Friday, September 29, 2023

Tigons And Ligers

Wait, tigons and ligers are real things?

Turns out they are. A tigon is a hybrid big cat whose father is a tiger and whose mother is a lion. A liger is the opposite.

Tigons and ligers apparently tend to be a bit smaller than your average lions and tigers, weighing in at somewhere from 350 pounds up to 1,000 pounds. 

At least that's what it says on Wikipedia. 

Imagine those extended family get-togethers? Actually, they don't have too many get-togethers, since Tigers and Lions don't share any habitat in the wild. 

They do, however, in Ivy League sports.

The subject for today is not hybrids but instead pure-bred Lions and Tigers, as in Columbia and Princeton. The two meet this evening at 7 on Powers Field at Princeton Stadium in the Ivy League football opener for both.

Princeton has won 13 Ivy League championships all time. Columbia has won one, back in 1961. While Columbia topped Penn 37-6 in its final Ivy game that year, the end of the 1961 season was a pretty excruciating one for Princeton.

That was actually a two-tie for the championship, with Columbia and Harvard both at 6-1. Columbia defeated Harvard 26-14 in Cambridge that year, and the only thing that stood between the Lions and a perfect Ivy record and outright title was its Ivy opener, a 30-20 loss to Princeton.

It would have been a three-way tie for the championship, but Princeton was defeated 24-6 by Dartmouth on the final day of the season. Princeton also lost to Harvard, 9-7, also in Cambridge. If it was any consolation for Princeton, and it probably wasn't, its 1961 team had as many key players injured and unable to go by the end of the year as any other Tiger team has ever had.

Meanwhile, here in the present, there have been two Ivy games played so far this season, and if they have shown anything, it's that the 2023 race figures to be crazy.

Yale, the preseason favorite and defending champion, fell to Cornell, who has won three Ivy titles, the most recent in 1990. Harvard defeated Brown, but it was a 34-31 game. 

Who is the favorite now? It doesn't matter.

Princeton and Columbia are both 1-1 after two non-league games. The Tigers defeated San Diego 23-12 two weeks ago in California and then lost 16-13 in overtime to Bryant at home. 

Columbia opened with a 24-3 loss to Lafayette and then came back to take down Georgetown last week 30-0. 

Statistics through two weeks of football games don't really tell you a whole lot ... or do they? Princeton ranks second in the FCS in fewest rushing yards allowed per game and total yards allowed and is third in the FCS in sacks per game. 

Yes, it's been two games. On the other hand, Princeton's linebacking corps might be its best this century, or even long before this century, with Liam Johnson, Ozzie Nicholas, Will Perez and Nicholas Sanker as tackling machines. 

Columbia is also off to a strong defensive start under interim head coach Mark Fabish, who you probably remember from his playing days as a Penn wide receiver/kick returner. Columbia has defended the pass better than the run through two weeks, allowing 137 yards per game, while Princeton has gone for 163 per game for two games.

Princeton has been led on the ground by John Volker, who is second in the Ivy League with 240 yards. He averages 7.1 yards per carry, and he has had long runs of 49 against San Diego and 51 against Bryant. 

The other Ivy League game this weekend is tomorrow's game between Penn and Dartmouth. 

Princeton finishes its non-league schedule next week at home against Lafayette. After that it'll be six Ivy games in six weeks.

They're all big. And they're all unpredictable. 

At some point, the Ivy race will start to sort itself out. Will there be a 7-0 team? Will 5-2 get a share of the championship? 

These answers are a few weeks away. 

For tonight, it's Tigers and Lions on Powers Field.

Pure-breds, as it were. 

Thursday, September 28, 2023

Jack Nicholson's Junior Prom Date And More

Time to catch up:

* TigerBlog flew out to Northwestern with the field hockey team this past weekend. Sitting next to him on the flight to O'Hare was a very lively 86-year-old woman named Joan who was from Manasquan. TB asked her if she knew Jack Nicholson, who went to Manasquan High School, and Joan said 1) that she did, 2) that he was a very nice boy, 3) that they had stayed friends through the years and 4) that he had taken her best friend to the junior prom.

* Speaking of the field hockey team, the Tigers are home tomorrow at 4 against Cornell, who is now ranked 20th in both this week's NFHCA poll and the RPI. Princeton is ineligible to be ranked in the NFHCA poll because its record is 3-5 — though four of those losses are to Nos. 2, 3, 4 and 8 in this week's RPI — but Princeton is No. 16 in RPI. 

Princeton has a stretch of three Ivy games in eight days, with Penn at Bedford Field Wednesday and then a trip to Brown a week from tomorrow. The Brown game, by the way, is followed two days later with a home game against Syracuse, who is 14 in the RPI.

* Speaking of teams with three Ivy games in eight days, the women's soccer team will also be starting that run this weekend, only a day later than the field hockey team.

Princeton is at Brown Saturday at 4, followed by a trip to Penn Wednesday at 6 and a home game against Yale a week from Saturday at 7. Brown, by the way, is 19-0-2 in its last 21 Ivy League games, making Saturday's game one of the biggest for a Princeton fall team.

The Ivy League has six teams in the top 77 of the RPI, led by Princeton, who checks in at No. 6. Brown is 30 spots back 36, with Columbia in between at 22. The others are Harvard at 68, Dartmouth at 76 and Yale at 77.

Princeton, Brown, Columbia and Dartmouth all won their first Ivy game (the Tigers defeated Cornell 4-2 and Brown defeated Harvard 2-0).  

* If you're in Providence this weekend, you have a chance to see two very big Princeton events. 

The first is tomorrow night, when the women's volleyball team takes on Brown to start its weekend trip, which ends Saturday at Yale. Brown lost to Yale in five sets this past weekend, with four decided by two points, including 18-16 in the fifth. Princeton opened its Ivy schedule by sweeping Penn.

Brown won the Ivy title in 2021. Princeton and Yale tied for the title a year ago, but Brown defeated Princeton in the Ivy League tournament semifinals before losing to Yale in the final.

* If you think you've seen a better fielding third baseman than Brooks Robinson, you haven't. The Orioles Hall of Famer passed away earlier this week, and he was before your time, check out some of the plays he made on YouTube.

* If you haven't been paying attention to the Major League Baseball standings, then you might not realize that Princeton alums Chris Young and Mike Hazen have done incredible jobs in turning around the Rangers and Diamondbacks as their general managers.

A year ago, those two were a combined 142-182. This year? The Rangers just took three straight from the Mariners while the Astros were getting swept as well to move 2.5 games in front in first place in the AL West. The Diamondbacks are in a four-team run for the final two NL Wild Card spots.

Whether they reach the postseason or not, the teams have improved already from those 142 wins to 171 and counting. That's an impressive turnaround in one year for the two former Tigers. 

* The women's rugby team, in Year 2 as a varsity program, has made a huge jump in terms of competitiveness. In fact, the Tigers fell just one point short of their first win in the 15s when they fell 27-26 to Mount St. Mary's in their last game.

Princeton is at American International College Saturday at noon. AIC is 1-1, with a 65-0 loss to Harvard and a 105-0 win over New Haven. 

* Finally, happy 78th birthday to Gary Walters, whose Princeton connection and love runs as deep as anyone's. Gary, of course, was the point guard on the 1965 NCAA Final Four men's basketball team, an assistant coach under Pete Carril and then the Director of Athletics for 20 years.

Wednesday, September 27, 2023

The 118 Year Old Uniform

FatherBlog turned 88 yesterday. 

For the occasion, TigerBlog took him to the diner that his father loves. What else would you do when you turn 88? 

He even got the usual, which for him is sunnyside eggs, breakfast potatoes, an English muffin with jelly, toast with butter, tomato juice and coffee. Apparently if you eat that at a diner in North Jersey four or five days a week for 40 or so years, you'll live well into your 80s.

