova 13-8. Princeton beat Hofstra 12-6; Penn State beat Hofstra 9-8 in two overtimes.

Princeton is its league champion. Penn State isn't. Princeton reached the final of its league tournament. Penn State didn't.

Princeton is ranked four spots ahead of Penn State by the media and two by the coaches.

They're close. Where it really gets blurred is the selection criteria, especially the one that values quality wins.

There are all kinds issues with this.

First, how is a team supposed to know which team is going to be a quality win going into the season? Again, if Princeton had dropped Hofstra and added Lehigh prior to this season, it would have been accused of softening its schedule.

Then there's the issue of how big a win over a team in the 1-5 range or 6-10 range is versus the 11-20 range, but what's the difference between beating the No. 10 team or the No. 11 team?

And of course timing. Yes, lacrosse has a small window, so it's hard to factor in when games are played. But Penn State's biggest gripe is that it has a Top 5 win and Princeton does not, yet its Top Five win was 4-3 in overtime over Notre Dame on Feb. 26. Somehow this indicates who is worthy to play into May?

In TB's estimation, there has to be more opportunity for the selection committee to simply say "Team A is better than Team B in our estimation." If Seaman had said that about Penn State over Princeton, TB wouldn't have liked it, but he would have respected it.

The criteria, though, is where it bogs down.

None of that matters anymore. Princeton is in, and in this most wide-open year, there's no rule against making a run.

The bid also gives even more credence to the Tigers' season. After going 4-8 a year ago, Princeton has won the Ivy League championship and now advances to the NCAA tournament.

It strengthens TB's contention that there is no question that Chris Bates is the Division I Coach of the Year, and it's not even close.

Lastly - and TB doesn't want to keep coming back to this, and he does so not to be exploitative but because it's a very real and very legitimate part of what has helped shape Princeton men's lacrosse in 2012  -  Princeton's NCAA tournament game will be Sunday, the first Mothers' Day since Ann Bates passed away.

It's the perfect place for Chris and Nick Bates to be that day, along with the rest of the Princeton Tigers, who belong in the NCAA tournament as much as anyone.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Mo, Track And Lax

TigerBlog has always thought that the most overrated position in sports is that of closer in Major League Baseball.

For starters (get the pun?), the closer is the only position where stats enter into the thinking of the manager/coach. Otherwise, why wouldn't you bring your closer into a game in the seventh inning when you're up 5-2 with the bases loaded, get out of that one and then let someone else hold the three-run lead in the eighth and ninth?

It's because your closer wouldn't get a save if you did that. And saves = big contracts. And saves also turns closers into big stars, even when so many of their saves have come when they get three outs and have a lead of up to three runs.

It's rare to see a closer come into a game when there are men on base. It's rare to see a closer go more than one inning. Even if he comes into a game with a one-run lead to start the ninth, that's a lot of margin of error. It's hardly like having first and third and one out or something like that.

TB would almost never give a huge contract to a closer, because 1) they get hurt all the time, 2) they are so easily replaced and 3) what they do is vastly overblown (another pun).

There are exceptions, of course. There are those rare pitchers who get into the other team's head, knowing that they have to be ahead before the ninth (or in even rarer circumstances when the right closer is paired with the right setup man, the seventh).

And then there's Mariano Rivera.

The Yankee closer has been essentially untouchable in his career, to the point where his two main failures - the 2001 World Series Game 7 vs. Arizona and Game 4 ALCS with Boston in 2004 - have become legendary for how stunning they were.

Rivera has been as close to automatic as anyone has ever been at anything in sports. And he's done it on TB's least favorite professional sports team.

Rivera suffered a torn ACL last night in Kansas City, before the game actually, while in his regular pregame routine of shagging flies during batting practice. It appears that the injury is season-ending, and it's possible that Rivera has thrown his last pitch as a Major Leaguer.

If so, it's a tough way for him to go out. And if so, TB joins with the legions of anti-Yankee people who grudgingly developed a deep respect for Rivera's skill and for the classy way he has carried himself during his nearly 20-year career.

If the injury to Rivera has ruined Yankee manager Joe Girardi's weekend, TB's will somewhat be determined by how the Ivy League men's lacrosse tournament and the Heptagonal track and field championships go.

The Ivy League champions for men's and women's outdoor track and field will be crowned at Franklin Field at Penn this weekend.

