Thursday, June 30, 2022

Cup Stuff

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

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

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

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

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

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

2022 - ??
2019 – 30

2018 - 40
2017 - 48

2016 - 33
2015 - 41

2014 - 44
2013 - 35

2012 - 39
2011 - 38

2010 - 32
2009 - 40

2008 - 60
2007 - 63

2006 - 47
2005 - 42

2004 - 33
2003 - 34

2002 - 21
2001 - 24

2000 - 57
1999 - 31

1998 – 25
1997 – 60

1996 – 23
1995 – 29

1994  - 34

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then came the massively incredible Princeton spring.

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 29, 2022

The Mark Ellis Story

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

Here are the responses he got:


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

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

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

This is what Ellis said about that:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, June 28, 2022

Coming Attractions

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, June 27, 2022

Welcome To Summer

 How was your first full weekend of summer? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The seasons will be here soon enough.

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

Friday, June 24, 2022

More On Title IX

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That is something that TB wouldn't have guessed.

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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


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

Thursday, June 23, 2022

37 Words Turn 50

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, June 22, 2022

A Winning Sequel

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That's an insane number. 

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

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

Tuesday, June 21, 2022

Updated Standings

The college athletic year is down to one remaining event, the College World Series.

The closest that TigerBlog has come to attending one was the NCAA regional he went to in Lafayette, Louisiana, with the Princeton baseball team in 2016. When TB went back to the entry he wrote prior to the trip, he saw that there was this comment:

This will be a Mardi Gras atmosphere. The crowd is is always amped and Cajun fans have never met anyone they didn't like. Tailgating is strong here. Please allow yourselves ample time, pregame to walk through the tailgating area. You will not go away hungry or thirsty. Your ball club and the fans that travel to the game will really enjoy themselves. Have a safe trip down and good luck! 

All he can say is that truer words have never been spoken. Every single word, for that matter, was 100 percent prescient, especially the part about the people and the fact that you will not go away hungry and thirsty. You couldn't walk 10 feet through the tailgate area without having someone offer you something, especially if you were wearing the gear of the visitors. It was crazy. Seriously, each stop TB made on his short walk through the parking lot resulted in an offer of some local seafood combination, and they were all amazing.

Princeton head coach Scott Bradley was even offered tuna during batting practice from a Louisiana fan. It was a tuna that he'd caught that morning, by the way.

Is the College World Series the same kind of atmosphere? 

The longest the CWS can go would be until next Monday, and then there will be no more college athletics until fall sports begin in August.

The end of the athletic year will bring with it the final standings of the NACDA Learfield Directors' Cup standings. If you're not familiar with the Directors' Cup, its goal is to identify the top overall athletic programs in the country using a point system based on NCAA tournament success across multiple sports.

Princeton has had a great history with the Directors' Cup, having finished as the top Ivy League school 23 of 26 times. Beyond that, Princeton has also often been the highest finishing FCS school and even highest-finishing non-BCS school.

The most recent standings were announced last weekend, which includes every sport other than baseball. Where was Princeton ranked? How about 15th in all of Division I.

The best finish Princeton has ever had for a full year was 21st, in 2002. Princeton has been in the 20s five times and the 30s 10 other times. Most recently, Princeton was 30th in 2018-19, and then there were no standings in 2019-20 and very, very limited Ivy League athletics in 2021-22 due to the pandemic.

Will Princeton be able to beat its all-time best of 21st? The Tigers are directly ahead of a few teams that reached the baseball tournament but not the World Series, some losing in the regional and some in the Super Regional. The teams in the World Series itself are either already ahead of the Tigers (five of them) or not within the maximum 100 points for a sport of the Tigers (the other three).

As near as TB can tell, a team will get 25 points for reaching the tournament, 37.5 for winning a game, 50 for being the regional runner-up and 64 for winning a regional and then losing in the Super Regional. 

Princeton has 868.25 points. If TB is figuring it correctly (he took those point totals from last year's standings), then Tennessee, UCLA and LSU will pass Princeton. At the same time, no other schools will, and that would leave the Tigers in 18th place for a final standing.

TB will stipulate that he could be wrong about this. The official final numbers will be out next week, a day after the baseball tournament ends.

No matter what happens, though, Princeton is assured of being the top finishing non-Power Five school, FCS school and, once again, Ivy League school. The only other non-Power Five school in the top 35 right now is BYU, who will be a Power Five school once it official begins competing in the Big 12 a year from now.

TB will follow up on this when the final standings are released. 

Monday, June 20, 2022

It Makes A Difference To This One

Mary Sutton got married this weekend.

Perhaps you remember Mary as the longtime ballgirl for Princeton women's basketball (and some men's basketball). She's another of the legion of kids whose parents have worked in the athletic department and who grew up in and around all things Princeton.

Mary would go from being a ballgirl for the Tigers to playing basketball at Princeton High School. Running would be her best sport, and she'd compete in track and cross country at Loyola in Baltimore.

As with pretty much everything these days, it all seems to be moving along in a blink. Mary was always a staple at Jadwin Gym, even working on drills with Pete Carril at times, who used to set up chairs on a Jadwin Gym side court and have Mary work on dribbling, especially with her left hand on the right side of the court.

Mary was always a friendly, happy little girl. And now, well, now she's married, the "Mrs." part of Mr. and Mrs. Thomas Porth. TB wishes them all the very best.

TB isn't sure which is more amazing to contemplate, that Mary is 25 or that Mary is married.

Mary's mother is Stephanie Sutton, who has been working in the ticket office at Princeton since before TigerBlog arrived, which puts her in a small group of people who have worked here long than TB.

When TB asked Stephanie how the wedding went, she responded by saying "second-best day of my life." She didn't say which one was the best day, but TB will assume it was the day Mary was born — or possibly the day Princeton beat UCLA in men's basketball.

