Thursday, June 4, 2020

To The Class Of 2020

Until the spring of 2020, the strangest time that TigerBlog has experienced on Princeton's campus was always the afternoon of Commencement.

The morning bristles with activity and excitement, and there are cars and people everywhere on campus. There are graduates and those who are there to support them, and it's a huge moment for all of them.

Jadwin Gym, usually not completely cleaned up from the prom, never really has a business-as-usual feel for the people who work there. It's hard to stay focused knowing that there's such a huge event that's going on across the campus and that young people with whom you've worked closely for four years are reaching a huge milestone in their lives.

So TB has the same routine each Commencement Day.

He walks from Jadwin towards Nassau Hall and sits on the same stone rock in front of the building, watching the the second half of the ceremony on the big screens and waiting for his favorite part. That's when the grads all walk back out and meet up with their families.

He stands on the grass inside the ropes for that, usually hoping to catch the men's lacrosse alums for a picture while they're all in caps and gowns. Since the men's lacrosse guys tend to be among the last ones out, he'll see members of all of the other teams, men and women who have traded their Princeton uniforms for their graduation attire.

He's seen them win big games and championships together, but their smiles at graduation are different. It's always fascinated TigerBlog, as they have a look of sheer joy at understanding what it is they have accomplished - and what it took to get there.

It's not easy for any of them, no matter how easy they make it look. They all have their moments of doubt, their long nights where they're not sure they're going to get it all done, the day when they realize that they have a practice and a school assignment and how are they going to get both done?

And then, there they are. Graduates. About to head in all their different directions, together again one more time.

Of course, as TB has said a million times before, he always flashes back to freshman athlete orientation, when they all sit wide-eyed (and scared) in McCosh 50 as their journey is about to start. The contrast between that moment and the moment when they get to the finish line is extraordinary.

Once the ceremony ends, everyone starts to scatter. As TB said, they all go their different ways - to jobs, to grad schools, to travel, to wherever. They leave, and who knows the next time they'll all be together.

And once they leave, the campus gets quiet. Eerily so.

It goes from a week of the Gary Walters Princeton Varsity Club Awards Banquet to Reunions to Class Day to graduation. The campus is loud that entire time. There are crowds everywhere. There is laughter and music and dancing and parties and all of it.

And then it gets silent. And stays that way most of the summer.

The Class of 2020 didn't get to experience that this past week. They didn't get to spend most of their final semester on campus.

That makes what they accomplished even more impressive. They had to deal with the sadness of the timing of the global pandemic, and they had to leave campus almost on a dime.

And then they had to fight through all of that to finish their thesis and their final classes and take their last exams. And they did.

Even after that, everything would end up being online. The PVC banquet. The P-Rade. Ultimately graduation itself.

It was something new for everyone involved, and TB would say that everyone who contributed in any way to making those moments the best they could deserves some serious credit. Those efforts all could have fallen flat and yet none of them did, and TB thought all of the ones that he saw (especially the banquet and the P-Rade) where excellent.

The Class of 2020 is a special one. It'll always be a special one.

TB would guess that in years to come being a member of the Class of 2020 will be like a badge of honor for most, as as soon as they say what year they graduated, everyone else will know what they went through and will show their respect for it.

Wednesday, June 3, 2020

More Thoughts On Race

TigerBlog, as you know, is an avid bicycle rider.

One of his routes takes him through a neighborhood in which he does not live, and one in which he doesn't know anyone. It's a typical suburban neighborhood, and the TB does three laps around a one-half mile circle as part of his 12-mile workout.

In case you don't know, TB is a friendly guy. He likes to say hello to strangers he sees along the way. As he rides his bike, he waves to other riders who go by on the other side of the road.

And when he's in that neighborhood, he likes to say hello to the people who are out walking their dogs, or pushing strollers or anything like that. Old people. Young couples.

He often sees a young Indian woman, maybe a year or two out of college, who is running. And a young Asian man who does the same, often wearing Penn clothes.

He says hi to both of them.

If he sees the same people on multiple laps, he usually says "last lap" as he goes by.

There's a house there that has a basketball court in the street in front of it, one with the hoop set at about eight feet or so. Every now and then he'll see two kids, both boys, who are probably brothers and probably somewhere around 6 and 8 or so, as they shoot hoops in the street.

They usually stop when TB rides by, but once they took a shot as he went by and he instinctively reached up and blocked it. He and the boys all laughed - as did their mother, who was sitting on a chair on the nearby porch.

That's a cute story, right?

It's a pretty wholesome thing all the way around, right, riding around a neighborhood like that, especially in the last few months, when the world has been on lockdown and seeing people has been at a premium.

Keep in mind that he knows none of these people, and this is not where he lives, so they don't know him either. In all the time that TB has been riding around that neighborhood, he's never once felt threatening or threatened.

Given the current national events, as he was riding through the neighborhood Monday afternoon, his thoughts turned to the idea of what would happen were he black and doing the same thing?

Would he get the same friendly looks back?

Would the Indian woman and the Asian man cross the street and run on the other side as he approached? Would the old people be concerned, even a little bit, holding onto each other a little tighter as he rode by?

Would someone take cellphone video of him - just in case? Would someone have called the police at some point?

And if so, then what?

What if TB had been black and had blocked that shot on his bike? Would the mother have laughed?