The woman whose family owns the place, whom FatherBlog has known forever, gave him a cannoli with a candle in it while the staff sang "happy birthday." She, by the way, is a classic North Jersey diner hostess, meaning she loves to talk to everyone who comes in, especially the regulars. When TigerBlog said it was his father's birthday, she said "how old are you?" When FB said to guess, she said "108?" 

You had to be there. It was sweet.

Of course, FB received the usual number of birthday calls. His hearing is awful, so the ringer on his phone is as loud as it can be. Also, he tends to speak loudly, so there he was in the diner, answering his really loud ringer with a bellowed "Hello," followed by an explanation that he and his son were in the diner eating and he'd have to get back to them.

Each time it rang, TB suggested he let it go and get back to the person. Each time, he picked it up with his "Hello." It took about five such calls for the people at the other tables to go from mildly annoyed to amused. 

As for TB, he went with "mortified," which gave way to a sigh of inevitability. But hey, FatherBlog is 88, retired, self-sufficient and able to do pretty much anything he'd like, with the exceptions of hearing and driving. He even has a cruise in the Caribbean scheduled for this coming winter. 

After breakfast, TB drove his father on some errands. At the last stop, as he waited in the parking lot, he saw his father come out of the store, walk up to the car and open the door. Unfortunately, it wasn't TigerBlog's car. It wasn't even a car that looked like TB's.

"I got in the wrong car," FatherBlog said with a laugh.
"What did the woman whose car it is say?" TB said without a laugh.
"She said that she's not going to press charges," FB said, again with a laugh.

After driving him on his errands, TigerBlog dropped his dad back at his house and then drove back to Princeton. Waiting for him here was a package from a woman named Adelaide Ferguson. A few weeks ago, she had sent this note to TB:

I am writing to ask whether you might be interested the donation of  the Princeton baseball uniform of my grandfather, Charles P Henry. I believe he graduated in 1905, which makes it about 120 years old. The uniform is completely intact and in good condition , with top, pants, striped  socks, a funny little hat unlike today’s baseball hats  and a sweater. It has his name tag inside.

Inside the box was a sealed plastic bag, one that had the uniform. Adelaide was right. The entire uniform was intact, and it was in amazing condition.

TigerBlog immediately showed it to equipment gurus Derek Griesdorn and Nicole D'Andrea, which was like showing TigerBlog a 1905 newspaper that was in great shape. 

The general consensus was that the uniform itself was very heavy and must have been very hot to wear. The look of it, though, was a bit mesmerizing. The idea that it was worn in baseball games that long ago is amazing.

Baseball was Princeton's very first varsity sport, debuting on Nov. 22, 1864. Charles Henry would have played for the great Bill Clarke, whose 564 wins are still the most by a Princeton coach — 120 more than Scott Bradley, who is in second place. 

Henry was the leftfielder on the 1905 team, which went 24-8, with one of those losses was a 4-3 decision to the Pittsburgh Pirates and another a 14-3 loss to the Baltimore Orioles (at the time an Eastern League team). Princeton defeated Amherst 1-0 in 18 innings in a game where both teams used one pitcher each; Princeton's Don Doyle didn't walk a batter in his 18 innings while striking out 12. 

To get to Cornell to play, Princeton took two trains, first going to Newark and then taking an overnight train to Ithaca. Total time of the trip: 16 hours. 

Charles Henry went from Princeton to Penn for medical school, and he also played baseball for the Quakers, something that is rather unimaginable these days. He went on to a career as a surgeon in the Reading, Pa., area. 

He married a woman named Adelaide and had three children, Daniel, Joan and Charles. Adelaide Ferguson, Charles' granddaughter, is now a lawyer.

FatherBlog is now 88. The uniform was last used 30 years before he was born. 

It was good to see both of them yesterday.

Tuesday, September 26, 2023

That's 40 Years

TigerBlog was recently asked a simple question: If you could go back to being 18 years old, knowing everything you know now, what career path would you choose? 

He thought about it for a while. This is how he answered: "So many different possibilities, but this path is definitely the right path."

Even now, he can't think of anything else he might have done. He originally thought he might head to law school, but that was never going to happen. He's certainly no salesman, no businessman, no scientist. He was always good at math, so maybe an actuary? 

No, TigerBlog had only one possible career, and it's the one he found, even if it's not the one he was planning.

Like he said, when he went to college, he was thinking law school. When he was a freshman at Penn, he had a work-study job in the basement of the psychology department, where he and Fran McCaffery —yes, the Fran McCaffery who today is the head men's basketball coach at Iowa and who back then was a grad assistant at Penn — spent hours copying, collating and stapling assignments. 

Though Fran, TB met Jack McCaffery, who has been a longtime columnist for the Delaware County Times and who back then worked at the Trenton Times. Jack asked TB if he wanted to cover some high school football games, and TB said he would, even though he had absolutely zero experience as a writer. 

None would be necessary, Jack said. He'd learn on the job — but he also had to realize that "once you get the ink in your blood, you never get it out." TB has never forgotten those words. 

Jack went with TB to his first assignment, which was a high school football game in Bryn Athyn, Pa., between Pennington Prep and host Academy of the New Church. It would be the first 700 or so words TigerBlog ever wrote for public consumption.

That game, by the way, was played 40 years ago Saturday. 

Forty years? TigerBlog can still remember that game. It was a beautiful Friday afternoon. Pennington broke open a close game in the second half to win 22-0, breaking the school record for longest winning streak. 

Was his story any good? Probably not. He's written a lot of bad stories in his lifetime. He's also written some pretty good ones.

TigerBlog cannot even remotely guess how many words he's written since that day, how many games he's been to, how many stories he's churned out. He will say there can't be many people anywhere in any medium who have written as much as he has. 

Feature stories. Game stories. Pregame stories. Speeches. Books. He's around three million words in TigerBlogs alone, without counting anything else. 

He started out covering high school sports. Eventually, the late Harvey Yavener took him on as his assistant in covering local colleges, Princeton included. That was in the late 1980s. When the job opened at Princeton, he jumped at the opportunity. 

Where would he be today had it not been for that series of random events back at Penn that started when he took over for BrotherBlog in the psychology department. He met Jack through Fran, who could have worked anywhere on campus or coached at another school. Jack happened to work at a newspapers that needed people to cover games and didn't really mind if they had no experience.

Fast forward to today, and it turned out that becoming a writer suited TB perfectly. Like he said, he can't imagine what else he might have done all these years. He might have made more money in another line of work, but he wouldn't have enjoyed it and he wouldn't have been good at it. Really, to this day, he has no idea what people who have "real" jobs do all day.

More than anything else, writing has served TB in two ways. 

First, it's enabled him, and challenged him, to be creative on a pretty much daily basis. He's learned all about deadlines, how to write quickly, what works and what doesn't, whose work he respects and whose he doesn't.

Second, and way more importantly, it's opened up the doors to a lifetime's worth of experiences and even better, introduced him to almost all of the people in his life who are important to him. There are only a small handful of those people from before he wrote his first story.

When TB first started out writing, he figured it was something he would do for a few years and then move on to whatever it would be that he would do. Each year, he'd try to think of what that might be, and he was never able to figure it out. 

Then, each fall, when a new academic year was starting, he'd get the game excitement he always got, which made him say "okay, one more year." That excitement has never gone away.

And so here he is, in 2023. He's gone through his 20s, 30s, 40s and 50s and is now into his 60s. It's not something a lot of people stick with. It's weekends and nights. That's asking a lot, and not everyone wants to give those times up. 

For TB, it's always been an extension of his life. His son and daughter went to dozens of games and then became athletes themselves. They grew up around Princeton, and his daughter would become a four-year lacrosse player there. 

