Copyright 1999, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2008 by John T. Reed.

I am Jack Reed. I was an assistant football coach at Miramonte High School in 1994 and 1995 and head boys volleyball coach there in 1995. (925-820-6292) I also coached my son in youth football and wrote eight football coaching books that mention him as a result.

CoachingYout FootballGap-Air-Mirror Defense for Yout Football bookSingle-Wing Offense for Yout Football bookThe Contrarian Edge for Youth Football bookCoacing Youth Football Defense bookFootball Clock Management book

My son Dan graduated from Miramonte in 1999. He was recruited by a number of colleges for football and chose the Columbia School of Engineering. In the course of his last two high school years, we learned a lot about the college athletic-recruiting process, lessons which we wish someone had told us before we started. In this Web page, I am sharing those lessons. I hope other parents will do likewise and thereby create a body of knowledge which can benefit future Miramonte athletes.

Five levels

There are five main levels in college athletics. Schedules of NCAA four-year college football teams.

Division I FBS one level one level

Division II

Division III

Some levels have official or unofficial subsets:

NCAA I   Example schools
I-A 115 major colleges with full athletic scholarships Stanford, Cal, Notre Dame, UCLA, Army, San Jose State
I-AA scholarship Some full scholarships, mostly partial scholarships St. Mary's of California, Cal Poly San Luis Obispo
I-AA non-scholarship No athletic scholarships Ivy League, U of San Diego
II scholarship   Davis
II non-scholarship   Humboldt State
III high academic standards no athletic scholarships Amherst, Pomona, Claremont, Johns Hopkins, MIT, Tufts, Williams
III lower academic standards no athletic scholarships LaVerne

  California colleges with football
Nonscholarship (changes---check current situation)
I-A Cal, UCLA, Fresno State, San Diego State, San Jose State Stanford, USC
Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Cal State, Sacramento State U of San Diego
UC Davis, Humboldt State  
Cal Lutheran, Chapman, Claremont-Mudd, Menlo, Occidental, Pomona-Pitzer, LaVerne, Redlands, Whittier
  Azusa Pacific (1998 national champion)
Many---click on NJCAA to see list at their Web site

  Miramonte recent college football recruits
Division Player College
French '96 San Jose State
  Bennett '96 UCLA
  Babcock '97 UCLA
  Dorsey '99 Miami
  MacDonald '99 Cal
  Smith '00 Duke
Soucy '96 Cornell
  Kruse '97 Princeton
  Olson '98 Yale
  Reams '98 Yale
  Maimone '98 Dartmouth
  Sungar '98 Dartmouth
  Brecht '98 St. Mary's
  Goeriz '99 Yale
  Reed '99 Columbia
Cragholm '94 Davis
Reidenbach '94 Wesleyan
  Supino '94 Williams
  Howard, Steve '94 Middlebury
  Reidenbach '93 Amherst
  Hartley '95 Menlo
  Mattioda '99 Menlo
  Tsuboi '99 Middlebury
  Howard, Jake '96 Pomona
  Wagner '96 Pomona
  Hattersley '97 Pomona
  Lyon '96 Willamette
  Cosden '97 Pomona
  Nicol '99 Amherst
  Brown '98 Puget Sound
  McCartt '97 Pomona
Kermode '98 DVC
  Roque '94 DVC
  Hartley '95 Laney

A Miramonte player from the Class of 2000 complained that he is not on the above list. That’s because I stopped monitoring Miramonte after my son graduated in 1999. If a current member of the Miramonte community would like to continue listing Miramonte players who go on to play college football, I will be glad to link to that site.

Within each level are different philosophies regarding academic standards. NCAA Division I-A athletes must have a 2.0 average in high school and a 1010 SAT score or a GPA of 2.5 or higher and an SAT score of 820. (although a federal judge recently said the SAT minimum was illegal discrimination) There is a sliding scale which says the higher your grades the lower your SAT can be and vice versa. There is an NCAA Guide for College-Bound Athletes on the Internet at

But some Division I-A schools, like Stanford, Rice, Duke, and Northwestern, independently adopt higher academic standards than required by NCAA for their recruited athletes. In general, a slightly lesser athlete can get recruited to such schools if he has the grades. The I-A service academies (Army, Navy, Air Force) not only have higher academic standards, they have higher standards regarding health, physical aptitude, and citizenship. They have a convoluted admission process involving Congresspersons. Service academies can carry 200 players on their squads if they wish compared to about 90 elsewhere, because every service academy student, athlete or not, is on full scholarship. The majority of high school football players do not want to attend a service academy. The bottom line is that athletes who are not recruited by other I-A schools can sometimes get recruited to a major service academy.

Athletic standards also vary among Division I-A schools. You can get an idea from rankings in Sports Illustrated and other news sources. Roughly speaking, the higher the team is ranked, the higher their athletic standards for football recruits. Kenny Dorsey, MHS ’99, went to Miami on a full scholarship. They ranked 24th in one poll in 1998—second in the nation in 2000 after he got there. In a 1998 news story about Derek Goeriz, Miramonte Coach Burnsed was quoted as saying he thought Derek was Pac-10 material (e.g., Stanford, Cal), but that Derek only got I-A interest from WAC schools (e.g., San Jose State, Air Force). Derek went to Yale, which is Division I-AA (Ivy League). Peter French, MHS ’96, got a football scholarship to San Jose State. Adam Smith, MHS ’00, committed to Duke before his senior year at Miramonte.

In general, the higher the academic and other standards, the less athletic their recruits, but all I-A recruits are once-in-a-blue-moon-type players for Miramonte (although that may be changing).

Here’s a graph that roughly shows where the various divisions, leagues and schools are with regard to athletic and academic ability.

  Athletic ability
Service academies
Haverford Group, NESCAC
  Academic ability

Invited walk-ons. Players who are not good enough to be offered a full scholarship initially by a I-A college can sometimes be invited walk-ons at those schools. Kickers are almost all invited walk-ons initially. Drew Bennett (MHS ’96) was recruited by Princeton, but chose to be an invited walk-on at UCLA (Pac-10). He was later moved up to scholarship status and started off and on during the 1999 season. He later became a star receiver for the Tennessee Titans. Miramonte coach and graduate Sanjay Lal was an invited walk-on who was upgraded to scholarship status at national champion Washington. Mike Babcock (MHS '97) also walked on at UCLA and is still on the team in that status.

Being an invited walk-on can be extremely valuable if the school in question is one which the athlete would have trouble being admitted to without help from the football coaches. To put it another way, a scholarship provides help with both admissions and finance. Invited walk-ons get no help with finance initially, but they do get the same help with admissions.

Division I-AA. Along with Division III, Division I-AA is the main stomping grounds for Miramonte football graduates. Division I-AA schools do not have to give scholarships and they do not have to meet I-A minimum attendance standards. The Division I-AA schools that give scholarships, like St. Mary's, generally only give a full scholarship to one or two athletes. Others get partials. Andrew Brecht (MHS ’98) is a football player at St. Mary's. Other I-AA schools, like the Ivy League and University of San Diego (the St. Mary's of Southern California) have no scholarships.

Academic standards vary considerably within Division I-AA. At the top are the Ivy League schools. Miramonte sent MHS '98 grads Ryan Maimone and Gannon Sungar to Dartmouth and Derek Olson, Keith Reams, and Derek Goeriz to Yale and my son, Dan Reed, to Columbia. Brett Nicol (MHS '99) was also recruited by several Ivy teams, but chose to go to Division III Amherst. Two other recent Miramonte football graduates, Justin Soucy (MHS '96) and Steve Kruse (MHS '97) were recruited by Cornell and Princeton respectively.

To understand the Ivy League recruiting standards, read the book A is for Admission. It was written by a former Dartmouth admissions officer. Basically, the Ivies have an "academic index" for athletes. Your academic index is determined by your class rank or GPA if your school does not give out class rank and SAT scores. SAT II’s are only considered if they are higher than the average of your SAT I scores. (The book is out of date regarding SAT II's.) My son’s high school did not give out class rank. His GPA was 3.4, which gives him an academic index score of 67 (You look it up in a table in the A for Admission book). Dan’s SAT I was 1430, which gives him a 1430/10 = 143 score. The total academic index in Dan’s case is the sum of the GPA and SAT scores. In Dan’s case, that's 67 + 143 = 210. Because class rank is so important, sending your kid to a high school that reports class rank and has a lot of smart kids could keep him out of the Ivy League if he was marginal.

Ivy football has four academic index bands. Roughly, they are:

top 205+
upper middle 190-204
lower middle 180-189
bottom 170-179

Logically, you would think that the higher your band, the less athletic you need to be to get in. But the Columbia head coach said no. He may just have been being diplomatic. The purpose of the bands is to equalize competition within the Ivy League. The most popular teams, like Harvard and Princeton, must get most of their players in the top two bands and are only allowed two bottom-band players. The least popular teams, like Penn, are allowed something like 16 bottom-band players. Ivy League football teams recruit 35 players each per year, which, surprisingly, is about twice as many as football factories like Notre Dame and Nebraska are allowed to recruit. If they did not allocate different band quotas to different Ivy League schools, Harvard or Princeton would win the championship every year. Harvard won in 1997; Penn in 1998, Yale and Brown in 1999.

Support. Being recruited by an Ivy League football team is the equivalent of being a permanent invited walk-on at a I-A school. The coaching staff "supports" your application. That is, they turn in a ranked list of desired recruits to admissions. Admissions rejects some and accepts others. When they get to 35, the process stops for that year. You get admitted because of football, but you get no athletic scholarship. Most Ivy athletes are on full or partial scholarships, but those scholarships are based strictly on financial need.

Position and band quotas. Ivy football teams have two types of quotas to meet. They must get the right number in each academic index band (actually, they only have to average the right number over four years) and they need the right mix of running backs, linebackers, etc. As an Ivy football recruit, you are essentially competing for admission only against others at your same general position and others in your same band. There are about five positions in the Ivy coaches’ minds: line, skill, power, kicker, and quarterback. Line means huge offensive and defensive down linemen. Skill generally means speed, agility, and good hands and includes running backs, wide receivers, and defensive backs. Power refers to a player who combines both size and athletic ability, that is, fullbacks and linebackers. In the Miramonte Class of '99, Kenny Dorsey was a quarterback, Derek Goeriz, Brett Nicol, and Bo Mattioda were power players, Mike MacDonald was a lineman, and Dan Reed was a skill player.

At the time Dan committed, Columbia said their top-band quota for 1999 was four players and only two slots were left.

Division II. We visited UC Davis when Dan was a sophomore, but did not contact the coaches. We assumed Dan was not good enough to play at that level. Division II schools have slightly lower academic standards than Division I-A (if you can imagine). They also have fewer athletic scholarships.

Division III. They have no athletic scholarships at all. Some have very high academic standards (e.g., Pomona, Williams, Amherst, MIT). Some of these are members of the The Selective Liberal Arts Consortium, informally known as the Haverford Group. Others, like LaVerne or Framingham State are listed as “competitive” in Barron's Profiles of American Colleges. That’s on a scale where Stanford is “most competitive,” Cal is “highly competitive,” UC Davis is “very competitive,” Cal State Fullerton is “less competitive” and Humphreys College of Stockton is “noncompetitive.”

Geographic dispersion. You might think colleges would be distributed around the U.S. about the same as the population. Wrong. There are distinct regional differences academically and within football. The Northeast is the selective college capital. The list of the top twenty or thirty schools is predominantly Northeastern. The South has only three selective schools: Duke, Rice, and Georgia Tech. The Northwest has none.

In football, I-A schools are well dispersed. But high academic I-AA schools are mostly in the Northeast. Northern California has only one Division III football college: Menlo. Southern California has a bunch. The only whole league of high academic Division III football schools is the New England Small College Athletic Conference. Other Haverford type schools are scattered and play in non-Haverford leagues.

Junior college. California is the junior college football capital of the world, hosting about half of all junior college football teams on the planet. Dan and I only visited two junior colleges—West Hills and Reedley—because they were among the few with dorms. We were quite surprised. The football players all seemed to be from Miami or Philadelphia. The dorms were almost 100% football, basketball, and baseball athletes, a practice that has been banned in NCAA. They seemed old, maybe 20 or 21, for freshmen and sophomores. And they appeared to be I-A in athletic ability. Indeed, a high percentage of them get I-A scholarships out of JC. This is apparently not true of all JC’s. We attended a Diablo Valley Community College game and recognized a number of players as recent local high school players.

How good do you have to be to play college football? Dan thought he could play at DVC when he watched the game as a junior. I generally agreed. At Division III schools in California, Dan looked a bit bigger than most of the other players when we walked around. (he was 6'2" 175 lbs at the time) Several Division III coaches half-jokingly suggested that Dan skip his senior year of high school and said they would start him on their varsity right now. The Amherst coach suggested that Dan and Brett Nicol might be the starting backfield there for all four years. (Brett ended up well down the depth chart at Amherst and had not yet had a single carry after his sophomore season.) I saw video of a Division III Occidental games and thought that Dan could play right away for them. Every Division III coach we contacted wanted Dan based on his junior video. No Ivy school did.

The Division III schools all said Dan was a running back. The Ivies said he was a running back or maybe a safety. Some Division III coaches talk about starting as a freshman; Ivy coaches, about maybe playing special teams, injury backup, or JV as a freshman. Colleges typically play about five or six JV games on Sunday or Monday during the season. The J.V. team has no separate coaches and generally consists of guys who did not play on Saturday. We had no contact with NAIA schools, but the NAIA national champion, Azusa Pacific, a scholarship program, only beat Pomona (where Ryan Hattersley and Jake Howard play) by 14-0.

We watched the 10/3/98 Columbia-St. Mary's game in person and I thought both teams were awfully big and fast. (Columbia squeaked out a victory in the last 15 seconds.) But after they saw his senior video, three Ivies wanted Dan and were quite enthusiastic. Harvard was temporarily enthusiastic about getting him. I also saw highlight films at Yale, Columbia, and San Diego (all I-AA). I was very impressed with the speed and size of the players. The college coaches all comment that Dan “has a big frame” and will get much heavier and maybe a little taller and faster. I hope so. At the time, Dan pointed out that he was only 17 and the guys playing in college are mostly 20 to 22. True. True.

I attended a Southern California Division III football practice in the fall of 1999 and concluded that the starting players on some Division III teams are generally guys who were all-league in high school, but are too small for higher level college football. The benchwarmers on a Division III team started in high school, but did not make all-league. Some Division III football players are ordinary-size guys whom you would not suspect of being college football players. Division I linemen and power players turn heads when they walk into a room because of their huge size. Football competition at Division III schools is also reduced in some cases by their high cost and high academic standards. Two college coaches who read this page said the Division III schools I mention here, other than NESCAC, are generally among the weaker ones. They say Division III is a bit stronger than I make it sound. In November of 2000, I visited a Division III Tufts University practice. They were almost all very big—much bigger than the Pomona players, and there were over 80 of them. Pomona had thirty some. So apparently, there’s Division III and there’s Division III. I urge you to attend a practice and a game at the school you are interested in to get an accurate reading on how competitive it is.

Yale’s Keith Reams said Ivy football players were bigger and faster than high school players, but not more athletic. In a call from Columbia’s football camp, Dan said he agreed with that assessment. Dan said he was as effective juking Ivy players as he had been against high-school players, but that he was often late getting his shoulder down in the Ivy League because the defenders arrived unexpectedly quickly. He soon became quicker “out of self preservation” he says.

Ivy League players are big, smart, and pretty good. If they were huge or better than pretty good, they would be Division I-A players. When I expressed surprise that Columbia wanted my then 4.8 son to be a tailback, Columbia’s recruiter David Patenaude said, “Mr. Reed, if your son were .2 of a second faster in the 40, he’d get a full scholarship to Stanford.” Stanford head coach Tyrone Willingham and I later sat together and talked for some time at a football convention in Orlando (we were both speakers there). I forgot to ask if that “.2 of a second faster” statement was correct. College football players typically see their 40 time drop by .1 from what they ran in high school. That would put Dan at 4.7 which is .2 above 4.5. 4.5 is, indeed, the kind of speed you might see in a Stanford free safety.

High-school football teams have a wide range of abilities because they are drawn from a small geographic area. College teams, on the other hand, have a very narrow ability range because they are selected by ability. That makes sense, but it did not occur to me until I watched a Division III practice for three hours. When my son talks about his Columbia teammates, I was struck by the clear respect they all have for each other’s abilities. In high school, the starting lineup consists of stars, average players, and lousy players. The stars resent the lousy players. But in college, there are no lousy players. At the college level, everybody was a star in high school.

1997 and 1998 were bumper years for Miramonte. If you look at the list of Miramonte players who went on to play college football, you can see that 1997 and 1998 were extraordinary years. They also won NCS both of those years. That is not a coincidence.

Class Number of college football players Mats success
1994 5 Playoffs
1995 1 Playoffs
1996  6 League champs
1997  5 Playoffs
1998  7 NCS champs
1999  7 NCS champs, #2 in CA Division III
NCS champs

Ivy recruiting process. Some Ivy League recruiters visit Miramonte during spring practice. They ask Coach Burnsed if he has any Ivy prospects. He tells them the names of several players and gives the recruiter game tapes from last year. They also get names from recruiting services they subscribe to. The recruiter goes into the film room, views the tape, then says, “I want to talk to these players.” The players are then gotten out of class and have an interview with the recruiter. In 1998, my son was gotten out of class by Columbia in the spring. Princeton requested a spring interview with Dan, but the student sent to get him went to the wrong classroom. Nice to know that your whole future could turn on some clerical or lazy student error.

The heaviest Ivy recruiting at Miramonte seems to have been done by Columbia, Princeton, Yale, and Dartmouth. As far as I know, Harvard, Cornell, Brown, and Penn never showed up at Miramonte in 1998. We never contacted Cornell, Penn, or Brown and they never contacted us. I suspect one or more of them probably would have recruited Dan if we had sent them a tape and shown interest by visiting in August.

A visitor to this Web page said Princeton and Yale and other colleges have week-long summer camps for high-school kids. Attending one of those camps can give the coaching staff there a chance to meet you and see what you can do. If you make a good impression, that could make the difference in your getting admitted to that school. However, it could also go the other way. Dan had a bad camp at Reno in June of 1999. (He had no interest in going to Reno. His high school went there en masse every June.) We don’t know why he had a bad camp. The normal way to get recruited—send a video tape of your best game—is more likely to show you in a better light than the camp. Attending a college’s camp is to submitting a best-game video what live TV is to pre-recorded TV—you can edit out the mistakes if you’re not live. Camp might be good if you have an extremely attractive personality and can get to know the coaches. Camps might be crucial if you are second-string to a superstar your varsity years of high school. If the coaching staff gets fired, as the Princeton staff did after the 1999 season, having gone to their camp the previous summer probably won’t matter much for getting the new coaching staff to recruit you.

An article in the 6/25/01 Sports Illustrated said these camps violate NCAA rules prohibiting the use of camps to evaluate or recruit players. Evaluating and recruiting players are exactly what these camps are used for. The article also said that almost everybody’s doing it. I never found that a persuasive argument for cheating. Teams that have summer camps for evaluating and recruiting are cheating their opponents and the NCAA. If a coaching staff is willing to cheat them, what are the chances they are also willing to cheat you or your child? Above normal I would guess. Columbia has no camp for high school players.

Senior season. The senior season is the main determinant of whether a player will be recruited. To be more specific, the video of a player’s senior season is the main determinant. Colleges would like to receive a senior video in September or October so they can urge targeted recruits to apply for early decision. Derek Goeriz and Brett Nicol did that in 1998 and were accepted early at Yale and Amherst respectively.

Dan Reed did not apply early decision anywhere because he had no strong first choice at that point. If we had it to do over, we would have sent in an “early action” application to Harvard. “Early action” is binding on the college, but nonbinding on the student. Only Harvard and Brown offered it. We did not do early action at Harvard because Dan had not been carrying the ball very much in early-season games (lopsided Miramonte victories) so we had little in the way of a senior video to show the Harvard coaches. A college coach who read this page said a half-game tape would have been enough. What they don’t want is only a highlight tape, because anyone can make himself look good in those. They want to see him winning his battles on every play. Also, we got no telephonic or personal letter encouragement at all from any Ivy coach during the 1998 season, so we assumed that Dan was not an Ivy prospect.

Junior-year video tape. Players should make a video tape of their junior season if they played extensively. College coaches have no interest whatsoever in JV or freshman tape. Coaches prefer a game-only tape, but they will accept a combination highlight and game tape. In 1998, Dan Reed made a highlight tape of his junior season and a whole-game tape of his best junior game. This tape was mailed or taken to the colleges in which he was interested. On the basis of the junior video, numerous Division III schools like Pomona, Williams, Amherst, and Tufts began recruiting him. Ivy teams were apparently less impressed with Dan’s junior video. They were polite and sent him weekly recruiting letters, but he got no phone calls or personal letters. Division III coaches called and sent personal letters throughout Dan’s senior season.

Dan made his junior highlight tape using a Macintosh Performa 6400 computer using Avid Cinema software. The software costs around $100. By senior year, we had a Mac G-3. We got Avery laser printer labels for the video cassettes at Office Depot. Videos should be labeled with the player’s:

This information was repeated using titles at the beginning of the tape as it appeared on the screen. Remember that college coaches receive thousands of videos each year. You may know which player is your son, but the coaches don’t even know which team to watch on the video unless you spell it out.

Highlight tape. In 1998, we found that Miramonte was so strong that the first string rarely stayed in the game after half time. Accordingly, we felt we needed to make a highlight tape rather than just rely on a game tape. Junior year, Dan only started three games at tailback, so we had relatively few highlights. That year we defined a highlight as a play in which he gained four yards or more. That was the tape the Ivy coaches were not impressed much by. Senior year, Dan started every game. With the increased amount of material, we set a higher standard for highlights in 1998.

Dan’s best 1998 game was the NCS championship game, which was not played until December 6th. It took us another week to duplicate and mail the tapes to the Ivy coaches. Send them Priority mail. The post office has free video mailing boxes for that purpose. View each tape before you send it. I took a copy to a friend’s house for him to see. It was just static on his VCR. I wondered if we had sent unviewable tapes to the Ivy coaches!!! Apparently not, but if I had it to do over, I would pop every tape into my VCR and check it before I sent it out.

At least one coach, Harvard, commented that the tape was received rather late, around December 20, but he nevertheless called Dan on December 23 to offer a paid visit. In fact, after a whole season of never getting a phone call from an Ivy coach, our “switchboard suddenly lit up” when Dan’s senior highlight and NCS game tape arrived at the Ivy coaches’ offices. In rapid succession, Dan was called by Harvard, Yale, and Columbia. We had never contacted Dartmouth or sent them a tape, but their offensive coordinator visited Miramonte in December and asked Floyd if he had any Ivy prospects. He gave him Dan’s name. Dartmouth called Dan and we sent them a video. They then offered a paid visit as well.

I video taped every game with our family camera, but the tape we used to make our highlight and game video was the team tape. It was higher quality, probably made by a super VHS or digital camera instead of our VHS. The team cameraman also had a better angle, the press box roof, for most plays.

The parents of a lineman may want to make their own tape in which the camera would be focused and zoomed in on their son. The team video tends to follow the ball and is zoomed out to show many players. It’s hard to see what the linemen are doing in a team video. The end-zone-behind-our-team vantage point is probably also best for a lineman’s video.

We broke Dan’s highlight portion of the tape into three categories:

Avid Cinema lets you create titles and we began each segment with a title like “Kick returns.” Players who play different positions than Dan would have a different breakdown. Dan’s highlight portion of the tape ran four to seven minutes. That’s about the right length. We put the NCS game on the same tape after the highlights. Avid Cinema has all sorts of jazzy transition effects. Dan used none of them. “Just the facts, ma’am.”

I get the impression that the decision on whether to recruit a player is based on these three things in this order:

1. performance on video tape
2. coach recommendation
3. size and/or speed (must be adequate for the particular level)

Based on coach comments, it is clear that college coaches scrutinize a player’s video far more than one might expect. We heard comments from coaches about how much Dan hustled when he did not get the ball, how well he faked, his toughness, and other subtle points. I surmise they look at the following:

Players must be on their best behavior every second they are within sight of the camera. Any loafing could doom their application. The cameraman is often drawn to eye-catching sideline behavior. That could make a bad impression on a college coach. View the entire tape before you duplicate it to see if any portion should be cut out or if another game should be used instead.

