Another week, another loss—and in what fashion.
In my previous column, I optimistically suggested that, even after the devastating injuries accompanying football’s season-opening loss to Fordham, all hope for the Lions may not have been lost. Yet, two weeks and two more blowout losses later, the Lions seem to have done everything in their power to prove me wrong.
Although most reasonable Lions fans knew that a breakout season without junior star quarterback Brett Nottingham and senior co-captain Seyi Adebayo wasn’t likely, even the most cynical Columbia athletics followers probably didn’t expect the team to be outscored by a combined margin of 142 to 28.
Despite low (realistic) expectations, hearing head coach Pete Mangurian essentially throw in the towel—proclaiming that his team only has so many things it can do until it adds more players next season—is a bit disheartening to many fans.
However, such bluntness should be welcomed. In order for problems to be addressed, they need to be pointed out.
Most of the time, it seems like coaches are happy to keep their concerns with the team behind the closed doors of the locker room. But when performances get especially bad, they sometimes call out their teams in public as a wake-up call. And Mangurian certainly hasn’t given the current team a vote of confidence by looking ahead to next season.
Moreover, this experience should serve as a wake-up call for the athletic program as a whole. If you want success, you need to give your coach somethzing to work with. The egregious level of play thus far simply goes to show that the team’s problems can’t be fixed with one miracle solution (here, in the name of a Brett Nottingham) or one coaching replacement (here, Mangurian, but you could also consider new women’s basketball head coach Stephanie Glance). Obviously, the previous coach’s final recruiting classes likely weren’t all that great, leading to a serious depth issue on the team. Upgrading personnel at many different positions is much more difficult than upgrading one position significantly.
For Mangurian, it’s a different challenge than in the NFL. To an extent, college coaches have to act as both coaches and general managers, “signing” “free-agent” high school seniors. While NFL coaches certainly play a role in attracting talent to the team—see Washington Capitals head coach Adam Oates flying to California to meet with prize free agent Mikhail Grabovski, trying to convince him to sign with Washington—they’re usually not the main piece of the puzzle, unlike in college. Before coming here, Mangurian hadn’t done hard-core recruiting since 2000, when he was with Cornell.
Given that he was able to attract Nottingham to New York, Mangurian seems to have the ability to convince a quality player to commit to Columbia, given enough time. Now, he needs to turn a single player into many quality players. He could start by leveraging the former Stanford quarterback in the recruitment process, like he and the rest of the Patriots coaches likely leveraged future Hall of Fame quarterback Tom Brady.
We can talk about incentivizing attendance at games all we want, but the only surefire way to change our school’s football cul ture is to create a winning product. With no possible way to move but up after this season, if we no longer want to be the laughing stock of the Ivy League, now is the time to take a stance as fans—stop hoping quick fixes work out and commit to the idea that it’s okay for improvement to take some time.
Alexander Bernstein is a Columbia College sophomore. Contrarian Review runs biweekly.