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Columbia College Today July 2003
 
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WITHIN THE FAMILY

Shoop, Jones Hope To Make Lions Roar

BY ALEX SACHARE '71

Bob Shoop and Joe Jones, Columbia’s new football and men’s basketball head coaches, respectively, appear to be two solid hires.

Alex Sachare '71
Alex Sachare '71

It’s too soon to tell, of course. It would not be fair to judge either for several years, until they have had time to adjust to Columbia, to put their programs in place and to go through a few complete recruiting cycles. Remember, both are stepping into their first head coaching jobs and were not selected until recruiting for the Class of 2007 was well under way. Don’t rush to a judgment. Give them three or four years, then step back and see how they’re doing.

Meanwhile, try to look beyond next year’s won-lost records to smaller signs of progress. For example, is the football team playing well in the fourth quarters of games? This can be a sign of athleticism, depth, conditioning and coaching. Is there cohesiveness and hustle in the way the basketball team plays? These may be signs that players have bought into what a coach is trying to accomplish. Are players in both sports staying with the programs? It’s one thing to recruit student-athletes to Columbia. It’s another to keep them on the teams. When a significant percentage of recruits stay with a program for three or four years, something right must be going on, and this invariably translates into more victories.

I attended Shoop’s introduction as football coach at a news conference in Low Library, where his enthusiasm, optimism and eagerness to meet the job’s challenges head-on were evident. Afterward, someone asked me how many times I had heard similar words from newly-anointed football coaches, and such skepticism does inject a valid dose of cautionary realism into the picture. But unless you’re a hopeless cynic, now is the time to look at the glass as half-full rather than half-empty.

Shoop and Jones are energetic, enthusiastic, young coaches who are known as strong recruiters and should be attractive to current players and prospects. Both are being given golden opportunities as they make the leap from assistant coach to head coach for the first time. They inherit programs that were winless in Ivy competition last season, and if they can build Columbia into a competitive force, their success will be duly noted, and they will have the opportunity to further climb the coaching ladder.

Meanwhile, we should remember that while the marquee sports suffered in 2002–03, Columbia did enjoy a measure of success in athletics. The Lions’ men’s and women’s fencing teams captured league championships in the same season for the first time — the men’s team’s third straight title and 30th overall and the women’s team’s sixth crown. Oscar Chow ’03 earned All-America honors in men’s tennis. Men’s soccer went 10–5–1 and barely missed an NCAA berth. Women’s cross-country enjoyed its best season, ranking 11th nationally, and lightweight crew had another outstanding campaign, finishing second in the Eastern Sprints and the IRA national championships and earning a trip across the pond to Henley.

Successes in fencing, tennis, soccer, cross-country and crew may not make the front page of your local sports section, even if your local paper is The New York Times, which duly noted Columbia’s Ivy League futility in football and men’s basketball this past season. However, the success of those programs are evidence that it can be done, and with a supportive University administration and Columbia community that includes students, faculty, administrators and alumni, perhaps Shoop and Jones are the men to do it.

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