Visits to California by the coaches. The offensive coordinators at Dartmouth and Yale and the Columbia head coach all visited us in our home. These visits seemed to have no purpose other than to avoid being “outvisited” by the competition. That is, each coach came to our home because he did not want to seem less interested than the other college’s coaches. We also attended very useful informational meetings hosted by the Yale and Columbia head coaches in the Bay Area in December.

Deadlines. It is best to meet the various application deadlines, but we found it was not necessary for many purposes if you are being recruited by the college for a talent like football-playing ability. Brett Nicol applied for early decision at Amherst. He was accepted even though he missed the early-decision application deadline.

Dan had not listed Yale as a school to which ETS should send his scores. When the Yale recruiter started calling heavily in December, Dan hurriedly told ETS to send the scores to Yale. Yale called to say that Dan was accepted at the end of January.

We never contacted Dartmouth at all and sent them neither a score nor an application. But when their recruiter began calling in December and January, Dan relented and filled out a Dartmouth application. We handed it to the Dartmouth offensive coordinator in our living room on January 18, which was 18 days after the deadline. One of Dan’s teachers set a mandatory Dartmouth recommendation form aside and forgot about it. No matter, on January 23, Dartmouth called to say Dan was accepted.

One Miramonte grad who is now playing football in the Ivy League was not recruited until April of his senior year! Apparently, one of that college’s recruits who appeared to be signed in February changed his mind or got hurt or some such in April. That seems to be a very rare occurrence.

On the other hand, a Dublin High fullback named named Derlyn Gross said in the 7/16/99 San Ramon Valley Times that missing a November deadline to apply to Cal prevented him from playing football there. He turned down a St. Mary's scholarship to accept what he thought was an offer from Cal coaches. He is now going to Chabot, a non-scholarship junior college. I am a bit skeptical of that story. Several years ago, San Jose State gave a very late scholarship to the Foothill player who scored the fumblerooski touchdown against Miramonte in the '94 playoffs. But Gross’s story reemphasizes what I said in the first sentence in this section: it’s not a good idea to miss deadlines. But if you did miss a deadline, do not assume the situation is uncorrectable.

Senior grades. In January, the various Ivy League colleges that were recruiting Dan called Miramonte to get the latest on Dan’s grades.

Dan got C’s in English for his first three years at Miramonte and a B senior year. To try to offset the C’s, we signed Dan up for a University of California extension AP English Comp and Literature correspondence course. It cost about $500. He got an A- in the course, but he did not complete it until late February. We had UC sending his pre-final grades to the Ivies in January in the hopes that they would be impressed by his extra effort and the grades he was getting in that course. We do not know if it worked, but he was accepted by Columbia, Dartmouth, and Yale. One of the virtues of the UC course is that if you do not get a good grade you can just not mention it. Whereas if you take a high school summer school course, your grade goes on your transcript whether you want it to or not.

Visits by recruits to the college. There are two kinds of visits: official and unofficial. An official visit is a two-day trip to the college paid by the school. These are provided by both Division I-A and I-AA schools. I do not know about Division II. Athletes are only allowed a total of five official visits. My son was offered three: Yale, Dartmouth, and Columbia. He accepted Yale and Columbia, but had to turn down Dartmouth because the date they picked was after Yale and Columbia said they needed a decision. Harvard initially offered Dan a visit, then changed their minds.

An unofficial visit is made at the expense of and on the initiative of the recruit. There is no limit to the number of unofficial visits you can make, although overnight stays in the dorm are limited to 48 hours. Dan and I did the “I-95 Tour” in August of 1998, visiting Johns Hopkins, Swarthmore, Princeton, Columbia, Yale, Wesleyan, Amherst, Williams, Harvard, MIT, and Tufts. We also made unofficial visits to Pomona, Claremont, USD, and two junior colleges in the spring of 1998, and an unofficial visit to Occidental in December of 1998.

Dan and I got the distinct impression that Swarthmore hated athletes. Their weight room was a dungeon. Most of their major teams had awful win-loss records. The football team had not won a game in years and saw a mass resignation the previous season. To help the coach garner some alumni and/or administrative support, I wrote him a letter saying that on our visit, we got the impression that Swarthmore hates its sports teams and takes perverse pride in their lack of success. I said that we did not want to be involved with such a program. The 12/11/00 Sports Illustrated reported that Swarthmore has decided to drop football after 122 years. I got news for you. Swarthmore dropped athletics years ago. Their brochure mentions of intercollegiate athletics border on fraud. The article also says they are reducing the number of recruited athletes to 10% to 15% of the student body. Uh huh. Now if they can just find a league consisting entirely of colleges that have that same policy and similar academic standards, they may actually win a game in some sport. Otherwise, their teams are on a Charge of the Academically Superior Light Brigade. Avoid the Swarthmores of the college sports world.

On spring break in 1998, Dan and I just got in the car and headed south. We called several coaches on the way, but did not make many formal arrangements. That was a mistake. We easily found hotel rooms the first two nights, but had great difficulty finding a room near UCLA and on Route 99 on the way home. We almost missed two coaches because of the short notice we gave them.

Contact the coach a week or two in advance. Send him a letter, unofficial transcript, and video. If your son’s grades are weak, you may be reluctant to send the transcript. You have no choice. The coach will ask for a transcript. You can get unofficial transcripts from the Miramonte counseling office.

When Dan and I went back East in August of 1998, we had learned our lesson. The whole trip was wired with car and hotel reservations and coach meetings pre-arranged. That trip went much more smoothly and was far more productive. I recommend the Princeton Review book Visiting College Campuses as useful for finding convenient, inexpensive hotels near college campuses.

The typical unofficial day visit includes an interview with one or more coaches and a coach-guided tour of the athletic facilities and perhaps other campus facilities like the dining hall and academic buildings. Unofficial overnight visits typically include staying with a football player student, attendance at an athletic event, eating in the dining hall, and perhaps other events. Dan made unofficial overnight stays at Pomona, Claremont, and Occidental. Division III schools will provide 48 hours of free room and board, but you must provide your own transportation to and from those colleges.

Dan and I each took a list of questions to each coach interview. When we got into our rental car to go to the next school, Dan filled out an “after-action report” of his impressions when the school and coaches were fresh in his mind. He then wrote a thank you to the coaches and we mailed it at the next mailbox within hours of visiting the school. After overnight stays, Dan sent separate thank you’s to the coaches and student hosts.

Official visits are formal, tightly-scheduled 48-hours stays. They also include bunking with a football-player college student. But added are welcoming speeches and meetings with various dignitaries like the coaches, college president, and professors. On a typical recruiting weekend, about 20 recruits will arrive simultaneously from all over the U.S. When Dan’s group got to the Columbia team room, they found Columbia home football jerseys imprinted with their names and high school numbers already hung in the lockers. Yale did a similar thing, putting engraved nameplates with the prospective recruits’ names on lockers in the team room along with jerseys with the recruits’ high school numbers. Columbia gave the recruits a tour of a Wall Street securities exchange. After supper and a basketball game, the Columbia student hosts took the football recruits and a group of female field hockey recruits out on the town.

Prospective recruits must know that they are being evaluated every minute of a visit. That includes when they are away from the coaches and only with the college players. Anything they say or do can and will be held against them in a coaches meeting. Before his visit to Yale, my son was told he was their number one running back recruit, that admissions accepted him, that he had full support of the football coaching staff, and that all he had to do to go to Yale was say yes. But when he was flying home from Yale, they gave his slot to another player they ranked lower than Dan. Why? The Yale coach said Dan gave them the impression he was not that interested in Yale during the visit by:

1. Shrugging his shoulders when he was asked how he was enjoying the visit. (Dan says he answered “Great,” does not remember shrugging his shoulders, but that if he did, it only signified, “What’s not to like?”)

2. Asking about financial aid. (We did not expect any and were willing to go without it, but were curious as to whether we qualified for any. Dartmouth and Columbia had told us up front that we qualified for none. We had submitted a financial aid application to Yale, but never got an answer. Accordingly, we told Dan to ask if he would get any aid at Yale.)

3. Refusing to commit to Yale during the visit. (I told Dan not to commit during the visit. I did not want him to succumb to pressure while surrounded by Yale players and coaches, then have “buyer’s remorse” when he got home. I had told the Yale coaches that was my policy repeatedly in the weeks leading up to the trip. They did not object to our waiting until a day or two after the visit to decide on a college, but they apparently forgot that conversation when the weekend arrived.)

I asked the Yale coach why he did not tell Dan that they were on the verge of giving his slot away. They said they hinted about it to him during the visit, taking him aside and saying they were not telling the other recruits this, but that there were only a couple of slots left if he wanted to come to Yale. They admitted that they should have been more explicit.

Parents are allowed to go on official visits. They must pay their own travel expenses, but the college pays their room and board for the 48 hours. I regret that I did not go with Dan to Yale. Had I been there, I probably would have sensed the Yale coaches being on the verge of giving Dan’s slot away and could have discussed it with them and with Dan. I would have changed my policy of waiting until a day or two after the visit to decide had I known that Yale could not wait that long.

I did not go because of the expense and because I explicitly asked the Yale coach the week before if Dan was being evaluated in any way during the visit. He said some other recruits were being evaluated during the visit, but not Dan. I asked if Dan could forego the trip and accept admission to Yale right now and the Yale offensive coordinator said, “Yes.” We went ahead with the trip because we had only spent about three hours at Yale and felt we needed the additional information a visit would provide. Dan liked Yale and Columbia equally and thought the trip would help him choose between the two.

In general, college football coaches hosting official visits are as skittish as insecure teeny boppers in love. They hyperanalyze every word and action trying to figure out if the recruit “loves” them. Even the slightest unexpected word or deed tends to cause them to jump to the most pessimistic possible conclusion regarding the recruit’s feeling about their team. The Columbia recruiter worried out loud that Dan did not seem very excited about the trip on the phone several days before he went there. Prospective recruits must be careful not to say or do anything that might be construed as lack of interest.

The Ivy League colleges are permitted to host 70 official visits. But remember that they only get to keep 35 players. Some are lost to competing schools. Others are simply rejected by the coaching staff in spite of having been given an all-expense-paid trip to the college by that same staff.

The official visit offer is only extended after the player has been accepted by admissions (contingent on the support of the head football coach). If you are offered a paid visit by your first-choice college, ask if you are totally accepted or are still being evaluated in any way. I surmise that there are two categories of official visits from the perspective of the coaches:

If the coach says you are already a totally-accepted recruit, turn down the visit and accept the offer of admission on the spot. If they only rate you as a backup, that will smoke them out immediately. If they really want you, it’s a done deal. Accepting a paid visit is dangerous. We did not know that until it was too late.

When you visit a college that you like, three things can happen and two of them are bad:

In view of the risks, you should not go on a college visit unless it is absolutely necessary for you to make a decision about attending the college. If you go through the formality of the visit when you already know that you want to go to the college in question, you may snatch defeat from the jaws of victory. A college coach disagreed with this advice. He thinks all recruits should accept the official visits. I only have the one year of experience witth one player. He has more. He also has the perpsective of a coach. My perspective is that of a father. Coaches want all the info they can get. But it simply is not in your interest to give more information than necessary to get admitted.

Coaches at selective schools are terrified that they are being used by a student who wants admission, but who plans to quit football after he is admitted. Yale coaches interrogated Dan harshly, apparently standard treatment for all visiting recruits, as to his commitment to playing four years of football. Recruits who seem less than totally committed to football are instantly crossed off the list. None of the coaches concluded that was a danger with Dan. He told them he had been playing tackle football since he was 8, had never missed a single game, that he had attended six non-mandatory football camps, and that he had originally wanted to go to Stanford, but crossed it off his list when he discovered he could play college football, but not at Stanford.

Chronology. College coaches generally find out about your son from Floyd in the spring of their junior year. During the summer and fall, they send a weekly letter to your son at your home selling their school. If you are high on their list, they call you as often as weekly. In December, when their own seasons are over, they come to Miramonte in person to talk to Floyd and prospective recruits. Players are gotten out of class for this purpose. Once they have seen your senior video, the coaches rank prospective recruits and begin to offer paid visits. The visits take place over about four weekends in January and beginning of February.

Dartmouth offered Dan a trip for January 23. We accepted, but then they postponed it saying it was too short notice. Had they not done that, he would have visited Dartmouth and may have liked it well enough to go there. Dan went to Columbia on January 28 and to Yale on February 5th. Columbia brings recruits in Thursday night and sends them home Saturday afternoon so they can visit the NY Mercantile exchange during business hours on Friday. Other schools bring the recruits in on Friday and send them home on Sunday.

Yale tried to move Dan’s visit up a week because the later the visit, the greater the chances of losing the player. We were unable to agree to the change because of the Columbia visit. Dartmouth then offered a trip on February 12th, but both Columbia and Yale said they could not wait until after the 12th for a decision, so we turned Dartmouth down.

In the Ivies, you must decide which college you will attend no later than around February 6 to 9 in our experience. It probably depends on how high your son is rated by the college in question and who else they are recruiting. But the longer you wait, the greater the chances that you will lose your slot. The Division III schools want you to commit as early as possible, but they seem to have to wait until the normal end of April deadline to get all their answers.

“Likely letter. When you commit to an Ivy League college that recruited you, you immediately (fax, Fed Ex) receive a “likely letter.” That says you are likely to be admitting to the college in question, explaining they cannot be more definite because of Ivy League rules. The recruit does not have to sign anything at that time, but the recruit’s verbal commitment is considered binding. The letter goes on to congratulate you on your accomplishments and urges you to keep up your grades and behavior through the rest of your senior year. A 1998 Amherst recruit who slacked off in the spring of his senior year had his admission revoked.

Formal acceptance. On April 1, Dan got a “fat envelope” UPS 2nd day from Columbia confirming what the “likely letter” predicted and formally admitting Dan to Columbia’s School of Engineering. The fat envelope contained, among other things, a letter to be signed by Dan in which he commits to attend Columbia and sends a $500 deposit.

Book recommendations. There are several other books you might find helpful. I believe Miramonte should have them in the library, counseling center, or coaches office. I read dozens of books on the college recruiting process. These are just the most useful ones.

The Football Green Book (directory of football coaching staffs) 800-909-0010

The Select by Howard Greene (Detailed analysis of extensive surveys given to students at 20 elite colleges including Stanford and Cal, Ivy League, Williams, and others—This book reveals such things as the % of students negatively affected by crime or alcohol or sexism on the campuses covered)

A is for Admission by Michele Hernandez, a former Dartmouth admissions officer

Peterson's Sports Scholarships & College Athletic Programs (Sports-oriented college directory)

Guide to College Athletic Recruiting for Miramonte Students by Steve Harwood (Miramonte PA announcer)

Letting Go by Coburn and Treeger

Recruiting Confidential by David Claerbaut

Team media guides (The colleges are very restricted as to what they can give you, but this is one of the few allowed items. Ask for them. Media guides contain a wealth of information about the team, players, coaches, school, facilities, football tradition, etc.)

Out of date. We learned that we middle-aged parents are somewhat out of date on colleges. Richard Moll, author of The Public Ivies and Playing the Selective College Admissions Game, warned of this when he spoke at Miramonte a couple years ago. My wife and I thought Harvard and Yale were the two top schools in acceptance rate (admits ÷ applications) among private schools. Actually, the ranking is Harvard, Princeton, Columbia, Stanford. (Colleges that cost nothing to attend like Cooper Union and the service academies have comparable acceptance rates, but lower SAT scores.) Columbia has apparently climbed in acceptance rate because of New York City’s recent image upsurge. Our sons’ generation only became aware of the outside world in the last several years and they like the city of Mayor Giuliani, the perennial world champion Yankees, Seinfeld, Friends, and Letterman. In terms of acceptance rate, Yale is now in fifth place behind Brown in the Ivy League. Because of “irreverant” guidebooks and college visits, I suspect prospects are increasingly aware of what a rotten town New Haven is and that is dropping Yale in the rankings. One guidebook calls New Haven “the Beirut of New England.” When I went to college, many of my peers at West Point and nationwide had never visited their college until they arrived there as freshman. Read the various guide books before you hold forth on the desirability of the various colleges based on your 30-year old information. Note that the Insiders Guide, which likes Yale, is published by the Yale Daily News.

Internet. There is now a ton of information on the Internet. Each team has its own Web site with schedules, past results, rosters, and so forth. The rosters give name, position, height, weight, hometown and high school. Click here to see an Ivy example—Columbia. You can also listen to college football games for free on the Internet from anywhere in the world. Columbia’s games, for example, are available at, Columbia’s student radio station. Some games are available on Most are available either there or from the college’s radio station Web site.

Truth to tell, it appears to me in retrospect that one of the best things a parent could do for a prospective college football player son would be to redshirt him in first grade, that is, have him enter first grade a year after he is supposed to, and send him to a small high school (or one with small numbers turning out for the football team) with low test scores. Redshirting will help him athletically, academically, and socially. The small school will give him maximum opportunity for playing time at the most skilled positions. College football teams are full of former high school quarterbacks and tailbacks playing other positions. But they rarely convert a player who played another position in high school to quarterback or tailback at the college level. The low test scores of his classmates will give him maximum opportunity for a high class rank. Being a year older will give him maximum chances of holding leadership positions in the class and on the team.

This seems like a dumb set of things to do, but the way the rules are set up, these three steps would probably have a tremendous beneficial effect on your son’s chances of playing college football, not to mention helping him in life in general. (A strong academic high school is better preparation for doing well academically once you’re in college. Here, I am only talking about getting admitted to a selective college.) I did not redshirt my son in first grade or any other year, but he and I did grind our teeth when he got to high school and had to compete for playing time against classmates who were a year older and underclassmen who were his age. Apparently many other parents did redshirt their sons. Dan turned 19 on 6/26/00 between his freshman and sophomore years of college. Some of his college teammates are 22 or 23—ages he will attain only after graduation.

I did consciously send Dan to a relatively small high school, but it was mainly because I was coaching there, it had an excellent academic reputation, and an excellent football program. If I had sent him to our local powerhouse Catholic school, De La Salle, he would not have started at tailback. Although Miramonte is small—about 1,000 students of both sexes—it has big numbers on the football team: 50 each on the freshman and JV teams and 60 to 80 on the varsity. Miramonte is arguably the best school academically in our East Bay Region of San Francisco, so we are grateful that it does not publish class rank.

The success or prominence of your son’s high school team means almost nothing to college recruiters. You may be better off recruitingwise starting three years and playing both ways on an 0-30 Podunk team, than starting senior year only on one side of the ball for the state champion of the large-schools division. They are recruiting you, not your team. So what you want is maximum opportunity to show what you can do at the most skilled position you can play. (You do need some help from your teammates to succeed. A great running back will have nothing for his highlight film if his teammates do not block. A great receiver will have no highlights if his quarterback cannot throw accurately or if his team never passes or his line cannot protect the passer.) For quarterbacks and receivers, the style of offense is probably important. For example, great passers will not get much chance to show off their arms on option teams as a general rule.

A small high school head football coach said he disagreed with me slightly. He said a player should go to the largest high school where he is competitive (a starter) because college recruiters discount small high school success to an extent.

Epilogue. 12/19/00. Dan has now completed his first two seasons at Columbia. We now have the reality of his college football experience to compare with the recruited high-school senior perspective.

Upon arrival in August 1999, Dan found that he was fourth string on the varsity depth chart at tailback. First string was a sophomore who was Ivy League Rookie of the Year in 1998. Second string was a fifth-year senior. Third string was a classmate of Dan’s. Dan was ranked last among the recruited tailbacks. There was also a walk-on tailback who was not recruited who was fifth string. He is excellent at running with the ball, but is small.

Blue-White Game
Dan got hurt in the Blue-White game, a pre-season intra-squad scrimmage in September of his freshman year. He missed the first JV game of the season—the first game he ever missed in his 12-year career as a football player. For the rest of the season, he was on the scout team in practice and second string on the JV team. The first three running backs traveled to away varsity games. The third-string tailback only got to play in one game, a blowout loss to Lehigh. Dan never traveled to a varsity away game. He was grateful for that on the grounds that such trips are extremely time-consuming, which is especially galling if you do not play at all, which is what happened to his classmate at 4 of the 5 away games. The Columbia varsity went 3-7, 1-6 in league and tied for last place with Princeton. The Princeton coaching staff was fired. The new Princeton head coach is Roger Hughes. He is the former Dartmouth offensive coordinator who came to our home to recruit Dan, but offered him a trip that was too late. Pirnceton’s fired coaching staff had shown mild interest in Dan, but did not recruit him. Yale tied with Brown for the league championship.

JV games
I attended two of Dan’s JV games. He looked the same, relative to the other players on the field, as he had in high school. His mother attended a third game and had the same comment. The JV team went 3-2 including a last-second victory over Yale. I was at the game and Dan played an important role in it, catching two long passes for key first downs in long-yardage situations and gaining his share of yards on running plays.

New Haven
After the Yale JV game, which was Sunday afternoon, my middle son and I could not find a bus back into the center of New Haven, so we walked from the stadium to the Yale campus. According to the Yale brochure, that’s two miles. Felt like more than that to us. What’s worse, it was through a terrible neighborhood. When the Big Game is played at Harvard, and the home team is losing, the Harvard students have a taunt that says something to the effect of “Yeah, but now you have to go back to New Haven.” Now I know why. (Columbia’s campus is 5.5 miles from its football field, the neighborhood in between is rough, but there are many subways, buses, and taxis. Both Yale and Columbia use shuttle buses to transport athletes and students to and from the fields.)

As we walked, I wondered what had ever possessed me to consider letting my sons go to college in such a town. (When we visited Yale in August of 1998, we did not have time to see anything but the campus. My middle son said “No way!” regarding applying to Yale. Part of the purpose of the 1999 trip was to show him Yale. He is not an athlete.)

Transfer to Division III?

In the fall, I wondered if Dan should consider transferring to a Division III school in view of the fact that he was ranked behind a classmate on the tailback depth chart. Dan assured me that he would show the coaches what he could do in spring football. And that’s exactly what happened. Dan had a great spring and was promoted to second-string tailback on the varsity behind the 1998 Ivy Rookie of the Year. I attended one spring practice and the spring game. Click here for a photo of Dan carrying the ball in that game.

In high school, Dan could be more deliberate about selecting his running path. In the Ivy League, he has to be more frantic, racing to get upfield as soon as possible before one of those fast, smart linebackers gets to him. As expected, Dan’s 40 time dropped from 4.8 in high school to 4.7 in college. In high school, the only opposing linebacker Dan worried about was Dublin High School’s Derlyn Gross. In the Ivy League, everyone is worth worrying about.


Above, I mentioned that, when I sat next to him at a convention, I forgot to ask Stanford coach Tyrone Willingham if it was true that he would have recruited my son had he been .2 faster in the 40. In 2000, I ran into Tyrone again at the American Football Coaches Association convention and I did ask him. He said they not only had skill players who ran 4.6, but they also had guys who ran 4.8, but that speed alone was not enough. The player also had to be an excellent football player.

Kenny Dorsey

In one way, moving up to college football was a step down for Dan. His high school quarterback was Kenny Dorsey. He went to Miami on a full scholarship, started (as a true freshman) three games which they won by large margins, and played extensively in the Gator Bowl, another victory. He set freshman records even though he was a true freshman and the records he broke had been set by Gino Toretta, a Heisman Trophy winner. The quarterback who was ranked ahead of Dorsey on the depth chart, Kenny Kelly, quit to play professional baseball, a decision which some say was influenced by Dorsey’s breathing down his neck at quarterback. Now Kenny is the number one quarterback at Miami as a true sophomore. Miami ended up ranked second in the nation on some polls, but they were not chosen to play in the BCS “national championship” game. Florida State, which Miami beat, is in that game against Oklahoma. Miami was hurt in BCS rankings by losing to Washington. If FSU beats Oklahoma and Miami beats Florida in its bowl game, Miami could win the national championship. I saw Kenny ranked first on an ESPN list of 2001 Heisman candidates! Go Kenny!