In case you didn't notice, Franklin Field also held a track meet last weekend, when the Penn Relays were there.

Princeton's women are the defending champion, and they will be looking to improve on a sixth-place finish indoors this past winter. Honestly, TB doesn't know enough about track-and-field to know what the differences are between indoor and outdoor (other than the obvious) and why a team might be better at one than the other.

As for the men, Princeton is the defending champion and the indoor champion, as well as the champion of every Heps event (cross country and track and field) the last two academic years, for a total of five straight.

As amazing as it seems, the academic year is nearly over, and there are only five Ivy League championships still up for grabs - the two in track and field and then the three in rowing.

Princeton is the men's Ivy League lacrosse champion for 2012, but with that does not come an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. Instead, the winner of this weekend's Ivy tournament will earn that.

The games will be on Sherrerd Field at Class of 1952 Stadium, beginning with Yale-Cornell at 5 tonight and then followed by Princeton-Brown at 8. The winners meet Sunday at noon.

It seems probably that Cornell, Yale and Brown need the automatic bid to get to the NCAA tournament. It seems like Princeton will be right on the bubble should it not win the automatic bid.

The NCAA selections will be announced Sunday at 9.

By Monday morning, when the requisite "how was the weekend" questions are asked, TB's answer is largely out of his control at this point.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

On Athletic Mortality

Like many of you, TigerBlog loves the NFL.

There's nothing quite like NFL football in the American sports culture. It's so much a part of the society that the Super Bowl is by far the most-watched television show each year, and something like 14 of the 15 highest-rated TV shows of all time are Super Bowls.

The NFL is so popular that the lockout was settled before any games were missed. It had to be, because the public never would have stood for missing out on even one week of NFL games.

TigerBlog couldn't help but think about how much he enjoys watching the games, how many a weekend in his life has been shaped by the result of a game involving the Giants, how great each of the team's four Super Bowl championships - including two the last four years - have been.

And yet suddenly it's not what is was, not after the Saints and their bounty issues and all of the troubles regarding concussions and now, tragically, the apparent suicide of Junior Seau.

TigerBlog was shocked when he saw that Seau, one of the great linebackers of all time, had apparently killed himself.

And then even more so when he read that he was the eighth member of the 1994 San Diego Chargers, who played in the Super Bowl, who has already died.

At some point the NFL is going to have to realize that it has a major, major, major problem on its hands, one that threatens the very existence of its sport, and take real steps, possibly even ones that reduce profits.

The league cannot survive if its players' long-term health - and really, Seau was 43, so we're not talking real long-term - is compromised.

TigerBlog always hears that the owners are concerned that reducing the violence would make the game less appealing.

After he heard about Seau, TB trying to figure out what it is about the NFL that attracts him in ways that Major League Baseball or the NBA or the NHL do not. Or college football or basketball.

It's not the violence.

It's more because every game is so big because there are only 16 of them or because they only play once a week. Maybe it's the fact that it plays so well on television. Maybe it's the fact that it's a blend of mega-stars within a total team sport.

It's not the violence. It's not the helmet-to-helmet shots or the massive hits on receivers who come across the middle.

In fact, TB hates that aspect of the game, especially for the impact it has on high school and even youth players who see their idols on TV and try to emulate them.

Sean Morey has started working at Princeton as a general administrator. Morey is a veteran of the National Football League, a Super Bowl winner with the Pittsburgh Steeler, a runner-up with the Arizona Cardinals and a Pro Bowl special teams performer.

He is also active with the players' union, especially in the area of concussions and long-term health issues.

Morey put his body on the line many a Sunday, and TB gets the sense from talking to him that he'd do it all over again in a heartbeat.

At some point, players reach the end of the line in their careers - their athletic mortality. For Morey, it was into his 30s.

For almost all athletes, it's at the end of high school. For the luckier (and bigger and faster and better), it's at the end of college.

The athletic year at Princeton - and at every school - is winding down.

The 200 or so seniors will be going pro in something other than sports. And as such, they have to face the fact that their athletic careers - as structured athletes - is ending.

TB and Morey had a conversation about this yesterday. It's not something that people who work in athletics are always on board with, since there's always another group that's on its way in.

But it's not easy.

They have been defined by their athleticism since they were little kids, for the most part. And now they're at the end of that. At 22 or so.

