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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Princeton finishing on top in the all-sports calculation is particularly impressive in 2011-12, one year after a record-breaking performance with fifteen Ivy championships. College sports teams follow an ebb-and-flow cycle of cresting and rebuilding as senior leaders graduate and bench-warming underclassmen grow into bigger roles. It’s logical that Princeton would be most vulnerable one year after so many of its teams reached a cyclical peak.

Not only did Princeton win more Ivy titles last year than ever before, but it came very close what would have been a ridiculous achievement. Princeton tied Penn in the season finale of women’s soccer when a win would have won that championship and the Tigers lost 4-3 to Cornell in the season finale of men’s tennis when a win would have secured another title. In other words, Princeton needed one goal in women’s soccer and one individual match in men’s tennis during season-ending de facto Ivy championship meetings. With them, the Tigers would have won more than HALF of the 33 sports in which the conference sponsors Ivy crowns.

In my opinion, it’s reasonable to award eight points in sports with fewer than eight competitors because the whole point is to consider equal a championship won in any sport. But I presume that you also are consistent enough to award schools without teams in a sport the minimum number of points that they should win even without a horse in the race. For example, Columbia should get one point in men’s lacrosse while Yale and Dartmouth should each receive 1.5 points in wrestling.

How did you reconcile the two divisions in baseball and softball in terms of integrating the records of all teams other than the eight-point-winning League champion? Princeton softball finished third in the South division but won more games than the two teams which tied for second in the North division. Columbia baseball finished third in the Gehrig division but won more games than three teams in the Rolfe division. How do you award points 7 through 1 for all teams other than the champion?