The Columbia football team should wear Columbia blue uniforms, 2017 edition

One of the primary perks of obtaining a bachelor’s degree is the right to complain wildly about the decisions, big or small, that your alma mater makes long after you’ve graduated.

With great power, as we all know, comes great responsibility. So it is with a great sense of responsibility that I now, for the second year in a row, write a screed about the travesty that is the Columbia football team’s home uniform.

I wrote most of this down last year, and this post repeats and re-alleges each and every allegation from last year’s blog post as if fully set forth herein. If necessary, I will write a post on this issue at the start of football season every year until the Sun finally expands to swallow this Earth once and for all.

The short summary of the problem, for those of you who are bored already, is as follows:

  • Columbia University has a color named after it, Columbia Blue. It’s a pleasant shade of light blue (Pantone 290, to be precise, or the marginally darker Pantone 292 when used by the athletic department) and is the official color of the university.
  • For many years, Columbia’s derelict football team wore Columbia Blue uniforms for their home games.
  • This was the only bright spot for the football team, which has managed to be so bad for so long that even the Washington Generals are curious how Columbia has pulled it off.
  • In 2015, Columbia, finally taking decisive action after 55 years of incompetence and increasingly improbable methods of failure, hired a legendary football coach and changed their home uniforms to be “anthracite” in color.

Let’s stop here to ponder “anthracite.” Anthracite, as my friend Jonathan Jager informed me last year, is “a type of coal found primarily in northeastern Pennsylvania.” So, for starters, “anthracite” isn’t even a geographically appropriate color for the Columbia Lions, who are located in Manhattan, New York City, New York State. (You would think that New Yorkers, not known for their curiosity about any part of America outside the five boroughs, would’ve raised more of a stink about this.)

On top of that — and I really cannot stress this point enough — anthracite is a grey color, not a blue one. This would be like if Brown University, which also has a color named after it (“Brown”) wore green uniforms at home, because green is more manly and rough and whatever kind of bullshit you want to throw out there than brown is.

(In case it’s unclear, my annoyance with the new uniforms is 70% because they only changed colors because some marketing guru somewhere thought grey anthracite uniforms would make the team look tough, and 30% because there’s a perfectly good color called Columbia blue already out there.)

After slogging through 2015 with uniforms that had, essentially, no blue at all in them, the Lions took a baby step forward with their 2016 alternate uniforms, which you can see here. Wow!

columbia football 2 These were better, because (1) they reduced the wretched anthracite tops to only one appearance all season, (2) they actually had some of the color blue in it, and (3) parts of the uniform were Columbia blue! The sleeves and the numbers were restored to the official color of the university. For this bone, apparently, I should be thankful.

However. Let’s look at this helpful graphic on Wikipedia called “shades of blue.” Because it’s on Wikipedia, these are (of course) the only official shades of blue in existence.

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Look at the picture of the alternates. Now back here. What color blue are these alternates? They’re certainly not Columbia blue! I would say it’s either Egyptian blue or “International Klein Blue” (which, according to Wikipedia, is the official color of the Blue Man Group). But, again, the point is that they’re not Columbia blue.

It’s not like the Lions have been world-beaters in any of these uniforms. But it does seem like adding more Columbia blue helps! Since changing uniforms in 2015, they’re 3-7 when wearing white (on the road), 1-3 when in Egyptian blue, and 1-5 in the horrifying anthracite abominations. So — when at home, at least — more Columbia blue helps the team win. Clearly the only solution is to make the uniforms Columbia blue again and the Lions will finally win more than four games in a season.

(Screeds tend to run out of energy toward the end; mine is no exception. It’s exhausting to spend 700 words explaining why this vey obviously wrong thing is wrong. Time for the big finale.)

Peter Pilling and Al Bagnoli, please. You’ve done a lot in 2.5 years in charge of the Columbia Athletics program, from building a beautiful inflatable bubble over Baker Field to making our players no longer insanely racist on social media. You can fix this, too.

It’s so simple.

Call Nike. (They clearly make light blue football uniforms.)

Tell them you want Columbia blue uniforms for the Columbia football team.