Say she called the police? Then what? Now she's called the police. TB would still be riding his bike. The police would arrive, looking for an African-American male on a bicycle. Actually, they'd be looking for an African-American male who was wearing a hooded sweatshirt.

Then what? They'd be told "he went around the corner; he's always riding here; nobody knows who he is or what he wants; he was bothering my boys." No, make that "he was threatening my boys."

Then what would happen when TB got pulled over?

Or, more interestingly, what would happen when TB said he was an American citizen with every right to ride his bike through that neighborhood?

It's likely nothing would happen. But the whole situation would just have a different feel to it, TB suspects, and it would have the potential to escalate quickly in a way that it probably wouldn't otherwise. And if it did, the results could be catastrophic.

What must it be like to be pulled over by the police if you're black, especially if you're black in a predominantly white neighborhood?

What if you're John Thompson III? TigerBlog can't think of five people he would trust more to be President of the United States than John Thompson III. If TB got pulled over by the police, his first thought would be "this sucks." What would JT3 think? "This sucks and I have to be careful?"

How about Glenn Wakam? TB wrote about him a few weeks ago. Wakam is a fifth-year surgical resident and former Princeton football player who was doing amazing work in the fight against COVID-19. He's also black.

Suppose he was driving home after a long day at the hospital. Suppose he got pulled over. How would he be seen by the officer? As a black man, or as a neurosurgeon?

Let TB tell you another story.

When TigerBlog Jr. got his drivers' license, he was 16 years old. He was a good kid who got good grades in school, was never in trouble, played sports and was headed to college in a few years.

Within an hour of getting his license, he went over to his friend Matthew's house and the two of them went for a ride. Matthew, too, is a white kid who also got good grades in school, was never in trouble, played sports and was headed to college.

About 30 minutes after they left TB's house, TB got a call from a local police officer. TB had tried to pass someone who was going really slowly in front of him and hadn't exactly done a good job of it, the result of which was that an oncoming car had to swerve to avoid a potential collision. The cop had seen it all and pulled TBJ over, only to find out he was one hour into being a licensed driver.

The officer insisted that TBJ had been polite and apologetic, that he'd listened to what he said and that he wasn't getting a ticket. He called though just to make sure that his father knew about the incident.

Today, both of those boys are 23. They both went to college. They both played four years of college lacrosse. They both graduated in four years. They're both employed today and fully starting down the road to promising futures.

Now let's say they were two black 16 year olds. Maybe they were in the same situation. Or maybe they were in a big city. Maybe they were also good kids who had never been in trouble before, who did well in school, who played sports, who had dreams of what their lives might be.

But put them on a street corner when two cops are called to investigate something. And maybe they fit the description from the call. Maybe one of them says the wrong thing, or maybe one of them is argumentative.

Maybe they get arrested. Both of them. And maybe the charges escalate to serious things, like resisting or maybe assault or something, so a lawyer advises them to plead guilty to a lesser charge, because otherwise they're looking at 10 or more years in prison. So they do.

Now they have a record. Now they're also 23. Neither has gone to college. Neither can fill out a job application without saying they've been convicted of a crime.

This is Ground Zero of the issue, people. If you don't realize that, then you just haven't been paying attention. 

This is the cycle that needs to be broken.

This country right now is not in a good place. It's been a frightening week, and TB knows a lot of people who are scared, and sad, and uncertain about where things are headed.

It's been in a bad place before and come out of it, though, and that will be the case again. Things will get back to "normal" at some point, and that's the problem. If the normal that TB described before comes back as is, then this country will end up right back to where it now again at some point in the future, just as it always has before.

How does it get fixed? It's a grass-roots thing. It's a local thing. It's about police officers who understand the difference in the two scenarios TB just mentioned and how the damage from one of them can't be undone (and by the way, TB believes the vast majority of them already know this). It's about political leaders - on both sides of the aisle - who have to realize that they are a huge part of the racial divide.

Mostly, it's about education. It sounds so simple. When TB used to cover high school sports, Trenton High School had an athletic trainer named Poppy Sanderson. TB remembers his initiative that he called "Education Outweighs Them All," which started when some of the school's football players didn't have the grades to be able to play.

It's simple. And it's true. Education Outweighs Them All.

TB was going to write about Princeton sports today. He let his friend Howard Levy talk eloquently about race yesterday.

And yet he still felt he had something he wanted to say on the subject. And honestly, not talking about it seemed disingenuous for someone who has the platform he does.

Everyone wants things to get back to normal. Desperately. The virus was bad enough. Now there's been the racial unrest that has exploded.

Hoping that things calm down and then going back to business as usual and hoping for a better outcome is not a winning formula.

This time, though, it feels a little different. Maybe it will be.

Maybe America will look back on this week as a turning point in race. TB certainly hopes that's the case.

It's way past time.

Tuesday, June 2, 2020

Guest TigerBlog - Howard Levy On Race

With the events going on in this country right now, TigerBlog gives the floor to Howard Levy, Princeton Class of 1985 and an All-Ivy League center for the men's basketball team and the current head men's basketball coach at Mercer County Community College:

“Coach it’s crazy out here [Philly].  I never seen nothing like it.”

“It’s ok but I still watch my surroundings, never know what’s going to happen here [Trenton].  I just pray for better days for my city.”