For some, it's probably a relief, to walk away from the regimen of college athletics. For most, TB assumes, it leaves a big hole.

As Morey said, he spoke to one player who said something along the lines of "everyone's always told me I'm a good goalie. What am I now?"

Facing athletic mortality, as it has been called, is not easy.

It shouldn't be a matter of actually mortality though.

The NFL better get its head out of the sand.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Knowledge Is Good

The first R-rated movie that TigerBlog ever saw in the movies is also the funniest movie he's ever seen. Even all these years later.

Actually, TB saw a group of movies that he'd consider among the funniest of all time right in a row there. "Caddyshack." "Stripes." "Fast Times At Ridgemont High."

Years later, TB was watching "Stripes" with FatherBlog when Sergeant Hulka first gets the platoon to march. When Harold Ramis said to Bill Murray "look John, we're walking," that was the hardest that TB had ever seen Army vet FatherBlog laugh, except for all 60 minutes of Buddy Hackett's HBO special.

And TB doesn't even have that line in his top five from the movie.

It's hard to chose the single funniest line in "Caddyshack."

TB will go with "hey, Wang, this place looks restricted, so don't tell 'em you're Jewish," though you really can't go wrong with just about anything that comes out of Rodney's mouth.

The same is true of Spicoli in "Fast Times at Ridgemont High."

There have been other comedies, before, during and after that late 70s early 80s run that TB has loved.

For pure can't-help-but-laugh, sheer-genius-who-came-up-with-this, flawless comedy value, nothing TB has ever seen has ever beaten "Animal House."

It's been a few years since TB actually watched it, and yet there it was the other day, the unedited version on one of the movie channels. And so TB watched - and had it reinforced why he thinks so much of the movie.

The characters are tremendous. The timing is perfect. Each scene stands on its own merit and then ties into the story effortlessly. 

And the lines? So many of them are classics that TB can't even begin to single out one.

What he can single out is the one person who carries the whole movie, and that is John Belushi. TB said on the day that Belushi died (March 5, 1982, at the age of 33) that he would never again watch "Saturday Night Live," and he never has, not for one second.

Faber College was the home of the Delta Tau Chis and their rivals in "Animal House." It's founder was Emil Faber, the student newspaper was "the Daily Faberian" and the college motto was "Knowledge Is Good."

The Deltas were modeled after a fraternity at Dartmouth, of all places, and the movie was actually filmed largely on the campus of the University of Oregon.

The ending of the movie shows what happened to all of the key people in the movie, including Senator and Mrs. John Blutarsky.

As a aside, TB just got an email that says that Daniel Day has been named director of news and editorial services at University communications. And here TB thought his whereabouts were unknown.

Maybe of everyone who works here, TB could have seen water polo coach Luis Nicolao as one of the Deltas.

Hey, anyone who shows up at a Princeton Varsity Club luncheon in a speedo or coaches on Halloween dressed as Batman certainly could have fit in with the Deltas. Yeah, TB could see Luis chanting "toga, toga, toga" in a fraternity basement, just after being put on double secret probation.

In reality, Nicolao is a graduate of the United States Naval Academy, where presumably there is no such fraternity craziness.

It's been a pretty good year for the Navy grad here with the Tigers.

In the fall, he led the men's team to the Eastern championship and the NCAA Final Four, where his team finished third. His record with the men was 22-10.

Now, this spring, the women are an even-better 28-4, bringing him to 50-14 overall.

In addition, the women's team is now the sixth seed in the NCAA tournament, earning an automatic bid by virtue of its 6-5 win over Maryland this past weekend in the Eastern tournament.

Princeton, the sixth-seed, will take on third-seeded USC next Friday at San Diego State. It'll be the first NCAA appearance for Princeton.

It's an eight-team field, and the each team will play three games.

If you've never seen water polo, it's a game that requires unbelievable strength and conditioning. Just go jump in the pool and tread water for seven minutes at a time and see how hard that is, let alone doing it with people kicking and pulling you under the water.

It's also a game of great skill and grace. And it goes very quickly.

Maybe that's why ESPNU makes it a staple of its yearly Princeton events. In fact, it was the first Princeton event on ESPNU this year, a men's water polo game.

Who knew it'd be a start of the most successful water polo year Princeton has ever had?