 

 

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The Columbia football team should wear Columbia blue uniforms

As any longtime reader will know, this blog is pretty much exclusively limited to topics that are so myopic that they are only interesting to me.

This particular post is probably the ultimate example of that vision, as I’m going to rant for a bit about the color of Columbia’s football uniforms.

Last year, in conjunction with the beginning of a “new era” in Columbia football, the Lions introduced a radical redesign to the traditional Columbia blue shirts that the team has worn for eons. The home uniform is a color called “anthracite,” which is a fancy word here meaning “really black-ish gray.” The road uniform is white, but the main trim color is also “anthracite” rather than Columbia blue.

This morning, I woke up to this tweet, announcing that this weekend Columbia will wear an alternate uniform for the first time.

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Setting aside the misspelling of “Wien Stadium” — which, as the location where Columbia plays its football games, is a word you’d think the appropriate people would spell correctly — these new navy alternate uniforms are not horrible. In fact, they’re perfectly good alternate uniforms. They have an appropriate amount of Columbia blue (sleeves, numbers) and aren’t “anthracite.” That’s enough for me.

But that doesn’t change the overriding point. I hate this entire uniform set so much, because none of the uniforms are Columbia blue.

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Which one is my favorite? I hate all of them.

In these seven uniform combinations, Columbia blue is the fourth most prominent color after white, “anthracite,” and navy. I don’t want to beat a dead horse here, but the color Columbia blue is literally named after Columbia University. It should be one of the predominant colors that a team representing the university wears on the field.

There is no such color as “Columbia gray.” Though I do have a friend from Columbia named Gray. I suppose I could call him Columbia Gray.

There is also no such color as “Columbia navy.” There is a color called “Yale blue.” This color is basically navy blue. Columbia should not look like Yale, which is a different school, located in Connecticut.

I believe that head coach Al Bagnoli and athletic director Peter Pilling sanctioned these sacrilegious strips because they wanted to encourage a clean break with a losing past. And they’re certainly right that the Columbia football team has been very bad. In the 6.2 seasons of Columbia football I’ve had the burden to witness, the team is 10-52.

It might even have made sense to get a new uniform design. The Lions wore their last set for twenty games in 2013 and 2014, and the Lions lost all twenty of those games.

But to cut Columbia blue — the color that represents the University, the color named after the University — down to a mere accent, just because “anthracite” is more menacing or masculine or whatever stupid justification the marketing people at Nike cooked up for the athletic department, is insulting to the school, its alumni, and the entire point of the football program.

(After all, wearing Columbia blue didn’t stop the basketball team from winning the CIT.)

Frankly, I would rather the team never win another game than to continue to dress like a parody of a “serious” football team. Columbia football does not lose because they wear Columbia blue. They lose despite wearing Columbia blue.

I hope that Bagnoli and Pilling realize this and change the primary uniform in time for the 2017 season.

Columbia’s uniform history (2010-present)

It may not be worth tracing Columbia’s recent uniform history, but I’ve already done the research so I’m going to write down what I found.

Going back through the Columbia Spectator’s football archives is truly one of the saddest journeys a person can make. It’s filled with hilarious-in-retrospect sentences like “Pete Mangurian brings a wealth of experience to Columbia” and “it’s no secret that the Lions had a difficult 2013.”

As far as I can tell, the Norries Wilson Lions (2010-11) always wore monochrome at home — Columbia blue tops and Columbia blue pants — while alternating between blue and white pants on the road.

After large screaming man Pete Mangurian took over the program, the 2012 Lions stopped the monochrome look. Columbia blue tops were matched with white pants at home, and the team wore the reverse at home.

As part of Mangurian’s plan to restore the team to respectability, the Lions unveiled beautiful new uniforms before the 2013 season. For two years, the Lions wore Columbia blue tops with no crazy striping and piping paired with sleek white pants trimmed in navy accents at home, with the mirror-image white tops worn with either white or blue pants on the road. A subtle stripe added to the helmets completed the look.

This was a gorgeous, simple set of uniforms, and Columbia never won a single game wearing them. In two seasons, the team went 0-20, culminating in the resignation of athletic director M. Dianne Murphy and the dismissal of Mangurian. In three seasons, the man who said he wanted to use the “W” word — “win” — won exactly three games, finishing on a 21-game losing streak.