“Dad why do people like us get killed by people that look like my friends?  Does that mean my friends will kill me when I get older?”

These are a couple of responses I received this weekend as I reached out to many of my African American friends, coaches, players and former players as the events in Minneapolis and elsewhere unfolded.  While I cannot experience what they experienced, I wanted to make sure they knew that I love them and support them.  I hate that there continues to be a huge divide in this country based on race. 

I remember reading Bill Bradley’s book "Life on the Run" while at Princeton as a student (1981-85), and I remember that he said that he understood race because he played basketball. At the time, I thought that was a cop out. While I still think that this comment is overly broad, since becoming the head coach at Mercer in 2009, I realized that my experiences in basketball have opened my eyes to the problems of race in America, and opened my heart to being in some small way a part of the solution.

I saw that all of my basketball experiences, including and especially summer weekends in high school and college spent playing ball in Harlem, the Bronx and Queens on various teams—some mostly white teams that came in from the suburbs, some mostly black teams that were based in the city, and countless hours playing pickup with friends and random guys – allowed me to easily identify with and maintain a natural and easy rapport with my mostly black inner city players.

I’m sure my upbringing has something to do with this as well. My dad (Syd Levy) played for City College of New York in the 1950s on teams of poor and working class black, Jewish, Irish and Italian kids, most of whom where the first in their family to attend college (which was free). I grew up seeing these guys from time to time at various events and they were just my dad’s buddies—we didn’t see race or ethnicity in that way. They were all comfortable enough to joke about those topics in a way that might cause a stir today as it would be certainly taken out of context but was actually their way of showing LOVE for each other. As an aside, I remember a CCNY Alumni game as a kid where the teams were coached by Hall of Famers Nat Holman and Red Holtzman.  Red Holtzman was the coach of the Knicks at the time and I sat next to him on the bench as the water boy!

Upon my dad’s death 13 years ago, we heard countless anecdotes from his African American friends, including his regular attendance at the Brooklyn USA dinner where he was one of the few white guys there, as well as his efforts to rehabilitate the players on the double championship CCNY team of 1950 and get them inducted into the CCNY Hall of Fame. So I had a great example and did not have to “learn” this.

Maybe being Jewish has given me some additional perspective. While the black and Jewish experiences are very different, Jews have been targeted and stereotyped for their religion.  Jews were rare on my high school team, and I was the only Jew on the team during my 4 years at Princeton, and while I didn’t think of it much at the time, I realize that I was likely one of the first Jews that my teammates and classmates had encountered.  In the context of the natural ball-busting that occurs amongst friends and teammates, the word “Jew” or Jewish stereotypes were often part of that.  Over time, however, I saw that prolonged contact and interaction often overcomes biases and stereotypes, as these are unfair caricatures that have gained credence over time. 

Too many people unfortunately see an African American and all of the historical stereotypes—developed over years of slavery and segregation —immediately bubble to the surface. I’ve heard and seen too many stories of people, and most notably law enforcement, jumping to conclusions based on the biases that they bring to any interaction. No white person can understand the fear that a black person feels in what “we” would consider an ordinary interaction with law enforcement. If you are black there are no ordinary interactions with law enforcement. I remember years ago former Yale star and successful businessman Butch Graves getting tackled and falsely arrested on his way to a train home at Grand Central Station after being wrongly profiled.

I wrote the word “we” above and it bothers me. Who is “we”—white people?  I don’t think that should be a team, and it’s certainly not one that I want to be on. In speaking to my Princeton teammate Isaac Carter, who does great work in the Chicago Public School system, he said “I am so disappointed in my people who are taking advantage of the situation.”  I responded that I hate that this becomes your people/my people. I don’t want to be on Team White or Team Black.  To quote Martin Luther King’s I Have a Dream Speech (coincidentally given on the day of my birth, Aug. 28, 1963), I want to “live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”  That’s the team I want to be on.

Despite cultural, religious and other differences, my Mercer players are just like my kids, only too many of them lack the social and financial safety net that I have been fortunate enough to provide.  Simply put many of these kids have no margin for error.  I’ve seen too often how one setback—a fender bender, a sick relative, an outstanding balance at school—can have a devastating impact on one’s educational and life trajectory.  Things that I would simply handle for my own children without the blink of an eye.  Of course, there are some truly special kids that can make it through any obstacle, but most of us are products of our environment.  Since coaching at Mercer, I have become a big fan of the movie “Trading Places” where Eddie Murphy’s character, a stereotypical black drug dealer, trades roles with Dan Ackroyd’s character, a stereotypical wealthy white privileged snob, and Murphy’s character finds success while Ackroyd’s devolves.  This movie makes a great point in a light hearted manner, that personal character is what leads to success.  To me, this accentuates the need for social policy that creates better support systems, particularly in low income communities, to allow more people of character to thrive. 

I will stop here as I don’t want to get into politics.  Coaching at Mercer, where we need to build a new team every year, I tell my team in the first meeting that you’ve got to trust me—we’ve got a lot to do, and we don’t have time for you to slowly realize that I am right.  For those of you that in your lives have not come in contact with those that are considered different because of their race, religion, sexual orientation, or anything else, TRUST ME—we’re all just people.   You might not like someone once you get to know them, but I can assure you it won’t be because of some ridiculous stereotype that has been ingrained.  So act accordingly.