There are two stats that are unknowable: how many words about Princeton TB has written and how many tickets to Princeton events Stephanie has sold. Whatever the actual numbers are, they both can be summed up as "a lot."

Stephanie goes back to the 1980s, and her time at Princeton has included selling tickets to football games when the Tiger quarterback was Jason Garrett. 

It's been a while since Jason played at Princeton, but he's never left. Even as he's gone on to play in the NFL or become and NFL coach (including the NFL Coach of the Year with Dallas) and now as he prepares to work on Sunday Night Football broadcasts, he's always been extraordinarily close to Princeton. 

There aren't many people who have been more engaged in trying to help as many young people as they can as Garrett and his wife Brill. Their Starfish Charities have done incredible work in so many different places, making a real impact wherever the two of them have been.

Through it all, Garrett has brought his Starfish Charities Football Camp to Princeton each summer. This year's edition was held this past Saturday.

Why Starfish? It's better when you hear Jason tell the story himself, but the premise is this:

While walking on the beach, an older woman noticed a young man picking up starfish and flinging them into the sea. Finally catching up with the youth, she asked him why he was doing so. The answer was that the stranded starfish would die if left to the morning sun. “But the beach goes on for miles, and there are millions of starfish,” countered the woman. “How can your effort make any difference?” ​ The young man looked at the starfish in his hands and threw it to safety in the waves. He said, “It makes a difference to this one.”

The camp brings in football players primarily from the inner cities, and it is more than just about football. It's about learning life lessons, about the value of education, about leadership. TB has seen it first hand, and the energy that Garrett exudes is always incredible. 

Garrett always brings with him some big names in football, and sometimes in other sports. This weekend was no different.

The event is a great one each year. It brings back a large group of Princeton football alums and coaches, and it has some intense on-the-field competition as well. It is a staple of the Princeton football calendar. 

Jason and Brill Garrett wouldn't have it any other way.

Friday, June 17, 2022

Guest TigerBlog - Zack DiGregorio And Father's Day

The annual Million Dollar Bike Ride was held this past weekend, beginning and ending at the soon-to-no-longer-be home of Charlie Thompson, the longtime Princeton head athletic trainer who is retiring and moving along with his wife Sandy to Newport.

The bike ride is a fundraising event for the A-T Children's Project, which fights against the disease Ataxia-Telangectasia. If you've been around here at all, you know the story of Derek DiGregorio, an almost 25 year old who has been battling this disease for more than half of his life.

The fight against the disease has brought together a large community of Princetonians around the DiGregorio family. The bike ride is part of that fight. 

This past Saturday morning was a party, with food, fun and a 17-mile ride. Through it all, there was a picture that peered out at the revelry. It was a picture of Steve DiGregorio, Derek's father and a former Princeton assistant football coach. Digger, as he was known to everyone, passed away last fall after his own battle, against pancreatic cancer.

Zack DiGregorio is the oldest of the three sons of Digger and Nadia. He and his brother Aaron were among the riders Saturday. 

TigerBlog misses Digger terribly. There are so many times during any given week where something will come up to make him think of his dear friend and then the sadness of knowing he's no longer around, taken at the age of 60. The ride Saturday was a stark reminder, with Digger's photo visible and his presence felt.

For Zack and the family, take that emotion and extrapolate it out to a whole different level, and that's what they deal with every day. With Fathers' Day this Sunday, Zack wanted to share his own thoughts. When he asked TB if it was okay and that he might want to edit it a bit, TB told him not to change a word: 

Father’s Day usually conjures images of cringy gifts, feigned smiles as torn gift wrap reveals another tie, or barbeques in the backyard. For me, this Father’s Day, I can’t stop thinking about a simple, little Hebrew refrain. 

In October of 2019, I was in a doctor’s office where everything was a different shade of gray, including my father, Steve DiGregorio’s, eyes, staring out the window as he underwent what would become a regular regimen of chemotherapy for pancreatic cancer. I had driven him to his treatment that day and later on we were joined by our friend Jerry Price who brought along a lunchbox and his seemingly endless rolodex of stories; this day it was about John McPhee meeting Dwight Eisenhower and his son’s refusal to pay his speeding tickets.  

As I was leaving to pull the car around for my dad, one of the nurses stopped me and asked me if I was Steve’s son. This was purely perfunctory: pictures of him from his early twenties were nearly identical to mine, save his 80’s mullet. I said yes and she smiled, saying “There have been so many people who come through and sit with your dad through his treatments, sometimes we just don’t have enough chairs.”

Around the same time, my dad, an Italian Catholic whose last name could be mistaken for that of the heir to a frozen pizza fortune, adopted a new mantra from Jewish traditions: “Chazak, chazak, v'nitchazeik,” or, in English, “Be strong, be strong, and we will strengthen one another.” 

It was nothing groundbreaking -- especially in our family. Twelve years ago, when my middle brother, Derek, was diagnosed with a rare, degenerative, incurable disease called Ataxia-Telangiectasia that robbed him, over time, of his ability to walk and care for himself. Immediately, like a montage from The Avengers, our friends and family rallied around us, being strong and strengthening us as we dealt with mounting doctors appointments, medical bills, and physically caring for him.

But this Father’s Day, the first one without my dad, “Chazak, chazak, v'nitchazeik” has taken on a new meaning, a greater strength, almost as if he left it for us.

This parade of friends and family who had rallied around us before picked back up in the summer of 2021, when my dad went into the hospital for what would be the last time and when he came home on hospice care. Scores of them, from Tel Aviv to Thailand to Montana to right down the street, came to say goodbye, but more than that, tell my dad what he meant to them. So many of them were former players from Steve’s days coaching Princeton University’s football teams to three Ivy League Championships in the 80’s and 90’s. My mom and I became adept at shuffling limited visitor passes at the hospital between his former players to skirt visitor limits, often giddy to relive some antics of their college days. Throngs of friends that we’ve made through our connection to the school, or his friends from his time coaching football or teaching social studies at Nutley High School, my dad’s beloved hometown, sat with us, brought us food, or offered comfort in their own, special ways. 