In 2015, Al Bagnoli broke out the current gray monstrosities, accented with navy and Columbia blue and with the word “LIONS” written on the pants for some reason. The Roar-ee Lion logo replaced the letter C on the white helmets — the only positive development of this uniform set.

Making matters worse, the team only wore gray pants, so at home the Lions looked like a team of lead pencils while on the road they looked like led pencils with a really, really sharp point. So far this year, though, the Lions did break out white pants for their road matchup against Georgetown, easily the best possible combination. And this weekend against Princeton they’ll wear navy blue for the first time, prompting this fun rant from me.

Game 9: Columbia v. Cornell

The Game, in One Word: Preposterous.

The Game, in Four Words: Columbia 27, Cornell 30.

Was It At Least A Good Day For A Football Game?

“Football weather” is really an ambiguous term, if you think about it. I mean, technically all weather is “football weather,” in the sense that there are very few types of weather in which it is completely impossible to play football. Theoretically you could play football in a hurricane, though I think it would make the passing game a challenge. And when I say “football weather,” what I mean — between 40 and 55 degrees Fahrenheit, minimal wind, not a cloud in the sky — might be completely different from someone from Wisconsin — so cold that individual fingers start to fall off — or someone from Seattle — so rainy that our bodies begin to swell as we must absorb the moisture in the air — or someone from Florida — does anyone actually watch football in Florida? — and so on. Regardless, when I say that the fifth edition of the EMPIRE STATE BOWL took place in perfect football weather, I trust you will know what I mean.

So, Columbia Lost Again?

Yeah.

How Many In A Row Is That Now?

Twenty straight games. The last time Columbia won a football game, the number one movie in America was the instant classic Twilight: Breaking Dawn: Part II. It was a simpler time.

Surely There Was Nothing Especially Bad About This Loss?

Hah! Of course there was! For starters, Cornell came into the game at 0-8, and had submitted a series of woeful performances on the gridiron so far this year, so they’re certainly the worst team the Lions are going to lose to this year. FiveThirtyEight even previewed the game as the worst college football game of the year.

But, more entertainingly, the Lions lost the game because they couldn’t do the simplest thing in football — kick an extra point. After a powerful Cameron Molina run gave the Light Blue a 27-21 lead, Columbia lined up to kick the automatic point after. Of course, the kick was blocked. And, of course, the blocked kick was returned all the way to the other end zone by an alert Cornell defender. Confusion reigned in the stands while fans tried to figure out how many points that action was worth. Turns out Cornell got two points for the PAT return, and it was those two points — coupled with the one point dropped by Columbia — that accounted for the three-point margin of victory for the Big Red.

The Norries Wilson “When Will Pete Mangurian Be Fired?” Death Watch

It would be a massive shock if Mangurian survived more than three minutes after Brown beats the Lions this weekend. Mangurian has been a complete and total failure as Columbia’s head coach, somehow managing to produce a worse and worse team every year. His teams were woefully underprepared and equipped with some of the least intelligent schemes ever concocted by a professional football coach. On top of this on-field futility, he has proved to be a malignant presence in the Morningside community, rude and disrespectful towards journalists while blaming almost every on-field failure on his players. His public Twitter presence disappeared soon after the 2013 Tweeting scandal, and his continued silence says more than the empty platitudes he favored ever could. #PunishMangurian, indeed.

(And yes — if Mangurian is fired consider me a candidate to replace him. #HirePete.)

Is Brett Nottingham Injured?

I hope not. The Stanford transfer got out at exactly the right time — and I don’t blame him for doing so. Mangurian’s penchant for yanking quarterbacks back and forth has been just one of millions of things he’s done wrong (one reason he needs to be fired is to make sure he doesn’t ruin talented freshman Anders Hill). Nottingham worked his ass off for the Lions, sacrificing a full year of his life to get ready for the season and being recognized for it by earning the captaincy. Mangurian gave him three and a half games under center.

Best CUMB Joke of the Day

“As well as the power of Spec’s executive editor going up, the comment count on Bwog going down, and attorney general Eric Holder at an all time sorry for persecuting journalists, the band now presents an all-star halftime gala salute to investigative journalism!”