Monday, June 1, 2020

Banquet Spirit

TigerBlog knows Katie Reilly well enough to know that she was an outstanding choice to co-host the Gary Walters ’67 Princeton Varsity Club Awards banquet the other night.

He's never met Chris Davis, though clearly he was the perfect counterpart for Reilly during the show.

The two seniors had a great chemistry and brought a lot of energy to the occasion, and that couldn't have been easy to do. For starters, they weren't in the same state, let alone the same room.

Also, there's the matter of the way their senior seasons and academic careers at Princeton ended. Davis, a baseball player, started 86 career games, including all seven the Tigers played this season, and he had no way of knowing that the team's three-game trip to Mississippi in early March would be the last he'd ever play for Princeton.

As for Reilly, she's the kind of success story that has always been one of the best parts of Princeton athletics. She played in just two games her first two seasons and then 11 as a junior, though she hadn't started at all until this season.

Then she started all five games for Princeton in 2020, going from two goals and one assist for her career prior to this year to six goals and nine assists in those five games that would make up her whole senior year. Who knows where those numbers would have gone, but they very likely would have been around 20 goals and 30 assists for the full year.

She grew into a great team leader, one with a great deal of spirit, the kind that inspired her teammates - and made her a great host. Both she and Davis were finalists for the Art Lane Award for outstanding service to sport and society, and Davis would be one of the co-winners, along with Grace Baylis of the field hockey team.

That spirit served them well this spring, when the virus wiped out their last semester and the majority of their seasons. Despite that, they drove on to the finish line, even if it was unfortunately moved on them.

What they took from that experience will serve them well in life.

The virtual PVC banquet was an outstanding show of a little more than an hour, put together beautifully by everyone who worked on it. Special shout-outs go to the multimedia team of Cody Chrusciel and John Bullis, who had to film everything and edit it down to the right length under obviously arduous circumstances.

TB has always like the part at the end of the banquet where each athlete has an action shot in a video. This year, for the first time, there were group shots of the seniors by sport, with video congratulations all around at the end from coaches, administrators, University administrators, professors and Friends. That worked really well too and was very touching.

The banquet video also included award announcements and comments from alums who had previously won the awards, and those also worked really well. It was great to see the faces and hear the words of people like Will Venable, Sandi Bittler Leland, Tiana Wooldridge, Tom Schreiber and Johnny Orr.

The winner of the von Kiensbusch Award as the top senior female athlete was Bella Alarie, which was announced by Bittler, who was the program's career scoring leader for 30 years until Alarie broke the record on what ended up being her final weekend of play. After the award was announced, there was a special additional video piece from Jay Bilas, a Duke teammate of Alarie's dad Mark Alarie.

Bilas, an ESPN basketball commentator now, offered THIS:

It was just perfect.

There was also an appearance by TB's colleague Anthony Archbald, the executive associate AD. His video congratulations started with a very in-tight close up in which he talked about wanting to find the perfect location on campus, one that had a transformational effect on the graduates.

Then he pulled back to show he was at the Wawa. TB laughed out loud at that one.

In the end, the banquet was what it always is, a celebration of the senior class and all of its wonderful accomplishments, combined with a reminder of the values and traditions on which their experience was built. Hearing Celtics' owner Wyc Grousbeck talk about the impact that his time as a Princeton lightweight rower has had on his ever since as he accepted the Class of 1967 Citizen Athlete Award is the kind of thing that really ties all of that together and really resonates.

For the Class of 2020, it was the start of a weekend of celebrations that ended as always with commencement.

It wasn't how any of them wanted - or ever expected - that weekend to go, but hey, they toughed it out under really difficult conditions and deserve all the credit in the world for how they handled themselves in doing so.

Friday, May 29, 2020

The Show Must Go On

Of all of the traditions at Princeton, TigerBlog's absolute favorite is the P-Rade.

It happens on the Saturday of Reunions, when the classes - led by the old guard - march through the heart of the campus in a sea of orange and black love and loyalty. It is a spectacle of such warmth and joy that even someone like TB - a Penn alum - can't help but get into the spirit.

The P-Rade has great history to it. This is from the Princeton Reunions website:
The P-rade officially began in the late 1890s, but it is actually the merged product of earlier traditions. Beginning in the Civil War era, alumni formally processed to Commencement Day dinner meetings. Then in 1888, Princeton and Yale University began scheduling one of their baseball games at Princeton on the Saturday before Commencement. Since this coincided with class dinners, alumni attendance was high and many classes formally marched to the game at University Field (located at the corner of Prospect Avenue and Olden Street). In October 1896, when the newly renamed Princeton University celebrated its sesquicentennial (150th anniversary), 800 Princeton undergraduates and 2,000 alumni took part in a mile-long procession through the campus and town; most carried an orange torch or lantern, and many classes wore coordinated costumes. Stimulated by the grandeur and organization of this parade, in 1897 all returning classes first joined to march in order to the baseball game. By 1906, a written description of the annual event said, “The Alumni Pee-rade on Saturday afternoon was quite as spectacular as usual; the bands, banners, transparencies, uniforms and vaudeville features encircling University Field with color and noise.”

If you want to read the whole entry, click HERE.

TB never misses a P-Rade. He hopes that in another 27 or so years, he'll be able to see his daughter walk in her 25th Reunion P-Rade. That's a sweet thought.

