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Over the past 20 years, the men of Dartmouth College have rarely captured the laurels of the Ivy Leauge for their athletic efforts. The northernmost football squad in the league has won or shared six Ivy titles since 1980, second only to Penn's nine engravings on the championship trophy in that span. That means that the frequently scheduled Penn-Dartmouth Ivy League season opener has borne a lot of weight on the season. The winner of that game has tended to have an inside track on the league title, while the loser has had a tough road to travel. But over the last three years, the Big Green have fallen apart -- dropping to a new low in last Saturday's 48-14 loss to Penn. Since following up its 1996 Ivy title with a 6-1 league campaign in '97, Dartmouth has won just four games. In the first three games of this season, John Lyons' team has been embarrassed three times, most of all by the Quakers' 48-point outburst at Franklin Field. The Big Green's offense has done better under new offensive coordinator John Perry, more than tripling its scoring output over last season's opening three games. Dartmouth's defense, however, is another story. At best resembling Swiss cheese in giving up 30 points per game last year, it is now hard to say what the Big Green defense looks like -- because it has been all but invisible. Dartmouth has already given up 132 points this season, 28 more than it surrendered in the entirety of its last Ivy championship campaign four years ago. At times during Saturday's third-straight 40-plus point defensive "effort" -- like on Colin Smith's 35-yard touchdown catch in the first quarter -- the Big Green covered Penn receivers so loosely that Nancy Reagan could have walked into the end zone. On one play, it took five Dartmouth defenders to bring down Gavin Hoffman, who isn't exactly Doug Flutie when it comes to mobility. For as improved as the Big Green's offense might be, the defense made it look as if Dartmouth will be downright lucky if it can dredge up its third consecutive 2-8 season. That's a shame. Dartmouth should be one of the powerhouse athletic schools of the Ivy League. A trip to Hanover, N.H., is dauntingly long for visiting teams, and enough fans come out to support even unsuccessful Big Green teams that it's an intimidating place to play. Their men's basketball team has not won an Ivy crown since 1959, but Leede Arena fills up. Dartmouth's men's lacrosse team also hasn't brought glory to the north since the team was called the Indians in 1965, and the men's hockey team has been without a championship since 1980. Dartmouth has had success with a lot of women's sports, particularly basketball and lacrosse, both of which won championships this year. But as far as the major men's sports go, the Big Green have all but fallen off of the Ivy League radar screen. Their basketball team finished third as recently as two years ago, but has not really contended with Penn and Princeton. Football had been pretty much all they've had. And now even that seems to be slipping away. Dartmouth is in distinct danger of becoming a notorious loser in the Ancient Eight, a league that already has adopted Columbia as its perennial lovable loser. With the Dartmouth football team as a true threat from the frosty reaches of New England, life in the Ivy League is a lot more interesting, especially at the beginning of the season when they face off with the Red and Blue. But as the last two years on the gridiron -- and many more in other sports -- have shown, it's not a necessity.

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