Among them were friends I’d known my whole life; heroes from the football stories of my childhood, people from Nutley that embraced our family with open arms when my dad. For my whole life, my relationship to these people, people I loved and revered had been woven through my dad. Standing in front of hundreds of people at his funeral, preparing to give his eulogy, I was consumed by the fear of not just losing my dad, but that losing him might sever my connection to some of the most special people in my life -- the people who had given us strength before. 

Looking down the prospect of losing my dad, I was losing someone I talked to every day, ranting about my day or some Seinfeldian moment that happened at the grocery store. I was losing someone who had the unique ability to set high expectations and instill in you the belief that you could meet those expectations. I was losing someone who was the foundation of so many of the places I found community in my life.

This Father’s Day, my first one without him, has taken on a new meaning, not just to reflect on my relationship with my dad but also on building back those relationships in the wake of his passing. That process has been trying, having to work past the “Are you ok’s” and the “How’re you doing’s,” into how we can fit into each other’s lives.

Whether it's finding new places to send my endless stream of news articles, figuring out who I can call on a spring night when I get home from my run but am not ready to go inside, or who I can ask for advice as I think through big decisions, I’ve been taken aback by how many of these people, whether they know it or not, have done small things to rebuild those parts of my life. 

In no small part because of the people they are, they have strengthened the bonds I have with them. From taking a few minutes to answer an evening phone call, to bringing my mother chocolates on Mother’s Day, to just sharing a story when it pops into their mind, it has made me feel more connected to them. And, in doing so, it has made me feel more connected to the legacy my dad left behind as a coach, an educator, a teammate, a mentor, and a friend.  

So, while this Father’s Day is immensely sad, it is not lonely. Those relationships -- and the building back up of those relationships -- have deepened my appreciation for the people and the net of support we have been so lucky to encounter. Almost as if my dad was making a promise, through their strength, I, and my mom and my brothers, have been strengthened.

Thursday, June 16, 2022

Football Night In America Welcomes Jason Garrett

TigerBlog begins today with a "thank you" to Gracie McGowan, which he'll get to in a few paragraphs.

The lead story yesterday on was about the six incoming members of the Princeton field hockey team.

If you're keeping score, the incoming class would be the Class of 2026. TigerBlog remembers when he first typed "Class of 2000" and thought that sounded a bit apocalyptic.

Little did he realize at the time that the Class of 2000 would produce, among other things, the current Ford Family Director of Athletics, John Mack. Given that Princeton has never had an AD who wasn't an alum, TB wonders what classes since might produce members of that distinguished group.

If you're keeping score, the Classes of 1934, 1956, 1961, 1967, 1991 and 2000 have produced ADs. Will there be a future one in the Class of 2026? 

Again, just typing "2026" seems outrageous.

Meanwhile, back at the incoming field hockey class, it seems like a fascinating group of six players. 

Of that six, there are four who need their passports to come to Princeton and two who don't even need an EZ Pass to get here. There are four international players, two from England, one from South Africa and one from Germany. There are two New Jersey players, one from Rumson, in nearby Monmouth County, and another from Lawrenceville, in very, very nearby Mercer County, as in the same county in which the University is located.

The one from Lawrenceville is named Talia Schenck. Among other things, she scored 244 goals at Lawrence High School, which ranks fourth all-time in U.S. high school history. That's a lot of goals. If you're wondering, the Princeton record is 107 (by Kathleen Sharkey), and that's 36 more than anyone else ever has scored. So yes, 244 is extraordinary.

It was Gracie McGowan, a junior on the team, who did all of the graphics, something for which TB has great appreciation and respect. Things have certainly changed a lot when it comes to communications, obviously, and graphics have become an indispensable part of college sports information. Great work, Gracie.

Speaking of graphics, TB saw one yesterday on Twitter that told the whole story of something else. It said this: "Jason Garrett joins Football Night in America...former NFL QB and head coach joins as analyst."

The graphic left out the part about how Garrett is a Princeton alum, but that's okay. Garrett, in case you forgot (which you haven't), was the 1988 Bushnell Cup winner as the Ivy League Player of the Year as the Tiger quarterback. The following year, his brother Judd won the award as a Tiger running back.

Blocking for both was a first-team All-Ivy League center named Bob Surace. Whatever happened to that guy?

Jason Garrett went on to be an NFL player for a long time, mostly as a backup for Troy Aikman in Dallas, where he won a pair of Super Bowls. He would also be the NFL Player of the Week after a memorable Thanksgiving Day game against Green Bay. 

To this day, TigerBlog hasn't seen too many people who could throw a more perfect spiral than Jason Garrett, who seemed to do so effortlessly. 

Garrett moved on to coaching, and if you forgot (which you haven't), he was the 2016 NFL Coach of the Year as the head coach of the Cowboys. He went from there to working with the Giants as their offensive coordinator, and now he turns to television.

TB has always thought Jason Garrett would be great on television. Now he'll get to find out on Sundays this fall.

Garrett has the complete knowledge of football that comes from being a quarterback and then a head coach. He is also one of the absolute best public speakers TB has ever seen. He is a riveting speaker, with complete command of his audience at all times. 

Does that kind of ability to feed off the energy of a room translate to broadcasting on television? In this case, TB is positive that it will.

The news that Garrett is joining Sunday Night Football is great for any Princeton fan. No matter where he's gone, Garrett has never forgotten his Princeton roots. The Tigers have always been really important to him. 

Maybe one day Garrett gets back into coaching. Or maybe he just stays with broadcasting, at which he will be outstanding. TB guarantees it.

Wednesday, June 15, 2022

Seven Historic Days

As TigerBlog watched the World Cup play-in game between Costa Rica and New Zealand yesterday, he realized two things.