He's gotten to meet Nobel Prize winners, Pulitzer Prize winners, Senators, Congressmen, even two Presidents. He's met professional athletes, actors, Olympians, Broadway stars, military leaders, religious leaders. He's seen Princeton play games in eight different time zones.

At Princeton, the talk is always of the four years and 40 years. Come here for four, and make relationships that will last 40 or more. TigerBlog went somewhere else for four years, but he's created a lifetime of friendships nonetheless. He's written stories about some of the most fascinating people you could ever possibly meet, and he has an endless numbers of stories he can tell, many of which he can never print.

Through all those years, there's always been another game to cover, another story to write, another person to interview, another person to meet, another person to see again. 

It's been an incredible forty years. 

He wouldn't trade them for anything.

Monday, September 25, 2023

Silver Linings

TigerBlog doesn't have to look at the forecast for Friday night in Princeton to know two things.

First, the weather will be better than it was this past Saturday. Second, there's a 100 percent chance of 0-0.

As frustrating as Princeton's home-opening 16-13 loss to Bryant Saturday was, there were a few silver linings. What's that they say about clouds? Well, there were certainly enough in Princeton Saturday. 

The game was played in driving rains and strong winds, all the residue of Hurricane Ophelia. But as TB says, there were silver linings.

First and foremost is that it did not come in an Ivy League game.

Princeton's first shot in the league comes up Friday night, when the Tigers host Columbia at 7. The Tigers may be 1-1 overall, but they are the aforementioned 0-0 in the league.

If early Ivy results have shown anything, it's that this season will be completely unpredictable.

And, as an aside, that Bryant, a Big South member for football, would make a serious run in the Ivy race. The Bulldogs have the win over Princeton, and they also lost 29-25 to Brown the week before Brown lost to Harvard 34-31. 

In other words, those are all toss-ups.

Then there's the No. 1 team in the preseason poll, Yale. Those Bulldogs lost Saturday to Cornell 23-21 on a 37-yard field goal as time expired. Such results predict one thing: no predictions in the league will be easy.

Meanwhile, back at the silver linings from Saturday, the weather made it hard to do anything other than run the ball offensively, and Princeton was able to do just that. John Volker continues to show what he's able to do as he ran for 149 yards on 18 carries, including a 49-yard touchdown run.

Volker averaged 8.3 yards per carry. Take away the long run and he still had a 5.9 average on 17 carries. Given how tough the footing was, those are big numbers.

Speaking of big numbers, there was the performance of Princeton's three top defenders: Ozzie Nicholas, Liam Johnson and Will Perez. Those three combined for 33 tackles on 67 offensive plays for the Bulldogs. 

Nicholas had 15 tackles. Johnson and Perez had nine each. Of their 33 tackles, a total of 25 were unassisted. Perez also recovered a fumble. 

The fourth Princeton linebacker, Nicholas Sanker, had five tackles, with a sack mixed in. 

Also, when you play two non-league games before your first league game, your tendency is to ease into things and not put too much on film for your future Ivy opponents. The film from Saturday? It's hardly worth watching, because of the idea of keeping things a bit simple and the fact that the weather didn't allow for opening up the playbook too much anyway. 

To say that all is well, of course, is not accurate. Certainly no Princeton player or coach walked off the field Saturday feeling "hey, no big deal. Not an Ivy game."

But that's the reality of it.  

There have been two league games played so far. One was decided by three points (Harvard's win Friday night over Brown) and the other by two points (Cornell's win over Yale). This coming weekend's other Ivy game is Penn at Dartmouth. The Big Green, playing with the emotional weight of the loss earlier this week of head coach Buddy Teevens, defeated Lehigh 34-17 Saturday.

So who is favored? What can anyone expect? Those answers are both the same. No idea. 

If you've paid attention at all, you agree.

This is a big week in practice for Princeton. Its opponent Saturday defeated Georgetown 30-0 Saturday. The Tigers will need to dry out and turn the page from Saturday quickly. Getting off to a good start in the league is important if you want to be playing big games in November.

Oh, and by the way, TigerBlog just looked at the forecast for Friday in Princeton. It's for a high of 74, which probably means around 68 or so at kickoff, with no chance of rain.

Now that sounds perfect, right? 

Princeton will be 0-0. So will Columbia. 

That's the biggest silver lining out of Saturday.

Friday, September 22, 2023

Weather Changes, Ivy Openers

The forecast for this weekend is for sunshine and temps around 70, at least where TigerBlog will be. 

That should be the first hint that he won't be in Princeton, where this weekend's forecast isn't nearly as good. In fact, this weekend's rains have forced rescheduling of pretty much every home event. 

The football game, for instance, has been moved from a 3 pm start to a noon start. In the past, there haven't been too many issues with people who didn't get the start time messages, and hopefully that won't be the case this time either. 

Again, say it with TigerBlog — the football game is at noon tomorrow, not at 3. 

In other schedule changes, the women's soccer team — make that the 14th-ranked women's soccer team — hosts Cornell in its Ivy opener tonight at 6 on Myslik Field at Roberts Stadium, as opposed to its originally scheduled tomorrow start. As for the men, they will also open their Ivy schedule, except they'll do so against Dartmouth and five hours earlier than planned. 

Instead of a 4 pm start on Myslik Field, it'll be an 11 am start for the Tigers and Big Green. Stay tuned to Princeton social media in case there are any further weather changes. 

As for TB, he'll be with the field hockey team, first this evening at 5 for yet another Ivy opener, against Columbia, on Bedford Field, and then in the Midwestern sunshine this weekend, when the Tigers play at No. 3 Northwestern (Sunday, noon Eastern time). For what it's worth, TigerBlog has never been to Northwestern before, or even the city of Chicago, so he's looking forward to the trip.

The other team opening its Ivy League schedule this weekend is the women's volleyball team, who will play a home-and-home with its travel partner, Penn, first tonight at the Palestra and then tomorrow at 5 at Dillon Gym.

That's four teams who start their Ivy seasons. 

The women's soccer team vaulted into the United Soccer Coaches national rankings after its impressive win over then-No. 10 Georgetown. The Tigers have only one loss, to No. 4 Penn State, but having a good record in Ivy women's soccer is not unique, since all eight teams are over .500 (Cornell is unbeaten, at 2-0-4). 

Five of the eight schools are ranked in the top 64 in Division I in RPI, led by Princeton at 24th.

As for the men's soccer side, no Ivy team is ranked in the top 25 or receiving votes in the weekly United Soccer Coaches' poll, and the RPI hasn't yet been announced for this year. The No. 1 team in the weekly poll? Unless you follow college men's soccer closely, you'll never get it: Marshall.

Princeton is 2-2-0 on the year, which puts the Tigers in the half of the league that has a .500 overall record. No team is more than a game over .500, and only one (Brown) is more than a game under .500. Every Ivy League men's soccer game is up for grabs. Getting hot early will certainly help.

The field hockey team is ranked 17th in RPI this week, while Northwestern is No. 2. Princeton is 2-4, with losses to No. 1 Louisville, No. 5 North Carolina and No. 5  Rutgers all by a goal (the last in OT) and with a win over No. 12 Maryland. The trip to Northwestern might be a first for TigerBlog, but it's a homecoming for Princeton players Gracie McGowan and Clare Brennan, both of whom grew up in Lake Forest. 

Keep in mind, this is Year 1 of the Ivy League tournaments for men's and women's soccer and field hockey. The top four teams in the regular season standings will play at the field of the top seed for the Ivy automatic bid to the NCAA tournament; the team (or teams) that win the regular season will claim the official championship still.

