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.
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
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.