Dean’s list

I was concerned about how Dan would handle academics, especially surrounded by college kids and all the distractions of a 14-story high, co-ed college dorm. I need not have worried. Dan made dean’s list. Turns out, at a college as selective as Columbia, the dorm is full of people who studied their butts off to get into Columbia. They still have that habit. If anything, the other kids in the dorm seemed to have the effect of increasing the amount of time Dan spent studying. In the fall, Dan only took four classes because of the amount of time he spent on football. He could have placed into an advanced calculus course because he got a 5 on both the calculus AB and BC Advanced Placement exams, but because of uncertainty about how he would handle the academic workload, and the fact that he had not taken calculus since junior year, he took regular calculus—a wise move. In the spring, he took six classes, which he now says was too much. One was beginning Latin, which was a review after four years of Latin in high school. I also made him get a part-time job after football ended. He worked about 12 hours per week installing ISDN and DSL lines around campus for the University for $10 per hour.

Dumb jock

I warned Dan that other students might resent his football-player status and stereotype him as a dumb jock merely because of his membership on the football team. Indeed, a number of Dan’s classmates confessed to him later in the year that, at first, they assumed he was a dumb jock who only got in because of football. One expressed amazement that he was taking classes in the engineering building in view of the fact that he was a football player. (The percentage of engineering students on the football team is about the same as the percentage of engineering students in the undergrad student body.) After they got to know him, they came to see him as an individual. Some friends of Dan’s non-athlete girlfriend told her, upon learning that she was dating him, “You could do so much better.” The girls in question have never met Dan. All they know about him is his extracurricular activity. Dan does not know if any of those girls made dean’s list.


I was concerned that Dan, who spent his entire life in a California suburb, might not like New York City. In September, he called me to tell me to tape an MTV program called Total Request Live. “Why?” “I’m on it.” On Friday before the away game at Harvard, Dan and a couple of his teammates were strolling through Times Square. They had the day off because there are few classes on Friday at Columbia and the traveling team had departed for Boston. When they passed the MTV studios in Times Square, an employee spotted them and ran out and asked them, “Do you guys live around here?” Upon learning that they were Columbia students, she invited them to appear on TRL. Dan ended up appearing twice on the program. In each case, he sat in the studio audience. During the show, they gave him a microphone and he got to tell his name, where he was from, what song he wanted, and why. High-school friends now tell him, “Hey! I saw you on TRL!” I pointed out to Dan that if he had gone to Yale, he might have appeared on Good Morning New Haven or some such.

When I visited Dan in New York, he was chewing me out for waiting for the light to change to cross the street. “Dad, you’re acting like a tourist.” So scratch the worries about Dan and NYC. Before he graduates, I expect there’ll be a sandwich named after him at the Carnegie Deli. “The Broadway Danny Reed corned beef on rye.”

He’s in the game

In the fall of Dan’s sophomore year, he learned that he is represented in the new video game EA’s NCAA 2001 for Playstation and Dreamcast. They let you pick which teams you want to play with. If you pick Columbia, you get a team with a black, first-string tailback whose number is 7 and a white backup tailback whose number is 35. My white son is the second-string tailback. His number is 35. The first-string tailback at Columbia is a black guy named Jonathan Reese. His number is 7. Cool.

You can listen to Columbia games for free by Internet at the Columbia radio station’s Web site: or in New York area at 89.9 FM. Also, most of Columbia’s opponents broadcast their games on the Internet. You can listen to them for free too through your computer. Go to or other college radio broadcasts on line for those games. One Columbia game was actually on Internet TV this season on , but I did not learn about it until I started listening to the game broadcast on radio. When I tried to download the necessary software to see the game, it said it was going to take more than two hours. The game would be over by then and I would not be able to listen while downloading.

First varsity playing time

Dan made his first varsity appearance in the 9/16/00 opening game against Fordham. The first time he touched the ball he ran for 48 yards. (Outside zone right starting with a counter step to the left) That run ended up being about the seventh longest in the Ivy League for the season. For the day, he had 6 carries for 62 yards. Columbia had the game won 43-26. They just put Dan in to run out the clock. Dan was also on the kickoff team throughout his sophomore season.

First varsity season

Dan’s first varsity season is now over. He had 39 carries for 219 yards and a 5.6 yards per carry average. That made him third in the Ivy League among running backs with at least that many carries. The first and second highest yards per carry averages were Yale’s Rashad Bartholomew and Harvard’s Nick Palazzo, both of whom had 5.7 yards per carry. Most coaches probably would feel Dan’s high average was a fluke because of his relatively few carries and having many carries at the end of games that were no longer in doubt. Maybe so. But if it’s so easy to average 5.6 yards per carry in such situations, how come Dan was the only guy in the league who did it? As a coach, whenever I have a player or play with a high average yards per attempt, I give him or it more attempts to make sure it’s a fluke. Dan caught four passes for fifteen yards and fumbled to Yale after one catch. Dan’s stats are at the Columbia and Ivy League Web sites. Also, if you just search for “Dan Reed Columbia” in a regular search engine, you pick up Web pages with his stats at numerous sports Web sites.

At Columbia, you have to appear in at least five games to get a varsity letter. Dan appeared in all ten.

During the 2000 season, Jonathan Reese, the first-string Columbia tailback, broke Columbia’s records for career rushing, single-game rushing, single-season scoring, single-season carries, most games over 100 yards, and single-season rushing. He was also the first Columbia running back to ever rush for more than 1,000 yards. He was rarely injured or tired. Dan got a few plays once when Jonathan’s shoe came off. Dan sometimes was on the field at the same time as Jonathan to take advantage of the defense’s being overly focused on Reese. Other times, Dan played during the main part of the game because Jonathan was injured or winded from a long run. Reese returns as a senior in 2001.

On the kickoff team, Dan had 5 unassisted tackles and two assists. He was named Columbia’s Special Teams Player of the Week for the Lafayette game. He also played a little on the punt-return team during the season.

Here are two photos of Dan on a 26-yard run at homecoming against Dartmouth. The stands visible in the background are the Dartmouth side.



Columbia finished 3-7 in 2000, with only one Ivy League win (over Dartmouth). Three of the losses were heartbreakers. Against Bucknell, Princeton, and Cornell, Columbia had the lead with less than a minute left. Against Cornell, Columbia had the ball on Cornell’s two-yard line with two seconds left, but were unable to get the snap off. They lost that game 35-31. Columbia was in the Penn, Yale, and Brown games for a while, but ended up losing by large margins. Columbia was never in the Harvard game even though we got five takeaways.


Dan’s freshman roommate, a wide receiver, got very sick in 2000. He missed all but the last game. After having all that time off, and contemplating his likely position on the depth chart, he decided to quit football.

A walk-on tailback classmate who was fourth string-string in 2000, decided after the 2000 season to switch to corner. Several other of the eight tailbacks on the roster in 2000 switched to defense or other offensive positions. Dan still has plenty of competition at tailback, and more coming in this August.

A classmate teammate who lived across the hall from Dan freshman year, decided to take it real easy academically in the spring of 2000. He took one less course than he needed, figuring he’d make it up in summer school back home. Columbia refused to accept the summer Spanish course and insisted that he take a Spanish AP test before they would give him credit. He flunked the AP test and was therefore not eligible for the 2000 season. After Christmas, he transferred to his state university and may try to walk on there.

Hosting recruits

Dan now has considerable experience at the other end of the recruiting process. He has hosted six recruits in 2000 and 2001. That is, they come to Columbia at Columbia’s expense and stay in his room for Thursday and Friday nights. He also escorts them around to their various recruiting functions and takes them out for a night on the town. Four of the six Dan hosted chose Columbia. He should be on commission.

Dan says it apparently matters a lot which weekend you get invited, with the earliest being the best.The reason is many recruits commit during such visits, then cancel their remaining visits sight unseen. The recruiting visits start the first weekend after the students come back to Columbia. In 2001, Dan went back January 14th. So the recruits came on the weekend of the 19th, 26th, February 2 and 9th. Dan accepted a first weekend invitation to Dartmouth, only to have them say it was “too short notice.” Hmmmm. They also said he was their first choice running back nationwide. It may be more important which weekend they invite you than what they say. Talk is cheap.

Dan went to Columbia the second weekend. Yale scheduled Dan for the third week, but later called to try to move Dan up to the second weekend. We declined because of his commitment to visit Columbia that weekend. Dan visited Yale the third weekend and declined an invitation to visit Dartmouth the fourth weekend because both Yale and Columbia said they could not wait that long for a decision.

Don’t read too much into which weekend. There may be other reasons why a college invites you for a particular weekend. Maybe they want you to stay with a particular guy and he is busy the first weekend. Maybe they wanted you for the first weekend and you were not available.

Dartmouth and Yale sincerity

I’m still wondering about the sincerity of Dartmouth and Yale. They both said Dan was their number one tailback recruit nationwide for the class of 2003. (Columbia only said, “He’s very high on our list.”) So it might be interesting to look at the 2000-season stats on the tailbacks they did get in that class instead of Dan. That would be one Jay Schulze at Yale and one Clinton Soper at Dartmouth. Here’s a comparison.

Category Dan Reed, Columbia Jay Schulze, Yale Clinton Soper, Dartmouth
games 10 9 2
carries 39 89 2
net yards 219 383 3
yards per carry 5.6 4.3 1.5
TDs 1 2 0
longest run 48 73* 5
receptions 3 0 0
receiving yards 18 0 0

It would not appear that Yale missed Dan’s services that much, although they surely would have preferred his yards per carry. If Dan had 89 carries and the same 5.6 yards per carry, he would have gained almost 500 yards. Both Yale and Columbia had super-star first-string tailbacks. The difference in Dan’s and Schulze’s carries stem from Yale’s number one guy missing at least one whole game (*I was there). Columbia’s #1 tailback never missed a game. Dartmouth’s Soper may be the next Walter Payton, but he got hardly any chances to show what he could do in games and was not able to make much of the chances he did get.

Just looking at these stats, it appears Dartmouth’s offensive coordinator was telling the truth when he said Dan was his number-one running back recruit. Why he rejected Dan’s acceptance of the first weekend visit is beyond me. I thought it was very dumb of him at the time. He is now the head coach at Princeton, so what do I know?


Dan is in a photo on page 232 of the May 2001 issue of GQ magazine. He is the guy with the blue shirt leaning against a wall. A diagram numbers the eight guys in the photo so they can discuss the clothes each is wearing. Dan is number 6. The article title says, “The Navy Blazer—Paired with faded jeans or careworn khakis, this classic has never looked cooler. Even these Columbia frat boys think so.”

His being in a GQ is more complicated than you might think. NCAA athletes are not allowed to model—unless they were modeling before they became NCAA athletes. NCAA does not want them benefiting financially from their NCAA-athlete status and they are not allowed to endorse products, which modeling sort of is. But Dan had done some modeling in San Francisco when he was in high school, and the NCAA rule is that you may not start modeling in college, but you may continue of if you already had been modeling. I guess they neither want to launch your modeling career, nor interfere with it. Anyway, Dan had to get clearance from the Columbia football office before he could participate in this photo shoot.

As with his TRL appearance, this appears to be a benefit of going to college in Manhattan

Speaking of frat boys…

When Dan went to college, I told him he could not join a fraternity because they were almost invariably characterized by illegal, extremely dangerous levels of alcohol, and sometimes drug, consumption; often dangerous physical and psychological hazing; and squalid living conditions. He didn’t join one. He helped found one. He is now Webmaster and Sergeant at arms of Columbia’s new chapter of Delta Sigma Phi. Actually, it was the reinstatement of Delta Sig at Columbia. The fraternity’s second chapter was at Columbia in 1901. There is a photo of a bunch of members at Dan is the guy with the triangle (delta) painted on his chest.

Delta Sigma Phi is trying to be different. Its national president said, “Our fraternity is determined to improve academic performance, build a growing membership base, increase the presence of alumni and other advisory support, and end the abuse of alcohol.” Their Q-&-A Web page says, “Delta Sigma Phi will no longer allow itself to be defined by alcohol in the minds of university administrators, potential members and their families, and by the public at large.” Delta Sig’s national headquarters banned alcohol from all Delta Sig property nationwide by 12/10/00. Not even brothers or alumni of legal age can consume alcohol on Delta Sig property. Columbia’s chapter has no hazing in its initiation and has no fraternity house at present.

Dan’s fraternity is also trying to avoid becoming dominated by any athletic team, religion, or other group—apparently a common problem in fraternities.

Fraternities have another problem I was not aware of, but am not surprised at: lower than average grades. Delta Sig wants to change their organization to one with above-average grades.

This all sounds good, but all fraternity statements of purpose sound good. The reality is the majority of fraternities are a bunch of boys playing with fire. If Columbia’s Delta Sig chapter sticks to these new values, I’m a supporter. If they spin off into the usual, see ya.

Changed majors

Dan was a computer engineering major for his first two years at Columbia. But he found the engineering curriculum was too tough for one who also had the year-round football commitment. He switched to computer science. According to the College Majors Handbook, that lowers his expected starting salary from about $65,000 to about $55,000—and will have a similar effect on his income for the rest of his life if he stays in that field. Didn’t change his tuition, room, and board, though. That’s still about $38,000 a year. I hope the coaches appreciate all the sacrifices the players make for the team.

Spring practice 2001

Dan got demoted from second-string to third-string tailback as a result of 2001 spring practice. He did the best of the five healthy tailbacks (first-string tailback Jonathan Reese missed all of spring practice with a hamstring pull) in the spring game, averaging over five yards per carry and doing equally well as a receiver, ball carrier, and blocker. The next best spring-game performance was three point something yards per carry. But the coach said Dan did poorly during the first six days of spring practice, whereas the new second-string guy was consistent throughout.

I’m no expert, but it appears to me that all six of Columbia’s tailbacks could start or play second-string on other Ivy League teams. The last-string tailback at Columbia is also the fastest guy on the whole Columbia team—and the Columbia team as a whole is one of the fastest in the Ivy League! Smart opposing coaches won’t even kick off deep to Columbia. Deep men Jonathan Reese and Justin Logan were the most dangerous kick returners in the league. Columbia received mostly squib kicks. Maybe Columbia ought to put all six tailbacks on the field for kick returns and invite opponents to, “Squib this.”

I jokingly suggested to a Columbia coach that with all the running back talent they have, they ought to switch to a wishbone or wing-T offense—both of which have three running backs in the backfield. Columbia is going to do more two-back formations than last year. Last season, they usually were in a one-back formation. They ran the wishbone at times the season before Dan arrived.

Playing time in college sports

I am developing an idea of how much playing time you can expect based on various factors you can get some information on during recruiting. This will sound logical and obvious, but we did not really focus on it when Dan was being recruited. Now that it’s actually happening, we are forced to focus on it.

Number of players on the team

Your son’s college playing time is likely to be a function of the number of players on the team. There are 110 players on an Ivy League football team. Do the math. Excluding special teams, there are 22 starting positions on a football team. There are about 60 plays for each offense in a college football game. The Ivy League has ten-game seasons so there are (60 + 60) x 10 = 1,200 offensive and defensive plays per team in an Ivy League season. Times 22 players that’s 22 x 1,200 = 26,400 player-plays per season. That means, on average, an Ivy League football player would get 26,400 ÷ 110 = 240 varsity plays per season. but they don’t spread the playing time that way. It’s more like 90% first-string, 9% second-string, and 1% third-string. That leaves 0% for the fourth and later strings—who typically are not even on the traveling squad.

The average Ivy League football position has five strings (110 ÷ 22 = 5). So 90% x 26,400 = 23,760 of the plays go to 22 first-stringers. That gives them an average of 23,760 ÷ 22 = 1,080 plays per season. Second-string averages 9% or 108 plays per season. Third-string averages 11 plays per season. Fourth- and fifth-string have to hope terrorists throw a grenade into a running-backs meeting when they are in the bathroom.

Other colleges have different numbers. Division I-A schools have 85 scholarships. When I visited Tufts University they had about 85 guys on the team. When I visited Pomona, they had about 34. You can see how many guys a team you are considering has in their media guide or program or Web site roster. One thing they all have in common is 11 men on the field at a time and 60-minute games. So unless your son is a super star, the amount of playing time he gets during his college career is very much a function of the number of players on the team.

Special teams helps a lot—giving jobs to place kickers and punters as well as to various offense and defense guys, but they generally try to use first-and second-string offense and defense guys on special teams. Special teams units are not used for charity to low-on-the-depth-chart players.

Here are some comparative team sizes:

Annual recruits
# of games
Team size
NFL 7 draft choices
13 free agents
4 Exhibition
16 regular season
1-5 post-season
42 min.
45 max.
XFL ? 10 38
6 more on practice squad
NCAA I-A 17 10-13 85 scholarships
some walk-ons
Ivy (NCAA I-AA) 35 10 110 allowed to go to summer camp
more thereafter
High School 10 to 30 8 to 13 13 to 80
Pop Warner 5 to 25 8 to 13 18 min.
35 max.

As you can see, the Ivy League has by far the most players of any level, with the possible exception of the major service academies where every student is on full scholarship and being on the football team provides many privileges above and beyond playing time. This is good news if you are an Ivy League-quality player trying to get into an Ivy League college. But it’s bad news as far as playing time is concerned after you get there.

Number of games—I asked the Pomona coach once if he would ever schedule more than his usual eight games. He said he would if his number of players were higher. When he has 34 or so, he figures it would be tough to get through more than eight games without injuries hurting the team unacceptably. The more games, the more playing time to go around.

• Level at which recruited—I am coming to the conclusion that the stars at any non I-A level of college football are generally the guys who were recruited by the next higher level. For example, the star running back in the Ivy League last season was Rashad Bartholomew of Yale. He averaged 5.7 yards per carry—.1 more than my son Dan. Bartholomew was a transfer from the Air Force Academy—a I-A school.
The starting quarterback at I-AA St. Mary’s College, which is near where I live, is also a transfer from Air Force.
The walk-on who becomes a starter is a heartwarming part of football—but it is also the rare exception. Rudy was the classic walk-on. If you are willing to bust your butt for four years to get in for one play, walk on. Otherwise, it’s probably not a productive use of your time.
If you are recruited by two levels, you will probably struggle to get playing time at the higher level and star at the lower level. One Division III coach told Dan he would probably start all four years, carry the ball 35 times a game, and break all of that college’s career rushing records. The average Ivy running back who was recruited at the Ivy, but not the I-A, level, probably never starts, carries the ball 35 times a season for a season or two, and breaks no records.

Injuries—Injuries can turn all of what I just said upside down. Yale’s Bartholomew was hurt in 2000—apparently for two or three games considering the number of carries his backup got for the season. Columbia’s Reese was only hurt for part of one quarter in the Yale game. The Columbia media guides for 1998 and 1999 mention several running backs who got unexpectedly high amounts of playing time because of injuries to other players. So your playing time is determined by the number of players on the team, the level at which you were recruited, and injuries to players above you in the depth chart. Some seasons there are many injuries; others, there are none. There is generally no way to predict.

• Players at your position—When you are recruited, you should pay close attention to who is already at that school at your position. Really good players who are just a year ahead of you, like Columbia’s Jonathan Reese at tailback, mean you will get less playing time. You maximize your playing time by going to where there are no good players at your position or at least where any good players at your position are seniors or maybe juniors. Who is recruited at your position in classes behind you is also a factor, but you have no way of knowing that when you are picking a college. The second-string tailback at Columbia after 2001 spring practice is in the class behind Dan.

• Fifth-year players—It is standard to have players for five years in Division I-A. They call it “redshirting.” Redshirting is not allowed in the Ivy League, but there are a bunch of fifth-year players there. Yale’s Rashad Bartholomew was one. I get the impression it has something to do with injuries or transfers. We cannot afford for Dan to be at Columbia for a fifth year if he were eligible for it by virtue of an injury. I suspect most of the players who are in their fifth year in the Ivy League either are on a need scholarship or have very rich parents. So you need to inquire about fifth years for guys at your position. Do not assume they are all leaving the team four years after they entered. Columbia running back Norman Hayes (Class of 2000) played in 41 games during his college career. Since Ivy teams only play ten games a year, you can see there is sometimes a fudge factor.

Whatever happened to the Columbia football recruiting class of 2002?

We now have three years worth of Columbia Football media guides. That’s enough to examine the careers of the recruiting class ahead of Dan—the Class of 2002.

Frosh jersey #
frosh (’98)
soph (’99)
junior (’00)
senior (’01)
40 J.V. J.V. no letter
87 J.V. Varsity letter
82 Varsity letter Varsity letter Varsity letter
99 J.V. Varsity letter Varsity letter
JD never on team
75 J.V.
48 J.V. Varsity letter Varsity letter
68 J.V. Varsity letter Varsity letter
70 J.V. Varsity letter Varsity letter
50 J.V.
30 J.V. Varsity letter Varsity letter
29 J.V. Varsity letter Varsity letter
39 J.V.
47 J.V.
78 J.V. Varsity letter
38 J.V. Varsity letter injured
22 J.V. Varsity letter Varsity letter
IL never on team
49 J.V. Varsity letter Varsity letter
73 Varsity letter Varsity letter Varsity letter
18 J.V. Varsity letter Varsity letter
6 J.V.
80 not on team J.V. Varsity letter
88 J.V. J.V.
35 Ivy Rookie of Year Hon. Mention All Ivy 1st Team All Ivy
95 J.V.
65 J.V.
51 J.V.
85 J.V. J.V. no letter
16 J.V. Varsity letter no letter
28 J.V.
1 Varsity letter J.V. not on team
Attrition rate 2/32 = 6.25% 11/32 = 34.38% 14/32 = 43.75%
Varsity letter rate 4/30 = 13.33% 16/21 = 76.19% 13/18 = 72.22%

The left-hand column shows the players listed in the 1998 pre-season media guide. Two of those—JD and IL—were never on the team, or at least they do not appear in 1998 programs. Some players have changed jersey numbers since their freshman year. Green means the player was on the team. Red means he was not on the team. White means he was not active, but was still a team member.

Yards per carry

In a newspaper article after the 1998 North Coast Section Championship game Dan’s senior year, a local reporter described Dan as “the most underrated running back in the East Bay [our region].” In that game, Dan gained 194 yards and scored 26 points. We won 40-0.

I sent the reporter a letter thanking him for the comment, but pointing out that it was his paper’s own fault Dan was underrated—because they ranked local running backs by total yards instead of yards per carry. Total yards reflects a number of things unrelated to the ability of a running back. For example, a team might use its running back less because it has a future Heisman candidate at quarterback.

Well, it’s the same in the Ivy League. They rank running backs by total yards. So I am going to put the yards-per-carry ranking here. Dan may be underrated elsewhere, but not on his father’s Web site.

Carries for 2000 & 2001
Total yards for 2000 & 2001
Yards per carry for 2000 & 2001
Reed Columbia 44 250 5.7
Palazzo Harvard 164 907 5.5
Ryan Penn 187 947 5.0
Reese Columbia 307 1495 4.9
Atkinson Princeton 120 555 4.6
Malan Brown 275 1301 4.7
Gratch Dartmouth 164 703 4.3
Schulze Yale 96 407 4.2
Simmons Cornell 166 701 4.2
Rose Harvard 37 148 4.0
Carr Yale 78 265 3.4
Soper Dartmouth 2# 3# 1.5#
As of 10/3/01

# 2000 only, Soper had no carries in 2001 (listed because Dartmouth recruited Dan and got Soper instead)

There may be other players who should be on this list. I do not have access to 2000 Ivy Stats.
Only 43 carries—Some may protest that it’s easier to have a high average with just 43 carries. True, but players cannot control their number of carries. They can only make the most of the ones they get. It may be that Dan’s average would drop below other players if he got more carries. He and I would love to find out.
Garbage time—Some may point out that many of Dan’s carries come when the game is no longer in doubt. Actually, his yards-per-carry average may be higher when the game is still in doubt. He had long gainers against Fordham, Princeton, Dartmouth, etc. when those games were still in doubt. Every team has second stringers who get similar opportunities to play when the game is no longer in doubt. If it’s so easy to have a high average when playing in both competitive and garbage time, why hasn’t any other Ivy running back done it? Also, there is a question as to whether it is easier to gain yards when second-string blockers and quarterbacks are in the game.


Alcohol is a really big deal to me. My father was a mean drunk. As far as I can tell, all the men in my family who are not teetotalers have had alcohol problems to one degree or another. Because of my father, I am a lifelong teetotaler.

Above, I said that my son had co-founded a fraternity chapter of Delta Sigma Phi at Columbia and that they did not allow alcohol consumption at any frat functions. In the interest of full disclosure, a couple of members showed up drunk at the 2001 pledge initiation.