And of course, there is the football home opener. Like all Ivy games this weekend, it'll begin with a moment of silence in memory of the late Buddy Teevens, the Dartmouth head coach who passed away earlier this week.

At the newly announced noon kickoff, Princeton will take on Bryant in the first meeting ever between the teams. The Bulldogs lost to another Ivy team, Brown, by a 29-25 score a week ago in Smithfield. In fact, Bryant is 1-2 on the year, with a 21-10 win over LIU and an opening 44-14 loss at UNLV. 

The Bulldogs are in the Northeast Conference in most sports but compete in the Big South in football. 

Princeton is 1-0, having defeated San Diego last weekend in California 23-12. The Tigers open their Ivy schedule next Friday night at home against Columbia.

The men's tennis team is hosting its Farnsworth Invitational, almost certainly in Jadwin Gym. The women's tennis team is at Penn. The fourth-ranked men's water polo team is in California.

HERE is the complete schedule.

Thursday, September 21, 2023

To Buddy Teevens

Our Dartmouth game in 2018 was one of the more nationally publicized Ivy football games I can recall.  Afterwards I described it as a "Rocky" movie, and although the cliche one-play game can get overused, that game truly was a one-play game with the team that won thrilled and a heartbreaking loss for the loser.  We won the game with a late TD run by John Lovett. The postgame was about 150 warriors showing respect for each other and then after we did media I was walking to the tailgate (about where the new soccer stadium is located).  Halfway there, I heard someone shouting my name and I turned around and it was Buddy Teevins running towards me.  We talked about the game, the brilliance of the players on both sides, how lucky we are to have tremendous assistant coaches. It was just a very respectful conversation. And then Buddy said, if I was going to lose that game, I’m glad it was to you. I thanked him. We shook hands and I went to the tailgate while he went back on the bus.  As I kept walking, I knew he really didn’t mean that personally to me.  We were colleagues and friends, but I truly believe he would have said that to any head coach he was friends with. He was such an incredible man that after a devastating “one-play” loss he wanted the opposing coach to enjoy the moment. - Bob Surace

It doesn't matter what Ivy League school is your favorite. 

It doesn't matter which one is your least favorite. 

If you follow Ivy League sports, then you were crushed by the news Tuesday night that Dartmouth's Buddy Teevens had passed away. 

As big a part of Ivy League football as anyone who has ever lived, Teevens died several months after he was hit by a pickup truck while riding his bicycle in Florida. He was two weeks away from his 67th birthday at the time of his death.

In basically every story that TigerBlog read about Teevens' passing, there were words like "successful" and "winning" and "longtime." Those are really good words to have written about you.

There was more, though. There were words like "pioneering" and "advocate" and "trailblazer." When you add those two lists together, you're left with a picture of a man who made a real impact on a sport, on a college and, most importantly, on every athlete who ever wore his uniform.

Start with the first group of words.

Teevens quarterbacked Dartmouth to the 1978 Ivy League title as a senior, when he won the Bushnell Cup. He also played on the Big Green hockey team that reached the 1979 Frozen Four.

As a coach, he took over for Ron Rogerson as the head coach of the University of Maine in 1985, after Rogerson left to become the head coach at Princeton. He'd also have short tenures at both Tulane and Stanford, but it was at his alma mater that he had his biggest successes.

Teevens had a record of 117-101-2 as the Big Green head coach; no other Dartmouth football coach has ever had more wins. He also won five Ivy League championships, two in his first go-round (1990, 1991) and then three more since he's been back (2015, 2019, 2021).

He and Princeton's Bob Surace are the only two who have won Ivy League titles as players and head coaches. 

Then there's the second set of words.

Teevens was certainly not afraid to take chances that others were not, especially in the area of player safety, something that is often talked about but difficult to implement in an inherently violent sport. He was the first football coach, probably anywhere, to eliminate tackling in practices, something that is now commonplace. 

He also introduced the Mobile Virtual Player, a robot of sorts that was used in place of his players in teaching and practicing tackling. Again, it was an innovation all about player safety.

In addition, he also hired a woman on his coaching staff long before anyone else did. Talk about growing the game.

When TB talked to Surace yesterday, it was clear how shaken he was. In addition to what he said about the 2018 game, he also offered this:

Buddy was an exceptional coach. The success Dartmouth had on the field was visible.  However, he was an even better person outside of the weekly competition. This is just one of the many behind the scenes moments that show how rare a leader he was:

For his part, TigerBlog never actually met Buddy Teevens, though he went back with him to the 1989 season, Surace's senior year as the Tigers' All-Ivy center. At least that's the first time he covered a Princeton-Dartmouth game that Teevens coached.

It's interesting how people you don't know make an impression on you. Some you like. Some you don't. The reasons aren't always clear. 

TigerBlog always liked Teevens. Maybe it's because he's always loved Don Dobes, the former Princeton assistant coach who has been on Teevens' staff for 14 years. Or maybe it's because of his good friend Bruce Wood, who writes the Big Green Alert Blog and who was extraordinarily close to Teevens.

Or, maybe it's just as simple as the fact that Teevens' goodness was just obvious to miss. So was his class. 

The news is hard to comprehend. TigerBlog sends his deepest condolences to Dartmouth and to the Teevens family.

So does every other Ivy League fan. 

Wednesday, September 20, 2023

Head Coach Joe Dubuque

TigerBlog isn't sure exactly how tall Joe Dubuque is. He's guessing it's around 5-2 or so.

Knowing that, if Joe Dubuque told TigerBlog he could dunk a basketball, TB wouldn't even think twice. He wouldn't even have to see him prove it. 

That's the kind of faith that TB has in Dubuque.

He might be small in terms of height, but he has one of the biggest personalities TigerBlog has ever seen. There's a ton of positive energy in that body. 

If that sounds familiar, that's how TB described former Princeton wrestling coach Chris Ayres when he left last week to become the head coach at Stanford. 

The announcement came yesterday afternoon that Dubuque would be replacing Ayres as the Tiger head coach. You can read it HERE.

Sean Gray, another key in the resurgence of Tiger wrestling during the Ayres years, will remain with the program as associate head coach, and that is great news for Princeton fans as well. Gray, too, is one of those positive, energetic life-forces in the wrestling room on E level.

Dubuque was a two-time NCAA individual champion at Indiana, winning the 125-pound title in 2005 and 2006. TigerBlog went back to Dubuque's bio on the Indiana webpage to see if it listed his height, which it did not.

What did he see there? A menacing photo of Joe Dubuque. 

Menacing? That's not a word that TB would usually equate with Dubuque. Yet there he was, with that menacing look on his face.

It's a look that TB has never seen. There are others that TB has seen a lot.

There's the jovial look, the one that seems to be Dubuque's default setting. It's the one that you see when Dubuque wanders next door, from the wrestling room into the office suite on E Level that houses Communications, Multimedia and IT. 

Then there's the intense look. That's the one that shows in every action shot of Dubuque as he coaches. He is dressed in a jacket, sometimes a tie, and always that intense look. 

Each of these pictures shows his passion for wrestling in a crystal clear way. For that matter, they also make you want to get out there and wrestle for him yourself.

Princeton Wrestling has come a long way, reaching a pinnacle with a 2020 Ivy League championship that ended Cornell's 18-year run, a 2022 season that featured two NCAA runners-up (Quincy Monday, Patrick Glory) and then last winter, when Glory won the same weight class at the NCAA championships that Dubuque had won as a Hoosier.

Here's what Glory had to say about Dubuque's hiring:

Without him I personally wouldn’t have been able to achieve my goals, and I know the same can be said about the goals of the program.

That's saying a lot. 

Dubuque is a huge part of New Jersey wrestling history. He was a two-time state champion at Glen Ridge High School, and being a two-time New Jersey state high school champion might be as difficult to achieve as being a two-time NCAA champion.