The joke here is that Holder, a Columbia College and Law School alum, was actually at the game. Why he was subjecting himself to this football game is beyond me, but my understanding is that he was quite a good sport about it with the Band afterwards.

Stray Thoughts

  • You’ll notice I’m light on actual football analysis this week. To be honest, there’s not much to analyze. These two teams are both very, very bad and run very, very basic schemes very, very poorly. The only minor notes I’ll offer are: (1) Hill scored on a bootleg touchdown which was probably the only creative play the Lions have pulled off all year, and (2) the playcalling on the last desperate drive was ridiculous, as it seemed designed to get the Lions to the end zone by about 10:00 left in the sixth quarter.
  • For some reason, one of the giveaways at the game was pink foam whale hats. Surprisingly comfortable.
  • Shout-out to the Park Terrace Deli — located at the corner of 218th and Broadway, it makes some pretty excellent sandwiches at a much better price than you’ll find at Baker. I remain partial to the “Godfather,” which is hot roast beef, provolone, and horseradish — I tell them to hold the onions.
  • This is probably the last thing I’ll write about this team for a while, with the exception of my upcoming application for head coach. Not much more to say except good riddance.
  • It’s time for basketball season. Roar Lion Roar.

Game 3: Columbia vs. Princeton

The Game, in One Word: Fumbled.

The Game, in Four Words: Columbia 6, Princeton 38.

Was It At Least A Nice Day For A Football Game?

Emphatically, no. The heavy rain started well before kickoff and continued through much of the first half, though things mostly cleared up after halftime. Columbia’s FieldTurf surface prevented the game from turning into a mudbowl, but there was a lot of ugly football for the small, covered-up crowd.

Four Things I Think I Think

1. The first half was the best the Lions looked all year. They played tough defense, forcing two turnovers, and moved the ball well through the ground and the air. Cameron Molina played well, with over 100 yards receiving and another 45 on the ground. The Lions even had their first lead of the year! But the offense couldn’t find paydirt — one drive stalled at the Princeton 29, leading to a missed field goal, and the Lions couldn’t breach the end zone after either Tiger turnover.

2. Princeton’s last drive of the first half broke the Lions, as they moved 98 yards in just two minutes to take the 10-6 lead. Agonizingly, the drive continued despite a fumble by Princeton jack-of-all-trades Quinn Epperly which bounced in and out of the arms of several Lion defenders. Epperly also scored the touchdown, punching it in from the 2 as the clock expired — not without controversy, however, as it was extremely unclear whether the Tiger talisman ever actually made it into the endzone. Traditionally, that is a prerequisite to scoring a touchdown, a point made quite loudly by Pete Mangurian as the officials walked past. The Tigers would pile on four more touchdowns in the second half.

3. The lack of a stud wide receiver is really killing Columbia right now. Brett Nottingham must wonder whether his guys ritually coat their gloves in butter before each game, because many of his best throws were simply dropped. The receivers aren’t getting any separation from the cornerbacks, which leads to turnovers — Nottingham’s two picks weren’t great decisions on his part, but they were both the result of plays where receivers failed to come open for him. Whatever injuries are bothering Connor Nelligan and Isaiah Gross, hopefully they heal very soon.

4. I continue to be baffled by the cornerback play of this team, as they too often let their receivers go free without turning back to the ball. On Princeton’s last TD pass of the third quarter, sophomore defensive back Jared Katz completely lost his man in the end zone. From my vantage point, it looked like Katz tried to shove the receiver out of bounds, and believed he had been successful — of course, the receiver simply reset and hauled in the easy catch. (Another interpretation would be that the receiver pushed off, but from my angle that didn’t seem to be the case.) The Lions were marginally better in pass defense today, coming up with a few good break-ups, but this is still the weakest part of the team.

The Norries Wilson Memorial “When Will Pete Mangurian Be Fired?” Watch

Fourteen straight losses must weigh on a man, and we saw the first real flashes of anger from Mangurian today. After the above-mentioned touchdown, Mangurian let the officials have it, relentlessly, until he was assessed a personal foul penalty. Now, I don’t think this is a bad foul to take — it cost the Lions nothing, as the kickoff was likely to be a touchback anyway, and seemed to reject some of the passivity the head coach has shown all year.