Because he loves the P-Rade so much, TB will be watching tomorrow at 2 for the P-Rade online. He's not 100 percent sure what exactly it's going to entail, but it will make him think about what the actual P-Rade experience is.

The P-Rade comes on the final day of Reunions. The event would have begun last night, and the campus today would be jammed with people back to celebrate. Here's a good hint: Park near the Grad College.

Jadwin Gym especially would be rocking today, with basketball alumni games and BBQs and alums from basically every sport around.

The Friday fun always comes after the Gary Walters ’67 Princeton Varsity Club Awards Banquet, which is always on the Thursday night of Reunions. The banquet is the result of months of planning and execution, and the day after always seems like the calm after the storm.

Everything is different this spring, of course. Still, the show must go on.

And so it did, last night, as scheduled. This time it was a video version, one that required a much different kind of planning.

Until two years ago, the banquet was held outside, as opposed to its new location in Jadwin Gym. In any of those years, a weather forecast like the one from last night would have been the source of great consternation.

The online banquet still served as the source for the announcement of the top departmental awards. The winners of the Art Lane Award for outstanding service to sport and society by an undergrad were Chris Davis of the baseball team and Grace Baylis of the field hockey team. The winner of the 1916 Cup for the top academic standing was Hadley Wilhoite of the track and field team. 

And then there were the winners of the top senior athlete awards, the von Kienbusch for the women and the Roper for the men. The 2020 winners are three of the greatest athletes Princeton has ever seen, and all three will be forever linked by what they accomplished here. And also for what might have been.

Bella Alarie, the all-time leading scorer in Princeton women's basketball history, won the von Kienbusch Award. The Roper Trophy was shared by Michael Sowers, the all-time leading scorer in Princeton men's lacrosse history, and Matthew Kolodzik, the wrestler who came back from what was supposed to be a year off to train for the Olympics to compete against Cornell - and help the Tigers end the Big Red's nearly two-decade Ivy title streak while winning their own for the first time in 34 years.

The COVID-19 situation means that there will always be some what-ifs for these three. Would Bella have led the women's basketball team (26-1 at the time) to the Sweet 16? Would Sowers have led the men's lacrosse team all the way (the Tigers were 5-0 and ranked second or third)? Would Kolodzik have won the NCAA title at 149 pounds?

There are no answers to these questions and there will never be. What there is, though, is an unquestionable legacy for all three.

And, as the events of this weekend show, the show indeed will always go on.

It's a sign of a resilience for Princeton Athletics and Princeton University that lends great hope that things will be back to normal again.

Thursday, May 28, 2020

Banquet Night

After yesterday's lesson on the history of Florida State University, TigerBlog starts today with Les Horvath.

Raise your hand if you know who he is? He was the first Heisman Trophy winner in Ohio State football history.

Les Horvath was born in South Bend, Ind., which probably bothered at least one Notre Dame fan once he started lighting it up in Columbus before winning the 1944 Heisman.

The only problem, of course, is that Horvath was a 1942 graduate of Ohio State. So how did he end up winning the Heisman two years later?

In the World War II years, especially in 1943 and 1944, college teams had trouble putting together rosters because of the numbers of players who were overseas fighting. As a result, the NCAA passed a rule that said that graduate students could compete, regardless of how many years later it was, as long as they hadn't played four years prior to that.

As a result, Horvath, then an Ohio State dental student, was able to come back and play another year, since he had not played as a freshman. He then won the Heisman in 1944 before going on to a career as a dentist (first in World War II and then in California) with a few years of professional football mixed in.

The point?

The 1944 football season was barely a football season in many ways. Princeton managed to play seven-game schedules in 1943 and 1945 but only played three games in 1944 - against Muhlenberg, Swarthmore and the Atlantic City Naval Air Station.

There was still a Heisman Trophy winner though. Now, when you look at the historical record, it runs continuously from when it was first given in 1936 (including in 1951, when Princeton's Dick Kazmaier was the winner).

TigerBlog brings this up because tonight would have been the announcement of the Tewaaraton Award winners for men's and women's lacrosse. There will be no 2020 winners, though, because the season was cancelled in mid-March, way less than halfway through.

What would TB have done? He sees both sides, but he would have gone with awarding the trophy for two reasons. First, it creates the same continuous record. Second, a Princeton player would have walked away with it in a landslide.

TigerBlog attended last year's ceremony in Washington, D.C., and it was an awesome event. It also came on the same night as another awesome event, the Gary Walters ’67 PVC Awards Banquet.

The same conflict would have come up tonight had this been a normal year. Instead, there will be no Tewaaraton ceremony.

There will, however, be a Gary Walters banquet. It won't be in person in Jadwin Gym, but it will be held nonetheless, with all of the elements that make the regular one such a hit.

There will be the top senior awards. There will be student voices. There will be videos celebrating the entire senior class. There will be some laughs.

It all begins at 8 Eastern time tonight, and anyone anywhere can watch it. To view, simply click HERE.

For the first time, there have been finalists announced for the Art Lane Award (outstanding contribution to sport and society) and the Class of 1916 Cup (highest academic standing). There are, again, nominees for the von Kienbusch Award (top senior female athlete) and Roper Trophy (top male athlete).

You can see the finalists here: von Kienbusch, Roper, Art Lane, 1916.