Now he's taking over as the head man at Princeton.

He's very much a huge part of the culture of the Department of Athletics already. The annual holiday party doesn't really start until Dubuque starts dancing.

TigerBlog went back to Craig Sachson, who was the OAC wrestling contact who had a front-row seat as the program was rebuilt. Not too many people know Dubuque the way Sachson does. 

Here's what he had to say:

Joe was born to be the Princeton head wrestling coach. His energy and passion for the sport and for this community are endless. He was one of the greatest wrestlers New Jersey every produced, and it’s fitting that he’ll now be recruiting the nation’s best wrestlers into his own backyard. He is a teacher, a motivator, a thinker and a leader. He and Sean will make a great team, and they’ll continue raising the standard at Princeton.

Does it sound familiar? 

If you know Joe Dubuque, you agree with what TB and Sachson had to say. If you don't, you'd instantly like him and root for him. 

The same is true of Sean Gray. 

With them in charge, Princeton Wrestling is in a great place.

Tuesday, September 19, 2023

What Do You See?

Have you ever done one of those ink blot tests? 

You know the ones. You look at a picture and then say the first thing you see. It's supposed to give insight into your personality.

So let's play a little game. What do you see here:

Colorful. Purple. Bright color. Contrast in the middle. Hmmm. What can it be? 

Guesses? TigerBlog did his own sampling, sending it out to a few people to see what they thought it was. This was very interesting. Maybe he'll write his senior thesis on what he learned.

The first feedback he got suggested that it was a piece of art in a glass frame or a stained window. Then he got two "no clues." One commentator said that the colors were so vivid. TB also got one that suggested it was a T-Mobile ad.

The best response he got was this: "Oh that’s easy. That’s your reflection with some pink/purple lines and a black line in front of you." Of the 11 people he asked, he got one correct answer.

The reality is that it was TigerBlog's computer screen about five minutes before the Princeton-UConn field hockey game Sunday afternoon. That was, as they say, less than ideal.

Almost every sport now uses a new NCAA-developed stat-keeping system called Genius, but there are a few exceptions that don't yet have the new program. Field hockey is one of them. So are baseball, softball and lacrosse.

The old stat program is called StatCrew, which used to have an update each year but does not anymore. It also uses an older operating system, meaning it's not usable on TB's regular laptop.

As such, he has two computers to lug to games, one to do stats and the other to do graphics, clip highlights and write stories. About five minutes before the game Sunday, his computer turned to what you see above.

TB took the picture and sent it to Bryan Fitzwater, the world's greatest IT guy, who responded quickly on a Sunday just before noon with the advice to restart the computer and then, when told TB had already done that, gave this highly technical analysis of the situation: "that stinks."

To his credit, Fitz was ready to provide further assistance at the drop of a hat, until TB noticed something strange. If he tilted the screen back towards the keyboard, the screen went back to normal. TB tried this a few times, and lo and behold, it was problem solved, sort of.

Every now and then during the game, TB opened the screen all the way, and purple it went. If he pushed it to about 45 degrees, it started flashing purple. As soon as he put it back down to 35? Clear as a bell. 

Fitz informed him that some cable inside the laptop had become damaged, which was causing the problem. Since Fitz sits about five yards from where TB sits in Jadwin Gym, he said he'd get to it first thing yesterday, and he did. 

As for the game, there was still the issue of having to enter the stats while the screen was about a 35-degree or so angle to the keyboard. UConn's field hockey contact, Kelsey Conrad, suggested putting a roll of paper towels under the keyboard, and that helped a lot. 

Still, it wasn't the easiest way to do stats. 

When the laptop first started to act up, TB's initial response was "you couldn't have done this an hour ago?" 

His second response was to consider throwing the laptop over back of the press box, but that wouldn't have solved anything. Besides, panicking or lashing out accomplish nothing. 

TB's mind was already racing to possible solutions, given that there was no way to get another laptop there on time. He'd have to write down the stats by hand, take down the Live Stats link and figure out a way to enter the stats on a different computer later on. It wouldn't have been perfect, but hey, the game would still be the game. 

It reminded him of the words of his longtime friend and former colleague John Cornell, who always used to say that no matter what you did or didn't do as an athletic communications person, the game would still be played,  you could sort it all out after the fact and you may as well be prepared.

With five minutes to go before the game started, that was actually fairly comforting. 

Monday, September 18, 2023

Perfect Opener

The Princeton football team played a perfect game in its opener at San Diego Saturday afternoon.

Perfect? Well, it depends on your definition of a perfect opening football game.

Here's TigerBlog's: 1) win, 2) don't be perfect. And that was Princeton Saturday.

TigerBlog always says that a 10-week Ivy football season flies by, and that is true. In a blink it'll be late in the Ivy League season.

Having said that, it's also a grind. And keep in mind, it might go fast to the observer from the outside, but it also goes from now, when the weather in Princeton is better than the weather in San Diego, to the week before Thanksgiving, when the weather in San Diego most certainly will be better than the weather in Princeton.

You don't want to peak now. You want to build toward the biggest games of the year, especially when you start the season with two non-league games.

To that end, Princeton's 23-12 win over San Diego was, to TigerBlog, perfect. There was a win, and there was room for improvement.

Bob Surace is now in his 12th season as the Tiger head coach. He was winless in his first five season openers. He has now won seven straight. 

Also, not that Surace would want to be the first part of the story after a game, but he now has 74 wins as Tiger head coach, just one away from Dick Colman for third and four away from Steve Tosches for second. Bill Roper's 89 are the Princeton record.

The game at San Diego was a mix of familiar names and newcomers. It's like any college football season.

Blake Stenstrom started his second straight opener at quarterback, making him the first player to do so for Surace since Chad Kanoff in 2016 and 2017. Stenstrom, who has been great in his career, was pretty good against San Diego, completing 23 of 38 for 240 yards and two first half touchdowns, to Tamatoa Falatea and Luke Colella. 

The two receivers had combined for 15 receiving yards in their careers prior to the game Saturday. Getting on the same page with new receivers isn't easy, especially when you're so used to throwing to players like Andrei Iosivas (now in the NFL) and Dylan Classi (who TB still maintains should be). 

It takes some time to build rapport between quarterback and receivers, and it's not something that can just be done in practice. It has to happen with game experience, and that's exactly what Princeton got Saturday.

Somewhat extraordinarily, Princeton had 11 players with at least one catch. Princeton had 13 players with at least one reception — for all of the 2022 season. 

On the ground, John Volker had a career-high 82 yards, 58 of which came on three consecutive plays to start the third quarter for the Tigers, when he went five, 51 and two yards to get into the end zone.  Defensively, Princeton had some real standouts, like Will Perez, who had a huge 14-yard sack in third quarter, Ozzie Nicholas, who was everywhere and sophomore Bakari Edwards, who had two tackles for loss, including a safety to ice it in the fourth quarter in his first serious varsity time.

Brady Clark averaged 40.2 yards on eight punts, including two that dropped inside the 20 and three that traveled at least 50 yards. That's good and bad — the numbers are great, the number is not. 

In fact, Princeton's last six drives ended in Clark punts, which isn't how you want it to be, especially when three of your first seven drives end in touchdowns. These are the kinds of things that need to be worked on, and these are the things that enable coaches to get their players' attention.

Still, it had to be a great experience all around, with the trip to San Diego, the game and what figured to be a happy flight home. Princeton didn't get in until very late Saturday night (actually early Sunday morning), and now there's the need to get ready for the home opener Saturday at 3 against Bryant. 

Surace seems to agree with TB's thinking.  He tweeted this after the game: "Great effort! Love the teamwork! A lot to clean up but excited for the team win."

