This isn't your grandfather's Ivy League. This isn't even your father's Ivy League anymore. This is a fun-to-watch, passing friendly football conference that likes to air it out as if it were the WAC East. Granted, there will still be a share of old-fashioned grind-it-out games in the Ancient Eight this fall. There are even a few Ivy teams that don't think pass first. Still, gone are the days of Ed Marinaro's Cornell and Calvin Hill's Yale. Gone -- at least for now -- is the smashmouth Ivy style that flew in the face of major trends in the college game. Gone are the scores that read like those of baseball games. Ivy teams are passing more than ever, and the offensive schemes of Ancient Eight schools look a lot more West Coast than their classic stadiums and idyllic courtyards. The numbers don't lie. Scoring is way up throughout the league. Over the first three weeks of this still-fledgling season, seven of the eight Ivy teams have scored more points than they did in the same period last year. Penn has shown the largest increase in scoring. In their first three contests last season, the Quakers tallied 39 points, while they have already put 103 up on the board in 2000. Dartmouth, for example, has gone from positively anemic to almost healthy. Through the first three weeks of the 1999 season, the Big Green had managed to score a scant 16 points. They have 59 points already this year. Cornell is the only Ancient Eight squad to watch their offensive output take a slight dip this season -- the Big Red have scored 55 thus far this year, compared to 95 in 1999. Overall, the blue-bloods have tallied an eye-popping 191 points more this season than they did at this point last fall. Although not the first Ivy to feature an offensive scheme full of multi-receiver sets and high-percentage passes, Penn is certainly at the forefront of the aerial show this season. With new offensive coordinator Andy Coen, the Quakers feature an attack that, while maintaining a potent ground threat, thrives on efficient passing that comes fast and furious. Penn has been dynamic through the air. The Red and Blue are averaging 358 yards per game off the pass, making them the most prolific passing offense out of all 122 Division I-AA football teams. At this point last season, Penn was only passing for an average of 183.3 yards every contest. There's no doubt that the team that started this pass-happy trend in the Ivies was the Brown Bears. With the hiring of Mark Whipple as their head coach in 1994, the Bears began a new era in the storied history of the league. Whipple's squads featured an offense that could line up in a seemingly endless variety of formations. And from each of those formations, Brown could air it out. Whipple had moderate success throughout the mid-to-late 90s before leaving to take the head job at UMass, but his successor at Brown, Phil Estes, picked up right where he left off. Last year was the best season in a long time for the Bears. Behind the golden arm of then-senior James Perry, Brown won a share of the Ivy title while compiling a 9-1 overall record. Although recruiting violations made Brown ineligible to win the Ivy title this season, the Bears still look solid. Despite a loss to Harvard two weeks ago, Brown is averaging 351.33 yards per game in the air thus far. The most obvious Brown clone in the league is the new-look offense in Hanover, N.H. Dartmouth went out this year and hired John Perry as its new offensive coordinator. Not only did Perry coach receivers at Brown from 1994 until 1996, he is also the brother of the Bears' former field general. Head coach John Lyons' offense was awful last season, bringing up the Ivy rear with 267.9 yards of total output per game. The Big Green went out and acquired one of the competition's gurus as a result and have begun to run an attack reminiscent of Brown's. Hey, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Now, not every team in the league has gone the way of trend-setter Brown. Yale, for one, is rushing for more yards than it is passing, and Columbia is balanced virtually 50-50 between run and pass. Harvard, however, has an average of 290.33 yards through the air, compared to 130.33 on the ground. This is in stark contrast to the first three games of last season, when the Crimson were basically split down the middle. Up and down the league, the pass is in -- and for good reason. "You have to run the ball to win games, but to win championships, you have to throw the ball," said former Penn offensive coordinator Chuck Priore, now the head coach at Trinity College. I don't know whether the new Ivy emphasis on the airways is good for the level of play in the conference. All I do know is that it makes games more lively and more fun to watch. These may be the oldest programs in all of collegiate football, but they sure aren't old-fashioned.Comments powered by Disqus
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