First, the most recent World Cup began on June 14, 2018, or exactly four years ago yesterday. If you forgot, the 2018 World Cup was played in Russia, and France defeated Croatia in the final 4-2.

The second thing TB realized was that exactly 10 years ago this week, back in 2012, he was in Costa Rica with the men's lacrosse team on one of their international trips. It was the second of the three trips TB has done with the men's lacrosse team, including adventures to Spain and Ireland in 2008 and Portugal in 2016.

As part of the trip to Costa Rica, TB and most of the team members attended a World Cup qualifier between the home team and El Salvador. TigerBlog has been to a lot of sporting events in his life — he's never been to anything quite like that, and that game was only part of the qualifying round.

He's said before that if he could attend any sporting event in the world, it would be the World Cup final. What in the world must that be like? He can't even imagine. He'd much rather see that than the Super Bowl (he's never been to one) or even the Olympics (maybe, depending on the events).

Ever since that qualifier, he's rooted for Costa Rica, so he was happy that Los Ticos won the game 1-0 after scoring three minutes into the game. Of course, he did feel like he was rooting against Princeton alum and New Zealand native Julia Ratcliffe, the NCAA hammer throw champion from 2014 who competed in the 2021 Olympic Games.

By the way, Joe Campbell scored the goal for  Costa Rica yesterday. He also scored one of the Costa Rican goals in the game in 2012 that the Princeton team attended, a game that ended up 2-2 by the way. 

The win vaulted Costa Rica into the World Cup, which is not starting any time soon. Because it's being played in the sweltering heat of Qatar, the first games won't begin until Nov. 21. That'll be two days after the final Princeton football game of the 2022 season.

For now, it's a little early to be looking ahead to the coming fall season. That's still a few months away. 

Over the next few days and weeks, you'll be able to see stories on incoming classes and releases of schedules, and it'll be opening day for 2022-23 soon enough - August 26, to be exact, when the women's soccer team hosts Colgate.

Of course, after the events of the last few years, it's not a good idea ever to take anything for granted. No season, no game — no international trip, though those are returning soon — will ever be something that TB just assumes will happen. He has a newfound appreciation for any game day, or any part of the Princeton experience for that matter.

The recently completed 2021-22 athletic year was an incredible one for Princeton, whose teams won 16 league championships and produced multiple national champions. Doing all of that in any year would have been achievement enough; to do so after the pandemic had such an impact on the two years before it makes it even more amazing.

Beyond just athletics, it was a great year just to be on the campus, to enjoy a "normal" academic year. 

Maybe that's why the video that the University communications office put out yesterday hit home so much with TigerBlog when he watched it. You can see it too:

The video snaps around quickly, so it's not easy to pick up faces at first glance. TB is pretty sure he saw Samuel Wright, the first-team All-Ivy League defensive lineman who, as it turns out, was also an architecture major. 

The story isn't the individuals, though. The story is Princeton itself, and the celebration of Reunions, Class Day, Commencement and all of the great pageantry that is so special here. That cannot be missed in the video.

In fact, it's a reminder of why Princeton brings out such love and loyalty among those who've competed here, or studied here, or just worked here.

It's well worth the two minutes or so to check it out. Or the 10 minutes or so after that as you watch it over and over.

Tuesday, June 14, 2022

A Pair Of Farewells

Today is about goodbyes, first for someone that no Princeton fan has ever rooted for and the other whom Princeton fans always wanted to see win.

The first one is Steve Conn, who has retired after spending 36 years working in the Yale sports information office. He's been the sport contact for a lot of sports along the way, including with NCAA championship teams in men's hockey and men's lacrosse.

The world of Ivy League sports information was a much different one when Steve Conn first came to Yale, and a few years later when TigerBlog first came to Princeton. He'd say the camaraderie was unlike anything he's ever experienced in his professional life, with people across eight schools who viewed themselves as working together as much as they did as working for rival institutions. 

Every road trip was a chance to see your coworker/friend from that week's opponents. There were endless Friday night dinners out prior to Saturday games, and those dinners were as much a part of the enjoyment of the weekend as the games themselves.

This was before communications moved as quickly as they do today. Back then, the week before a game would mean constant back and forth between the sports information people involved; today pretty much all of that communication gets handled in one email or text message.

Steve Conn ended his time at Yale with the annual boat races against Harvard the week after the IRA national championships. Now it's on to other things for him, but he leaves behind a legacy of excellence and caring at Yale that touched countless athletes and coaches and made him a legend in the profession and in the Ivy League.

Plus, he's just a fantastic all-around human being. TigerBlog wishes him all the best, though, as he said earlier, he never actually rooted for him.

As for the rooting interest, that would be Laura Granville, who announced last week that she is leaving her position as the head women's tennis coach at Princeton.

Her record at Princeton is an amazing one. She took over the program in 2012 and led the Tigers to six Ivy League championships, winning three straight from 2014-16 and then winning in 2018, 2019 and, after the pandemic canceled two seasons, again this spring.

She was a five-time Ivy League women's tennis coach of the year. She led the team to its first NCAA win back in 2014 and another one this season, when the Tigers knocked off Army 4-0 in the opening round. Her teams have been ranked as high as No. 5 nationally (where the Tigers were in 2020 when the pandemic came along).

The standard for women's tennis coaches at Princeton was set early on. It was the very first sport for women at Princeton, dating back to when Helena Novakova and Margie Gengler Smith won the Eastern Intercollegiate championship in the fall of 1970, before there was a coach. 

That spring, in 1971, the women's tennis team played the first team competition against another school. The coach that day, the first in Princeton women's athletics history, was Eve Kraft, a volunteer whom Merrily Dean Baker recruited because she had no budget for women's coaches.

How did Kraft do? She coached the team for 26 matches and had a 26-0 record. Since that start, no head coach at Princeton has had lower than a .594 winning percentage.