Between now and Saturday is another week of practice. It's a chance to fix some of the issues from the San Diego game. That's called "improving on perfection."

Friday, September 15, 2023

Opening Kickoff

Remember when TigerBlog told you that his friend Corey, with whom he goes back nearly 50 years, was going to get off the plane from his two-week vacation with his wife Cindy in Croatia and go straight to the Rutgers-Temple football game? 

Well, he ended up doing just that. This is the picture he sent before the game:

That's impressive dedication. TB doesn't think he's missed too many Rutgers home games (and quite a few away games) since he graduated from there in 1985. 

At his graduation, every name was called, which took nearly two hours. Beforehand, the crowd was, as usual, urged to hold their applause to the end. His name happened to be the last one, and after getting his diploma, he walked to the front of the stage and bowed as the crowd applauded. 

Rutgers won that game, and its game the previous week, its Big 10 opener against Northwestern. Up next for the Scarlet Knights will be tomorrow's game at home against Virginia Tech. TB assumes Corey will be more well-rested and ready for tailgating.

As TB mentioned yesterday and as you're probably aware, Princeton opens its season at San Diego tomorrow, with kickoff at 4 Eastern time. San Diego, like Rutgers, has already played twice, with losses to Cal Poly 21-10 and then to Colorado Mesa 28-21 in overtime. 

TigerBlog wanted  to see what kind of program Colorado Mesa had, so he went to the school's website, where he was greeted by a picture of eight people in Cowboy hats and a headline that said "Rodeo to compete at Southern Utah."

Colorado Mesa is a Division II school in the very tough Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference. San Diego is a Division I school in the Pioneer Conference, which has teams all over the country. 

The Tigers are looking to get off on the right foot for the season, with this game and next week's home game against Bryant before the Ivy League opener at home against Columbia on Sept. 29, a Friday night. 

Princeton returns the Ivy League's Bushnell Cup for Defensive Player of the Year from a year ago, as Liam Johnson is back for his senior year. If you don't remember, he's the youngest of four brothers, the oldest of whom went to Amherst and the other two who were first-team All-Ivy League linebackers at Princeton (Tom, James). 

The video of the brothers as little kids is tremendous. Going back to the 2018 10-0 season, by the way, nearly one in eight tackles made by the Princeton defense was made by one the Johnson brothers.

On the other side of the ball, Princeton returns Blake Stenstrom as quarterback. Who was the last quarterback to start the Princeton opener two years in a row? That would be Chad Kanoff, in 2016 and 2017. 

Johnson and Stenstrom are two of Princeton's four captains this year. The other two are offensive lineman Jalen Travis, who is probably the top NFL prospect in the Ivy League this year, and Ozzie Nicholas, whom you met in the video about the Johnson brothers.

Princeton is 35-5 in the last four years, with two Ivy League titles and two near-misses. If you read the season previews on, you read the quote from head coach Bob Surace that said this: 

We're a new team," Surace said. "We've graduated over 80 seniors over the last two years."

That's a big number. As such, there will be new names in new spots and lots of them. It'll take some time for it all to gel, but that's the fun part of any season. 

As is the case every year in the Ivy League, pretty much everyone from the high school to NFL level has started to play already. Now it's the Ivy League's turn.

Getting to game week is different. Getting on a plane and flying cross-country is a great experience. 

Then it'll be time for the 10-week sprint that is the Ivy League. It'll be gone in a blink. It always is.

There are big moments ahead. With the program that Surace has built, that's always going to be the case. 

Now it's time for the opening kickoff. The Tigers will be ready.

Thursday, September 14, 2023

Jets, Buses And Home Games

The Jets just can't have nice things, can they? 

Tom Brady's second act included a Super Bowl title in Tampa Bay. The Jets figured they were headed to that same storybook ending when they acquired 39-year-old Aaron Rodgers after his Hall-of-Fame career in Green Bay. 

Brady threw for 15,000 yards and 107 touchdowns in three seasons in Tampa Bay. With numbers like that swirling through the heads of Jets fans everywhere, Rodgers made his debut Monday night against the Bills and, well, you know what happened. 

It's not easy to come back from an Achilles injury when you're almost 40. If he never makes it back, then Rodgers will have thrown 7,762 passes for her career, of which 7,761 would have come for the Packers and one for the Jets. He played all of four plays with his new team before getting hurt.

TigerBlog wasn't watching the game Monday night, but he did go to check the stats to see how Rodgers was doing. What the heck? One pass? No way. 

If you're a Jets fan, well, you're used to these quarterbacking disappointments. There are way more football fans who remember the endless parade of Jets QB's, some of whom were pretty good but none of whom were great, than who saw Joe Namath play. TigerBlog saw Namath play. He was different. 

TB adopted the Jets after being a lifelong Giants fan when the Giants did their anti-Princeton thing by firing Marc Ross and Jason Garrett. How many Super Bowl rings do those two have (five)? How many do the guys running the Giants now have (zero)?

Speaking of football and Jets, the Princeton football team will be getting on one today to head to the West Coast for its 2023 season opener. 

Princeton will be taking on San Diego in Torero Stadium, which looks like a pretty nice place to see a game. If you're in San Diego, expect the weather to be perfect, since it always is. The

If you're watching on ESPN+, it kicks off at 1 local time and 4 Eastern time. TB will have more on the football game tomorrow. 

For the rest of today, there are some other big events to discuss.

The field hockey team is at No. 5 Maryland today at 4 in another matchup against a top 10 team, which is the norm for the Tigers this time of year. Princeton is 1-3, and with the new NFHCA rule that says teams must be at least .500 to be in the top 20, the Tigers are unranked.

Their three losses, though, are all by one goal, to No. 2 North Carolina, No. 5 Louisville and No. 10 Rutgers. Don't count out the Tigers against anyone. 

Here are a few other fun TFH facts: 1) all four of Princeton's games so far this season have been 2-1 scores; 2) Princeton's last three games have all been overtime games; 3) Princeton and Maryland have gone to overtime in each of their last five meetings and 4) the last seven Princeton-Maryland games have been one-goal games.

Princeton hosts UConn Sunday at noon.

The women's soccer team has a Thursday-Sunday week as well, only with the home game first. Princeton welcomes 10th-ranked Georgetown to Myslik Field at Roberts Stadium tonight at 7 and then heads up to Connecticut to take on Quinnipiac Sunday at noon.

Georgetown comes into the game with a record of 4-0-3. In those seven games, the Hoyas have allowed only two goals, including five straight games without allowing any. Georgetown had a 0-0 tie against James Madison in that run, which included a 2-0 win over Rutgers, a team Princeton had its own 0-0 tie against.

In its last game, Georgetown finally gave up a goal but ended up tying No. 2 Stanford 1-1. Georgetown scored its goal seven minutes into the game; Stanford tied it with five minutes left.

The men's soccer team has as long a bus ride as the football team has a plane ride this weekend, as Jim Barlow's team heads to take on the University of New Hampshire. Both trips are around six hours. 

When Princeton gets to UNH, the team waiting for the Tigers will be coming in after a week off since a 2-1 win at No. 8 Florida International, which followed a 1-0 loss at home against Cornell. UNH and Princeton have never met in men's soccer, something TB finds hard to believe.

He'd also find it hard to believe if UNH's Director of Athletics wasn't at the game. That would be Allison Rich, who is in Year 2 in Durham after spending nearly a decade at Princeton.

The women's rugby team, make that the greatly improved women's rugby team, hosts Dartmouth Saturday at noon. A week ago, against Mt. St. Mary's, Princeton lost 27-26 in the final heartbreaking seconds, and while that stung, it did come against a team who beat Princeton 77-10 a year ago in the Tigers' inaugural varsity season.

There is also a home women's golf invitational this weekend at Springdale.