But, once again, this passion didn’t come out in the game plan. The Lions were huge underdogs, but Mangurian again and again refused to go for it on fourth down, try any trick plays (or moderately creative ones), etc. The incredible writer Chris B. Brown (@smartfootball on Twitter) and others have talked about “David strategies” vs. “Goliath strategies” — basically, the idea that a heavy underdog can and should attempt strategies that have more risks but the possibility of a big payoff, because otherwise it will be nearly impossible to get a win. Mangurian appears to believe the opposite. (And, on defense, I can’t remember the last time this team did anything interesting schematically.)

I still think it’s unlikely that Mangurian is fired before season’s end. But, if Dianne Murphy were to pull the plug, it would almost certainly happen after the Penn game (week 5) or the Dartmouth game (Homecoming, in week 6). The pressure of Homecoming, where the Lions haven’t won since 2000, might push Murphy to make a move immediately before or immediately afterwards, if it seems necessary to placate an embarrassed fan base. The Lions must be competitive in the next two games to take that option off of the AD’s table.

Best CUMB Joke Of The Day

“Princeton’s most selective eating clubs: The Cap and Gown, The Tiger Inn, The Pastel Sweater.”

Is Brett Nottingham Injured?

No.

Phew. So, are we feeling optimistic after the game?

Not really. It’s hard to sit through a good first half, played in the rain, and watch it all come crumbling down so quickly. Columbia still seems very far away from being a competitive team. These next two weeks — both on the road — will take us to the halfway mark of the season. If they still haven’t scored more than ten points in a game by then, perhaps it would be better to burn Baker Field to the ground than suffer through another Homecoming disaster.

Stray Thoughts

  • I didn’t see my good friend Roar-ee today! Maybe he doesn’t like the rain very much.
  • Nothing particularly interesting in the uniform matchup. The Columbia coaches wore black instead of their usual light blue, which would make a great alternate uniform for the Lions. (Such a thing wouldn’t be unheard of in the Ivy League — Penn has both red and gray alternates, while Dartmouth actually has an alternate helmet.)
  • Props to new placekicker Noah Zgrablich for his lime green kicking shoes, which if I have to guess are borrowed from the other kind of football.
  • I enjoyed the Princeton Band’s second-half renditions of music from The Lord of the Rings. I enjoyed nothing else about the Princeton Band.
  • If you — yes, you! — are actually reading these posts: firstly, thank you. Secondly, feel free to offer some feedback on what you like (or don’t like) about these recaps and I will do more (or less) of those things! Leave a comment here or “tweet at me” @pfandrews.

Game 1: Columbia vs. Fordham

Sometimes, you have to give the people what they want. Or, in this case, what they definitely don’t want. I’ll be posting some thoughts and analysis after each Columbia football game I attend this year.

The Game, in One Word: Inevitable.

The Game, in Four Words: Columbia 7, Fordham 49.

Four Things I Know I Think

1. In the battle of offenses, Columbia was the Model T to Fordham’s Ferrari. The Lions found no success either on the ground (59 yards on 18 carries) or in the air (106 yards on 16 completions, 32 attempts) — and most of those 165 yards came on a 78-yard drive which ended the game! Meanwhile Fordham piled up over 600 yards of total offense and, using a tempo offense with lots of option football, seemed to move the football at will.

2. The Lions front seven was the standout unit of the game (for CU, as all units were inferior to Fordham), putting a surprising amount of pressure on Fordham QB Mike Nebrich. Roy Schwartz had a huge sack when the score was still 14-0, dropping Nebrich twelve yards behind the line of scrimmage on a third-and-ten play. Credit is also due for a blocked field goal in the third quarter.

3. Columbia’s secondary, however, was atrocious. Nebrich completed 66% of his passes, and the incompletions were more on throws or receivers than on the defensive backs. The cornerbacks don’t attack the ball in the air — in fact, often they didn’t turn around to see it — and were unable to defend many passes as a result. The tackling was also awful — on one touchdown, the receiver caught the ball at the two with a defender ready to make the tackle, but a quick cut-back from the receiver and the defensive back completely overshot the play.