As for Granville, her final winning percentage at Princeton is .668, with 129 wins and 64 losses. She was 20-1 in her league matches in her final three seasons. That's a lot of winning.

More than that, she, like Steve Conn, is also a fantastic human being. She is fiercely competitive and driven to giving her athletes a championship experience, while at the same time she is also soft-spoken and caring, someone who always seemed to be smiling and positive.

She is the exact kind of person who makes Princeton Athletics so special.

Now she's leaving. Her legacy at Princeton will be a championship one, as a coach, and as a human being. Princeton has been lucky to have her as its women's tennis coach.

Monday, June 13, 2022

Historic Achievement

What do you think is the greatest team achievement in Princeton athletics history?

What if the question was narrowed down to just the last 10 years? Or the last five? Or even this one? 

The fact that there is no one clear, right answer speaks to the amazing history the Tigers have amassed through all their years of competing. It also makes it possible to overlook truly stunning accomplishments, ones that can tend to blend in with all of the others over time.

You almost surely wouldn't get consensus even if you could find objective observers well-versed in all of that Princeton history. There are just too many possibilities. It's a great problem to have, of course.

What the men's track and field team has done this year is proof of what TigerBlog just mentioned. It's easy not to add historical context to what Princeton has done, but that would be a mistake.

There aren't too many more impressive accomplishments than those of the 2021-22 men's track and field team. You can include the Heps cross country championship in the fall as part of what became another "triple crown" of Heps titles — the program's 10th all-time, compared to none for any other men's program in Ivy history — but that doesn't begin to really tell this story.

Princeton finished the indoor NCAA championships in fifth place. This past week in Eugene, Ore., Princeton finished seventh in the outdoor championships.

Think about that, if you will. That's top seven in the country both indoors and outdoors.

Here are the top seven men's teams in order: Florida, Texas, Tennessee, Florida State, Georgia, LSU and then Princeton. Who was next? Stanford.

This isn't the kind of stuff that happens all the time. As TB has said before, Princeton head coach Fred Samara talked before the new academic year began about the historic potential for his team, and then that team went out and did it.

Princeton's previous best finish was 14th, back in 1934 (if you were reading last week, that's the senior year of Bill Bonthron). The all-time best Ivy finish was third by Yale in 1950, back before there was an official Ivy League. 

No offense to the 1950 Yale team, but it wasn't quite the sport it is now on the collegiate level. Here were the top nine teams that year: Stanford/USC (tied for first), Yale, North Carolina, Cal/Morgan State (tied for sixth), Rice, Occidental, San Diego.

Princeton had 27 points this year at the NCAAs, which is the same number Yale had in 1950, for what that's worth.

Princeton's men finished with seven All-Americans: Sondre (first) and Simen (fourth) Guttormsen in the pole vault, C.J. Licata (13th in the shot put), Sam Ellis (finished third in the 1,500), Ed Trippas (fifth in the steepelchase), Sam Rodman (seventh in the 800) and Robbie Otal (16th in the discus). The Princeton women had Kate Joyce earn All-American honors with a sixth-place finish in the javelin.

It seemed like every time you looked at the coverage on TV, there was another Princeton athlete. To be able to finish in the top 10 in this era? That's incredible.

The track and field championships marked the end of the 2021-22 athletic year at Princeton. It was quite a celebratory note to end with for a year that began with so much uncertainty.

Meanwhile, what Princeton did in men's track and field this year goes way beyond a conversation of this year. It does beg the question of where this team fits historically.

It's not something TB is going to answer, at least not right now. Besides, like he said, there is no right answer, which is one of the beauties of Princeton's history.

For now, he'll just take it all in and admire what the coaches and athletes have managed to do. As he said, it's not easy to to pull something like this off. It takes quality and depth. It's a real team effort.

Congratulations to Samara and everyone associated with the program. 

It's always amazing when current events and history happen at the same time.

Friday, June 10, 2022

Back On Track

Congratulations to Kate Joyce on earning first-team All-American honors in the javelin last night at the NCAA championships. 

Joyce was in first place for a while before finishing sixth as a sophomore in her first NCAA appearance. You can read more about her HERE.

TigerBlog wrote yesterday about Sondre Guttormsen's win in the men's pole vault at the NCAA championships.

One thing that he didn't do as he watched the four hours of competition Wednesday night was compare it to the indoor championship, also won by Guttormsen. As it turns out, they were pretty closely aligned.

Guttormsen won both of them. His brother Simen finished fourth in both. 

Sondre's winning vault indoors was 18-10 1/4. His winning vault outdoors? Also 18-10 1/4. Clayton Fritsch of Sam Houston finished second outdoors and third indoors, both at 18-8 1/4. There were eight vaulters who finished in the top nine of both events. TB never would have guessed they'd be so similar.

Speaking of history,  prior to Guttormsen's win, Princeton men had three NCAA outdoor champions in its history (Julia Ratcliffe won the 2014 hammer throw for the women): William Bonthron in the 1934 mile, Tora Harris in the 2002 high jump and Donn Cabral in the 2012 steeplechase. There are connections of all three of those in this year's competition, continuing tonight.

First, there were Guttormsen. His win in the pole vault connected him and Harris, who won the high jump indoors and outdoors in 2002. As for the other two, there are Princeton runners hoping to match their championships in tonight's events. 

In the steeplechase, Ed Trippas runs tonight after finishing second in his heat in Wednesday's semifinal. Trippas will run at 9:24 Eastern.

The steeplechase has been a very Princetonian event in recent times, at both the NCAA and Olympic level. The Tigers had two Olympic steeplechasers, Lizzie Bird of Great Britain and, of course, Trippas, an Australian. 