The full schedule is HERE.

Wednesday, September 13, 2023

Guest TigerBlog - Julie Shackford's Message To Her Team On 9/11

When TigerBlog went out to the first men's lacrosse fall practice Monday, when began when senior Bear Lockshin read a letter to the entire team that was written by then-head coach Bill Tierney before the start of the 2002 season, a few months after the 9/11 attacks.


The men's lacrosse team, of course, had lost alum John Schroeder, a senior on the 1992 NCAA  championship team, in the attacks. Schroeder's father Jack became very close to that 2002 team.


TigerBlog, who knew Schroeder, was taken by the fact that of any current Tiger, Lockshin is the one whose personality most closely resembles that of Schroeder, a funny, outgoing guy who loved to have fun, loved to laugh and loved his team. All of that applies to Lockshin as well.


 Lockshin never got to meet the man they called Stinky. He was a little over a year old on 9/11/01. The reading of the letter, though, shows the importance of remembering the day, remembering what happened, and making sure future generations remember it as well.


To that end, TigerBlog got an email from former women's soccer coach Julie Shackford, now the head coach at her alma mater, William & Mary. Shackford asked TB to share with his audience what she had shared with her team Monday.  


I think only a few of you were even born (our grandmas) but I hope you will take some time to read or think about 9/11/01. 


I was one of the last planes into Newark (after flying from a home visit in Williamsburg coincidentally). We passed the first tower in flames as we were coming in for a landing, and our pilot said the plane must have gotten in the wrong airspace. 


After landing, the second one I got off the plane a guy next to me said it had to be terrorists. I took the monorail, got in my car, and on the way back home, the Pentagon was hit. It was the most surreal day to me, and the United States changed forever that day. There were 3,000 people who died and I am sure most everyone (I have a William and Mary friend who was killed) has a connection to one of them. 


That night, Toni Morrison did a candlelight ceremony for all of our Princeton Community as we lost so many alums that day. I would like to share it as I always do once a year. It is cathartic for me to share this, but it is more important we all do our part to love and honor our country. Things changed forever on 9/11/01 at 8:14 am, and it is incumbent upon all of you (the next group of adults) to serve, protect and honor in your own ways...and always hug your people and check in. In any case, I will stop rambling. 


Read the words of a genius:


Toni Morrison: The Dead of September 11

Saw her give this talk on Sept 11, 2001. 


Some have God’s words; others have songs of comfort

for the bereaved. If I can pluck courage here, I would

like to speak directly to the dead–the September dead.

Those children of ancestors born in every continent

on the planet: Asia, Europe, Africa, the Americas…;

born of ancestors who wore kilts, obis, saris, geles,

wide straw hats, yarmulkes, goatskin, wooden shoes,

feathers and cloths to cover their hair. But I would not say

a word until I could set aside all I know or believe about

nations, wars, leaders, the governed and ungovernable;

all I suspect about armor and entrails. First I would freshen

my tongue, abandon sentences crafted to know evil—wanton

or studied; explosive or quietly sinister; whether born of

a sated appetite or hunger; of vengeance or the simple

compulsion to stand up before falling down. I would purge

my language of hyperbole; of its eagerness to analyze

the levels of wickedness; ranking them; calculating their

higher or lower status among others of its kind.

Speaking to the broken and the dead is too difficult for

a mouth full of blood. Too holy an act for impure thoughts.

Because the dead are free, absolute; they cannot be

seduced by blitz.


To speak to you, the dead of September 11, I must not claim

false intimacy or summon an overheated heart glazed

just in time for a camera. I must be steady and I must be clear,

knowing all the time that I have nothing to say–no words

stronger than the steel that pressed you into itself; no scripture

older or more elegant than the ancient atoms you

have become.


And I have nothing to give either–except this gesture,

this thread thrown between your humanity and mine:

I want to hold you in my arms and as your soul got shot of its box of flesh to understand,

 as you have done, the wit

of eternity: its gift of unhinged release tearing through

the darkness of its knell.


Tuesday, September 12, 2023

Goodbye Chris Ayres

When you think of Stanford Athletics, you don't think of wrestling, and that's something that's just fine with the program's new head coach.

When Chris Ayres came to Princeton in 2006, you didn't think of wrestling here either. The task of filling out the lineup with healthy wrestlers and not having to forfeit any weight classes was tough enough. 

Actually competing on the national level? That seemed like something beyond even the most optimistic fans. 

Of course, that's where Aryes had his biggest advantage. He's not like most optimists.

Ayres came to Princeton knowing that it was just a matter of time until he produced a nationally prominent program. It was inevitable in his mind — and at the time, only his mind.

So what happened? That's exactly what he went out and did.

Princeton Athletic history is filled with great coaches, ones who won many league and national championships. There are some who turned around programs (Bill Tierney and Courtney Banghart leap to mind).

There is nobody who ever did what Chris Ayres did in his time here as the wrestling coach.

That time came to an end yesterday, when Ayres announced he was leaving Princeton to become the head coach at Stanford. 

Ayres took Princeton Wrestling from an afterthought to a perennial Top 20 team. He won an Ivy League championship. He produced multiple All-Americans. In his final winter with the Tigers, he made good on what he always figured he would do: He coached an NCAA champion at Princeton when Pat Glory won at 125 pounds.

His tenure at Princeton will be remembered for more than just on-mat success. He was a leader in building women's wrestling. He moved matches from Dillon Gym to Jadwin Gym and drew huge crowds as Princeton Wrestling became a big event. He was a tireless supporter of any and all things Princeton, going way beyond his program to be a highly recognizable and respected face throughout the campus. 

Ayres was an Eastern champion and All-American wrestler at Lehigh, where he was an assistant coach before being hired at Princeton the first week of June in 2006. Somewhere along the line, somebody taught Ayres about the value of confidence, hard-work, belief and above all positivity.

It's hard to imagine anyone who drips positivity more than Chris Ayres.

TigerBlog remembers Ayres from when he first arrived as someone who seemed delusional about what he could build in wrestling here, and yet there was something else there, something that made you think "If anyone can get this done, it's this guy."

TB's longtime friend and colleague Craig Sachson was the Princeton Office of Athletic Communications contact with Ayres from the time Ayres started through 2019. If anyone had a front row seat for the rebuild, it's Sachson. 

When TB found out that Ayres was leaving, he reached out to Craig to see what he thought. What he had to say was pretty much what TigerBlog has already said:

In his earliest days as Princeton Wrestling coach, I would email Chris Ayres a request for probable starters. One name kept coming up, and sometimes he would wrestle in both the light and heavy weight classes on the same night: Johnny Forfeit. It would always make me laugh — many of the conversations I had with Chris over more than a decade working together had us laughing — but it was a constant reminder of where the program was at the time. We rarely could field 10 actual wrestlers, much less 10 who could compete with the rest of the Ivy League.

 Last year, Chris Ayres started Patrick Glory, the 2023 NCAA champion. He started Quincy Monday, a three-time All-American and two-time NCAA finalist.

 You can’t imagine where Princeton wrestling was when Chris Ayres first walked into Jadwin Gym. His goal was to bring All-Americans, an NCAA champion and an Ivy League title to Princeton. My goal for the program was to be somewhat competitive. Frankly, I thought he was crazy … and maybe he was just crazy enough to pull this together. He will tell you it was a team effort, and it truly was. He surrounded himself with the right people, put together the right message to share with the right recruits. He connected with the right people both in the department and around campus, and altogether they changed the energy of the program.

Make no mistake, though. It starts and ends with Chris Ayres. His relentless drive and enthusiasm are reasons 1 and 1A why Princeton wrestling is where it is today. He created the higher standard that Princeton wrestling now strives for — and expects of itself — and that legacy will last far beyond his final day in Orange and Black.

