I was saving this one in case the unthinkable had a chance to happen.
Forget the Cubs. You want to talk about lovable, long-time losers, look no further than the Columbia Lions, they of SIX winning seasons (including this year) since formal Ivy League play began in 1956. A school with such a woebegone football history, a team that finished second in the Ivy League (1996) was inducted into the school's hall of fame. A school whose own band used to play the "Mickey Mouse Club" theme when the Lions took the field.
Well, all that history is that, just history.
As I type this, Columbia is tied with Dartmouth for second in the Ivy League standings with a 4-2 record, one game behind Yale (5-1). If the Lions defeat last-place Brown on Saturday (a gimme; Brown is uncharacteristically awful his year) and Yale loses to Harvard (another gimme; despite last year's result, Tim Murphy munches on Yale like I munch on donuts), the Columbia -- yes, Co-freakin-lumbia -- will own a share of its first Ivy crown since 1961, when Americans first soared into space and Roger Maris hit 61 outta the park. And coach Al Bagnoli, who won a zillion Ivy titles at Penn, may be up for sainthood.
Which takes us to today's post.
Under the tutelage of Aldo "Buff" Donelli (whose 30 wins is third-most in program history; he also coached some outstanding teams at Boston University), Columbia went 6-3 overall, 6-1 in the Ivies to share the title with Harvard, which the Lions defeated, 26-14, in the regular season. The one Ivy loss was to Princeton; the other two were to Lehigh and Rutgers. (I may have mentioned this before, but as a program, Rutgers then was far closer to the Yankee Conference than the Bee-One-Gee, where it plays now.) The Lions scored a league-high 30.6 points per game in Ivy games.
Columbia's own website has a fine summary of the amazing season.
|When Columbia clinched the Ivy League title, the Daily Spectator|
put the team picture -- and a dig at Penn -- on page one.
According to the ESPN College Football Encyclopedia (2005), the '61 team hosts a party for all returning players during homecoming weekend. Hopefully, that's still the case. The ESPN tome also declares the '61 bunch the best in school history, even better than the fabled team that won the '34 Rose Bowl (which I hope we'll get to in a couple months).
|The Spec's photos that year relied more on posed than action shots.|
Here's a closeup of Bill Campbell's jersey, with big, curved numbers.
He later was a member of the school's board of trustees, and after his death last year,
the Columbia jerseys added a "67" patch in his honor.
As for the uniforms ... They bear more than a passing resemblance to the first-year Houston Oilers unis: Plain Columbia blue jersey with curved numbers, only outlined in navy and with no sleeve numbers (and no white road jersey, either; the Lions wore these baby blues home and road). Columbia's numbers are noticeable fatter than Houston's. White helmets with a dark number (in the same font as the jersey numbers, a nice touch) and a light blue stripe on the pants complete the outfit. It's simple, but it works.
And if everything falls in to place, the 2017 Lions will be holding a yearly reunion at homecoming for the next several decades.
|A photo from Columbia's lone Ivy League loss, to Princeton.|
Other Lions unis that'll make you roar: 2015-16, 2014, 2013, 2003-05, 1996, 1984, 1983, 1978-82, 1974-76, 1971-73, 1970, 1965-67, 1955-56, 1952-54, 1941-45.