The Class of 1967 Citizen Athlete Award winner will also be honored. This year's recipient is Wyc Grousbeck of the Class of 1983, a lightweight rower who has gone on to become the owner of the Boston Celtics and a very active civic leader in the Boston community.

The banquet has been an annual tradition for more than 20 years now. As with everything else in this  crazy spring, improvisations had to be made.

And so they have been, thanks to a large part by the hard-work of many of TB's colleagues. And because of them, the show will go on.

That's an 8 pm start tonight. It's another chance to celebrate Princeton's great class of 2020, a class whose careers did not end in a manner any of them could have foreseen not that long ago - and a class who will be even stronger down the road for having gone through this.

Before any of that, though, they all deserve the recognition that awaits them tonight.


Wednesday, May 27, 2020

Athletics At Princeton, An Encyclopedia

Did you know that the first year that Florida State University had a football team was in 1947?

At least that's the first year of year-by-year results on the school's athletic site. 

TigerBlog expected that year to be much earlier. Like 1926, which was the first year Miami had a football team. Or even earlier, like 1906, when the University of Florida first had a football team.

So what was going on with Florida State? It turns out it's an interesting story. 

Florida State was founded in 1851. From its website: Founded in 1851, it is located on the oldest continuous site of higher education in the state of Florida.

So why no football until 1947? Well, the school on that site was originally called Florida State College, and the school had a varsity football team in 1902, 1903 and 1904. Then there was nothing until FSU started up in 1947.

Why?

Well, in 1905, something called the Buckman Act was passed in Florida, which made a huge change in the way public higher education in the state worked. There were six state colleges at the time, and the Buckman Act created separate schools based on race and gender. Florida State College became Florida Female College, a school only for white women.

The act also created the State Normal School for Colored Students, which today is known as Florida A&M University and is one of the Historically Black Colleges. 

Florida State College remained all women until after World War II, when the number of returning soldiers who wanted to attend school on the GI Bill overwhelmed the system, forcing the school in Tallahassee to go co-ed again. It would not be integrated until 1962, however.

And that's why Florida State University didn't have its official football team until 1947. How did this come up?

Well, TB noticed that Princeton's year-by-year results for football start in 1869, with two games against Rutgers (a 6-4 RU win in the first college football game ever and then an 8-0 Princeton win a week later), and continue with a 6-2 Princeton win over Rutgers in 1870.

For 1871, there are no games listed, only a reference to informal games against the Seminary in which there were no records kept.

TigerBlog also has a book called "Athletics at Princeton," which is an encyclopedia of Princeton sports in the 1800s. It basically has a recap of every athletic event any Princeton team played in the 1800s.

Someone kept pretty incredible records back then.

TB has referred to the book in research many, many times through the years. It also makes for just fascinating reading, starting with the first paragraph of the introduction:

"I would much rather read this book than write the Introduction to it; for it is far easier to feel and recognize the Princeton Spirit in the records of athletic contests than to define and describe it in a prefatory way. But the choice is not left to me, and one thing at least the Princeton Spirit has always meant: when Princeton says to a son of hers 'Do this," he doeth it."

That was written by Henry Van Dyke, Class of 1883.

The book stretches more than 600 pages. TB was asked a question last week about something historical, and he knew the answer was in the book - which was on his desk on Jadwin's E level. So, he went to retrieve the book, and he 1) found the answer and 2) spent about two hours randomly reading stuff in the book.

Henry Van Dyke, by the way, had himself quite a life. He was born in Philadelphia, went to Poly Prep in Brooklyn, graduated from Princeton and the Princeton Theological Seminary and had a long career in education, writing and diplomacy. In fact, Henry's classmate Woodrow Wilson appointed him as Ambassador to Holland and Luxembourg in 1913, and he was there when World War I broke out in Europe and refugees headed to the two countries.

He also wrote a poem that was read years later at Princess Diana's funeral:
Time is
Too slow for those who Wait,
Too swift for those who Fear,
Too long for those who Grieve,
Too short for those who Rejoice,
But for those who Love,
Time is not. 


Interesting guy.

Anyway, back to the Florida State connection, the book mentions that in 1871, Princeton played games against "the Seminoles." That must be what the Seminary was referred to back in those days, as opposed to the actual Florida State Seminoles.

When TB saw that in the book, it got him to see when FSU first played football, and, well, now you know.

Tuesday, May 26, 2020

15 Miles With Jim Barlow

TigerBlog was not where he wanted to be Sunday morning at 10.

Where he wanted to be was on I-95 on his way to Philadelphia, Lincoln Financial Field, to be exact.

That's where he would have been had this been a normal spring. It would have been Day 2 of the NCAA men's lacrosse Championship Weekend, and TB would have been heading to the Linc for one of his favorite days.

The Sunday of the weekend is always the day for the Division II and Division III championship games. They're a little more laid back than Saturday, which is the Division I semifinals, and certainly Monday, the day of the Division I final and the end of the grind.

The D-II and D-III games offer a chance to see teams that certainly could compete on the Division I level. No, they wouldn't make it to the final weekend, but they would certainly be able to hold their own against most teams.

The day of those two finals starts out with press conferences for the Division I finalists, and the athletic communications groups for both will be up in the press box, getting ready for Monday's game. There is a certain calmness for those games, except of course for the participants.

