By John A. Oswald of Newsday, page 2!
Lions May Not Win, But They Can't Lose
At Columbia University, they're calling
today's football game at Princeton the
biggest road trip in the school's history.
If Columbia loses its 35th consecutive
game today, as most students predict - and
some students hope - it will earn the
dubious distinction of being the worst team
in major college football history. The team
has not won a game since 1983.
As many as one-third of the school's
6,000 undergraduates are expected to go to
central New Jersey. The university's
undergraduate dormitory council has
organized seven buses to travel to
Princeton, and other students have said they
plan to drive or take trains.
Yesterday afternoon, the Columbia box
office had sold more than 1,200 tickets to
the game, according to Petrina Long,
assistant director of athletics. For most
away games, school officials say, rarely
more than 50 tickets are sold.
Many of the fans traveling today say they
will openly root for the team to lose.
At one campus party Thursday night, which
organizers said was designed to celebrate
the possible loss, toasts to today's game
"I just hope we lose because if we win,
it will be such a letdown," said Jill Levey,
"We all like being at an academic
institution where everyone is intellectual
and no one can play football. I'm proud that
our boys are wimps," she added.
One student, apparently caught up in the
spirit of the party, said he and some
friends plan to travel to Princeton today
and go a little crazy.
"I wanna wear Columbia clothes and cheer
for Princeton," senior Michael Langer said.
"We're tearin' down the goal post when
they lose," said Alec Foege, another senior.
The school's deans are afraid the party
atmosphere associated with today's game may
get out of hand on the Morningside Heights
campus tonight - win or lose.
"The dean's office has put all the
residence counselors on alert because they
are afraid the place is going to go wild,"
according to Chris Tahbaz, a residence
counselor and first-year law student.
"They made this decision based on what
happened at Northwestern - the place was a
zoo," he explained.
Up until last week - when Columbia lost,
tying the record - Northwestern University
in Illinois held the national record for
consecutive major college football losses.
When that school lost its 34th game in a row
in 1982 to initially earn the big loser
title, the campus went wild.
But not all students at Columbia wish
their team the worst when they play today in
Princeton, which is 2-1 this season. The
stadium there holds 45,000, and sports
officials there expect at least 35,000 to
attend the game today at 1:30 p.m.
"Most Columbia students would be pleased
with the Lions if they can pull it off,"
according to Jason Sippel, a sophomore.
"Many people think they have tried hard and
don't deserve the distinction."
"We'll settle for tying the record," said
junior Liz Pleshette, the manager of the
university marching band.
"I think breaking the record is too much
of a stigma. Besides, imagine how funny it
would be to win against Princeton."
By Tony Kornheiser of the Washington Post. This is actually Pro-Band. Read on.
This Is Columbia - at Its Worst
Each Monday during the football season,
the Washington Post runs a report that notes
various "ups" and "downs" among college
football teams. This week the Post greeted a
team that has been down so long everything
looks like up. The team, of course, is
Columbia University, the pride of New York
City, and the holder of the longest current
winless streak in college football.
Columbia hasn't won a game since the
fifth week of the 1983 season, when it
walloped Yale, 21-18. In its 27 games since,
Columbia has been outscored by 575 points
and has two ties and 25 losses - the last 24
in a row. (Bowie State and Morgan State have
25 successive losses, but that is Division
II) Thus far through the 1980s, Columbia has
posted a 4-46-2 record. That's not a
misprint. Columbia has been beyond bad,
beyond awful, and into terrifying. Columbia
is to college football what salmonella is to
frozen dinners. Take Columbia, please. No,
don't - not even with 34 1/2 points.
"They're in a slump, okay?" George
Starke, class of 1971, said.
A slump? The Miami Dolphins are in a
slump. OPEC is in a slump. Columbia hasn't
had a winning season since 1971. Columbia
isn't in a slump. Columbia is supine.
Most recently, the Lions were beaten by
"Columbia was upset last week," Starke
insisted. "I consider all 24 in a row to be
upsets. Score is no indication of the
punishment they inflicted upon their
Starke played tight end at Columbia.
("People always tell me, `It's no good since
you left.' When I was there, we didn't win,
either. Except we'd always beat Brown. We
could count on it. The worst thing now is
that somehow over the years Brown became
good. Our lock is gone.")
Starke was not just a Big Man On Campus;
by his sophomore year, he was The Biggest
Man On Campus at 6-5, 245. "During the
demonstrations in 1968, the athletes,
invariably the crewcuts, tried to starve the
longhairs out of the sit-in; they locked
arms to cordon off the building. I'd pass
through with food for the longhairs. Of
course they let me through - I'd have
punched them out." (Having graduated with
one year of football eligibility
outstanding, Starke is threatening to return
to his alma mater at tight end. "These last
15 years, I've redshirted," he said.)
Starke remains true blue to Columbia,
notwithstanding the losing. "Columbia likes
to keep things in perspective," he said.
Look at their marching band: never in step,
never in tune, phenomenally funny. Seeing
the band having great fun goofballing around
the stadium sums up Columbia's attitude
toward football. And I wholeheartedly
support it. Look, the practice site is miles
away from the campus. When I was there, we
rode the subway uptown, then walked seven
blocks to the field. Columbia is a very
difficult school. You're better off studying
than practicing football. On top of that,
you always lose. So it has to be fun to go
through all that. You have to want to play
to do that."
Now the players ride to practice in what
is described as "a nice, big bus." So we
presume they're having fun. But can they
win? We don't know if Lou Little's 1933 team
swallowed goldfish, but we know it won the
"I'm very confident," Starke said.
It shouldn't be this hard. "You don't
have to be Bear Bryant to win in the Ivy
League," Bill Steinman, Columbia's sports
information director, said.
"Soon," Starke said. "Look, this team has
lost 24 in a row. How do you approach
playing against a team that lost 24 in a
row? How seriously could you take them? If
the guys at Columbia get really angry, they
could kill somebody."
Tomorrow is Homecoming. This is the 25th
anniversary of Columbia's last Ivy League
championship. And how do you think Princeton
feels about being the Homecoming foe?
Typically, your Homecoming game is the
deadest dog you can schedule. Columbia is
everybody's first choice for Homecoming.
Princeton is 0-3, too. "They've had a
lugubrious start," Steinman said.
(Lugubrious. You think they're saying that
up in Green Bay?) "They have to be a little
nervous. It's one thing to lose to
Northwestern; that's the Big Ten. It's one
thing to lose to Brown; they could win the
Ivy League. It's another thing to lose to
us." Let's see now: Princeton lost to
Cornell, 39-8. Cornell lost to Lafayette,
22-15. Columbia lost to Lafayette, 26-21.
Therefore . . . therefore what? What, is
Lafayette all of a sudden Alabama? What do
they have at Lafayette, a raw meat
If Columbia doesn't beat Princeton,
there's Villanova, playing Division III
football now after discontinuing a big-time
program some years ago. And there's
Dartmouth. Did you check out the Big Green
lately? Another 0-3 juggernaut; lost its
past two games, 45-0 to Navy and 66-12 to
New Hampshire. New Hampshire? Is the Fiesta
Bowl paying attention?
New Hampshire-Lafayette. Take the over.