The general mindset at colleges today, including Ivy League colleges, appears to be that

college= alcohol
alcohol = fun
fraternities = more alcohol
athletic team fraternities = the most alcohol

This is extremely dangerous. According to a National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism study that came out on 4/10/02, alcohol causes the following annual problems for college kids age 18 to 24:

Deaths 1,400
Injuries 500,000
Assaults 600,000
Sexual assaults 70,000
Unwanted sex 400,000
DUI 2.1 million

The excellent book The Select, which I mentioned above, shows the following incidence of “direct negative effect of campus alcohol consumption” (based on surveys of students):

Alcohol problem
Princeton 22.3%
Dartmouth 19.8%
Brown 19.0%
Cornell 18.2%
Harvard 14.7%
Columbia 10.8%
Yale 10.2%
Penn 9.9%

Originally, I took comfort from Columbia’s low ranking. Don’t. There is far too much drinking at all the Ivy League schools. These percentages are from teenagers who are extremely ignorant of the dangers of alcohol and extremely insensitive to them. Adults observing the same behavior would probably give much higher percentages at those schools.

During his official visit to Columbia and Yale, then 17-year-old Dan was taken by upperclass football players to bars where alcohol was served. In Dan’s Columbia case, the players were taken to a bar that featured lap dances. The Columbia player bought lap dances for all the high school seniors who wanted them. Dan declined that particular offer.

As both a host and later player hostee, Dan believes that the Columbia coaches did not instruct the players to take the high school recruits to bars or buy them lap dances. However, neither did they prevent it. As a coach myself, I would say that if it happened and the coaches did not know about it, they probably did not want to know about it. The bottom line is that Columbia money bought high school students drinks and lap dances as part of the effort to recruit them to play football there. So much for the high-class, student-athlete approach that most people ascribe to the Ivies.

Dan tells me that it was easy for underage students to buy alcohol in New York and New Jersey—including in bars. He also tells me that it is virtually impossible in California. Why? California sincerely tries to prevent it and generally succeeds with a high tech drivers license that bars scan into a data base. New York, which had a drinking age of 18 in the 1960’s, apparently regards the federally-mandated drinking age of 21 as a law it is not inclined to enforce. So if you want your child to stay alcohol free in college, your chances may be better in California than New York.

I suspect that the various colleges, including the Ivies, are competing not only in academics and athletics for students, but also in who can be the most lenient regarding underage alcohol consumption. That is, the colleges know that there is rampant underage drinking and excessive alcohol consumption by all ages of students, but they look the other way because they fear if word got out that, say, Columbia, was enforcing drinking laws more than other schools, it would reduce both the number of applicants and the yield, thereby lowering the all-important U.S. News ratings.

U.S. News does not take alcohol or drug abuse into account in their ratings. They should. If they did, and weighted it appropriately, it might give the various college presidents the courage to do the right thing. However, like the colleges, U.S. News depends on high school students who think drinking is cool for their revenue, so I would not hold my breath until U.S. News behaved responsibly. We need more publications like The Select to get the word out about which colleges are doing the right thing alcoholwise.

The E network’s TV show Wild On and MTV also bear some responsibility. It seems like half the time I surf by E, I see some college student or show host drinking an alcoholic beverage through a funnel.

The right thing for the colleges to do would be to hold a summit meeting at which they resolved to continue competing with each other for students on the basis of academics, athletics, physical plant, etc., but not on the basis of alcohol leniency. Related powers like NCAA, the accreditation boards, and the federal government should sanction colleges with inadequate alcohol-law compliance. Alumni should withhold support. Don’t leave a bequest to your Ivy. Leave it instead to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism or some similar charity—with a carbon copy to your Ivy suggesting that they clean up their act.

Pomona or Columbia

In our case, we came down to Pomona College or Columbia the night Dan decided. We chose Columbia because it was the Ivy League, which was clearly a higher level of athletic competition (Division I-AA versus Division III) and arguably a higher level of academic quality. Also, Dan was originally majoring in computer engineering, which Pomona did not offer. Now he’s majoring in computer science, which Pomona does offer.

A football player who graduated from Miramonte several years before Dan went to Pomona and quit in a huff. I saw him at a Miramonte game during Dan’s senior year and asked why he left Pomona, which, at the time, seemed Dan’s likely first choice. He ranted and raved about being treated like a high school kid at Pomona. Eventually, I drew out of him that he was upset with their enforcement of the laws regarding alcohol, i.e., that you must be 21.

So if I had it to do over, I would have sent Dan to Pomona instead of Columbia. I am not sure it would have kept him away from alcohol, but it sounds like we would have had a better chance there. You might think Pomona would be proud of their policies and the effectiveness of their enforcement. Maybe, but I suspect they would prefer that prospective students not realize the strictness of their alcohol policies until they have already enrolled. Pomona ranks 8th in acceptance rate among national liberal arts colleges. Being known among high school students for strict alcohol enforcement would probably not help that stat.

The 2005 Princeton Review Best 357 Colleges surveyed 110,000 college students nationwide and found that Pomona College students were the happiest. We are not surprised.

A modest proposal

Trial lawyers are ravaging various corporations for having made products with asbestos, silicone gel, PCB, Agent Orange, and so forth. 52 asbestos-related companies have gone bankrupt. The dangers of these products have only belatedly become known. The dangers of alcohol have been known for centuries.

How’s about somebody files a class-action suit against the Ivy League colleges. (My wife and I are Harvard MBA’s. Neither of us recalls any alcohol problem there—because the students are 25 or so and know better.) The Ivy colleges have the requisite deep pockets to motivate a big lawsuit. In fact, they shamelessly make them deeper each year by charging the highest tuition in the world—because they can, not because they need the money. Did they know about the alcohol problem? Absolutely—far more so than the corporations manufacturing dangerous things. Did they take adequate steps to stop the problem? No way. Seems to me they are much easier, richer, more deserving targets than the asbestos companies, for example. I doubt they could find a sympathetic jury anywhere. If you excluded everyone whose relatives had received an Ivy rejection letter, you might have trouble finding 12.

Who would the plaintiffs be? Current and former students who were injured by alcohol consumption that started or worsened while at the Ivy in question, as well as their parents or other surviving relatives.

What charges? Gross negligence. Contributing to the delinquency of a minor. Mail fraud. Wire fraud. Racketeering. Violations of liquor laws. Child endangerment.

I am avaliable to be a plaintiff and/or a fact witness in such a suit.

The kids' views

Many would ask what are the opinions of the college students on this issue. Don’t bother. If you want to disabuse yourself of the notion that Ivy Legue students are smart, read their student newspapers on the subject of alcohol. I did that by Internet when my son was in high school to try to get a feel for each campus.

For example, the Dartmouth paper was full of angry comments about their new, “no-beer for sophomore summer” policy. At the end of freshman year, Dartmouth students are required to stay at Darmouth for the summer (I guess to make up for making them spend winters there). Sophomores are about 19 years old. The drinking age in New Hampshire, as everywhere, is 21. How in the name of God the college ever allowed sophomore-summer beer for the previous 230 years is beyond my comprehension. How it could be anything other than a better-late-than-never, no-brainer to end it is also beyond me. But to the Dartmouth newspaper student writers, it was “Move over Holocaust, there’s a new Crime of the Century.”

The movie Animal House was written by a Dartmouth grad about his [since banned] fraternity. A country-western singer on an episode of the Simpsons, which is written by Harvard grads, once sang the lyric, “I was drinking like a Dartmouth boy.” Dartmouth students refer to the local town of Hanover as “Hangover, NH.” When my son’s high school guidance counselor visited Dartmouth on a trip organized and sponsored by that college, he said they deliberately excluded the president’s house from the guided tour because it was across the street from fraternity row. He visited the street on his own and saw why Dartmouth was ashamed to let visitors see it. Dartmouth brags that one of their graduates founded Alcoholics Anonymous.

I don’t mean to single out Dartmouth. They just happened to be one of the three Ivies that recruited my son. Princeton apparently has a worse alcohol problem according to The Select. Their so-called eating clubs apparently are really drinking clubs. Columbia has a pound-of-cure C.A.V.A ambulance, which appears to be a portable drunk tank, parked in the central quad every weekend night.

The $160,000 you sacrificed to send to one of the Ivies may accomplish nothing more than turning your kid into an alcoholic. Chico State offers much better rates on that service.

I recommend the book Dying to Drink—Confronting binge drinking on college campuses (Rodale) by Henry Wechsler, Ph.D, Director, Harvard School of Public Health College Alcohol Study and Bernice Wuehrich.

Dan’s career stats

Below are the rushing stats for the 2002 running backs at Columbia during Dan’s career.

Both Rashad and Derek are excellent athletes. Derek is an excellent receiver and open-field runner. Rashad is an excellent all-around running back.

Columbia’s win loss record for 2002 is 1-4 as of October 21, 2002. In the only victory, against Fordham, Dan made a touchdown-saving tackle after an interception. He also caught a pass to move the team into field-goal range with 15 seconds left in the game. He needed to get a first down and get out of bounds to stop the clock on the 3rd & 10 play. He did both. Then Nick Rudd, who is also from Miramonte High School, came in and kicked the game-winning field goal. Columbia won 23-21. On Tuesday after the game, Dan learned that he had been playing with a broken left hand since the end of the third quarter.

Profound and bitter regret

Today is November 25, 2002. Early this morning, my 15-year old son and I returned from the last game of Dan’s football career—a typical-of-Columbia last-minute loss to Brown—a team that had only one Ivy League win until they beat Columbia. No decision I have made in my 56 years gives me more profound and bitter regret than my decision to recommend that Dan go to Columbia in February of his senior year of high school. If I had it to do over, I would recommend Pomona College. Dan also says he would have gone to Pomona if he had it to do over, but he has a more complex perspective on Columbia than I do because it meant to many more things to him than just football game playing time. For Dan’s perspective, contact him. This is his father’s Web site.

The problem with Ivy League football is the team size is far too big—ridiculously big. The problem with Columbia is that the coaching staff is incompetent, the athletic director is apparently more interested in cronyism than competent coaching, and the administration above the athletic director does not care whether he engages in cronyism at the expense of the athletes or not.

Too many players

Ivy football teams recruit 35 players per year on average or 140 over a four-year period.

Highly regarded college coach Steve Spurrier—formerly of Florida—now in the NFL at Washington—said in Sports Illustrated recently that Division I-A college football teams only need 75 players. They now have 85 scholarships per team or 17 per year (because of redshirting, most Division I-A football players are at the college for five years, not four). If football factories like Nebraska and Florida only need 75 players, how in the name of God did anyone ever conclude that Ivy teams, of all things, need 140?

The NFL only allows teams to have 54 at present (I went to the Ravens Web site and counted the number on their roster). NFL teams have more in pre-season and I believe can have more in playoffs.

Pomona College only played 8 games a season when they were recruiting Dan. I asked about more and the coach said they needed higher numbers of players to do that. They had 34. So clearly there is such a thing as attrition for injuries and other reasons, so you can have too few players to compete over a ten-game season. But there is also such a thing as too many and the Ivy League, more than any other league, has too many.

Ivy League teams take about 65 players to away games. Seems to me that if they can get by with 65 at away games, they can get by with 65, period. The Ivy League rules makers should get together and cut the number of recruits per team annually to 65 ÷ 4 years = 17, which would be the same number teams like Notre Dame and Miami recruit. I see no reason why the Ivy League, with its lack of athletic scholarships and academic emphasis should have as many players as the football factories, let alone almost twice as many. On the other hand, cutting them to 35 or so would probably adversely impact competitiveness to an unacceptable degree. The correct number of players for an Ivy football team is probably 45 to 65. I would try 65 and see how it went.

Of course, the coaches will scream bloody murder at such a change, but so did the Division I-A coaches when they were cut down to 85. Contrary to what they said at the time, civilization as we know did not come to an end when they were forced to have “only” 85 scholarships. What happened is that talented football players who were being stockpiled as injury backups and motivational tools at top colleges went to other schools and played instead. Better for all concerned but the coaches, but then college sports are not supposed to be for the coaches, are they?

What’s the harm? Power corrupts. Coach power, in part, stems from the overage between the number of players who are on the field in a game and the number on the roster. The greater the overage, the greater the coach’s power and the less the players’ power. There are about 25 starting positions on a college football team: offense, 11; defense, 11; plus place kicker, punter, and long snapper. The NFL pro Bowl now has one slot for a special teams star as well.

When you need 25 starters and you recruit 140, you have about 5.5 strings on average for each position. Actually, at some positions like holder and long snapper, you typically only have two strings. So you have six and seven strings at positions like quarterback. That’s ridiculous. It means you have three or four strings who never play.

During his senior season, my son Dan lost out to a junior named Rashad Biggers and, astonishingly, to a small, light sophomore named Derek Smith. Dan was better than both of them, as I will explain below, but let’s say for the sake of argument that the three were equal. Columbia has generally been a one-back offense in recent years. So they only need one starter and one backup running back. They actually had three on varsity plus another two or three on J.V. That’s too many.

Either Rashad should have played for another team or Dan should . Both would have been happier and one of their teams would have more successful for having a legitimate Ivy starter in place of whomever they had while Dan or Rashad stood on the sideline at Columbia games.


I suspect Ivy League football teams have the greatest attrition of all college football teams—probably all football teams in the universe. When they were freshmen, Dan’s recruiting class consisted of 32 guys. They also had one walk-on—running back Kwam Aidoo. They have since added a transfer student as well. So how many of those 34 were still on the team for the final season? Would you believe 14? And only about half of those ever became regular starters. 20 guys—a significant majority—quit the team.

They were fed up with the incredible demands of the incompetent coaching staff—and the near total lack of reward for complying with those demands. Think about it. That’s 20 football stars—many of whom were team captain, all-league, all-region, and team MVP in high school. They went off to Columbia with high hopes for their college football careers and ended up with ashes in their mouths. These are guys who loved the sport—guys who would have starred at hundreds of other colleges around the U.S. But Columbia just turned them into bitter, ex-football players. And they only charge $140,000 for that service.

The program for the next-to-last game listed 84 players on the Columbia team. Since they recruited 140 for that team, you have to wonder what happened to the other 56. Mostly, they got disgusted with the demands to gain weight, lift weight, run, and practice, and the lack of compensation for all those sacrifices. The average Columbia football recruit quits the team. Most Columbia football recruits quit the team. If your son goes to Columbia as a football recruit, he will probably quit the team. That is a statistical fact, not a pessimistic assessment. You may think that will happen other parents’ sons, but not yours. That’s what we all thought.

If you just want to use football to get admitted to Columbia, enjoy. However, if your son actually wants to play the sport, send him somewhere else.


Here are the sacrifices our family made so Dan could play football for Coach Ray Tellier and Columbia University.

Does size matter?

When he was being recruited, many coaches told Dan they liked his “large frame.” Indeed, he is 6' 2 1/2" and has extremely broad shoulders and long arms. He still holds breast stroke records at a local swim club.


But once he got to Columbia, the coaches constantly chastised him about his “low” weight. One coach reached the point of anger about it and direly warned Dan that he was going to “get hurt” if he did not gain more weight. As Dan told me about these pressures on him to gain more weight, more weight, I almost wrote a letter to Ray Tellier to tell him to back off. I was concerned that Dan would resort to legal, but dangerous, dietary supplements like creatine. (If you get dehydrated while using creatine, you can suffer permanent liver damage. Dehydration is a frequent problem among football players because of their extreme exertion in summer months.) I did not write to Tellier because I feared it would hurt Dan's career and because Dan assured me he would not take creatine or any other dietary supplement or drug to gain weight.

Spring game MVP

The MVP of the 2000 spring game was Kwam Aidoo, Dan’s walk-on running-back classmate. Nevertheless, he was too small to play running back and the coaches apparently urged him to switch to cornerback on defense, which he did.

Receiver or corner

Another small running back—Derek Smith—who is two classes behind Dan, was told during spring practice of his freshman year that he was too small to play tailback and should switch to receiver or corner. Derek is smaller than Kwam.

He refused, insisting he was a running back. Maybe in high school or division III, but not in the Ivy League. He is too small to consistently block blitzing linebackers effectively and he almost never breaks a tackle or makes the pile fall forward when he is tackled. Ivy tailbacks have to do all those things. Derek is an excellent athlete, but in the Ivy League, he is a wide receiver or defensive back. He might be an Ivy wing back, although Columbia does not have such a position.

Sports are full of stories of guys who were “too small” but succeeded anyway. However, those guys have extraordinary athletic ability compared to their peers. Derek’s athletic ability is about the same as Dan’s or Rashad’s. Without compensating athletic ability, the Laws of Physics rule.

Senior season

As I said above, after enormous effort in the weight room and the dining room, Dan managed to get up to 220 pounds and maintain or even enhance his strength, speed, and agility when he reported to his final summer camp in 2002. He had finally done what his coaches had been demanding for three years. He even weighed more than the running back the coaches called the “heavy artillery:” 5'8" 211-pound Rashad Biggers. Dan was listed at 6'2" and 214 in the 2002 team media guide. Not only was he the starting tailback because of his superior speed, experience, versatility, and reliability. He had cemented his hold on the position by becoming the heaviest running back on the team as well—or so Dan thought.

Although Dan was announced as the starter for the first game against Fordham and was on the field for the first play, he only got two carries in the game. Who got the Lion’s share of the carries? Derek Smith with 14.

Lafayette disaster

The worst attempt to prove that size does not matter came in the Lafayette game, which was the biggest disaster of the season. We were ahead 21-0 near the end of the first half.

Starting just before half time and continuing into the second half, Lafayette scored four unanswered touchdowns to win the game. We had chances. Once, we had first and goal at the four. Rashad Biggers carried to the one. Then they took 211-pound Rashad out and had him stand on the sidelines next to 214-pound Dan while Derek Smith, who weighs 40 pounds less, took over in Ray Tellier’s one-back offense. On second and one, Derek Smith was called on to run the ball up the middle. No gain.

No surprise either. In goal-line situations, the defense puts in a bunch of huge linemen and packs them into the middle of the line. In my experience, you generally need to run wider to avoid those guys. But if you are going to run up the middle against such defenders, how about using the biggest back instead of the smallest? How about using two big backs—one to lead block for the other? If you insist on having the smallest running back go against the defense’s biggest guys, how about at least giving him a lead block from one of the other running backs? Or have him run some sort of outside play? Tellier and Skrosky rejected all of these ideas.

On third and one, they had quarterback Hunsberger run a quarterback sneak. He is close to Derek Smith’s size. No gain. On fourth and one, they ran the speed option. Not a bad play call at the goal line, but we still have the two smallest running backs on the team on the field going against Lafayette’s goal-line defense personnel. Hunsberger decided to keep the ball rather than pitch to Derek. No gain. The ball went over on downs to Lafayette, who then marched 99 yards and scored the margin-of-victory touchdown with 8 seconds left in the half.

Later in the Lafayette game, we had fourth down and six inches at the Lafayette 31. Who ya gonna call? Well, if you’re Tellier and Skrosky, you have learned nothing from the earlier goal-line disaster. You put 214-pound Dan and 211-pound Rashad on the sideline and have 40-pounds smaller Derek run up the middle against Lafayette’s short-yardage defense (similar to goal-line defense—a bunch of huge guys packed in the middle). No gain. The ball went over on downs.

Is it any wonder we lost the game?

So does size matter for running backs at Columbia? It depends on which coach you ask and what day it is.

During the 2002 season, it seemed that the answer of the Columbia coaches to the question, “Does size matter?” was,

• When we are rationalizing Rashad Biggers getting lots of playing time, the size of biceps and thighs matters, but not height or weight.

  • When we are rationalizing Derek Smith getting lots of playing time, size does not matter at all.

  • When rationalizing Dan not getting much playing time, size does not matter at all. All that stuff we told you for three years about needing to gain weight was A. April Fools, B. the crazy notions of some guy who is no longer on the staff or C. a now discredited theory that some of us who remain on the staff may have uttered once or twice, but we never meant it to be taken so seriously.

  • So if you let your son be recruited by Columbia, he should learn how to binge and purge on food so he can match up with the coaches’ position du jour on weight. Or better yet, keep your son away from these idiots. Send him to a college where the coaches have a clue.


    I coached 11 football teams: 8 youth and three high school. I also coached many baseball teams, a soccer team, and two high school volleyball teams. I never played or coached college football. That used to make me defer to the judgment of those with superior college coaching experience like Ray Tellier. Ha!

    I have also written seven books on football coaching. One, called Football Clock Management is purchased by NFL, college, and lower level coaches. NFL Hall of Fame coach Marv Levy said every coach and aspiring coach should read it. My other books are for youth coaches. Youth is the biggest market for coaching books and they need the most help.

    So I cannot say the Columbia coaches should do such and such because I learned that was the best way when I coached college football. But I can say that Ray Tellier and his staff made many of the mistakes that rookie youth coaches make. I never dreamed that college coaches could be as inept as rookie youth coaches until my son played for Columbia.

    Positions and playing time should be allocated not be size, but by performance. You film the practices and games, grade the performances, and play the guys who get the best grades. Actually, Columbia would say they do that. Baloney! Their grading is apparently colored by various biases.

    Central casting

    One of the rookie youth coach mistakes I warn against is what I call “central casting.” That’s where you assign players to positions according to whether they look the part. The typical rookie youth coach assigns the fat kids to line, skinny kids to wide receiver, black kids to corner and tailback, and the All-American-boy type to quarterback—when the coaches are not engaging in nepotism—in which case the coaches’ sons pay the glamor positions regardless of what they look like.

    College coaches would never make such a dumb mistake, would they? I mean they would get fired, wouldn’t they?

    Not at Columbia. Ray Teller never gets fired. Athletic director John Reeves’ role at Columbia is apparently to make sure Ray Tellier is never held accountable for his record.

    “Central casting” would explain why Rashad Biggers was the main running back at Columbia in 2002 instead of my son Dan. In response to one of my questions, Dan said offensive coordinator Richard Skrosky has a “profile” for each offensive position. That is, what kind of player he wants. I thought “profiling” was politically incorrect. Columbia may tolerate decades of coach incompetence, but they don’t tolerate one minute of political incorrectness. For running back, Skrosky apparently likes black, burly, runs low to the ground, and hits hard. That would be Rashad.

    Dan ain’t black. He was on the edges of burly when he was 220. Dan runs low when it is appropriate, namely when he is finishing a run against defenders he cannot elude. And I would say that Dan hits as hard as anyone, but he rarely shows that because it is not tailback job description. Tailbacks are supposed to avoid contact whenever possible when they are carrying the ball.

    When they are blocking, emphasis on hard hitting can result in more misses, like swinging for the fences in baseball. Dan’s attitude, which he got from me in part, is make sure you make the block first. Worry about how hard you block the guy second. Rich Skrosky is apparently from the smash-mouth school of football where occasionally proving your manhood with a big hit makes up for all the times you missed because you were not under control—thereby letting a defender prove his manhood by totalling your ball carrier.

    Some may think that if I were the Columbia offensive coordinator, I would just engage in nepotism like the bad youth coaches. I plead not guilty. When he was in Little League, Dan once observed that the only seasons he sometimes sat the bench were when I was his manager. All other years—when I was managing his brother’s teams—he never left the field. Why? Because I gave equal playing time to all players until the playoffs. Since the playoffs were single elimination, I then did what the other managers had been doing all season—give the most playing time to the best players like Dan.

    When he was 10, I was the special teams coach on his youth football team. Initially, I made Dan a free tackler on the kickoff team. Indeed, he held the same job senior year at Columbia, only they called it sprinter. That is one of two guys who run straight at the ball carrier. All other players are lane tacklers who must go straight down the field in a lane. Dan was distressed at age 10 when I removed him from that position and made him a lane tackler. Why? Another kid seemed to be doing better. And that kid was only 8 years old.

    That 8-year old was a heavy-set black kid named Kevin Simon. Ten years later, when Kevin was a senior in high school, he was the starting tailback and middle linebacker for De La Salle High School, the top high school team in the nation. They have not lost a game since 1991. They lost none when Kevin was there. That year, Kevin was named San Francisco Examiner Bay Area High School Football Player of the Year. He is now a linebacker at Tennessee on a full-scholarship. Like I said, I plead not guilty to nepotism. On my teams, stats and performance do count. Kevin had better stats than my son, so I promoted him over my son. I told of doing the same thing to Dan in my baseball book when he was 11. He was leadoff hitter all season, but at the end, another kid surpassed him. So I made the other kid leadoff.