Cabral has been the best of all of them. He wasn't showy at all as a competitor, but he ran with ferocity, that's for sure. The result was a meteoric rise up the ranks of American steeplechasers, going from a relative newcomer to the event to being the NCAA champion in 2012 to being an Olympian and then Olympic finalist later that year. He repeated the last two of those accomplishments four years later. 

Tonight Trippas looks to add to the Princeton steeplechase legacy. About 20 minutes before Trippas runs, Sam Ellis will run in the 1,500 final after having the third-best qualifying time. 

Princeton will also be represented tonight in the 800 file at 10:14 with Sam Rodman. The night kicks off for Princeton with Jeffrey Hollis in the high jump final at 8:32 and Robbie Otal in the discus three minutes later.

When it comes to the 1,500, the greatest Princeton has had is either Bonthron or Craig Masback, a world class middle distance man in the 1980s. Fifty years before that, Bonthron had a great rivalry with a Kansas runner from that era named Glenn Cunningham, who won the 1932 and 1933 NCAA mile race. Back in the 1930s, the mile was THE race, and competitors were still chasing the thought-to-be-impossible four-minute mile that would finally be beaten 20 years later.

Bonthron had a famous race at Princeton in 1933, when he set the American record and broke the existing world record in the mile in 4:08.7, only he came in second in the race to New Zealand runner Jack Lovelock, who ran a 4:07.6. 

Over the course of three weeks in June, Bonthron and Cunningham went head-to-head three times, as Cunningham set a new mile record in 4:06.7 in their first matchup, Bonthron came back and won the NCAA mile the following weekend in 4:08.9 and then Bonthron won the national championship in the 1,500 the weekend after that, setting a world record of 3:48.8 that would stand for two years.

Bonthron would not be able to reach the Olympics in 1936, finishing fourth at the Trials. Cunningham would win silver that year in the 1,500.

In case you're wondering, the world records now in the mile and 1,500 are 3:43.13 and 3:26.00, both held by Morocco's Hicham El Guerrouj.

Anyway, that's a history lesson on Princeton's three men's indoor champions prior to 2022, and a look at the way that history connects to the present. 

Now it's time for one more evening of Princeton men's track and field. This will be the final day of the 2021-22 athletic calendar for Princeton.

It seems fitting that the men's track and field team closes the curtain, after all the history that this team has made so far this year.

Thursday, June 9, 2022

A Night WIth The Pole Vault

TigerBlog turned on the NCAA track and field championships last night just in time to see two things.

First, there was the fact that newly remodeled Hayward Field at the University of Oregon is amazing. Second, there was Princeton's Ed Trippas, on his final two laps of the 3,000 meter steeplechase second semifinal. Trippas, a 2021 Olympian in the event, finished second in his heat, easing into tomorrow night's final.

By the time Trippas finished his race, Sam Ellis had run the third-fastest 1,500 semifinal time and was one of six runners to finish between 3:37.39 and 3:37.94. Ellis ran 3:37.60, for a new school record. The 1,500 final will be tomorrow at 9:12, the race right before the steeplechase final.

Next up was the pole vault. TB went to that just in time to see Simen Guttormsen clear 17-4 1/2 — very easily — to move into first. And then?

There was a long wait until either Simen or his brother Sondre vaulted again. They are not strangers to how NCAA competition works; Sondre was the NCAA indoor champion this past winter, when Simen finished third.

TigerBlog didn't know much about the pole vault before watching last night, from start to finish. The ESPN3 coverage consisted of a single camera that followed each vaulter without any commentary, which was pretty much perfect.

It didn't take long to realize that vaulters were passing on various heights, so that the standings didn't accurately reflect who was actually in the best position. The leaderboard on the screen told you who the current vaulter was and how'd he done, which heights, how many misses. 

If you cleared a height, your name moved up the chart, depending on how many misses you had to that point. If you got to three misses at one height, your name dropped to the bottom and became lighter, signalling that you were out. Each vaulter waved to the crowd as he was eliminated.

With each height, a few of the vaulters fell by the wayside, and it became more dramatic. Several cleared heights along the way after having two misses, meaning it was either advance or go home on the third one at that height. Getting three more vaults at the next height was a huge prize. Often, the vaulters would either knowingly or unknowingly clap their hands or pump their fist on their way down after a successful clear.

For the first 1:45 or so of the competition, that early vault by Simen Guttormsen was the only Princeton one. TB watched all the rest of them, though. And he could see the brothers in the background of the shot several times, and they didn't exactly look nervous or stressed.

Oh, and there was a guy with a safari hat, sunglasses and two flags, one white and one red, who was running the event. Nobody was going to vault until he said so, and your vault wasn't good or bad until he raised one of his flags.  

Eventually the original field of was dwindled to eight, including both brothers. Simen had missed and then easily cleared 18-0 1/2. Sondre vaulted once to that point, easily knocking off 17-10 1/2 and then passing again. Sondre was tied for seventh on the leaderboard at this point.

Next up was 18-4 1/2.  Simen missed. Then Simen cleared — and pumped his fist. Why not? It was a personal best. Then the field was down to six vaulters: one each from Stephen F. Austin, Kentucky, Brigham Young and Sam Houston and two from Princeton.

To 18-6 1/2. Simen cleared. Sondre missed his first attempt. And his second. And then passed on his third. Off to 18-8 1/4, where Sondre had to make it on the first try — and did. Exhale.

The pole vault had now stretched to three and a half hours, but it was really picking up pace and drama at this point. Stephen F. Austin missed his third straight. Now there were five. And then, it was Simen's turn again, and he .... missed. Eliminated, he waved to the crowd and lingered briefly on the mat.

BYU went out next. Because Simen had cleared a better height, he finished fourth, as a first-team All-American. 

Now there were three. Sondre and Stephen F. Austin (Clayton Fritsch) had already cleared 18-8 1/2. Keaton Daniel of Kentucky cleared 18-6 1/2. He missed at 18-8 1/4 and passed to 18-10 1/4, where he missed his first. So did Fritsch, at 18-10 1/4. And so did Sondre.

