University President Lee Bollinger, football consultant Rick Taylor, and incoming Athletic Director Peter Pilling addressed the state of Columbia football with alumni and reporters on Wednesday.
At the meeting, which was attended by many former Light Blue football players, Taylor discussed some of the recommendations included in his lengthy review of Columbia football, which ranged from making Columbia more accessible to a wider range of recruits to encouraging more alumni involvement and solidarity. Additionally, Pilling set a soft deadline of mid-march to hire a new football coach.
Bollinger began the press conference with a brief overview of the athletic program. He did not reveal specific details of Taylor's lengthy review, but allowed Taylor to candidly discuss the state of the program.
Taylor explained that he took the consulting position at Columbia believing that the Lions could not win. After three visits to Columbia, he now believes that the program can succeed despite the current 21-game winless streak, which includes two straight 0-10 seasons.
"When I came here in November, I had the preconceived notion that the team can't win. I have shed that," he said.
Taylor cautioned that the Lions may not find success next season, but that there is only room for the football program to improve in the coming years.
"You might not win a game this year," he said. "You need to be ready for that."
The first step, according to Taylor, is greater communication with the players. He recommended having members of the athletic administration ride the bus to practice with the team. Taylor also suggested that the Lions stop playing Fordham to open the season given Columbia's obvious competitive disadvantages—its lack of scholarships and the fact that Fordham plays multiple games prior to the Liberty Cup.
Pilling was the last to speak, and he gave details about the timeline of hiring a new football coach. He said that the department's top priority is to hire a new coach, which according to him, will happen as soon as possible. He added that Taylor has had and will not have any input regarding the hiring process.
Pilling concluded that he will look to be innovative with the football program, seeking advantages through any means possible—including performance analytics. But above all, he will take the advice of current coaches and administrators from other schools in other conferences. He said that recently he has been in contact with Washington State head coach Mike Leach.
Most notably, Taylor and Pilling pressed alumni for support. They explained that Columbia's history of losing comes largely from a lack of money and that additional financial resources must come before winning. Specifically, he commented on the role of fundraising to adequately compensate the coaches for the cost of living in New York City and for the operating funds of the football program. Taylor later talked about how alumni criticism can turn potential football players away from Morningside Heights and that recruiting in the future is absolutely essential.
Pilling said, "Money has been the root of a lot of Columbia's evils."
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