    Another story about Kevin. At the end of youth football practice one night when I was coaching my other son’s team, Dan’s coaches came to me excitedly and asked, “Did you see that hit your son made?” “No.” (We had been practicing on an adjacent field.) “Did you hear it?” “No. What happened?” Dan had been scrimmaging in practice. He was on offense; Kevin, on defense. Dan’s ball carrier broke loose. Kevin had a bead on him in the open field. Dan, who was a blocker, had a bead on Kevin. Dan hit Kevin in a full-speed, head-on collision. Kevin never saw him coming, but had been going at his own usual full speed toward the ball carrier. The two pancaked each other—that is, both landed on their backs. The hit was so ferocious that the coaches figured they would need two ambulances. But both players got up and continued to play. For years, the coaches there referred to that incident simply as “The Hit.” As in, “That was a heck of a lick, Sean, but not as good as The Hit.” No one made up “I was there” tee shirts—but almost.

    One more Kevin story. Kevin was dumped on me as a minimum-play player. I coached defense and special teams on that youth team. Offense did not want Kevin. He was an overweight 8-year old on a 8-11 year old team. They assumed he was a lousy player because he did not look the part of a good player. Eight-year olds almost never start on an 11-year old team, but I almost overnight recognized that he was really good. In scrimmage, we counted tackle and assists after every play. He always had the most. So I started him the whole season at defensive tackle. At the awards banquet, I said we had the best defensive line in the league because of the example set for our ten-year olds by eight-year old Kevin. At that banquet, I also predicted we would see him in the NFL some day. Prediction still stands.

    If Kevin had chosen Columbia as a running back, I would have suggested to Dan that he switch to defense.

    Black skin versus white skin in college football

    Lord help the white running back or wide receiver or, until the early 1990s, the black quarterback.
    page 32 of Blind Side by Michael Lewis

    As far as I know, there have been absolutely no racial problems among Columbia football players in the four years Dan has been there—or before for all I know. But I think there is a bit of a racial problem of the central-casting variety between the coaches and the players.

    First, let me discuss the issue of white guys playing skill positions in football in general, then I’ll discuss it with regard to Columbia only.

    It used to be that coaches thought blacks were not smart enough or leader enough or something enough to play quarterback. That apparently ended in the last 25 years or so.

    There still appears to be a notion that blacks can’t be head coaches as evidenced by relatively few of them having the job. I was part of a small group of coaches in 2004 who taught a small group of minority college assistant coaches how to get hired as head coaches. My topic was clock management. The other coaches who taught with me in that small group of about eight instructors included Bill Walsh, Brian Billick, and Bob Stoops. The NCAA organized and sponsored the clinic at their Indianapolis headquarters.

    But there has arisen another notion in recent years: that white men can’t play skill positions, that is, running back, receiver, and defensive back.

    He later became famous now for his commercials, but when Jason Sehorn was first an NFL player he had a racial problem. When someone asked what he did for a living, he said he was an NFL football player. So far so good. Then they asked what position. When he said, “Cornerback,” they laughed in his face. “A white cornerback in the NFL! Sure.” He really was a white NFL cornerback. He was the only one, but he was one.

    My middle son and I went to the 49ers summer camp one day when we happened to be driving by that town. About half the players wore white jerseys and half wore red. My son asked why most of the black guys were wearing red. I studied the players for a while and figured out that the red jerseys were defensive players—like cornerbacks. “I guess they’re defense. Probably need more speed on defense and blacks dominate speed sports like the 100-meter dash.”

    Frequently, when my wife mentions that her son plays college football, men ask, “What position?” When she says, “tailback,” they laugh and say, “A white college tailback?

    Bruce Rollinson is the coach of top-rated Mater Dei High School in the Los Angeles area. He frequently gets complaints from the fathers of white players when he assigns them to skill positions like cornerback. The complaint? “That’s an all-black position at the college level. Play my son at a position where he has a chance to play in college.”

    One of Dan’s teammates went to a predominantly black high school. Their school colors included black and like most of his high school teammates, he wore black leotards in games. This receiver also wore gloves in games. College recruiters first learn of a player from looking at game videotapes. One Division I-A recruiter liked this receiver on video. He had a high school counselor get him out of class to talk to him. The moment he laid eyes on the player out of uniform, he just said, “Thanks anyway.” Obviously, he had thought the player was black on video. The moment he learned he was white, he lost all interest in him. The player was astounded that the coach felt no obligation to hide it.

    White tailbacks at Columbia

    When Columbia flew Dan to Columbia for his official visit, he was introduced to an upperclass player who asked him what position he played. When Dan said, “Tailback,” the player asked, “Aren't you a little white for that?

    After he arrived at Columbia and started practicing with the team, a white upperclass teammate was absolutely ecstatic when he saw that Dan was a legitimate tailback. He regarded Dan as some sort of Great White Hope at that position. Until Dan arrived, he had abandoned all hope that one of his race could be a college tailback.

    Dan called me his first night in summer camp freshman year. He told me he was fourth-string tailback and that he had a tailback classmate. He also informed me that he was considered by the coaching staff to be distinctly inferior to the tailback classmate. “What did you or he do to rank you behind him so fast,” I asked. “Nothing,” Dan replied. “They apparently decided he was better before we got here.” The classmate was black. There were five tailbacks. Dan was the only white one. He ranked last among the recruited tailbacks. He was only ranked ahead of Kwam Aidoo, the walk-on (unrecruited) tailback.

    Dan continued to rank behind that classmate all through the 1999 season. At the J.V. games, the black classmate would always get the first series and the most series. The black freshman tailback made the traveling team of the varsity and played in one game, scoring a touchdown as a freshman. There never really was a moment when the coaches seemed to even consider that Dan might be better than the black classmate. I suggested to Dan that he consider transferring to Pomona or one of the other Division III schools that wanted him. “No,” he said, “I’ll show the Columbia coaches what I can do in spring football.”

    He was right. Shortly after spring football began, Dan was promoted above his black tailback teammate. The need for that change was so stark that the running backs coach, a black, former running back himself, apologized to Dan for his having been ranked behind the black freshman previously. The black classmate tried hard to win his position back during the 2000 season, but could not do so. He later quit the team. I give the coaches credit for correcting the mistake eventually, but I do not appreciate it being made to begin with or that it took almost a year to see past the skin colors of the two players in question.

    This racism was not limited to white coaches. At some point, the black strength coach spoke to all the running backs. He addressed each individually. When he finished, he had totally ignored Dan. Dan’s black classmate asked, “Do you think [his ignoring you] was racist?” To be fair, that strength coach subsequently seemed to become a fan of Dan’s playing as time went on and he saw what Dan could do. But, with that coach, Dan appeared to suffer initially from the stereotype that a white guy could not be a legitimate tailback at the college level.

    Interestingly, Dan’s black teammates seemed to have no problem with the concept of a white tailback. At one point, they gave him the name “white chocolate,” mocking the stereotype. Kirby Mack, a black upperclassman, transferred from Virginia where he was a walk-on tailback. He wanted to play the position at lower-level Columbia and was disappointed when he was put at fullback. He ended up a very successful linebacker and occasional fullback. At one point, he told Dan that he was initially bugged at not being able to play tailback while Dan was allowed to do so, but admitted, “You’ve got better feet than I do.” [meaning Dan was more agile—better able to cut and make defenders miss]

    No doubt, the Columbia coaches will point to the many whites they have had at running back and the many blacks they have not put there to refute this. But the problem is subtle. When the players are close in ability—as with Dan and Rashad—black wins at tailback (and probably at cornerback, too) with coaches who are slightly racist and who succumb to the central casting approach to filling out the depth chart (list of positions and strings).

    If Rashad were named Raymond and had white skin, but had the exact same athletic characteristics, he almost certainly would have been put at fullback. If Dan had been black and named Dashwon, he probably would have been rated ahead of Rashad at tailback because his vision and “feet” would suddenly have become visible to the coaches who expect such things from black tailbacks, but not white ones.


    Columbia coaches apparently told Dan they liked Rashad’s blocking better than Dan’s. I never saw any difference worth worrying about between them. Rashad is stronger, but he more often whiffs on the block. I generally thought Dan got the blocking job done as tailback. In any event, Columbia hardly ever had their running backs block in 2002. Rashad and Dan had to block about once a game. Derek had to block about once every second or third game. They all missed on occasion. They all got the job done most of the time. Derek had the most trouble because the only technique that worked for him was cut blocking (diving at the lower leg of the blitzing linebacker), which is less favored by offensive coordinators. When he tried blocking standing twice up in one game, he was driven back as if he were wearing roller skates. Laws of Physics.

    Apparently Princeton knew of Derek’s cut blocking. They seemed to try to hurdle him when they blitzed. Once the guy hurdled too soon—before Derek threw himself down for the cut block. The guy ended up flying through the air as if it were a slam-dunk contest with springboards. Probably the first time Hunsberger ever saw a guy blitz from above. In the Brown game, Derek threw a cut block that missed and the defender sacked our quarterback.

    I would not make a pass-blocking training film out of any of the three, but although there were far too many sacks against Columbia, they rarely were caused by a running back. More often, the backs were sent out on a pass pattern and the quarterback was sacked by someone who should have been blocked by a lineman.

    On the last running carry of Dan’s career—a lead option play in the Brown game—Rashad missed his block—as did the wide receiver—and Dan was tackled for no gain. But I’m sure that if Rashad had made the block, it would have been a big hit.

    If I were making a movie of Columbia football, I would cast Rashad as running back. He looks the part. Although I would avoid shots that revealed how short he was. I would cast Dan at quarterback or wide receiver. And Derek would be the feisty, walk-on wide receiver. The problem at Columbia is that the head coach, offensive coordinator, and running backs coach of the month—like rookie youth coaches—do not understand the difference between making a movie and coaching a football team. In coaching, you may start with who looks the part, but you quickly shuffle the players according to who gets the job done, regardless of who looks the part.

    This story is from one of my youth coaching books. Joe Paterno, the legendary head coach of Penn State, was once asked at a clinic what the worst mistake he ever made as a coach was. “I make it every year,” he said. “I keep putting the guy with the potential on the field instead of the guy who gets the job done.” Tellier and Skrosky have never figured out that they are making that mistake.

    Invisible plays

    With lousy coaches like those at Columbia, you have many of what I call “invisible plays.” Lousy coaches have a theory about how things will go. When their theory proves wrong, the results that so indicate are invisible to them.

    Derek Smith apparently had a good screen pass or two against Princeton in the 2002 pre-season -scrimmage. These were visible plays and Derek seemed to become Mr. Screen Pass to the coaching staff as a result. The fact is Derek did pretty lousy overall with screen passes during the 2002 season, but the screens to Derek that did not succeed were invisible plays. (I don’t think Derek did anything wrong. The opponents smoked out the play and he was unable to break tackles.)

    Rashad is short and burly and runs low to the ground, so he must be good at busting through the line in short-yardage situations, right? Well, actually, no. He was surprisingly not very good at that, but the plays that revealed he was not very good at that were invisible to the coaches. For example, in the last game against Brown, we had first and goal at the two. So we put Rashad in and had him run between the tackles. No gain. Then we did it again. No gain. Then we did it a third time. No gain.

    “The thought would never occur to the coaches to give him a lead blocker,” commented one fellow parent sarcastically. Apparently not, they finally ran the option and quarterback Steve Hunsberger—all 5'11" 187 pounds of him it says here in the program—managed to just reach the ball over the goal line. I can’t prove it, but I think Dan would have scored on the first or second try. Why? He actually hits harder than Rashad when he needs to. He also has better vision (Tellier’s words) and he was a high jumper in high school and can go over the top if the ground route is blocked. Now if Dan had been given a chance and failed, I would have to shut up. But he wasn’t. Rashad was given three chances and failed to gain an inch—his burliness notwithstanding. Rashad and the coaches have to take responsibility for that.

    If you made a tape of just Rashad running with the ball, you would find a surprising number of straight-ahead, between-the-tight-ends running plays—supposedly Mr. Heavy Artillery’s strength—where he gained only 0, 1, or 2 yards. Would Dan have done better on those same plays? I think so. Make a tape of all Dan’s career runs between the tight ends and see. How does Dan do better? I’m not sure. Probably a little vision, a little twisting through a crease here, and a little hurdling there. All I know is I have been watching him play since the 1980s and he was only stopped once or twice in short yardage in college—and never before. One of the plays where Dan was stopped in fourth and one was against Yale in 2002. But the play was an option. By the time he got the ball, he was about five yards behind the line of scrimmage, not one.

    In the North Coast Section Championship game Dan’s senior year of high school, they had 4th and 1. Coach Burnsed asked Dan if he could get the first. Dan said he could. They called 26 power. Before the snap, Dan noticed that the defense seemed to be packed at the 6 hole expecting 26 power. He also saw a pre-snap seam that should allow him to gain a yard if the right guard got his helmet on the right side of the nose guard. As the play started, Dan saw that the right guard did just that and Dan exploded through that 4 hole instead of the clogged 6 hole. He went five yards and fell because of extreme forward body lean and a touch by a defender. Had he not been straining so hard to get the first down, he would have scored a 25-yard touchdown on the play.

    The following season, his high school team had a tailback that was faster and looked the part much more than Dan. In a fourth-and-one, he decided to run sideways and failed to get the first. Not the only time he did that. At Christmas, Dan was back at the high school for weightlifting. Some players spotted him and complained bitterly about the new tailback’s failure to be as reliable as Dan had been the previous season.

    Throughout his career, Dan always moved the chains, but he never looked the part. At every team but Columbia, they initially tried to use the guy who looked the part, then they figured out that Dan was the better tailback. Always took about two-thirds of the season. His youth coaches figured it out. His freshman high school coach figured it out. His J.V. high school coach figured it out. And his varsity high school coaches figured it out. Only the Columbia coaches never figured it out.

    Inside trap

    One play kind of epitomized the incompetence of Columbia offensive coordinator Richard Skrosky in 2002. He designed a play where the line double-teamed the inside of the hole and trapped the outside with a pulling lineman. He put Rashad at fullback to lead block for Dan at tailback. This was to be a short-yardage-situation play.

    Now I’m just a little old youth coaching expert, but I must say that I do not like trap plays in short yardage. The defense is usually packed in the middle and trying hard to penetrate in such situations. Not good for trap plays. I do like the blast or iso, which is a tailback running more or less straight ahead with a lead blocker, but again, in short yardage, I have found that does not work well because the defense is expecting it. I prefer to run sweeps, options, wing reverses, and such in short yardage to take advantage of the defense packing the middle and charging low and hard straight ahead.

    Anyway, Skrosky designed this play and put it in in practice against the scout team. Dan saw the hole was clogged with defenders, bounced to the outside and scored a touchdown. Whereupon he was immediately chewed out by Skrosky for not going to the hole. Dan explained why he did what he did, to no avail. Skrosky said if he did that again, he would be fired from the play.

    Later in practice, they ran the play again and the same exact thing happened. Dan scored another touchdown and was promptly fired from the play. Dan wasn’t being a wise guy. He is a running back. They operate on split-second instinct when they are running with the ball. Skrosky moved Rashad to tailback for the play, and trained a tight end to be the fullback just for that play.


    That is what football coaches call a tip-off. That is, we are now going to have a formation—tight end at fullback—that we only use for one play. In one of my youth football coaching books, I called the one-play formation the biggest bonanza you could discover when scouting an upcoming opponent.

    In the Ivy League, the opposing teams get two previous game videotapes. They will immmediately spot that one-play formation and teach their defenders to recognize it. Even if they see it for the first time in a game, they will figure out what’s going on. The tight end was not put in the game because he is a better receiver than Dan. Dan led all running backs and most all receivers in yards per catch. The defense will recognize that the tight end is being put in because the coaches think he is a better blocker than Dan and they will key on the tight end to lead them to the running play that is obviously coming.

    Yale 2002

    Sure enough, in the 2002 Yale game, Skrosky ran the play with Rashad at tailback and a tight end at fullback on fourth and one at midfield. No gain. We turned the ball over on downs. When he saw the game video, Dan said, “If I had been in, I would have scored a touchdown on that play by bouncing outside,” same as he had done before in practice. Rashad, who also probably gets playing time in part by never giving any indication that he disagrees with the coaches, ran suicidally straight ahead for the no gain. Rashad does not have as good vision as Dan, but it was probably good enough to see that he should bounce outside on that play. Dan thought Rashad saw that he should bounce outside, but remembering what happened to Dan as a result, just followed orders and ran futilely to the “hole” that exists only in Skrosky’s I’m-a-coaching-genius dreams.


    So did Skrosky finally admit that Dan was right about that play? You gotta be kidding. He never ran it again. I would guess he is now waiting until he has players he recruited rather than the 2002 crop of idiots foolishly recruited by his predecessors.

    Actually, the play does work, only not the way Skrosky figured. By double teaming, trapping, and lead blocking to the left B gap (between left tackle and left guard), the play creates a powerful “draw.” That is, to the defenders, who expect a quick power play up the middle, that blocking looks like what they were expecting. They are already lined up bunched in the middle because of the short-yardage situation. When they see all those bodies heading for that hole, they do, too. The more offensive bodies they see going in a direction, the faster the defenders run, which takes them away from the bounce-out hole. That enables Dan or Rashad to bounce it outside for a big gain.

    But Skrosky is not interested in two touchdowns—three if you believe Dan’s film analysis. As was said of Steve Spurrier in Sports Illustrated in November of 2002, he is more interesting in winning his way than in winning. That would help explain why Skrosky went 1-9 in his debut as an Ivy offensive coordinator.


    A more likely explanation is that Skrosky is just so insecure that he cannot regard a suggestion or deviation from his instructions as anything but a threat. I have seen this behavior pattern repeatedly among football coaches with regard to my Football Clock Management book. In fact, we have seen it from Skrosky with regard to that book. Coach Tellier has a copy of my book. I gave it to operations manager Michael Griffin (a great guy). Tellier got it from Griffin.

    In the spring and summer, Dan noticed that the coaches were putting in a few of the things I recommended in that book. When Dan made a comment to that effect to Skrosky, he shot back that he got that stuff from his “15 years of coaching.” Well, of course, he couldn’t possibly have learned anything from a book written by a player’s father.

    Anyway, I noticed that as I told various coaches about the ideas in my clock management book, I got two distinct responses. The insecure coaches—typically high school assistants—would demand to know my coaching background. When they learned I coached youth football, they laughed in my face and stalked off. When I did a clinic, a number of audience members stood up and walked out the moment I mentioned coaching in a youth football game. I was not invited back to that predominantly high school clinic.

    But when I spoke at the American Football Quarterly University, I got the opposite response. That clinic was attended by NFL, college, and top high school coaches. Guys whom I had watched on TV were sitting in the room taking copious notes as I spoke. One NFL coordinator said he came to the three-day convention just to hear my talk. Another NFL coordinator asked me to autograph his book. NFL and college head coaches have personally called me to buy the book—including Harvard’s Tim Murphy. One college head coach said it was the best football coaching book ever written. In addition to NFL Hall of Fame coach Marv Levy, college head coach Hal Mumme and Sports Illustrated’s “Dr. Z” said all coaches should read it. Some high school coaches have highly recommended it. Tyrone Willingham—now head coach at Notre Dame—then head coach at Stanford—came to my house with some other college coaches to hear the rehearsal of my AFQU talk. You get the idea. I was invited back the next year at AFQU. The organizers said my clinic was the talk of the first year meeting.

    Why the vastly different reactions? Top pro and college coaches are secure in their confidence about their competence. When they hear an idea, they can and do evaluate it on its merits. Insecure coaches, on the other hand, can only evaluate according to the background of the speaker.

    A youth coach once spoke right after legendary Penn State coach Joe Paterno in the same clinic room. To the youth coach’s astonishment, Paterno remained, sat in the first row, and took many notes during the youth coach’s talk on the midline option. Finally, the youth coach could not contain himself and commented about Joe being there. Joe got up, took the mike, and said something to the effect of, “I have not been happy about the way we block the midline. I wanted to hear your ideas. I like them. I am going to implement them at Penn State.”

    That's how secure coaches behave. They recognize good ideas when they hear them, regardless of the source. “Fifteen years of coaching” is how insecure coaches behave.

    Clock management

    Let's talk about clock management. That is one area where I know more than the Columbia coaces. Did they manage the clock correctly during Dan’s four years at Columbia? Hell, no, although few coaches do. Did it cost them any games? You bet.

    In 2000, we were 3-7. Had we done every single thing exactly the same, but managed the clock correctly, we would have been 6-4—Tellier’s second winning season. Which games did we lose for clock-managment reasons? Bucknell, Princeton, and Cornell. In the Bucknell and Princeton games it was a simple matter of not slowing down when we were ahead.

    As I recall, both games were won by end-of-the-half scores by the opponent. All we needed to do was wait until the end of the play clock to snap the ball, stay in bounds, simple things like that, and we would have won. My clock-management book says you should do that all the time when you are ahead, with several exceptions, but the Bucknell and Princeton games were so close and the game-winning or game-tying scores so close to the end of the half that we only would have needed to manage the clock correctly for one or two more plays, not the whole half. But we did not and we lost. That is entirely the coaches’ fault. They had listed my clock-management exertpertise in their media guide in 1991 and 2000 (in the blurb about Dan)—but they never availed themselves of it by reading my book or talking to me about it.

    Opponents buying my book

    As I said elsewhere in this page, Harvard’s head coach bought my clock book. When Dan was being recruited by Yale, the offensive coordinator had a magazine that I was a columnist for—American Football Quarterly—on his desk,. When I mentioned that I wrote a column in it on clock management, he said they had used a column I wrote on taking a knee to create a take-a-knee table that they used in games. Another 2002 opponent bought a half dozen copies of my book. Bucknell’s play-by-play announcer, who was a sectionmate of mine in grad school, shared his copy of my book with Bucknell’s head coach. Bucknell was a Columbia opponent in 1999, 2000, and 2001.

    Cornell 2000

    The 2000 Cornell game was a bit more complex, but was another clock-management loss. As Cornell was driving for the game-winning core, I said Columbia should be calling timeout. Although Columbia was ahead at the time, it was apparent from field position that Cornell had a good chance of scoring. This was what my book calls a pace-graph situation. Cornell should be trying to score, but to do it slowly so Columbia has little time to come back. Columbia should be doing the opposite, mainly, calling timeout as soon as the previous play ends. The basic idea is that Cornell has more than enough time to score, therefore any time saved will only benefit Columbia in case Cornell does take the lead. Columbia actually agreed with me and did call one such time out during Cornell’s drive, but if they had adhered to my book’s advice, they would have called another one or two as well.

    On our ensuing drive to try to retake the lead in the game’s final minute, we actually got to the Cornell one with first and goal with :01 left, but our attempt to spike the ball failed to get off in time and we lost. During that drive, we called our last timeout on an inbounds play that gained a first down. That was a mistake because the clock stops temporarily to move the chains when you gain a first down in college. We could have and should have simply lined up to run another play while they were moving the chains. Then we would have had a timeout left at the one and almost certainly would have scored with multiple tries from the one.

    I believe we also failed to kill clock when we were ahead before Cornell’s game-winning touchdown. Had we done so, they would not have scored because they would not have had enough time.

    In 2001, we had two close losses as I recall. I have not analyzed either to see if it was a clock management loss. Just going on general averages, I expect one or both were clock-management losses. That is, if we had managed the clock better, even for just a few plays, we would have won one or two of those games. If they were both Ivy League games, we would have been 5-2 in Ivy play instead of 3-4.

    In 2002, we had five one-score losses.

    1. Princeton—32-35

    2. Lafayette—21-28

    3. Dartmouth—23-24

    4. Cornell—14-17

    5. Brown—28-35

    Princeton 2002

    Princeton scored a touchdown on a Hail Mary pass from midfield on the last play of the first half. Since they only won by 3 points, this was obviously a margin-of-victory score. Set aside the fact that everyone in the stadium knew it was coming and we still let them complete it.