The Cardinal program has been around since 1916. It has a solid history, with eight Top 20 NCAA finishes, seven of which are this century, and one Pac-12 title, in 2019. Of course, the school is moving into the ACC for next year. 

Ayres will bring to Stanford what he brought to Princeton. He has no other gear. 

No matter what has been going on and what the most results may have been, Ayres always has a smile. He laughs easily. He's the kind of guy you want on your side. That's what Stanford is getting. 

His legacy at Princeton is one of greatness, as a coach and a person.



Monday, September 11, 2023

22 Years Later

As predictions go, you can't be more wrong than TigerBlog was when he wrote this Friday: 

Shelton is unseeded and Djokovic has won more Majors than any other men's player ever. Still, TB is thinking Shelton is going to win. He looks like he could possibly overpower Djokovic.

Yeah, it didn't quite work out that way. Djokovic won in straight sets. He basically chewed up Shelton and then mocked mimicked Shelton's postmatch phone gesture, including an imitation slamming of it down. 

Despite TigerBlog's skepticism, Djokovic now has 24 Majors. Coco Gauff, who seems really easy to root for, now has one. 

The U.S. Open is a New York event through and through. It has a New York personality, with loud fans (some of which crosses the line), wild outfits for the players and a much grittier atmosphere than the other majors.

TigerBlog grew up a New York sports fan. The city's history is well-known, with its legendary athletes, coaches, teams and games.

For all of that, there is nothing in New York sports that will top what happened in the first baseball game back in the city after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. It was 10 days later, when the Mets played the Braves at Shea Stadium. Trailing 2-1 in the bottom of the eighth, the Mets took the lead when Mike Piazza hit a towering two-run home run. The final was 3-2, but this was about so much more than that. This was about saying "we're still here, and New York will go on."

The emotions of that moment were incalculable. 

Today is the 22nd anniversary of those attacks. It's a far different world than it was on Sept. 10, 2001, but it's a world nontheless. On the night of Piazza's home run, that was far from certain. 

It's hard to believe, but there are hardly any Princeton athletes left who were even born by that date. To them, it's something they learned about in history classes, not something they lived through themselves.

Those who did live through it — and there was a lot of Princeton athletes who were in Lower Manhattan that day — were changed by it forever, whether they were near Ground Zero or not.

This is what TigerBlog has written about his memories of 9/11:

He was dropping off TigerBlog Jr. at the University League Nursery School, on the far side of the parking lot outside Jadwin. It was the most perfect weather day, crystal clear, sunshine, no humidity, not a cloud to be found.

TB dropped TBJ off at the school, and the woman who was the office manager said that a plane had flown into the World Trade Center.

TigerBlog walked outside, looked up, and thought "how in the world did that happen?" By the time he got to Jadwin, he found out how.

Most of that day was spent huddled around the only television around, the one in the athletic training room in Caldwell Field House. It was a day where people spoke very little, where everyone had dazed looks on their faces.

By mid-afternoon, he went back to get TBJ at the nursery school. He can still see the children, swinging on the swings, playing in a sandbox, oblivious - happily oblivious - to what had happened to the innocence of the world outside that playground.

Later that night, after it was dark, TigerBlog walked outside to the end of his driveway and looked up. There were no planes in the sky. They'd all been grounded. TB remembers it vividly, the sight of the stars, without planes, above a world of confusion, angst, uncertainty, fear.

In fact, when TB got to Jadwin that day, the first person he saw was John Mack, now the Ford Family Director of Athletics and then in his first year of working in the department. 

There were 14 Princetonians who were killed on 9/11. There were hundreds more who were near Ground Zero when it all happened.

One of those who died was men's lacrosse player John Schroeder. TB wrote about him on the 20th anniversary.

When TB went to meet with John's father Jack, he was struck by the American flag that hangs in his kitchen. The stripes are composed with the names of every person who was killed that day.

It's an overwhelming thing to see them all there and to imagine all of their stories. And, each time the anniversary roles around, there are people who mark another year without them.

Sept. 10 is the last day of innocence.

Sept. 11 is the day it all changed. It's a day that always needs remembrance, and reverence.

Friday, September 8, 2023

Welcome Back

TigerBlog is looking forward to today's U.S. Open men's semifinals, especially the one between Ben Shelton and Novak Djokovic. 

Shelton is unseeded and Djokovic has won more Majors than any other men's player ever. Still, TB is thinking Shelton is going to win. He looks like he could possibly overpower Djokovic.

At the same time, TB does like Djokovic. He likes him even more after he grabbed the stadium mic and sang "You've gotta fight, for your right, to parrrrrr-ttttyyyyyyy" with the New York crowd after his quarterfinal win. 

Despite that, TB is saying it'll be Shelton who moves on to the final. Bold pick, no?

In Princeton Athletics news, is it a really new academic and athletic year without the annual "Welcome Back" staff meeting? 

That event was yesterday morning in the Frist Campus Center, and it brought together the entire department for some reacquainting, updating and general socializing. Hey, there was even lunch afterwards. 

The highlights? 

Well, there was a short video on the rules of fencing, as well as an invitation from Princeton fencing coach Zoltan Dudas to be part of staff lunchtime fencing, coming soon to Jadwin C level. TigerBlog is definitely in for that. 

There was a video of last year's athletic successes, of which there were many, along with some of the off-field successes. Among the latter group was a mention of TB's colleague Warren Croxton, who was last year's Division I Water Polo Sports Information Director of the Year.

There was an update on the facilities that are being built, and if you've been on the campus of late, you know there are many of those.

The meeting started with all the new employees, who lined up in the front and said their names and where they were from. It made TB think back to the first of these meetings that he attended, a long, long, long time ago, and what he might have been thinking. He doesn't know exactly what that was, but he does know that on his interview, when asked where he saw himself in 5-10 years, he said: "Princeton."

Though he's close to the top, TigerBlog is not in the top four in tenure in this department. Those four would be Nancy Donigan from compliance, Stacie Traube from football, Steff Sutton from ticketing and Steve Verbit from football. Their names were on a slide, and Verbit was honored as the one with the longest tenure, dating back to 1986.

Mostly, there was Ford Family Director of Athletics John Mack, who is a great public speaker. He speaks from the heart, without too many notes. He can be funny and serious, often in the same sentence. 

He mentioned the major upheavals this summer in the world of college athletics, and framed Princeton's unique place as a program that has the kind of success it does (26th in the Directors' Cup this past year) with its educational component, commitment to the student-athlete experience and stability of its league.

He also said that it's a privilege to work in this department and at this University. He's completely right about that.

Meanwhile, on this weekend's schedule, there are 15 different events, with only two teams at home. The first team is the men's water polo team, which hosts its Invitational at DeNunzio Pool today and tomorrow. 

The other is the field hockey team, who has its home opener Sunday at noon against Rutgers, after playing this evening at Delaware, where game time is 5 pm. That's two more ranked opponents — Rutgers is 12th; Delaware is 19th) — for a team that started its season with 2-1 losses to No. 5 Louisville and No. 2 North Carolina.

Next up after Rutgers? That would be No. 4 Maryland Thursday afternoon in College Park.

The complete athletic calendar is HERE.

Meanwhile, back at the meeting,

At the end of the meeting, Mack asked everyone to put themselves out there and meet people from other areas of the department whom they had never met before. Shake hands with five people you don't know. Don't sit with the people you see every day. Get out and see teams you've never before seen play.

He also talked about how much the people in the department work to make sure the student-athletes have the best experience possible but that it's also important the people who work here also have that kind of experience. TB never thought of it in that way, but it does resonate with him.

Maybe that's why he's been here for as long as he has.  

Where are you going to work and have a better experience than he's had here?