Fritsch had only one miss prior to this height. Sondre had two. If neither cleared, then Fritsch would win by fewer misses. Daniel missed again. Now it was down to Sondre and Fristch, who missed his second attempt. 

Sondre's turn. He ratcheted up his intensity level, that's for sure. You could see it clearly on his face. First he sneered. Then he cleared. 

Now it was down to Fritsch. Make it and the competition continues. Miss it, and Sondre was the outdoor champ as well as the indoor champ.

And ... no good. Sondre Guttormsen was the champion again. His brother Simen finished fourth. That's an amazing effort by the brothers.

It took nearly four hours when all was said and done, and Sondre had pulled off some high-pressure clutch makes when he needed them most. That's what champions do.

And now he is an indoor and outdoor champion (Princeton's second, by the way; Tora Harris did so in the high jump in 2002 as well). 

Sondre took a shot at 19-2 3/4. At this point, the drama of the long night with the pole vault was over. It ended with another Princeton national championship.

Wednesday, June 8, 2022

Worth A Thousand Words

Back in April, the Princeton men's and women's lacrosse teams played a Saturday doubleheader up at Harvard. 

The night before, both teams stayed in the same hotel. Among the other guests that night were all of the following:

* Syracuse women's lacrosse, who played that Friday night at Boston College
* the Virginia Tech baseball team, who played a three-game weekend series at BC as well, with one game at Fenway Park
* three weddings
* a ballroom dance competition, complete with a youth division, which meant lot of very overdressed pre-teens

In other words, it was a pretty crowded place to be. TigerBlog remembers being in the lobby of the hotel with some of the men's staff when the Virginia Tech team arrived from winning Game 1 of its series. He looked up on his phone to see what kind of team the Hokies had, and he didn't realize that they were in fact ranked in the top five nationally.

What he did know what that they were really big, and also really polite. Going back to the big part, he wondered who would have won a football game between that team and the Princeton men's team, or how many of the Virginia Tech players would have made better lacrosse players had they started out playing that sport instead.

TB thought back to that as he saw Columbia's baseball team compete against Virginia Tech in the NCAA regional this past weekend. The Lions defeated Gonzaga, a top 20 team, twice, but lost both times to the Hokies, who advanced to the Super Regional this weekend to host Oklahoma. 

TB can get on board the Virginia Tech baseball bandwagon. 

The hope of every college athlete is to make it to the postseason. Not all do, of course. At Princeton, there is a long, long history of sending a lot of teams and athletes to the postseason and doing well.

TB thought of that when he saw this picture:

That might look like four friends at a Baltimore Orioles game. TB's first thought was "nine league title and nine NCAA appearances."

If those four faces look familiar, they're all recent Princeton grads. That's Niko Gjaja of the men's volleyball team, with women's lacrosse alums Gaby Hamburger and Marge Donovan and women's basketball's Abby Meyers.

With that last two, that's also two Ivy League Players of the Year, with Meyers and Donovan (Ivy Defensive Player of the Year this spring). Hamburger, whose senior pregame speech made for a guest blog earlier this spring, is in the women's lacrosse record book for a five-assist game that is one off the school record. Gjaja? He was a finalist for the Art Lane Award for service to sport and society, and he put together a long resume at Princeton that included being the president of the Varsity Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.

In so many ways, that picture speaks volumes about what Princeton Athletics strives for and wants for those who compete here. Meet people with different backgrounds and different perspectives. Learn from each other. Respect each other. Make lifelong friendships and relationships. Challenge yourself academically and in the community (these four certainly did so). Unite under the single orange and black banner.

What more could you ask for out of being a college athlete? Oh yeah. Winning.

The four athletes in the picture all won multiple league championships and reached multiple NCAA tournaments, for that matter. All four were part of teams that won in the NCAA tournament, for that matter. Not all Princeton athletes do. But the goal is always the same, and the teamwork required to achieve that is vital.

Maybe TB is reading too much into one picture. Nah, he doesn't think so.

A photo is usually good for a thousand words, so it's said. In the case of TB today, it's not quite 1,000 words, but there is a lot to be seen from looking within the shot of four alums at an Orioles game. 

Or maybe two words are enough. Go Tigers. 

Tuesday, June 7, 2022

A Covid Catch Up

Welp, Covid has finally caught up with TigerBlog.

It's been a rough few days for TB, though he did have the good sense to wait until after graduation and the NCAA men's lacrosse championships to get sick. 

TB hates to be sick. He does everything he can, somewhat obsessively at times, to prevent it. Usually it works. Every now and then, it doesn't. 

The only thing he can really compare to this was back in 1986, when he had mono and strep throat at the same time. He remembers being sick and watching the Challenger disaster on live television. 

He's very fortunate in that had not been sick too often, and when he has been, it's never been anything horrible. Even this is not nearly as bad as many others have had it.

Still, as he said, it's been a rough few days. Ah, but not to worry. The blog goes on.

* TigerBlog absolutely loved this video from Princeton track and field as it gets ready for the NCAA championships this week. 

The NCAA championships are the last remaining event for Princeton this academic year. There will be 19 Tigers in Eugene, 17 men and two women. The men's team enters ranked 16th in the country after finishing fifth at the NCAA indoor championships, which was a remarkable achievement.

The championships begin tomorrow, and the Tigers will jump in quickly, with almost everyone set to compete on Day 1. The biggest event of the first day will be the pole vault final, where Sondre and Simen Guttormsen compete at 8 pm Eastern. Sondre won the event indoors, where Simen finished third. 