    The clock-management question is should we have taken more time off the clock in the first half so that it would have ended with Princeton farther from the end zone, thereby preventing the score? We took the initial lead 7-0 with a touchdown at 8:03 left in the first quarter. We got the ball back at 4:02 left in the first quarter. Because we were ahead, we should have operated in accordance with my slowdown rules. Did we?

    We had the ball for six plays. We did not gain a first down, but we committted three penalties and had to play two plays over. In a slowdown, you generally use up :40 per play. That would be 5 x :40 = 200 seconds plus the six or seven seconds that your punt takes for a total of 206 seconds or 3:26. In reality, our possession started at 4:02 and ended at 1:33. That means we only took 2:29 off the clock. The problem was we threw an incomplete pass and stopped the clock temporarily for the three penalties. We may also have, and probably did, snap the ball before the end of the play clock. Time left on the play clock at the snap does not show on the play-by-play.

    Princeton tied the game with 14:52 left in the second quarter. After trading the ball back and forth, Columbia scored a touchdown with :38 left in the half. Should we have taken more time off the clock on that scoring drive? Perhaps. My book contains a pace graph which is to be used by both teams just before halftime. It paces your progress down the field to a score so that you do score, but you leave as little time on the clock as possible for the other team to do likewise before half time.

    We got first and goal at the Princeton 2 yard line after an interference call with :42 left in the half. Derek Smith got the ball and scored around left end.

    Did we screw up scoring so fast? Not really. When you want a touchdown, you have to take four shots at the end zone. When you want only a field goal, as at the end of a game, you could deliberately let the clock run down to :03, then kick.

    We then kicked off to Princeton. They returned the kick to the 32, then ran two plays to get to midfield. Then they scored with the Hail Mary. Had we waited until the end of the play clock to snap on the above-mentioned drive, either Princeton would have had to try the Hail Mary from farther out than the 50, or they would have only had the kick return or not even that to try to score.

    But we still could have screwed up the clock management in the first half and won the game with correct clock management in the second half. With 5:55 left in the third quarter, Princeton scored a touchdown to take the lead. We should have gone to a hurry-up mode at that point. Get out of bounds when possible, snap the ball at the beginning of the play clock, and so forth. Did we? No.

    On our next drive, we ran eight plays in 2:36. The fastest you can operate is about six seconds per play. In this case, we took 2:36 = 156 seconds ÷ 8 = 20 seconds per play. That’s a medium pace, not a hurry-up. Five of the eight plays were incomplete passes which stop the clock and only consume about six seconds each. So we spent about 156 - (5 x 6 = 30) = 125 seconds running the other three plays: two runs and a punt. Punts take about seven seconds, so the two runs apparently consumed about 125 - 7 = 118 seconds or 59 seconds per play. That is an extreme slowdown pace at a time when we should have been in a hurry-up.

    In such situations, someone in the home crowd has been sarcastically yelling, “Take your time, Ray,” for all the years I have been attending Columbia games. This was apparently a case where that was an appropriate sarcastic remark. Tellier or Skrosy apparently took his sweet time calling the plays after the running plays, thereby burning up almost two minutes more than necessary. It would have been nice to have had those two minutes when we had Princeton in 3rd and 16 at their own 49 at game end.

    Our next drive took ten plays and consumed 3:38. It ended with a touchdown that gave us the lead. I remember the play. Derek Smith was hit by a defender, bounced off, and went in for the score. It showed good toughness, balance, and second effort on Derek’s part and poor tackling technique on the part of the Princeton defender. It was the only time all year I saw Derek break a tackle.

    Should we have been in a hurry-up during that drive? Yes, until it became highly probable that we were going to score and take the lead. When did that occur? When we got first and goal at the Princeton 1. We scored on the second attempt. So we should have been in a hurry-up for the first eight plays of that drive. That would have give us additional time at the end of the game. We should have been in a slowdown after we got to the 1, but that would have only been for one play because the clock stopped after the second (TD) play.

    Next time we got the ball, we should have been in a hurry-up because we were behind. We ran nine plays and took 3:08. At the maximum hurry-up pace of 6 seconds per play, we would have taken 9 x 6 = 36 seconds off the clock. So we Take-your-time-Rayed 3:08 - :36 = 2:32 off the clock unnecessarily.

    We got the ball again when we still were behind and ran 4 plays that took :51. Ideally, we should have used up :06 on each of the first three plays and about :07 on the punt. That would have been :25. So in this case we took :51 - :25= :26 more off the clock.

    Princeton scored another touchdown at 4:30 left in the game to make the score 35-24. We needed to be in a maximum hurry-up to score twice in the remaining time. We ran a 19-play drive (wow!) that scored seven points and consumed 3:42. 19 plays x 6 seconds per play is 114 second or 1:54. So we wasted around 3:42 - 1:54 = 1:48. The Princeton lead was now only three points, but there were only :38 left in the game. The game ended with Princeton having 3rd and 16 at their own 49.

    If we had managed the clock correctly in the second half, there would have been about three to five minutes more left at that point. Would we have scored to win the game in that time? No one knows. But it would have been nice to have the chance. We did not because we wasted that three to five minutes going too slowly when we were behind in the second half. Of course, if we had managed the clock correctly in the first half, Princeton would not have scored the just-before-half Hail Mary and we would have won 32-28.

    Some may accuse me of hindsight. Bull! My clock-management book was written long before this game was ever played. I have analyzed the game according to what my book says we should have done at each key moment in the game. The book is based on probabilities. As is usually the case, what the book said to do would have won this game.

    Lafayette 2002

    The Lafayette loss is an obvious clock-management loss. We were up 21-0 in the first half. We should have been in a slowdown for almost the entire half—except the very beginning. Instead, we were in a no-huddle—copying Harvard’s undefeated 2001 team. The no-huddle saved time. We did not need that, but Lafayette did. We also called a timeout with 1:33 left in the first half when Lafayette had the ball. That saved 12 to 40 seconds for Lafayette—who scored with :08 left. What were we thinking when we did that?

    They scored what turned out to be the magin-of-victory touchdown eight seconds before halftime. Had we killed clock as we should, those eight seconds would not have been there and Lafayette would not have scored that touchdown. Same is true for the second half. We had the lead for most of the time. We should have been staying in bounds, waiting until the end of the play clock to snap, and so forth. Instead we ran the no-huddle, which almost always helps the trailing team and they used the extra time we saved for them beat us 28-21.

    Lafayette score the final go-ahead touchdown with 3:56 left in the game. They had scored the tying touchdown with 8:10 left. We should have been in a slowdown for the possessions before that tying touchdown. In the second half, we ran 5 + 4 + 4 + 8 + 3 = 24 plays while we had the lead and they took a total of 2:15 + 1:43 + 1:30 + 2:49 + 1:31 = 9:48. That’s 24.5 seconds per play.

    Could we have gotten closer to 40 seconds per play enough to kill four minutes more? That would take an additional 4:00 ÷ 24 plays = 10 seconds per play. We threw six incomplete, clock-stopping passes during the second half when we were ahead. Probably some had to be thrown, but all of them? With three running backs, we couldn’t pick up first downs without so much passing? We probably went out of bounds a number of times during that period. The play-by-play does not mention out of bounds when it occurs. Each out of bounds stops the clock, thereby helping Lafayette.

    We called a timeout when Lafayette had the ball, the game was tied and they were on our 20 at 5:55 left in the game. Smart. That is what we should have done in the 2000 Cornell game. But as with the 2000 Cornell game, we only did it once. We should have called three timeouts during that drive. Lafayette ran three more rushing plays that kept the clock running before they scored. Only one of them stopped the clock temporarily to move the chains. We should have used or other two timeouts at that point because when you use timeouts on defense, they save about 40 seconds each—because the other team is in a slowdown. Instead, we saved them when we were on offense, at which time they are only worth about 12 seconds each—because the team hustles to the line between plays.

    I cannot tell because of the lack of pertinent information in the Columbia play-by-play, but I suspect we could have killed another four minutes in the second half if we had abided by the clock-management rules when we were ahead. We also could have saved more time for our comeback once we fell behind. Hunsberger was sacked three times for a total of 31 yards on the final drive. That killed a lot of clock. He needed to get rid of the ball both to stop the clock and to save the yards. Most clock-management mistakes are the coaches’ fault. The sacks were probably the QB’s fault.

    Dartmouth 2002

    Against Dartmouth in the second half we had 9 + 6 + 4 = 19 plays that consumed 3:08 + 2:42 + 1:02 = 6:52 when we were ahead. That’s 21.6 seconds per play. Should have been around 40. If we had taken another, say, 10 seconds per play during that time, the game ends 19 x :10 = 3:10 sooner. When you consider that Dartmouth scored the final go-ahead TD at 2:24, ending the game 3:10 sooner would have been a good thing.

    How about our one drive to come back after we lost the lead the last time? It was 10 plays that took 1:40. That’s 10 seconds per play. Can’t complain about that. Excellent clock management. On one play in that drive, the play-by-play says Dan fumbled out of bounds forced by Dartmouth’s Kevin Hogan. Bull! Dan deliberately lateraled the ball out of bounds to stop the clock. The Dartmouth players complained to the officials that Dan did it on purpose. Hogan was probably just one of the complainers.

    We should have used all of our timeouts on our final drive. We used one then and one for a meangingless timeout when Dartmouth was taking a knee at the end of the game. We still have the third one—for next year, I guess. This from a team that says in their media guide that one of their players’ fathers is a football-clock-management expert. Embarrassing.

    Cornell 2002

    Cornell kicked a field goal, which turned out to be the margin of victory, with 4:56 left in the first half. Could we have eliminated that score with clock management?

    We had taken the lead with 8:23 left in the first quarter. We should have been in a slowdown thereafter for the rest of the half. Our next possession took 10 plays ending with a punt. In a slowdown tempo, you use about :40 per non-punt play. That’s 8 x :40 = 320 seconds or 5:20 plus another :07 for the punt. The time we actually used on that drive was 4:24—not too bad. We could have used another 1:03 ideally.

    The following possession was seven playis ending in a missed field goal. Ideally, that would have consumed 6 x :40 = 240 = 4:00 plus the field goal or about :04 for a total of 4:04, We actually used 2:25. There’s another 1:39 we unnecessarily left on the clock.

    Next drive lasted three plays and ended with an interception. Should have taken :40 x 2 = 80 or 1:20 plus the interception which was probably about :06 for a total of 1:26. Actual time consumed was 1:35. Not a clock mistake.

    Then Cornell kicked the field goal at 4:56. Could we have eliminated that much time before that? No. At best, we could have used another 1:03 + 1:39 = 2:42, not 4:56. Did we help Cornell by stupidly calling any timeouts when we were on defense? No. We called no timeouts the whole first half.

    We took the lead 14-10 with 3:17 left in the game. Cornell then drove down the field to retake the lead at :25 left 17-14.

    We got the Cornell kickoff at the 50. We then threw two passes to Dan for 16 yards and 10 yards. Both gained first downs and stopped the clock temporarily. We called timeout after the second play stopping the clock at :07. Nick Rudd then attempted a 41-yard field goal. The snap appeared to be bad (one-hopper) to me. I thought Rudd should have hesitated a split second to let the holder get it up, although that might have allowed Cornell to block it. (I was a place kicker among other things in my playing days.)

    We should have run another play in this drive before attempting the kick. Although a bad snap would doom an attempt from any distance. We had previously wasted one timeout with 9:05 left in the third quarter. My clock-management book says you never call a timeout in an odd-numbered quarter. We only called two timeouts in the second half. We still had one left in spite of wasting the one in the third quarter.

    Although we generally did not manage the clock correctly in this game, it was not a decisive factor in the loss. (Giving Dan only two carries and two passes in this game might have been a decisive factor. Rashad got 28 carries—one shy of Dan’s total for the whole 2002 season—and 3 passes. Rashad averaged 3.5 yards per carry in this game. Derek got 3 carries and 3 passes. Had Dan gotten their carries and catches and surpassed them in yards per carry and/or per catch in this game as his career stats would indicate, we probably would have extended one or more of our possessions—thereby maybe eliminating a Cornell score—or scored another time ourselves.)

    Brown 2002

    This was a see-saw battle the whole game. There was no missed opportunity to manage the clock better. There were few times when we should have been operating slower or faster. We scored just before the first half ended and Brown did not. Brown scored the winning touchdown at 1:02 left in the game. We ran six plays in :58 in the final drive, which ended in a Hail Mary interception as time ran out. So this was not a clock-management loss, although it may have been another game where Dan’s ability as a ball carrier could have been decisive. Rashad got 11 carries and averaged 1.6 yards per carry. Dan got one. Rashad also got 3 passes; Derek, 8. Dan only got two, one of of which was incomplete.

    Ray Tellier’s record if he manages the clock correctly

    At the end of 2001 spring practice, Tellier told Dan that he wanted to talk to me about clock management. When Dan told me that, I wrote a letter to Tellier telling him I would be delighted to help him, explaining what days I would be in New York, and pointing out that Operations Manager Michael Griffin already had a copy of my book that Tellier could borrow. Tellier never followed up or mentioned getting any help from me on clock management again.

    If he had managed the clock according to the rules in my book, Tellier’s record for the last three years would have been improved as follows:


    With clock management
    2000 3-7 6-4
    2001 3-7 5-5
    2002 1-9 4-6

    If he had given his most productive running back more snaps and passes in 2002, he might have also won the Cornell and Brown games, which were close, but not clock-management losses. That would have given him a 6-4 record.

    Running backs

    Offensive coordinator Skrosky apparently does not understand the concept of a running back. An offensive coordinator not understanding the concept of a running back is akin to a carpenter not understanding the concept of a hammer. Here’s the concept (I coached running backs a little in high school). Running backs have special skills. Most importantly, they are among the 5% of athletes who are elusive. They also have some speed and an inclination to explode into people who are coming at them from the opposite direction. Normally, thinking everyone is out to get you is a paranoid delusion. But if you are a running back carrying the ball, it is no delusion. Running backs have the shortest NFL careers.

    To use a running back in the ball-carrying mode, the coach prescribes the running back’s path prior to his getting the ball. After the running back gets the ball, you do not prescribe his path. Then, he uses that rare ability to make cutting decisions and cuts at blinding speed—the kinds of moves that inspired many of Dan’s defensive teammates from youth to college to ask him, “How do you do that!?” (Running backs do not know how they do it.) Skrosky repeatedly chewed Dan out for not always going to the sideline on the option and similar criticisms. Ever heard the phrase, “Run to daylight?”

    You can tell the running back where the hole is supposed to be. You can point out that there is often a cutback opportunity on a particular play. You can suggest pre-snap reads of defenders’ locations. You can tell the running back not to run backwards or sideways as a general rule, but otherwise, you have to let him do his thing. Running backs react to defenders. They do not plan their routes.

    'Stats don't matter'

    Late in his senior season, Dan went to Coach Tellier to complain that his performance was the best among the running backs, but he was getting third-string playing time. Tellier laughed in his face and said “Stats don’t matter.” When you consider that his career head coaching record is 62-121-3 (41-96-2 at Columbia) and he had never been fired, you can understand how he might acquire such a notion.

    Actually, some stats matter a lot at Columbia—like Rashad Biggers’ bicep and thigh circumference or Derek Smith’s screen-play yardage in the Princeton pre-season scrimmage. Dan says he ran for about 20 yards on each of the first four carries he got in the Princeton scrimmage. Unfortunately, these appear to have been invisible plays to the Columbia coaches. Derek’s screen passes in that game, on the other hand, are engraved in stone.

    Here are the career stats of the 2002 running backs at Columbia, as well as their number of attempts. I have placed them in a 10-row table to try to give a sense of proportion.

    The first shall be last and the last shall be first

    Career yards per rush
    2002 Rushes per game
    Career yards per catch
    2002 Catches per game
    Dan 76/367 = 4.83
    Rashad 11
    Dan 26/225 = 8.65
    Derek 4.4
    Rashad 27/179 = 6.63
    Derek 55/229 = 4.16
    Derek 6.1
    Derek 40/251 = 6.28
    Rashad 2.3
    Rashad 111/448 = 4.04
    Dan 3.2
    Dan 1.9

    Not only was Dan deprived of the playing time he earned, his teammates were deprived of the services of their best running back. Dan averaged 4.83 - 4.04 = .79 yards per carry more than Rashad. If you give Dan all of Rashad’s carries, the team gains 110 x .79 = 87 yards more in 2002. Dan averaged 4.83 - 4.16 = .67 yards per carry more than Derek. If you give Dan all of Derek’s 55 carries, the team gains 55 x .67 = 37 more yards. Adding the two gives the team 87 + 37 = 124 more yards for the season. Do the same with the catches and you get another 149 more receiving yards. We lost five close (one score) games in 2002. Might the extra 273 yards Dan would have gained given us a first down here, a field goal there, a touchdown there—two or three more wins? Might have even been enough to preserve Tellier’s job.

    Had I been coach, I would have used Dan as the main guy—as long as his performance remained the best—but I would have used Rashad more than Dan was used when he was second-string to Jonathan Reese in the 2000 and 2001 seasons. In the 2002 Fordham game, there were times when Rashad or Derek were called on to run the ball play after play—at a no-huddle pace—to the point that you could see them getting visibly tired and less effective during the series. Meanwhile, Dan, who was announced as the starter for the game, was standing on the sideline fresh as a daisy. That was dumb. I would use the second-string guy to spell the first string guy whenever there was any hint of fatigue from a long run or succession of tough runs.

    It should be noted that catches per game is generally the same as passes thrown to them per game. Dan only dropped one game pass in his college career (Harvard 2002). Maybe two. I would have to see the video on a 2002 Brown drop. He may have been hit simultaneously with the ball arriving. I would not expect anyone to catch while being hit. Rashad did have a little problem with dropping passing—not bad—but he did drop a ball here and there. Derek also dropped a few.


    Same is true of fumbles. Dan only had one in his career (Yale 2000). He wasn’t hit. He caught a screen pass and was so anxious to go score that he failed to tuck the ball properly. Dan was charged with a couple of fumbles in the 2002 season, but they were end-of-game two-minute-drill situations where it was important to get out of bounds to stop the clock. I wrote the book Football Clock Management, remember? Dan and I had discussed that you should lateral the ball out of bounds if you could not run out of bounds in such situations.

    He did against Dartmouth and Yale in 2002. Against Dartmouth, the opposing players screamed, “He did that on purpose,” to the refs. So? But the running backs coach and offensive coordinator told Dan what he did was illegal. “My dad does not make this stuff up. He checks the rule books when he writes stuff like that. Besides, if it was illegal, why were we not penalized?” Dan also did it in the Yale game and was about to do it in the Harvard game, but he managed to run out of bounds.

    Derek had one lost fumble in 2002. Rashad fumbled twice in 2002—one to the other team. When Rashad fumbled in the Harvard 2002 game, the coaches made excuses about the defender hitting the ball with his helmet. Since when does that excuse a fumble? You either carry the ball against your stomach in that situation so that a helmet just drives it against your body, or you absorb the blow with your shoulder instead of your hand. Excusing Rashad’s fumbles was another example of the blind-to-negative-input favoritism that Columbia coaches used to lead the team to a 1-9 season.

    Dan versus Jonathan Reese

    Jonathan Reese was the main tailback at Columbia in 2000 and 2001. He signed with the Jets in 2002 as a rookie free agent, but was cut before the season started. (The last guy picked in the NFL draft is called “Mr. Irrelevant” because of his slim chances to make a team. Rookie free agents are even less likely to make the NFL than Mr. Irrelevant.) Last I heard he was assistant strength coach at Columbia. Jonathan was Ivy League rookie of the year as a freshman and all-league every year thereafter. I believe he also led the league in kick returns one year. He broke a great many Columbia career records.

    But Dan always had more yards per carry than Jonathan. Does that mean Dan was a better running back? No. Jon was heavier, stronger, and most important, much faster. Dan may have had a little bit better vision and a little bit better hands.

    Too much Jon

    The problem was that Jon was our whole offense. We had excellent receivers, but our passing game overall was not consistent during those years. The quarterback would sometimes make great plays, but other times not. This meant that defenses could come into the game with Columbia figuring that if they could stop Jon, they could stop Columbia. They were able to use alignments and personnel packages better suited to stop Jon and less able to stop the pass because of our inability to be consistent passing.

    In a balanced offense, Jon is probably about a 6 yards per carry tailback in the Ivy League. But in 2000, Dan averaged 5.6 yards per carry and Jon only 5.1. For his career, Jon was 4.5. The problem was the defenses, in effect, were able to get away with sort of double-teaming Jon. The obvious solution is to attack the areas they were neglecting so they could focus on Jon. We tried to do that with our passing, but not successfully enough.

    ‘7’s at slot’

    Once, we tried to do it with another running back. In the 2000 Princeton game, Dan went to tailback and Jon to slotback. Dan said the Princeton defenders were yelling “7’s at slot” and pointing at Jon (number 7). They figured it was a pass to Jon. The quarterback held the ball up as if to pass, Jon ran a pass route, then they gave the ball to Dan on a draw play that went 15 yards straight up the middle. I was impressed with the coaches and delighted that they had found a way to defeat the overemphasis on stopping Jon—especially considering it used Dan.

    They never did that or any such thing again. When he ordered my clock-management book by phone, Harvard coach Tim Murphy and I discussed this. I said I thought they should put both Dan and Jon on the field at the same time more and fake to one and give to the other as each attacked a different area of the defense. Murphy agreed. I also suggested that our then qb, Jeff McCall run with the ball more, which would have a similar effect. Murphy disagreed with that. He said we just needed a better passing quarterback.

    One-back, one dimension

    But Coach Tellier seemed to be addicted to the one-back offense, so we remained a one-dimensional offense during the Jonathan era. The overuse of Jonathan may have hurt in other ways. In 2001, Jonathan missed spring practice—all of it—because of injuries. How many other members of the Columbia team do you suppose could have gotten away with that? Ivy football coaches hate it when a player even plays a spring sport.

    Jonathan also missed the entire week’s practice before the 2001 Dartmouth game. Dan was second-string. He took almost all the snaps that week in practice and figured he would likely start. Nope. Jonathan played almost every snap in that game. When Dan missed a Monday of practice in 2002 with gastroenteritis and said he felt like he might throw up the next day at practice, the coaches used that as an excuse to reduce his playing time in that week’s game against Lafayette in 2002. Apparently missing practice by Jonathan has a whole different meaning from the same thing by Dan.

    I got a sense that the main purpose of the 2001 season was less to win games, than to get Jon into the NFL. Playing him when he was injured—not only at Dartmouth which we beat, but also throughout the season—seemed to be an effort to conceal from NFL scouts the fact that Jon could be injured.

    Best in Columbia history?

    Tellier says Jon was the best running back in Columbia history. In terms of speed, size, strength, I suspect he’s right. But in terms of his ability compared to his nationwide peers, no way. The high point of Columbia football came in 1947 when they ended defending-national-champion Army’s nation-leading unbeaten streak at 32. The star running back that day was Lou Kusserow. He also played defensive back.

    Ending Army’s unbeaten streak in 1947 would be like ending Miami’s win streak in 2002. Could a Columbia team led by Jonathan Reese do that? Not a snowball’s chance in La Jolla.

    Tellier often notes that Jonathan broke a bunch of records. True, but they are all records where coach favoritism is either crucial or at least a big assist. How does coach favoritism manifest itself? Number of attempts. Jon holds that Columbia record for both career (521) and season (263). If the coach gives Jon the ball more than any other coach gave the ball to any other Columbia player in history, you are likely to break various records related to cumulative totals.

    Jon holds the following other Columbia records:

    Two of those records are a bit annoying to me. In the 2000 Dartmouth game, Dan was in at tailback. Jon was out. Dan hurdled a defender at the line of scrimmage, a photo of which was in the newspaper, and after a cut or two, seemingly went 28 yards for a touchdown busting a tackle at the end of the run. Turned out, he had stepped out of bounds at the two when the defender hit him.

    Dan was then removed from the game, Jonathan entered. The coach gave the ball to Jonathan and he scored a touchdown. I was listening to the WKCR student broadcast at home in California. My wife was at the game. WKCR’s excellent student announcer Mike Shenkman reacted something like this. “Dan Reed has to be leading the NCAA in yards per carry. The first time he ever touched the ball as a college varsity player he went 48 yards against Fordham. Now he goes 26 yards against Dartmouth. Hey! They’re taking him out and putting in Reese. That’s not right! When a guy carries the ball 26 yards to first and goal at the two, you let him stay in and get the touch.”