And there won't be as many people there to cover those two games Sunday, but those who do are the lacrosse diehards who appreciate the spectacle of the moment.

TB certainly does. One thing about the teams from the lower levels is that they usually outclass most of the teams they play, and they also play a lot of games. The result is a stat sheet with players who routinely put up numbers that aren't often seen in Division I.

TB has been the official scorer for every NCAA men's lacrosse Championship Weekend game from 2005 through this weekend. With five games per weekend and 19 years of doing it, that's a total of 95 games. This weekend would have put him at 100 as official scorer on the men's side (he's also done three women's Championship Weekend games as well).

Going back before his role as official scorer, TB had attended every Final Four from 1992 through 2004 except for the three years that the Princeton men were not in it - 1995, 1999 and 2003.

So yes, where TB wanted to be Sunday morning at 10 was on 95, heading to Philly. He'd be aiming to get to the Linc around 10:30, before the 15-minute or so walk from where the workers park into the stadium. Face-off for the first game of Sunday's doubleheader is always 1, but he likes to get there about two hours early to take in the atmosphere and get settled.

So where was he Sunday at 10?

He was arriving in the Jadwin Gym parking lot.

It's a place he's been a lot in his life and not a lot in the last few months, so much so that it feels a bit eerie to be there nowadays. It's been completely empty the few times TB has been there of late, as opposed to its usual fairly packed status.

What was TB doing there? He was meeting up with Jim Barlow, the men's soccer coach. It was on a Zoom call a week or so ago that Barlow mentioned he'd been doing a lot of bicycle riding, so TB suggest they head out one day together.

That day was Sunday.

The two did the 15-mile ride around Princeton that TB learned from John McPhee. It's a great ride - not too many hills, roads that are mostly empty so two people can talk and ride easily. And that's what the two of them did.

TB goes back further with Jim Barlow than anyone else in the athletic department at Princeton. TB was covering high school sports in the 1980s, when Barlow was a star soccer player at Hightstown High School, before he went on to win Rookie of the Year and Player of the Year honors in the Ivy League before graduating from Princeton in 1991.

In fact, this makes TB wonder something. How many people have ever won Ivy League Rookie of the Year, Player of the Year and Coach of the Year honors? Hmmm. TB will look that one up.

His first thought was Sabrina King, the women's volleyball coach, but she's only won the last two. She was not Rookie of the Year.

Barlow has always been a TB favorite. They've had a long-standing "lacrosse vs. soccer" banter that has always been fun, and they've shared a lot of experiences together through all these years.

Barlow replaced Bob Bradley, who went on to, among other things, coach the U.S. men's national team and become the first American to be a head coach in the English Premiere League. TB has always said that Bradley is the deepest thinker he's ever been around, not only as a coach but anyone at all. Barlow isn't far behind.

TB can't think of anyone he knows who doesn't like Barlow. He has a reputation of being the most honest person in the world, one who checks the NCAA rule book for any possibly unintentional minor infraction. He's ultra-competitive and laid back at the same time, in a way that reminds TB a bit of Bill Tierney.

His Princeton resume includes five Ivy titles and five NCAA appearances, the most recent of each having come two years ago. He is very much the embodiment of coach-as-teacher, and he's churned out two decades worth of alums who learned a great deal in his classroom.

As they rode on Sunday they talked about anything and everything - the current pandemic, people they both know, what the future might hold, times they'd been together in the past. There was a lot of good conversation mixed with a lot of laughing, and that's pretty much always what you get with Jim Barlow.

It wasn't where TB wanted to be at that time. Still, it was really nice just the same.

Friday, May 22, 2020

Championship Weekend

Anish Shroff, the ESPN announcer, wrote a piece for US Lacrosse in which he chronicled what last weekend's NCAA men's quarterfinal round might have looked like.

His last game of the weekend matched Princeton and Cornell, and he wrote what essentially was a small summary of how the game might have gone. The only thing was that he didn't say how it ended.

Instead, in his story, Anish had the score Princeton 19, Cornell 19, less than a minute to go, shot clock off, Princeton ball. And he just left it at that.

This caused TigerBlog to send him a message, asking him how in the world could he leave the world hanging that way.

TB will say this. If there had been a Princeton-Cornell game in the quarterfinals that was 19-19 for the final possession of regulation, that would have been an extraordinary scene. Also, TB might have been a tad nervous at that point.

Christian Swezey did a different take on the NCAA quarterfinal, or actually the NCAA tournament as a whole. Christian, another member of the lacrosse media, has put together a Table Top Lacrosse game, one that uses dice rolls and statistical analysis to project a play-by-play.

He's applied this to a hypothetical NCAA field, and last weekend he had Princeton over Ohio State in the quarterfinals. According to his game, Princeton is one of three Ivy League schools in the Final Four, with a semifinal schedule of Princeton-Cornell and Yale-Syracuse.

TigerBlog is 100 percent positive that Princeton would have reached Championship Weekend this year in men's lacrosse. He's also 100 percent positive that the Tigers wouldn't have been the only Ivy League school represented.

The best part of all that is that there is no way for anyone to ever prove him wrong.

This weekend would have been the NCAA championships for men's and women's lacrosse. It's TB's favorite annual weekend on the athletic calendar, with great memories of Princeton championships (nine of them between the men and women) and other years where Princeton was not represented but TB felt that they would be there next time.