The two women, Caroline Timm in the 1,500 and Kate Joyce in the javelin, compete Thursday. Here's the men's schedule:

Wednesday, June 8
7:32 p.m. ET / 4:32 p.m. PT – 4x100 meter relay semifinal (Simang'aliso Ndhlovu, Ibrahim Ayorinde, Daniel Duncan, Greg Sholars)
7:46 p.m. ET / 4:46 p.m. PT – 1,500 meters, semifinal (Sam Ellis)
8 p.m. ET / 5 p.m. PT – pole vault final (Simen Guttormsen, Sondre Guttormsen)
8:02 p.m. ET / 5:02 p.m. PT – 3,000-meter steeplechase semifinal (Ed Trippas)
9 p.m. ET / 6 p.m. PT – 400 meters semifinal (Michael Phillippy)
7:14 p.m. ET / 6:14 p.m. PT – 800 meters semifinal (Sam Rodman)
7:40 p.m. ET / 6:40 p.m. PT – shot put, C.J. Licata
10:48 p.m. ET / 7:48 p.m. PT – 4x400 meter relay semifinal (Ladislav Töpfer, William Doyle, Andersen Dimon, Michael Phillippy)
Friday, June 10
8:32 p.m. ET / 5:32 p.m. PT – high jump final (Jeffrey Hollis)
8:35 p.m. ET / 5:35 p.m. PT – discus final (Robbie Otal)
9:02 p.m. ET / 6:02 p.m. PT – 4x100 meter relay final (Simang'aliso Ndhlovu, Ibrahim Ayorinde, Daniel Duncan, Greg Sholars)
9:12 p.m. ET / 6:12 p.m. PT – 1,500 meters, final (Sam Ellis)
9:24 p.m. ET / 6:24 p.m. PT – 3,000-meter steeplechase final (Ed Trippas)
10:02 p.m. ET / 7:02 p.m. PT – 400 meters final (Michael Phillippy)
10:14 p.m. ET / 7:14 p.m. PT – 800 meters final (Sam Rodman)
11:21 p.m. ET / 8:21 p.m. PT – 4x400 meter relay final (Ladislav Töpfer, William Doyle, Andersen Dimon, Michael Phillippy)

* What good is being sick if you don't catch up on your TV. TB has been watching "The Offer," which is a Paramount + show about how "The Godfather" was made. If you're a fan of the Corleones, it's a great show.

TB didn't realize that it was being released one episode at a time. When he got to the end of Episode 8, which he thought was the last one, he thought "weird way to end a series." Then he found out there are two more episodes to come. 

* Griffen Rakower was one of Princeton's backup men's lacrosse goalies. He's also an extremely smart guy, so smart, in fact, that he won the NCAA Elite 90 Award for the NCAA Division I men's lacrosse championship. The NCAA sponsors championships in 90 sports between Division I, II and III, and the athlete with the highest GPA at the championship site is awarded the Elite 90 Award.

In this case, it went to Rakower, an economics major whose GPA is, well, really good.

The award was presented to Rakower by the head of the NCAA Division I men's lacrosse committee, Loyola AD Donna Woodruff. She came over to the team huddle at the end of Friday's practice, and an NCAA member asked Griffen Rakower to come forward to deal with an issue that had come up.

Of course Rakower had no idea what was going on, and until Woodruff pulled out the silver trophy he had a look on his face that said "oh no, what did I do? I didn't do anything wrong that I can think of. Am I in trouble? Did I ruin this for everyone?"

Once the award was announced, the entire time erupted — and then he smiled. It was a great moment. 

* At one point this weekend, the six stories on the rotator were all rowing stories, with the IRA championships this past weekend.  

When TB went to the front page yesterday, the first person he saw was Keith Elias, the former Tiger running back. Actually, he's more than a former Tiger running back. He's Princeton's career leader in rushing yards (and 20 other things), with 4,208 yards; the next closest is Judd Garrett at 3,109, and after that is Cameron Atkinson at 2,449. 

That's close to, but not quite, the percentage distance from Bill Bradley to Ian Hummer for career men's basketball points.

Elias remains the most charismatic Princeton athlete that TigerBlog has ever met, even nearly 30 years since his graduation. There has never been anyone else quite like him who has ever come though this athletic program, with the way he carried himself and the way he was the immediate center of attention of whatever room he walked into. On the field, there have been a very few here in TB's years who could compare when it came to the thrill the crowd got when he touched the ball, because you just knew that at any moment, he could do something spectacular.

The story on yesterday was about how Elias was on the ballot for the College Football Hall of Fame. You can read it HERE.

* Lastly, Pete Carril often spoken about the importance of a good high school coach and how having that kind of high school coach made all the difference for so many players. To that end, there are a bunch of lacrosse players now in their mid-20s who are proof positive of that.

Steve Henze was one of two coaches of a club team called "Twist" that played out of Bucks County, Pa. The same core group was together for seven summers, from when they were rising sixth graders on through high school. Of that group, more than 20 went on to play in college, from the highest ranks of Division I and through Division II and III.

Henze taught them lacrosse, and he taught them what it meant to be teammates. He was tough and disciplined, and he had a soft, funny side as well. They loved to play for him, and they all benefited from the lessons he taught them. In the truest spirit of what Princeton calls "Education Through Athletics," they will take with them those lessons for the rest of their lives. TigerBlog Jr. is one of them.

When not coaching lacrosse, Henze was a police detective in Abington. He was a strong family man, with his wife Lisa and their children - including a son Jake who played for Twist and then for Monmouth - and now grandchildren.

Steve Henze passed away suddenly recently. It was a sad, shocking text message to get, that someone not yet 60 years old, someone so full of life, someone who had done so much for so many people, someone who oozed goodness out of him, was gone, just like that.

TB last saw him last fall at the Princeton-Harvard football game. Henze's nephew played for the Crimson. As always, he was the same Steve Henze. Strong. Vibrant. Seemingly invincible. 

To Lisa, Jake and the rest of the Henzes, as well as to every player who ever played for him, TB sends his deepest condolences. Steve Henze was a wonderful man.