Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Ivy Race Gets Interesting

Picked to finish near the bottom of the Ivy League standings in 1995, the Dartmouth football team lost its opener to Penn and then dropped to 0-2 in the Ivies with a loss to Cornell. But after the Big Green rebounded with a couple of wins over Yale and Harvard I took a look at the schedule and saw something interesting. If a few games went the way they reasonably could be expected to go and Dartmouth won out, there would be the first four-way tie for the Ivy League title in school history with the Big Green, Penn, Cornell and Princeton sharing the title at 5-2.

I wrote the story for my paper and was amazed when it came within seconds of happening.

After all the other games fell exactly the way they had to, Dartmouth had Princeton on the ropes on the final Saturday in Hanover with the four-way tie in the offing. Until, that is, Princeton drove the length of the field and Alex Sierk kicked an 18-yard field goal with four seconds remaining to tie the game, 10-10, and give the Tigers the outright Ivy League championship. (This was before the overtime rule was instituted.)

The final 1995 standings:
1. Princeton 5-1-1
2. (t) Cornell 5-2
2. (t) Penn 5-2
4. Dartmouth 4-2-1
5. Columbia 3-4
6. (t) Brown 2-5
6. (t) Yale 2-5
8. Harvard 1-6

Why do I bring that up this year? There's an outside chance, once again, for a four-way tie. It doesn't involve Dartmouth, of course, except in an auxiliary role. An Alert reader (pun intended) sent along this scenario:

Yale has to beat Princeton

That would make Yale 4-2.
Harvard has to beat Penn
That would make Harvard 5-1 and Penn 4-2.

Yale has to beat Harvard
That would make Yale 5-2 and Harvard 5-2.
Penn has to beat Cornell
That would make Penn 5-2

With three teams at 5-2, the fly in the ointment is Brown. To make it a four-way tie, the Bears would have to lose one of their final two games, against Dartmouth Saturday or at home next week against Columbia.

Could it play out this way? The only serious upset it would take involves Brown.

Not everyone agrees. The Daily Pensylvanian calls it a "three-horse race," in a story that includes this:
The Bears have the cushiest remaining schedule, as they take on Ancient Eight bottom-feeders Dartmouth and Columbia to close out their 2008 slate.

The weekly Ivy League football preview is out (link). It includes a scary note I knew but had managed to not think about, and a promising note about the recent series with Brown. First, the scary:
Dartmouth has lost 10 straight games, equaling the longest skid in school history. The Big Green dropped 10 consecutive contests in the 1998-99 seasons (last five of 1998 and first five of 1999).
And then the promising:
The Big Green has won the last two meetings at Memorial Stadium (sic).
The Brown Daily Herald has a story up about the Bears' loss at Yale. It concludes this way:
The team will now turn its attention to Dartmouth (0-8, 0-5 Ivy), who it will face on the road next week, before returning home for the final game of the season against Columbia (1-7, 1-4 Ivy).

With wins over those two teams, the two weakest teams in the Ivy League, the Bears can still guarantee at least a share of the Ivy League title.

"The most important thing these last two weeks is going to be for us to keep our heads up," (tailback Dereck) Knight wrote. "We have no power over what happens in other games, but we can make sure we finish the season 2-0, and that will guarantee us first place in the league."
The weekly polls are up. The Sports Network Poll has Dartmouth opponents ranked this way:
13. UNH
19. Harvard
23. Colgate
30. Holy Cross
44. Penn
The FCS Coaches Poll has them this way:
12. UNH
19. Harvard
24. Colgate
32. Holy Cross
Away from the sports pages, yesterday's Daily Dartmouth had a story about the Dartmouth endowment falling 6 percent ($220 million) in the first quarter of the fiscal year. From the story:
In order to maintain a balanced budget, the College will not lean on large-scale tuition increases and will not try to identify new revenue sources but will instead focus on reducing expenses, (Dartmouth President James) Wright said in an interview with The Dartmouth. The Board will hold on to its core values, although it recognizes the need for a balanced budget in the long run.

“If our budget is out of balance slightly for a year, that is acceptable, but it cannot be out of balance over any period of time,” he said.

Financial aid, which the Board identified as a “core value of the College,” will not be affected by budget cuts, (Ed Haldeman ‘70, chairman of the Board of Trustees) said.
The New York Times has a piece about the financial crisis and colleges (with several references to Brown) that includes this from Douglas Bennett, president of Indiana's Earlham College:
“If you are truly need-blind, you can go broke,” Mr. Bennett said bluntly during a telephone interview. “It is like writing a blank check to the world.”
And finally, I don't think I mentioned this earlier but that certain Hanover High junior cross country runner came home from the team awards dinner with a nice plaque as the team's Rookie of the Year. Now it's on to indoor track. I'm hoping that a certain HHS freshman will join his sister on the distance team because I think he can be pretty good.

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