    Jon needed Dan’s touchdown to get the season points and touchdown records. His 2000 single-season scoring records beat Lou Kusserow’s 1948 season by 6 points—114 to 108—and one touchdown—19 to 18. Your welcome, Jon.

    Yards per attempt

    No single stat really captures who is the best running back, but the one that comes closest is yards per attempt. Does Jonathan hold that record? Nope. Those records are:

    game—Bud Hunter 16.4 Syracuse 1944 (minimum 7 attempts)
    season—Lou Kusserow 5.9 1948 (minimum 75 attempts)
    career—Howard Hansen 6.2 1949-51 (minimum 175 attempts)

    Jonathan’s career yards per attempt is 4.5. Reese’s best season was 2000 when he averaged 5.1. Dan averaged 5.6 that year, but only got 39 attempts. Jonathan had a record 263. Dan was never eligible to break any of those records because he never got the required minimum carries.

    Then and now

    When Tellier calls Jonathan the best Columbia running back ever, citing career and season records, he should note the differences between the rules and number of games between eras. When Kusserow played, Columbia only had nine games per year. Now they play ten. Kusserow did play all four years, but there have been times when NCAA rules limited players to three years because freshmen were not allowed to play. There are also more plays per game now. There were about 57 per game per team in the late 1940’s. Now there are around 70 per game—more when the team uses a whole-game no-huddle as Columbia started to do in 2002.

    There is no question that Jonathan deserved first team all-league in 2000 and second team in 2001. I suspect he deserved Ivy Rookie of the Year in 1998. I was not around then. But I think the team was hurt somewhat by a preoccupation with and overreliance on Jonathan.

    The best high school team in the universe is De La Salle of Concord, CA. The last time they lost a game was in 1991 to Pittsburg (CA) High School. That loss ended a long win streak. Their current win streak is about 132 and broke the old national record of 72. 1991 was Amani Toomer’s senior year at De La Salle. He was pre-season All-American then, starred at Michiagan, and now with the New York Giants.

    De La Salle was a veer triple option team then. They are still, but less so. After the loss, De La Salle coach Ladouceur said he felt they got away from their strength that season because they thought that if you have an All-American receiver, you ought to use him. They threw too many passes to Amani and ran too few option plays. I think, to a lesser extent, Columbia made that mistake in 2000 and 2001. Too much Jonathan. Dan and the other backs should have been used more to spell Jon when he was tired or injured, to block for Jon or to run behind his blocks, and to fake to draw attention away from Jon, or vice versa. Also, the QB should have run more.

    Don’t get me wrong. By all accounts Jon is a great, quiet young man. He and Dan are friends. Other than perhaps staying in whan he was injured or tired to the point that the team suffered, I do not know of anything Jon ever did wrong. The problem was coaches—coach favoritism making them blind to what was best for the team.

    The Tellier way

    In my book Youth Baseball Coaching, I said 98% of youth baseball coaches were incompetent. I then defined competence as when you could fill in the blanks of the following sentence. “Year in and year out Coach _____’s teams are always good at ______.’ If you can truly put in a coach’s name and some skill, he is competent, at least at one thing. The more things you can put in the last blank, the better he is. For example, Virginia Tech head coach Frank Beamer’s teams are always top notch at special teams.

    And year in and year out, Ray Tellier’s teams are always good at what? Losing? As far as I can tell, losing is the only hallmark of a Tellier team. Winston Churchill once commented at a dinner that, “This pudding has no theme.” Same is true of Tellier. Or if he did have a theme, it was being fashionable.

    Fashions sweep through football coaching with more power than hemline changes in Paris. Coaches are terrified of being fired, so they stick with whatever’s fashionable so they can’t get blamed for using a bad offense or defense. If you use the same offense and defense as the league champ, you can blame the players for your lack of success. Tellier’s favorite excuse for losing was that “somebody needed to make a play and nobody did.” That’s coach code for blaming the players. Since coaches can’t make plays, the statement that we lost for lack of plays is a way of putting the blame on the players. Another line many coaches use to subtly blame the players is, “The best team won.”

    Tellier used a bunch of shotgun in 2002. It was all the rage. He also adopted the bubble and slip screen plays and whole-game no-huddle after Harvard used them very effectively against us and all their other opponents in 2001. Those things are also popular this year. Tellier is a me-too, copy-cat coach. The problem was not that the Tellier Way was wrong. Rather, that there was no Tellier Way.

    The correct approach to choosing an offense and defense is to look at your personnel and the opposing teams. You want to pick the offense that best pits your strengths against the opponents’ weaknesses. On defense, you want to pick the defense that best pits your strength against the opponents’ strengths. Obviously, that requires different approaches every year as personnel graduate and new players enter the college. Tellier did that a little bit in 2002 by using more option to take advantage of QB Steve Hunsberger’s abilities.

    But throughout the last four years, it has seemed to me that we passed too much and ran too much one-back. In 1999 and 2000, we had great running backs coming out our ears. (Several of them quit the team; others graduated.) But we did not have a great starting quarterback. So what do we do? We run a one-back offense with lots of wide receivers and pass a lot. Why not run a two- or three-back offense to take advantage of all the great running backs and admit that we’re not knocking the world dead with our passing. For example, in 2002, the obvious scheme to match our running backs would be a Wing-T with Rashad at fullback, Dan at tailback and Derek at wing back. Or maybe a wishbone or flexbone with Rashad at fullback and Dan and Derek at half back or wing. That would force teams to play the run more, thereby enabling us to get more out of our passing game. Of course, the wide receivers would hate their numbers being reduced to put more backs on the field, but we did go 1-9, folks. Obviously we should have been doing something differently.

    It appeared that we did not do that because two- and three-back offenses were out of fashion and Tellier did not want to be different. Plus, if it didn’t work, critics would blame Tellier for using an obsolete offense. By using the fashionable offenses, he could say, “It can’t be our scheme. We use the same as the other teams.” In fact, I think it was our scheme to a large extent because we needed to be different from the other teams because our personnel were different.


    Many of the players at Columbia who do not get much playing time figure they should hang on until senior year. Then they’ll finally get to play. That was Dan’s motivation for his first three years. Plus, that’s what Tellier told him in the last year.

    Coaches need to give playing time preference to seniors when they are better than or equal to underclassmen at the same position. Seniors typically have more experience which has some value. If coaches do not give seniors preference over equally talented underclassmen, they inspire other underclassmen to quit the team. If there is no senior-year pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, why hang around doing all the work?

    What they did to Dan in 2002, and to some other seniors, is likley to cause some current underclassmen to quit the team. I think Dan was a little bit better than Rashad. But even if he was equal, he should have gotten the lion’s share of the playing time because he was a senior and Rashad was a junior.

    Rashad and Derek now have to worry about whether the coaches will make them the Dan Reed of their senior years. There are some promising underclass running backs. Another freshman class is coming. Transfers can always appear. I suspect it is likely that both Rashad and Derek will experience during their senior years disappointment like Dan did in 2002. Derek is simply too small to play running back in the Ivy League. He was lucky to have the coaches he did in 2002. With each passing year, Rashad’s stats will likely reveal more and more that he is not as good as his physique suggests.

    Tellier fired

    It is now 11/26/02. Dan has just sent his mother and me an email saying that Columbia head coach Ray Tellier has been fired—four years too late for us. However, it appears that Coach Skrosky will be retained. He is more to blame for the 2002 season than Tellier. Before Skrosky became offensive coordinator, Columbia at least won 3 games a season.

    If Columbia continues with the same inept approach to hiring head coaches as it has for the last 132 years, they will probably name Skrosky head coach and Columbia will go 0-10. Anyone dumb enough to go to Columbia after reading this deserves Skrosky as head coach.

    ‘Quick, get me an idiot’

    When we first got involved with the Ivy League in recruiting, I figured each college would be coached by a grad who had been a star there. I also figured the assistants would probably be grads or grads of high academic football programs like Stanford, Northwestern, Duke, and so forth—you know—because they would understand football with high academic standards.


    There is only one Ivy head coach who played Ivy football: Dartmouth’s head coach is a Penn grad. Did the others all graduate from colleges with high academic standards? Here are the colleges of the various non-Dartmouth Ivy head coaches and their selectiveness as rated by U.S. News.

    Central Connecticut State—least selective
    Union—more selective
    Cortland—not listed in U.S. News rankings of the U.S.’s best 1,400 colleges
    New Hampshire—less selective

    Tellier graduated from U. of Connecticut—selective

    And since I’m bringing this up, you’re probably curious as to where I graduated from: West Point—more selective—and Harvard Business School—most selective.

    Columbia is rated most selective.

    If a guy ran into the athletic building at Baker Field and yelled, “Quick, get me an idiot!” where would you go? Not to the locker room. Nobody there but guys who got admitted to Columbia University. You’d go to the coaches’ offices, of course. And you’d have plenty to choose from. There’s Bob Muckian, the fifth running backs coach Dan had in four years. I hardly know anything about him, but offensive coordinator Skrosky once commented that someone needed to fire that idiot after Muckian left the room. He said this to a room full of players and coaches. This apparently was not considered improper because he was not telling anyone anything they didn’t already know.

    Or there’s Ciarleglio. When defensive coordinator Erv Chambliss ripped his headset off and hurled it to the ground at least once during a game, it was because Ciarleglio was spouting maddening nonsense from the booth.

    As Dan was walking off the field at Brown after the last game of his football career—yet another heartbreaking last-minute loss—Ciarleglio decides it’s time for sharp-tongued criticism about the speed with which Dan was moving—this in front of my 15-year old son and me who were walking with Dan and talking to him. Consider also that the seniors were not returning to Columbia on the team bus. A father had rented a special mini bus for just the seniors to go out to dinner and travel back to NYC together. So what was the hurry? And what is the authority of the defensive line coach to administer a public tongue-lashing to a senior running back after the season is over? I asked the guy, “Whaddya gonna do? Bench him?” He informed me Dan was still a member of the team. For any purpose other than reflexive ass chewings from clueless staff? Then Ciarleglio’s brother pointed to me and said parents like me were the reason we were 1-9. Finally, the mystery is solved. I feel bad that Ray Tellier got blamed for my incompetent and decisive performance as third-string running back’s father.

    Too dumb to play, but smart enough to coach

    It is a dirty little secret of Ivy League football, but in almost every case, Ivy League coaches are guys who could not get into an Ivy League college any other way but as coaches. They brag about how smart their players are, but they seem to feel threatened by those same IQs. They ought to be listening to such players for suggestions. From what I’ve heard, they don’t.

    My books on coaching tell stories of how players as young as nine gave me suggestions that I immediately adopted because they were good. Once, during a time out when I was a freshman high school offensive coordinator, my 14-year old quarterback, who was playing his first year of football, told me the oppposing defense never had anyone in the 1 hole all night. He suggested a play called 31 base—an ultra-simple, reverse pivot, straight-ahead dive play to the fullback. “Sounds good. Run it.,” I said. It went 60 yards for a touchdown and I spent the rest of the game bragging on the kid for suggesting it. Columbia’s coaches seemed to treat players’ suggestions as challenges to their authority or competence.


    One of the things that most shocked and disappointed me when I began coaching football was the dominance of politics rather than merit in the selection of coaches. At the 2001 Spring game, Skrosky and his wife went around the post-game meal room shaking hands like some city councilman in a tight race. “He did everything but hand out campaign buttons,” was the comment I made to a number of people. The sad fact is such politicking is more imporant that merit or performance in getting football head coaching jobs. If anything, the people who hire the coaches and athletic directors are even bigger politicians than the coaches. Bosses tend to pick people in their own image.

    Does Columbia University hate athletes?

    As I noted above, Dan rejected Swarthmore in part because we got the distinct impression that they hated athletes there. As if to prove us right, two years later, they terminated their football program, which was one of the oldest in the world. I asked my son if Columbia was good in any sport. He heard we were in women’s cross country. Even John Reeves finds a good coach every now and again—like the blind pig looking for the acorn. If you are interested in another sport at Columbia, check their history. If it’s consistent losses, go somewhere else.

    The Swarthmore coaches seemed to be having a war with their admissions department. The admissions director can destroy a football team anytime he wants and is permitted to do so. The typical admissions director did not play football and does not like football players. I did not get the impression that Columbia’s troubles were caused by an overly uncooperative admissions office. Occidental told us they had had such a problem, but no Ivy League team did.

    What about facilities and equipment? I think Columbia’s facilities are just fine. We toured them all. They were all about the same as the rest of the Ivy League. The big problem with Columbia in that regard is that the practice and game fields are 102 blocks away. Dan had to go farther to practice than to some of his away games in high school. That is a significant problem in that it consumes about an hour extra a day. The Columbia players do not notice because it’s ambient. But their studies probably suffer compared to other Ivy teams. Yale has a similar problem with the practice and game facilities being far from campus.

    Do the Columbia players get fan support? Not really, but they get a ton more than the coaching deserves. Columbia fans should get medals for a century of unrequited support. There are a lot of football haters at Columbia—probably more than at other Ivies—but I suspect the majority of Columbia students would like to be proud of their football team. It’s not their top priority, but they don’t like attending a college where the team is a punch line much more than the players do.

    Does Columbia have some sort of systemic recruiting disadvantage (other than a losing football tradition)? I would think the opposite would be true. Columbia is in Manhattan. One thing the Columbia students and parents I know have universally agreed on is that New York City is a fantastic place to go to college. When Dan was in high school, I told him Harvard was the gold medal of college admissions and that Boston was the best town to go to college in.

    Harvard still seems to be the gold medal of college admissions, but I stand corrected regarding the best town. New York City is the best town to go to college in. Whatever Boston might point to as supporting its claim of best college town, the New York City area has more of it. That would include such Boston specialties as college students and seafood. Boston is a very small place compared to New York City, But New York is easy to get around in because of mass transit. About the only thing Boston has more of is cold weather. When I was in college in upstate New York, we tried to go to New York City whenever possible. We never went to Boston or even considered it. My wife and I enjoyed Boston as grad students, but I suspect we would have enjoyed New York more. I told a Columbia coach they were crazy to take the team photo and individual player photos at Baker Field. “Every team in America has a field. You’re the only one with with a Times Square.”

    The other Ivy League locations are Hanover, NH; Ithaca, NY; Providence, RI; New Haven, CT; Princeton, NJ; and West Philadelphia. No contest. What college student from elsewhere ever said let’s go to a non-college town the size of New Haven or Hanover for some fun. Nevertheless, my impression is that Columbia generally loses out to Harvard, Princeton, and Yale when competing for the same athlete. A Division I-AA non-Ivy head coach told me he beats out Columbia for athletes. I thought our talent was generally comparable to the rest of the league, but we may have been a bit below our opponents if you put a finer point on the analysis. Certainly, we have not had our share of all-league players in recent years, but I have been at all-league meetings in high school and know that can be political or related to who won the chapmionship. I suspect we could be more successful recruiting and that our lack of playing field success is partly due to lack of recruiting success.

    What about coaches? Ah, there’s the rub. Columbia football coaches have been terrible throughout their history with a few exceptions. Columbia has one of the longest histories in all of football. Most fans know that the first ever football game was between Princeton and Rutgers. But did you know that the second ever football game was between Columbia and Rutgers?

    Columbia’s all-time winning percentage is .366 (347-559-43). No Division I-A team has a winning percentage that low. No Division I-AA team that started playing football before World War II has a winning percentage that low. Columbia started playing football five years after the Civil War! Only three of the young Division I-AA teams have winning percentages lower: Charleston Southern, St. Peter’s, and Siena.

    By definition, average is .500. That is, there is one winner and one loser per game. As a result, most colleges have long-term winning percentages around .500. Not Columbia. They have been distinctly below average throughout their history.

    The last Columbia coach to have a winning rate above .500 was Notre Dame legend Charles Crowley at .619. He left Columbia in 1929. Columbia was good for about six years around the turn of the century, then again for five years with Crowley. Tellier actually has the best winning percentage since Crowley. I think he was 41-96-2 at Columbia—a 41 ÷ 139 = .295 winning rate.

    I read somewhere that athletic director John Reeves said that his goal was for Columbia teams to win most of their games and to win the Ivy League championship at least once every eight years. Well, isn’t that politically correct? I guess we’ll lose four games a year. Does he pick the opponents in question in advance or is the team supposed to put the motto, “When the going gets tough, make that opponent one of our four losses” on the locker room wall?

    Why win the Ivy League championship every eight years? There are eight teams. We have to share.

    Actually, I don’t think Columbia does have to share. If we win the next 16 Ivy League football championships in a row, we will have averaged about once every eight years (17 out of 128). We only won it once in history—in 1961—and we had to share that one with Harvard. They have a banner about it in their stadium. It doesn’t mention Columbia or that it was a co-championship. Columbia flies no banner celebrating that championship. Other banners for other years would be too conspicuous by their absence. Penn’s Franklin Field is festooned with championship banners.

    If Reeves really said that “win most and Champs every eight years,” he is either dishonest or really incompetent. If winning most of our games was the goal, why was Ray Tellier head coach for 14 years? Oh, he was NCAA Division I-AA Coach of the Year in 1996. Considering that was the only season he had a winning record in his 14 years at Columbia, that was mighty generous of the NCAA. Now that we have seen six more years since 1996, it is apparent that Tellier should send that award to the guy who really earned it: Marcellus Wiley. Wiley played for Columbia that year. After Columbia, he was all-pro with the Bills and Chargers. If winning most of our games was really Reeves’s goal, he would have fired Tellier after his first three seasons—all 1-9.

    If winning most of our games were really Columbia’s goal, John Reeves would have been fired after Tellier’s fourth year. Apparently Reeves and Columbia are lying about winning most of our games being the goal. When they start holding coaches and athletic directors accountable for not winning most of their games, we’ll start believing that’s the goal. Same applies to the Ivy League championship goal.

    I suspect that the powers that be at Columbia secretly take a perverse pride in having a losing football team—as if it were proof of their academic seriousness. Harvard seems to be able to win both the academic competition and the Ivy League championship.

    Columbia banned football for nine years—1906 to 1914. You might think that’s ancient history. Not so fast. Change comes glacially at institutions run by tenured professors.

    SMU was given the “death penalty” by NCAA for recruiting violations. That is, their program was shut down for one year—no practices, no games, no scholarships, no recruiting. They never recovered. Columbia gave itself the death penalty—for nine years! They did subsequently have success under Crowley, so they recovered at least temporarily. But the banning of football for nine years at Columbia still says a lot about attitudes at Columbia toward football.

    All colleges should give a new coach who seems to be making progress at least four years to turn the team around—five if you want to be generous to the coach. I takes four years for all your players to be your own recruits rather than the previous coach’s. Has Columbia let coaches with losing records stay around for more than five years? They sure did with Tellier. He was there 14 years. The only Columbia coach who lasted longer was Lou Little, and he beat Stanford in the Rose Bowl. Little’s winning percentage was .488—not too bad.

    Columbia needs to give new coaches a reasonable schedule—something like: beat the previous year then improve to a winning record by the end of your fourth year. I do not know if they pay enough or conduct searches for new coaches competently. Apparently not. Although they have not had much practice lately.

    At Columbia, stuff is named after head coaches who lost most of their games—sort of the Columbia equivalent of Bear Bryant Way or Duffy Dougherty Avenue.

    Columbia Football is a punch line. The students put on an annual show that makes fun of the football team. When you mention that you played college football or that your son played college football, the next question is “Where?” When you answer Columbia, about 1/3 to 1/2 the time with men, they laugh in your face and ask, “Did they ever end that losing streak?” (Columbia has the second longest losing streak in Division I history: 44 games from 1983 to 1988. Only Prairie View lost longer: 80 games from 1989 to 1998) Or you get comments like, “Do they have a football team?” “Columbia Football. Isn’t that an oxymoron?”

    My son had the talent to be recruited by Dartmouth and Yale. Had he played for either of them, the football fan response to the “Where did you play?” answer would likely be just, “Ivy League, huh?” No insults. The effort made by the Columbia players is no less than the effort of the other Ivy teams. Dan trained with other Ivy Leaguers in the summers. If you go to an Ivy League school other than Columbia and play football, your talent and effort will be respected. If you take that same talent to Columbia, and make that same effort, your talent and effort will be mocked by your schoolmates and a significant percentage of the football fans you meet for the rest of your life.

    I don’t think Columbia hates athletes the way we got the impression Swarthmore did. But I think it’s fair to say that athletics are not a priority for the administration at Columbia—to the point that they will let a Ray Tellier nullify the efforts of decades of players. This may sound like no big deal, but a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. It is highly annoying to be busting your butt twelve months a year for a school that can’t be bothered to make sure you have competent coaches—to lose and lose again, even though your team has the ability to win—because of incompetent coaches. The opposite of love is not hate. It is indifference. Columbia’s authorities are indifferent to the performance of their coaches.

    The 3/17/03 Sports Illustrated carried yet another ignominus story about Columbia athletics. In their weekly “Go figure’” department, they started with an item about Columbia’s losing every Ivy League football game and every Ivy League basketball game during the 2002-2003 academic year—the first time any Ivy team had ever done that. They did not mention that athletic director John Reeves fired both of those coaches after the season in question. Nor did they mention that it was Reeves who thought they should be there at the start of the seasons in question. Now if Reeves would just fire himself, there might be some progress toward self-respect on Columbia athletic teams. Until then, no self-respecting athlete should play for Reeves.

    A new president took over at Columbia University in 2002: Lee Bollinger. He was previously president of Michigan. Michigan knows about winning athletics. The previous Columbia president—George Rupp—was formerly the head of the Harvard Divinity School—not a football power. I doubt Bollinger was brought to Columbia to turn it into Michigan. I suspect he came to Columbia, in part, to get away from that atmosphere. But how about a compromise? Don’t turn Columbia into Michigan. Just turn it into Harvard—both academically and athletically.

    Never another great play

    Football has been the center of Dan’s life since he was eight years old—and a big part of the rest of our family’s lives as a result. Throughout that time period, there was always the hope that the next season or next game or next play would be a great one for Dan. He made many great plays, including during the 2002 season, most notably the catch that set up the game-winning field goal with 15 seconds left agaist Fordham (who went to the Division I-AA playoffs and won one game there).

    Until now,there was always the chance for the 1,000-yard season or the 100-yard game or the game-winning play or the spectacular run or catch or block. That’s what we miss most. Now, suddenly, there will never be another great run or catch or block or game or season. Even Chicago Cubs fans always have next season. But when an athlete runs out of eligibility, it’s over. No “Wait til next year.”

    Dan did have a number of 100+ yard games in high school. He could have in college, too, if the coaches had given him the ball enough times. He would have needed it 18 times in one game sophomore year, 20 times a game junior year, and 21 times senior year based on his career yards per carry at each point. But the coaches never gave him that many carries. They did give Rashad that many carries, but he was never able to gain 100 yards.

    Dan ran well enough to have a 1,000 yard season, but he never had a coach who would let him carry the ball enough times. Sophomore year of high school, he averaged 7.3 yards a carry—at fullback no less. He would have only needed the coach to give him 139 carries. Given his college career yards per carry, Dan would have needed 1,000 ÷ 4.83 = 207 carries for a season to gain 1,000 yards. In 2000, Jonathan Reese got 263 carries. That was also the year Jon got the only 1,000-yard season in Columbia history.

    Tips on being the parent of a college football player

    There are a lot of little things that parents of college football players should know so tave some time and money. I’ll give you the Columbia tips and you can interpolate to your college.


    Columbia gives out a list of hotels in the area including cheap ones. I tried the cheap hotels called Malibu Studios and the Hotel Newton. On two occasions, Malibu Studios took my credit card to guarantee the room, then told me when I arrived late at night that they had rented my room and were giving me $20 to take a cab to another, distant hotel where they had made arrangements for me to stay. In each case, they phoned to make sure, learned that the distant hotel had never heard of me, then said they had a room at Malibu for me after all. I stopped going there.

    Newton was OK, but 14 blocks from Columbia. Also, they often told me they were full.

    Then I discovered Columbia’s in-house hotel—the sixth floor of one of the modern dorms. What a deal! $100 a night and hyper convenient. Dan’s junior year, I stayed in the same building as where he lived. They were a little difficult to deal with. Student employees who were often semi-competent. Once, they confirmed my reservation, then reneged on it saying a big meeting wanted all the rooms. So tell them one has been taken and they can have the rest! The reservation was for the fall of 2001. Because of 9/11, I suspected that the meeting wimped out on travel. Sure enough, the room was available again and I got it.