Since the first Princeton men's NCAA title in 1992, TB has missed only three men's Final Fours - in 1995, 1999 and 2003. And in 2003, he was in the Carrier Dome for the women's championship, which Princeton won by defeating Virginia 8-7 in overtime, something that the women's team celebrated earlier this week.

And by the way, speaking of the women's 2003 final, TB wrote about how Rachael Becker DeCecco shut down Amy Appelt in the final seconds of regulation to force the overtime in the first place. The news came out yesterday of the newest of inductees for the US Lacrosse National Hall of Fame, and there was Amy Appelt's name among the members of the class.

Rob Bordley was also on the list after an amazing career as the head coach at Landon, where he became one of five high school coaches ever to reach 600 wins. Bordley is a former Princeton men's player from the Class of 1970.

For every year since 2005, TigerBlog has been part of the official stat crew for the men's championships. This has always meant the men's semifinals Saturday, the Division III and Division II championships Sunday and the men's final Monday.

The Friday before, which would have been today, would have meant practices and press conferences for the competing teams, as well as troubleshooting and making sure everything was ready to go for TB and his colleagues.

All of those championship weekends have taken place in one of three venues - M&T Bank Stadium in Baltimore, Gillette Stadium in Foxboro and Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia, which would have been the site of the one that would be starting now.

It'll be a very strange Memorial Day weekend for TigerBlog with no lacrosse championships. It'll be a strange Memorial Day weekend in general, as with everything else in the spring of 2020.

Next year's men's championships will be in Hartford, at Rentschler Field. It'll be the first time there, and the first time at a non-NFL venue since 2002, when Syracuse defeated Princeton 13-12 in the final at Rutgers Stadium.

Hopefully by next Memorial Day, things will be back to the way they used to be.

As with every other year, TB thinks Princeton will be there.

Thursday, May 21, 2020

AD History

The Gary Walters ’67 Senior Awards Banquet will be held a week from tonight, as it was originally scheduled to be held.

As with everything else in the Spring of 2020, it will be vastly different than what you're used to from years past. This time, it'll be all video, all online.

It makes for a completely different set of logistical challenges. TigerBlog has been impressed with the way his colleagues have pivoted away from what is ordinarily a huge undertaking to come up with something that hopefully will be very special for the Class of 2020.

The banquet is named, of course, for the former Ford Family Director of Athletics. Gary was the Princeton AD from 1994 through 2014, and his loyalty to Princeton dates back long before that.

Gary came from Reading, Pa., to Princeton in 1963 as a point guard in basketball. He would be a three-year varsity starter (freshmen were ineligible then), including on the 1965 NCAA Final Four team, and he would appear on the cover of Sports Illustrated along with teammate Chris Thomforde in 1967.

Before he ever came to Princeton, Gary played for Pete Carril at Reading High School. He then played for Butch van Breda Kolff at Princeton, coached under Carril at Princeton, coached Bill Carmody at Union and generally is as big a piece of the Princeton basketball tree as anyone has ever been.

It's amazing to TB that there have been an entire generation of Princeton athletes who have competed here since Gary Walters was the AD. In fact, the last class of athletes who were here when Gary was AD was the Class of 2017, which means that the current seniors are the last group who will have even competed at Princeton with teammates who were here when Gary was the AD.

That's correct, right? For some reason, this is really confusing TB. If Gary left in 2014, then the Class of 2017 would have been freshmen then. And the Class of 2020 would have been freshmen when the Class of 2017 was seniors. So yes. That works.

The list of Directors of Athletics at Princeton is not a long one. Princeton has had five (or possibly seven, depending on how you consider them) actual Directors of Athletics since the position was formalized in 1941.

It wasn't until 1937 that the athletic department existed as a University entity; prior to that, it was an independent association with a separate board to oversee the day-to-day operations. Going way back, there were no coaches, just team captains who ran each sport.

Asa Bushnell was the last head of the board of the athletic association and the first person to oversee athletics when it became absorbed by the University, but his title was never actually "Director of Athletics." Bushnell, interestingly enough, was not an athlete at Princeton (Class of 1921), even though 1) he would go on to have one of the great careers in athletic administration and 2) the Ivy League football Players of the Year win the Bushnell Cup.

The first person to hold that distinction was Ken Fairman, who served as actual Director of Athletics from 1941 through 1973, a 32-year tenure that is the longest of any Tiger AD. Fairman was also the head basketball coach before he became the AD, but he played football at Princeton, not basketball.

Fairman also left Princeton to serve as an Army officer during World War II. During that time, Howard Stepp was the acting AD. Stepp, it turns out, was a fascinating guy who was the head coach of the men's swimming and diving team and then the University registrar for nearly 20 more after that.

Stepp also started the Polish Olympic program and found himself in Poland just as World War II began, forcing him to flee that country. What TB hasn't been able to find out about Stepp is if he actually attended Princeton, but he'll get to the bottom of that.

Royce Flippen, a football player and 1953 grad, was AD from 1973-79, and then Robert Myslik took over from 1979 until Walters arrived in 1994. Myslik, TB always thought, was on the soccer team, but it turns out he was a baseball player.

Since 2014, of course, it's been Mollie Marcoux Samaan. She played soccer and hockey at Princeton.

And that's the entire list of people who have been Princeton's AD.