4. The much-maligned offensive line held their own today, allowing no sacks of Brett Nottingham. Though he was under pressure a few times, the Rams were largely kept at bay. This doesn’t apply to the running game, as there was little space for anyone to run, but Nottingham had the sort of pass protection he’ll need to stay upright all season.

Coaching Questions

Pete Mangurian and Jaime Elizondo’s offensive game-plan continues to be about as aggressive as a baby sloth being cuddled by its mother, and it has to change. The Lions must occasionally be aggressive — it’s a long field! take a shot down it! — in order to prevent opponents from simply stacking the box and playing their safeties close to the line.

A little bit of faith on fourth downs might help as well. Down 28-0 in the third quarter, the Lions faced a fourth-and-one. Seeing this, Mangurian immediately called timeout… then sent Nottingham out to draw the defense offside. As everyone in the stadium knew this was the plan, it did not work, and the Lions simply accepted the five-yard penalty and punted. THERE’S NO HARM IN RUNNING A PLAY HERE YOU’RE LOSING BY FOUR TOUCHDOWNS DURING YOUR HOME OPENER WITH ONE YARD TO GO WHY ARE YOU JUST GIVING UP! (If a man yells on a blog, does it make a sound?) Not coincidentally, that final Lions drive included a huge fourth-down conversion on a pass to Isaiah Gross. When you’re struggling as much as the offense was, it’s hard to justify repeatedly playing it safe.

Is Brett Nottingham Injured? 

Not as far as we know, which is a huge relief. The ballyhooed transfer looked like a man who hadn’t played much football in a few years, which is understandable — and there were flashes of promise. The final drive of the game may have come against Fordham’s second-string, but that’s the caliber of opponent CU is likely to face going forward. His receivers, though, need to catch a ball every now and then when it hits them in the hands.

Was It At Least A Nice Day For A Football Game?

Yes, and then some. Baker Field remains a beautiful place to spend an afternoon, particularly when that afternoon is 75 degrees and sunny.

Best CUMB Joke of the Game

“US News and World Report has once again issued their college rankings, which we all know are an arbitrary metric we use to feel superior to everyone lower on the list and inferior to everyone higher on the list. And sadly, despite the total meaninglessness of the list in general, it does give 58th-ranked Fordham a lot of schools to feel inferior to.”

After watching this game, are we cautiously optimistic or aggressively fatalistic?

Neutral. Some units put in strong performances, and Fordham is the best team the Lions will play this year — but at the end of the day there were still six touchdowns and five hundred yards between the Lions and their opponents. More will be known after last week’s away clash with Albany.

Stray Thoughts

  • The pre-game atmosphere remains outstanding. The band was in full force, the sun was shining, and there were a vast assortment of goodies. I picked up a draw-string bag, schedule magnet, schedule poster, and — in a nice touch — a special scarf given out to all season-ticket holders.
  • (The beer was better than last year, too.)
  • Attendance wasn’t bad, either, with over 4800 turning out, compared to 3800 and 4400 for Columbia’s last two season openers. Nice to see also was a particularly vocal group of students, largely freshmen, including a group with their chests painted spelling out “FOOTBALL?”
  • (The question mark, I thought, was pretty hilarious.)
  • Fordham’s “patriotic” uniforms remain a crime against fashion, taste, and patriotism — but they’re better than last year’s edition, which paired red and blue with maroon. At least this year’s white kits only clashed with the helmets. Columbia, as always, was resplendent in blue and white.

Basketball Commentary — Now Online!

In addition to my written ramblings about Columbia sports in the Spec, last season I had a chance to do play-by-play for some Columbia basketball and baseball games on WKCR 89.9 FM, the university’s student-operated radio station. So, verbal ramblings as well. It was an incredible experience, especially as these two teams both turned out to be quite good.

Some of these broadcasts were recorded, and I’ve edited two of the games into easily-digestible twenty minute versions, featuring all the exciting plays and verbal banter — with my wonderful co-commentator, Miles Johnson — you could want. You can enjoy these clips for yourself by clicking right on the embedded files below!