    In the spring of 2002, I tried to make a reservation for the in-house hotel and it was booked. But the clerk suggested I try the Union Theological Seminary. It is catercorner from Columbia on Broadway above Barnard College. $125 a night. Older than the Columbia rooms, but just as nice generally. I stayed there almost all the rest of my trips. Got to know the clerks by their first names. Only had one little mixup on reservations and that was corrected as I stood there. It’s also fun to say at JFK when the limo drives asks a group where each is going. When you say Union Theological Seminary, everyone figures you’re a minister or some such.

    There are also some really good deals at Columbia Teachers College, which is across the street from the north side of Columbia. $60 a night. I never stayed there. Also I heard the rooms were worth $60 compared to what you got for $100 at Columbia.

    My wife preferred the Pickwick Arms in midtown Manhattan. I did not like it because you had to take three subways to get to Columbia. Marty liked it better than the places I stayed because the neighborhood is full of shops and restaurants. The Columbia neighborhood isn’t much fun unless you’re a college student.

    Most colleges probably have similar secret good places to stay. How do you find out? Ask the parents of the graduating seniors. These deals are limited so the parents probably aren’t too eager to share them until graduation. I deliberately refrained from writing this section until Dan’s senior spring.

    Transportation to and from the airport

    Initially, I always flew to LaGuardia. The travel books said that was best for going to Columbia because there is a city bus that costs $1.50 from the airport to Columbia. Unfortunately, LaGuardia is quite obsolete—too small and too old.

    On my first trip, I tried to board the bus with my luggage giving the bus driver two one-dollar bills. Ehhn! Wrong! Coins only. So I backed down the stairs to the great annoyance of the people behind me, fished six quarters out of my pocket, and reboarded the bus. Thereafter, I always had a Metro card which you just swipe through the toll machine on the bus or at a subway station.

    Then Jet Blue was invented. It flies out of Oakland Airport, which is closer to where I live than San Francisco. Also, it was cheap and non-stop to New York. Unfortunately, it goes to JFK, not LaGuardia. There is no single bus from there to Columbia, but you can take a subway if you are willing to make one connection. A free shuttle bus takes you from the airline terminal to the Howard Beach subway station. Grab a free subway-bus map as you enter the station. Take the A train and transfer at 59th Street to the 1 line to finish the trip to Columbia. I would not do it with checked bags, but I rarely had checked bags—only carry-on.

    I got pretty disgusted with Jet Blue at the end though. They always made me go through full security checks coming and going. I don’t know why. I suspect a clerk may not have liked a book I was reading or something and put a permanent black mark in the computer about me.

    The subway toward Manhattan always worked well for me. I always did it on a work day, usually Friday. But I tried to use the same route to return to the airport on Sundays. Slowly it penetrated over the months that this was not working very well. The trains don’t run as much on Sundays. Once I watched a bunch go by before I noticed a small cardoard sign saying the train to JFK was not running and you had to take another, then get a shuttle bus to the JFK subway stop. That worked, but greatly lengthened the time of the trip. Finally, I started using Super Shuttle for my Sunday return trip to the airport.

    They are a little bit of a pain because they want a street address for their computer and give a discount if they pick you up at a hotel. Often, I wanted to be picked up at my son’s dorm. I knew the nearest intersection, but not the street address per se. Super Shuttle told me to get lost unil I had the street address. I had to call California to get it because I could not leave the room and get back through security, and Dan’s mail was all to a post office box.

    Then, when I learnd of their hotel discount, I got picked up at the Union Theological Seminary, but it took me a while to convince them that it was a hotel. When it’s a hotel, they run the hotel phone number through their computer. I was smart enough to have the street adress the first time I called to be picked up at the Seminary, but it never occurred to me to know the phone number. I had to call back after I got it. If you follow in my footsteps, you probably won’t have a problem. Because of me, Super Shuttle now knows UTS is a hotel and has the phone number in their computer.

    Airport food

    I was not that thrilled with the food at the Jet Blue JFK terminal, so I explored the others. Terminal 1 is a jazzy new International terminal and seemed to have better food. I would get dropped off there before my returns to CA, then take a free airport shuttle to Jet Blue Terminal 6 after I ate. This also drove Super Shuttle nuts. When you make a reservation, they want to know your airline and flight number then they pick a time to pick you up. I wanted to be picked up earlier and to go to Terminal 1, not Jet Blue. So I had to explain all that every week. I probably should have just learned the number of an appropriate Lufthansa flight to keep Super Shuttle’s life simple.

    San Francsisco Airport has a great restaurant called the Crab Pot, but there is no decent place to eat at Oakland Airport.

    Away games

    I never did this, but learned from another parent after the final game of Dan’s career that parents can save money by booking the same hotel as the team for away games and telling the hotel you are part of the Columbia party. You don’t tell any lies. Tell them you are a player’s parent. You are just making the Columbia group larger and thereby helping yourself and the team get a bigger discount.

    I always stayed with friends for away games, except for the final game in Providence, RI. Don’t know anyone there.

    After away games, Dan and I always went back to NYC together. Otherwise, he would get on the team bus and I would only have about 20 minuts to visit with him—after coming all the way from California! F’get about it! In every case, Dan and I took the train. Amtrak from 30th Street Station in Philly after Penn games. Amrtak from Princeton Junction after Princeton games. Metro North after Yale games. Amtrak out of Boston after Harvard and Dartmouth games. He was supposed to ride Amtrak with his youngest brother and me after the Brown game, but another father rented the seniors a minibus so they could have a final post-game dinner and ride back to NY together.


    Each player gets a certain number of tickets for each home game and a lesser number for away games. But he can generally get as many as he wans from other players who are not using any of theirs. At each game, there is a player will call window and a visiting team will call window. They have a list. You show your ID and sign for the tickets.

    I had a couple of initial problems at Princeton (never heard of you) and Penn (your son only signed up for one ticket), but I was able to talk my way into getting the tickets I needed each time.

    ‘At least he got a good education’

    Everybody says, “At least he got a good education” when they hear how Dan’s college football career ended up. Did he? I asked Dan about that.

    He says he is getting a good education, but the dynamic that causes it is not what you would expet. Columbia students are really the creme de la creme academically. You have to be to get in there as a non-athlete. Second, the courses use a devil-take-the-hindmost curve in grading. Bottom line, you are forced to get a good education at Columbia because of the quality of the other students and the on-the-curve grading.

    One of Dan’s roommates is from Michigan. He had some visitors who are Michigan State students. He took them to class at Columbia. They expressed astonishment that the Columbia students were really serious about learning in class. They said at Michigan State, the same class would have featured a group in the back of the room drinking whiskey out of a flask and other groups engaging in various conversations and ignoring the professor.

    You should note that conspicuous by their absence in this analysis are Columbia professors and administrators. Dan has had two Columbia-level instructors in his four years there. That is, the quality of their instruction was what you would expect of a place that charges $140,000 for the instruction.

    So bad he stayed home

    The other instructors ranged from OK to awful. Dan refused to attend a number of his courses, relying totally on the exams and papers to get his grade, because the instructors were so deadly boring or so incompetent at speaking English that attendance would have been an obvious waste of time. The latter group were grad students for whom English was not their native tongue. Their accents were so thick that no one could understand what they were saying.

    I used to give seminars on real estate investment and football coaching. If I had ever provided an instructor whose English could not be understood, the attendees would have revolted within about 20 minutes and demanded their money back. Dan says it’s the same at other Ivies. So? Compounding an outrage by eight does not diminish the outrage. The federal government sued the eight Ivies not long ago for the anitrust violation of colluding on scholarship offers. They should sue them again for colluding on providing worthless instructors. Even if there was no conspiratorial meeting on the matter, there is certainly conscious parallelism.

    West Point instruction

    My higher education experience was quite different. At West Point, class size was absolutely limited to 15 by long tradition. Our professors were generally young West Point grads who had done extremely well in the subject when they were cadets, had perfect military careers, were sent to grad school by the Army to study the subject in question, then reported immediately to West Point to teach that same subject for three years. No publish or perish. No tenure except for department heads.

    After West Point, the professors went back to the Army, so they were extremely eager to do well as instructors to get a good efficiency report for their tour at the Military Academy. Among the instructors we had when I was there were Norman Schwarzkopf (commander of allied forces in Desert Storm), Pete Dawkins (Rhodes Scholar and Heisman Trophy winner), Josiah Bunting (Rhodes Scholar, author, and college president), Dana Mead (Fortune 500 CEO), and George Lincoln (head of Nixon’s Wage and Price Commission). West Point was no hotbed of debate, nor were our instructors leaders in their fields. We had no Nobel or Pulitzer Prize winners. But at least they were extremely competent and totally focused on teaching us. They more than earned their pay and the taxpayers got great value for the money they spent on our instruction.

    Harvard Business School

    At Harvard Business School, they have a tradition of teaching excellence.You have to send in a photo and background including your nickname before you enter. The professors have to memorize everyone’s name, face, and nickname before the students arrive each September. Several of the instructors I had at Harvard were so good I was astonished (guys like Steve Star, John Shank, Warren MacFarlane, and Earl Sasser—to Harvard’s discredit, both Star and Shank were denied tenure, that is, fired, at the end of my first year there). I told others at the time that I did not know an instructor could be that good until I came to Harvard. We gave them spontaneous standing ovations at the end of a number of classes.

    The average instructor at Harvard was better than the best at West Point. Only a couple were poor teachers and they were typically in their first or second year of a two-year probation having just come to Harvard. We were required to grade the instructors at the end of each course and our grades were apparently relatively important in their getting tenure or not—Star and Shank notwithstanding. The Harvard teachers were leaders in their field. I have been seeing them on TV and in national print media then and ever since. So there is nothing instrinsic about higher education that requires the institution to use lousy instructors.

    Columbia has a distinguished faculty—somewhere

    I get the impression that Columbia has a distinguished faculty—in terms of their education in their field and what they have published and national and international honors. Rhodes Scholar and former Clinton big shot George Stephanopolous frequently appeared on TV with the words “Professor, Columbia University” across the bottom of the screen. Vice President Gore taught at Columbia after he lost the 2000 presidential race.

    The problem with this distinguished faculty is that they seem not to have any interest in Columbia undergrads. They research. They publish. They schmooze. They bask. They parade. They pontificate outside the classroom. But they don’t teach undergrads.

    The undergrads frequently get what are called student teachers in the high school world, only unlike high school, they are the only instructors the course has for the entire semester. While the university charges $40,000 a year to the students for instruction, the grad student instructors threaten to strike because they are quite obviously underpaid. Unfortunately, as far as imparting knowledge to the students is concerned, many of the underpaid grad student instructors are getting more than their instruction is worth.

    What you emphasize, you achieve

    I also get the impression that skill at teaching ranks far lower with Columbia administrators than it did at West Point or Harvard Business School. As we say in coaching, you get what you demand, you achieve what you emphasize, you encourage what you tolerate. At Columbia, they tolerate lousy teaching and emphasize and demand publication and other outside-of-the-clasroom activities.

    You pay top notch tuition at Columbia. But the only things that are top notch at Columbia other than the tuition are the students, alumni, and city. The physical facilities range from excellent to rundown. The faculty, coaches, and administrators must be excellent at something, but is sure isn’t at earning the $140,000 they charge the undergrads.

    Value added or just admissions?

    At both West Point and Harvard, my fellow students and I wondered about the value added versus the quality of the incoming students. At each, I believe the graduates are sterling examples of both the selectivity of the admissions office and the value added by the institution. Columbia, however, seems to be all adimssions office and testing. The students largely teach themselves. What value added there occurs without any help from the faculty or administration. What you get for your $140,000 is a sort of license to claim you are a Columbia student for four years and a Columbia graduate thereafter. It’s a racket.

    Why does this outrage continue unprotested at Columbia and the other Ivies? Because the parents and students are so eager to get the credential that they fear saying anything that might hurt their chances. Once there, they have a vested interest in maintaining the facade of overall excellence and staying on the good side of the powers that be for help with job searches, grad school, and so forth. To do otherwise might diminish the value of their diploma or connections. Plus it might keep their kid from getting the same credential twenty years hence.

    Reinvent the elite college

    There really is a great opportunity for someone to reinvent the elite college. India’s Institute of Technology may be a good model. They admit based solely on a test. I do not know the details but I suspect it is a combination IQ and achievement test. By achievement, I mean a test of what you have learned rather than your capacity to learn, which is what IQ tests claim to measure.

    The new elite college I envision would:

    When I was in college in 1967, I was sent to Principia College to represent my school at a huge gathering of students to discuss what to do about the race riots and poverty of the era. At one point, an old professor there was asked what he though the students should do. He said, “Students should study.” Well put. I would add, “And teachers should teach.”

    Winston Churchill once said, “If a man is not a liberal at 20 he has no heart and if he is not a conservative at age 40 he has no brain.” By that standard, Columbia and most similar colleges would be places where the vast majority of the students have hearts and the vast majority of the faculty lack brains—paradoxical though the latter may be. My new elite university would eliminate faculty and administrators with no brains, but not students with hearts. However, it would prevent students from oppressing everyone else with militant, on-campus advocacy of any ideology. No gauntlet of leftist propaganda tables in the quad. No anti-this or anti-that bull horns on the corners.

    Study. Attend class. Engage in spirited debates about politics in your free time, where it does not infringe on the senses of others who have not indicated any interest in your policy opinions, and at a conviction and decibel level that reflects the fact that you are still just a kid who is listed as a dependent on someone else’s tax return.

    Elite colleges have spun off into a parallel universe and they have become so wierd and dysfuncitonal that they need to be replaced. In theory, reform could accomplish that, but because of tenure, powerful concentrations of leftists, and alumni resistance to change, reform of existing elite colleges is probably not a viable option. Let them continue their march off the end of their politically correct plank.

    Class in the Ivy League

    As a former coach, I can tell you that each team has a personality determined mainly by its head coach and to a lesser extent by the administration of the school. I frequently asked Dan about the behavior of the opposing players and officials.

    Princeton has a gorgeous new stadium, but the showers in the visiting locker room only run cold water. That’s the same sort of facade-versus-true-colors mindset that manifest itself in Princeton’s hacking into the Yale admissions computer and Princeton’s sycophantic recruitment of Harvard’s high-profile black studies professor. (One crotchety old professor said colleges should eliminate all courses that have the word “studies” in their titles.)

    Dan said the Dartmouth guys were the best. My West Point roommate, who was the top fall and spring tennis player and the top squash player at West Point played at a zillion colleges when we were cadets. He also said Dartmouth guys were the nicest, and that was back in the late sixties. (I still don’t care for the level of illegal alcohol consumption at Dartmouth.)

    A Penn guy called Dan a “bitch” during a game and that seemed typical of that team. Penn should be paying royalties to the Ivy League. They would lose the most if they were no longer members. A book on the history of Ivy football says the other teams kept them out or tried to throw them out repeatedly over the years. Brown and Cornell had some of that sort of behavior as well. Harvard guys had class. Yale seemed to be sort of neutral.Yalies seem to have the most uniform demeanor of any Ivy. Think of Yale grads like Governor Pataki, Dick Cheney, Stone Phillips, George Bush “senior.” (George Bush “Jr.” is technically a Yalie, but he is also a Texan and Texanness trumps Yaleness.) There is no such standardization at any of the other Ivies, other than the cordiality of the Dartmouth guys.

    If you asked average college-educated people to name the Ivy League schools, most would get Harvard Yale and Princeton. Some would get Dartmouth and Brown. A few would get Columbia. But Cornell and Penn would get about as many votes as Rutgers and Colgate (non-members). There was a Cornell grad in my battalion in Vietnam. Whenever anyone asked him where he went to college, he would answer, “CornellmyparentsandIagreedthatitwasbesttogetanIvyLeagueeducation.” It was a little less obvious than, “Cornell. That’s a member of the Ivy League, you know, like Harvard.”

    Another Ivy League school that ought to pay royalties, albeit for a different reason, is Yale. They should pay Harvard to continue to regard them as their main rival. In reality, nowadays, Harvard’s main rivals are Princeton and Stanford. The glory that was Yale is of another day. Their massive and crumbling stadium embodies that. Yale’s claim to fame and near equality with Harvard hangs by that hyphen that connects them to Harvard as a result of THE Game played annually between the two of them at the end of the season. Harvard should reschedule Yale for the middle of the season and declare Princeton to be their Ivy rival. Of course, that couldn’t happen until Princeton agreed to end its great rivalry with __________. Come on! Name Princeton’s final-game-of-each-season rival. You neither, huh? I had to look it up. Would you believe Dartmouth?

    Columbia’s new coach

    I heard Columbia hired a new football coach. Don’t know him, but I suspect he’s doomed. Columbia retained Rich Skrosky as offensive coordinator and Bob Muckian as village idiot. As far as I can tell, Skrosky’s the main reason Ray Tellier got fired. Before Skrosky was offensive coordinator, Columbia went 3-7, 3-7, and 3-7. Then he comes in and they go 1-9. I was never blown away by the brilliance of the offense the first three years, but at least they weren’t using ineffective running backs in fourth and one.

    Normally, a new college football coach hires all his own staff. Indeed, that is almost universal practice. Jimmy Johnson was the head coach of the national champion Miami Hurricanes and the Super Bowl champions Dallas Cowboys. Here is a quote from his book Turning the Thing Around. “There would have been too many complications, including the matter of who would and wouldn’t be retained from the old staff. I’d already been through one nightmare trying to keep together someone else’s staff, and I wasn’t about to try it again.”

    Think about it. In hiring their new head coach, Columbia said, implicitly, “We believe you are the best guy on earth to head our football team. However, we don’t think you’re competent enough to hire the right offensive coordinator, so we did it for you.”

    I have learned that the new Columbia coach is a Yale grad. That’s encouraging. Dan also says he thinks they have made a number of smart position switches.

    Puke your way to victory

    On the other hand, I have heard some reports that they are trying to puke their way to victory, that is, dramatically increasing the difficulty of off-season workouts to the point that the players are throwing up during them—a common mistake of coaches who take over a losing program. I call that the Bataan Death March approach to football coaching. It’s mating cry is, “We’re gonna be ready for the fourth quarter.” I coached at a high school that used that approach and one that used the opposite approach. The one that did little conditioning, optional off-season workouts, and never hit in practice—Miramonte—won championship after championship. The team that required brutal year-round workouts would be champs one year and in last place the next.

    Why? Kids who otherwise wanted to play on the Bataan Death March team decided it was too hard. Those were the exact words they would use when the coach would accost them in the halls and ask. He would then say that he didn’t want them if they didn’t want to be there and work hard. Problem was, it was not the weakest players who quit the team. Rather, it was a random selection of all ability levels. The Death March team had about 35 players on its varsity, even though the school was 50% larger than Miramonte. Miramonte had 60 to 80 players on the varsity. When Miramonte played the Death March team in the Oakland Coliseum for the North Coast Section Championship, Miramonte won in a rout. The Death March team may have been ready for the fourth quarter, but they were apparently less ready for the first three.

    This is a variation of the nature vs. nurture debate. Many coaches tend to think they make great players with their great coaching. Others think parents give birth to great players and you need to attract them to your team then improve them somewhat through coaching. The latter theory is the correct one—especially in high schools and non-scholarship, non-NFL-feeding colleges.

    ‘The right situation’

    And what about the new head coach? Most good coaches say they will take a job if they, “get the right situation.” What is “the right situation?” First, it means getting to pick your people. Second, it means an athletic director and president who are commited to team success—especially at the college with the worst record historically in all of football. Third, it means a lack of systemic handicaps like a football-hating admissions office or substandard athletic facilities.

    Is Columbia the “right situation?” I would think not. They won’t even let the guy pick his own offensive coordinator. The athletic director is more the cause of the problems of the last dozen years than fired coach Ray Tellier. Tellier was a symptom, not the problem itself. He deserved the chance when he was hired. But he should have been replaced after three or four years. The guy who failed to do that, John Reeves, is still athletic director. He’s the problem. Columbia would need to convince a great coach that it wanted to make a break with its incompetent athletic past. You do not do that by retaining the previous AD and OC.

    I suspect that good coaches who know not to take a job in the wrong situation would hear from Columbia that they could not pick their own staff and that Reeves was staying and say no thanks. In other words, if good coaches only take jobs in the right situation and Columbia is not yet the right situation because of a losing AD and OC, does it not therefore follow that the new guy must not be a good coach? I suspect so. Some will protest that I should not criticize him until he has a season or two under his belt. He’ll get his season or two regardless of what I say. And if he wins league, I will state forthrightly that I was wrong. But truth to tell, I do not believe any coach worth hiring would have accepted a job under these circumstances.

    Skrosky retained?

    How did Skrosky, of all coaches, get retained? As I said above, he is the most shameless office politician I have ever seen in 28 seasons of coaching. And politics, not merit, rules at John Reeves’ Columbia. They sure didn’t get that worst-in-the-history-of-the-world, 125-year, win-loss record by hiring the best available coaches.

    Your son is not likely to learn much about football or peak performance on Skrosky’s offense. But if he watches Skrosky real closely, he can learn Machiavellian boot licking, sucking up, ass kissing, and brown nosing from the best. He’d better. Skrosky has already shown that he doles out playing time to the players who most closely resemble his form-over-substance, if-you-can’t-be-good-at-least-look-good approach to performance.

    Here’s my prediction. The new head coach goes 0-10, Skrosky then gets promoted to head coach. He goes 0-10 for two years, then gets promoted to athletic director, pushing Reeves out. He who hires Machiavelli dies by Machiavelli. With his win-loss record, Skrosky can’t leave Columbia. He has to politic to prosper and he cannot do that anywhere but where he is on a daily basis. Lee Bollinger, watch out.

    The new book Moneyball

    On 5/10/03, I finished reading the excellent, new, non-fiction book, Moneyball by Michael Lewis. He previously wrote two other excellent business books: Liar’s Poker and The New New Thing. I had read the latter.

    Moneyball explains why the Oakland Athletics baseball team, which has one of the lowest payrolls in Major League Baseball, is so successful on the field. Page XIII has a powerful statistic. Over the last three years, the Oakland Athletics have paid about $500,000 per win (payroll for the season divided by wins for the season)—best in the Major Leagues. In contrast, the worst-managed teams—like the Texas Rangers and Baltimore Orioles—paid about $3,000,000 per win.

    The explanation? Oakland Athletics General Manager Billy Beane and his predecessor, Sandy Alderson, rely on stats to evaluate players. They hire Ivy League non-athletes to analyze the numbers to find the best values among players available in the draft or in trades. In contrast, the other teams, according to the book, select players based on whether they look the part and ignore stats that contradict such subjective, irrelevant analysis.

    Isn’t in ironic and maddening that a professional baseball team in California has a higher regard for Ivy League rational analysis of who should be playing on an athletic team than Columbia’s own coaches? Isn’t it ironic and maddening that Columbia’s coaches and their methods of deciding who plays where and how much bear more resemblance to the tobacco-spitting, go-by-my-gut scout villains in Moneyball than they do to its Ivy League heroes? Ray Tellier and athletic director John Reeves—and indeed Columbia football—should have as their epitaph the words Tellier spoke to Dan when he complained late in the 2002 season. “Stats don’t matter.” The broader version, which could be engraved into the exterior wall of Dodge Fitness Center, would be, “Welcome to Ivy League athletics—where rational analysis and objectivity don’t matter.”

    Email from a reader

    Thoroughly enjoyed your Succeeding and Baseball Coaching books.

    Succeednig bookYouth Baseball Coaching bookCoaching Teenage and Adult Baseball book

    Also, from someone who played baseball at Princeton University and then spent 8 frustratingly long years in the Navy (wrought with the same "counselling sessions" you frequently mentioned from your Army days), I find your detailing of your son's football career and your own military commentary to be incredibly accurate. Regarding your son's college recruitment, I've even referred a few people to your web article as I think it's the best description of reality that I've ever come across.

    Dylan Jones <>

    Warnings about college athletics

    College coaches ought to have to give prospective recruits a stock market-like prospectus. Columbia’s would contain something like the following:

    • When you arrive at our campus, some or all of the current coacing staff probably will have been replaced by coaches you never met and who may not like you and think you should not have been recruited.