10 Great Moments in Lions Football

We thought it would be fun to wake the echoes and provide a list of the 10 greatest moments from the Lions gridiron.

An aerial view of the South Field gridiron, circa late 1910s-early 1920s.

This fall marks the 150th anniversary of Columbia football, but in the COVID-19 era there are no fall sports being played in the Ivy League. To fill the void, we thought it would be fun to wake the echoes and provide a list of the 10 greatest moments from the Lions gridiron. They are listed chronologically; we hope they stir some enjoyable memories.

What’s your favorite Lions football moment? Let us know at cct@columbia.edu.

Stuyvesant Fish CC 1871, captain of the 1870 team.

1. NOVEMBER 5, 1870

Columbia plays its first game of intercollegiate football and becomes only the third school in the country to play the sport. The Lions lose at Rutgers 6–3 in the first interstate game ever played; the three previous games had been between Princeton and Rutgers.

2. OCTOBER 15, 1915

Columbia beats St. Lawrence 57–0 in its first game following a nine-year hiatus. Football competition had been discontinued after the 1905 season, when some deemed it too violent and inappropriate for college students. The Lions would celebrate the sport’s return by winning all five of their games, which were played on South Field, the team’s home until Baker Field opened for competition in 1923.

The KF-79 in action at the 1934 Rose Bowl.

3. JANUARY 1, 1934

Columbia defeats Stanford 7–0 in the Rose Bowl on a 17-yard touchdown run by Al Barabas CC 1936. The play was called KF-79: Quarterback Cliff Montgomery CC 1934 fakes a handoff to Ed Brominski CC 1935 going to the right, and when the Stanford defense pursues in that direction, he gives the ball to Barabas, who sweeps around left end to score. It marks the only Bowl Game appearance for Columbia.

Sid Luckman ’39, who went pro for 12 years, at Baker Field in 1938.

4. DECEMBER 12, 1938

Quarterback Sid Luckman ’39 is the first player selected overall in the NFL Draft, by the Chicago Bears. He goes on to play 12 seasons for the Bears, leading them to four NFL Championships, winning NFL MVP honors and earning a place in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

Bill Swiacki BUS’48 makes a catch at the 1947 game that broke Army’s 32-game winning streak.

5. NOVEMBER 25, 1947

Columbia ends Army’s 32-game winning streak by beating the Cadets 21–20 at Baker Field in what is considered one of the biggest upsets in college football history. Trailing 20–6 going into the fourth quarter, the Lions climb back into the game on a 28-yard touchdown pass from Gene Rossides ’49, LAW’52 to Bill Swiacki BUS’48 then win it on a 2-yard run by Lou Kusserow ’49 that was set up by another Rossides-Swiacki completion and Ventan Yablonski TC’48’s point after conversion.

Legendary coach Lou Little was inducted into the National Football Hall of Fame in 1960.

Columbia Athletics / Manny Warman

6. NOVEMBER 24, 1956

Lou Little coaches his final game for the Lions, an 18–12 victory over Rutgers. Little, who was inducted into the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame in 1960, holds the Columbia coaching records for most victories, 110; most seasons, 27; and most games, 236.

Team captain Bill Campbell ’62, TC’64 celebrates the win over Penn in 1961 in the Lions’s only Ivy League Championship.

7. NOVEMBER 18, 1961

The Lions dominate Penn in all phases of the game to post a 37–6 victory and win their only Ivy League championship despite the absence of their team captain and inspirational leader, Bill Campbell ’62, TC’64, who was out due to injury. Five players — Bob Asack ’62, Lee Black ’62, Tony Day ’63, Tom Haggerty ’62 and Russ Warren ’62 — receive All-Ivy League honors as Columbia goes 6–1 in Ivy play and 6–3 overall.
Spectator pic

Spectator’s back page from November 8, 1971, highlighting Paul Kaliades ’73’s 34-yard field goal.

8. NOVEMBER 6, 1971

Columbia knocks off previously unbeaten Dartmouth 31–29 on a 34-yard field goal by Paul Kaliades ’73 with 54 seconds left to play. Dartmouth entered the game undefeated in 15 games over two seasons. Columbia goes on to post a 6–3 record, its first winning mark since 1962.

9. OCTOBER 8, 1988

The Lions end a record 44-game losing streak by rallying to beat Princeton 16–13, the first win at the new Lawrence A. Wien Stadium at Baker Field. Columbia fell behind 10–0, cut the margin to 10–9 at halftime and then, after a Princeton field goal, scores the winning touchdown on a 2-yard run by Solomon Johnson ’91 in the final five minutes.

Josh Wainwright ’21 is hoisted by teammates after his 24-yard TD pass secured a Homecoming 2017 victory.


10. OCTOBER 14, 2017

Columbia beats Penn 34–31 in overtime as Anders Hill ’18 hits Josh Wainwright ’21 with the winning 24-yard touchdown pass, prompting many in the Homecoming crowd of 13,081 to storm onto the field in celebration. The Lions rally from a 21-point fourth-quarter deficit to snap a 15-Homecoming game losing streak. After starting the season 6–0 under Ivy League Coach of the Year Al Bagnoli, the Lions finish the campaign 8–2 overall and 5–2 in Ivy play.

Learn more about the first 150 years of Columbia football at exhibitions.library.columbia.edu/exhibits/show/roar-lion-roar, and keep an eye on gocolumbialions.com for Athletics’s own retrospective, to come later this fall.