To the Indianapolis Colts, fullback Jim Finn is proving to be anything but irrelevant. Dubbed "Mr. Irrelevant" when the Chicago Bears selected him with the 253rd and final pick in the 1999 NFL Draft, the former Penn star has made the final roster cut for the Colts and will make his NFL debut this weekend. Finn's status as the Colts' starting fullback was made official when the team released veteran fullback Paul Shields earlier this week. Although the 240-pound, 5'10" back will see some carries, his primary responsibility will be to block for Colts stars Edgerrin James and Peyton Manning. During the preseason, Finn was fourth on Indianapolis with 63 yards on 22 carries. He also caught five passes for an additional 63 yards. When he left Franklin Field after leading Penn to the 1998 Ivy League championship, Finn was fourth in Quakers history with 2,251 career rushing yards and fifth with 180 points. This was despite spending only two seasons on offense after switching from safety to running back following his sophomore season. As a senior, Finn captured the Bushnell Cup as the Ivy League's Player of the Year, racking up a single-season Penn record 1,450 rushing yards and scoring 17 touchdowns
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For the past 10 seasons, Steve Donahue has sat next to Fran Dunphy on the Quakers' bench. Now, it looks as though the Penn men's basketball assistant coach may finally get his chance to be a head man. Donahue is one of several candidates being considered by Cornell to replace former head coach Scott Thompson, who stepped down earlier this summer after being diagnosed with colon cancer. Thompson will continue to work at Cornell in an administrative position with the athletic department. Donahue has been interviewed twice by Cornell athletic officials, once in Philadelphia and once on Cornell's campus in Ithaca, N.Y. Donahue said that Cornell will interview its final candidate tomorrow and that a final decision on Thompson's replacement is expected by Tuesday. He declined to offer further comment for this article. This is not the first time Donahue has been considered for a head coaching position. Earlier this summer, he was a candidate at SUNY-Albany and William and Mary before those schools filled their positions. While Quakers head coach Fran Dunphy admits that losing one of his top assistants to a league rival would be difficult, he is still rooting for his friend and colleague to be selected for the position. "He's like most assistant coaches," Dunphy said. "They want the opportunity to be a head coach. We're really rooting for him hard." In his 10 years at Penn, Donahue has been involved in every aspect of the program, including floor practice, game coaching, recruiting, scouting and film study. Donahue joined Dunphy's staff in 1990, one year after Dunphy became the head coach. Along with Gil Jackson, who has been with Dunphy since the beginning of his tenure, Donahue helps form one of the longest-serving staffs in the Ivy League. Before arriving in University City, Donahue was an assistant for two years at Philadelphia College of Textiles and Science where he helped lead Textile to the 1989 NCAA Division II Tournament. He also coached at Springfield and Monsignor Bonner high schools
In 1954, eight schools came together to sign the Ivy Group Agreement. The agreement established an athletic conference, but a unique conference whose member schools' primary focus would not be on sports, but on academics.
Track's loudest stage to host its whole spectrum The eyes of the track world will once again be focused on Philadelphia this weekend, as Penn plays host to the world's most spectacular track and field carnival for the 106th consecutive year. As world-class athletes continue the season that will take them to the Summer Olympics in Sydney and competitors in grade school, high school and college near the end of their respective seasons, all will be on display this weekend at Franklin Field. The 106th running of the Relays officially kicked off yesterday with the first day of competition in the college decathlon and heptathlon. The crowds will grow this weekend, as track fans from across the world fill the bleachers to cheer on the competing athletes. By the time the action comes to a close on Saturday evening, more than 23,000 athletes will have competed at the Relays. Two hundred seventy-one colleges and 856 high schools will be represented. Athletes from across the United States and from different parts of the world will come to Penn to compete in the largest celebration of track and field in the nation. And nearly 100,000 fans should make their way to West Philadelphia for a track meet that rates second only to the Olympics in prominence. "Other than the Olympics, it's totally one of a kind," Penn assistant women's track coach Tony Tenisci said. "In a lot of ways, it's more diverse than the Olympics." In fact, while the Franklin Field bleachers will be filled to see superstars Michael Johnson and Marion Jones headline the "USA vs. the World" relays on Saturday, hundreds of local middle school athletes had the opportunity to run on the same track yesterday afternoon. "You see 90-year old people running 100 meter dashes; you see wheelchair people; you see children on the infield; you see men and women, girls and boys," Tenisci said. "It's such a human scale." While athletes of all types will compete this weekend, one of the obvious highlights will be provided by the sport's premier names in the "USA vs. the World" events. Johnson and Jones, along with other stars like Inger Miller and Maurice Greene, will return to Penn as part of their pre-Olympic preparation. The United States will take on the rest of the world's stars in the 4x100 and 4x400 meters for both the men and women and the men's 4x1500. While many in attendance will be there to see the big names, the Olympic Development athletes will be far from the only ones showcased. For the Penn teams, the Relays offer a chance to share their home with the rest of the track and field world. "It takes on a different effect because you train at Franklin Field day in and day out, and suddenly this week it just gets packed," Penn senior distance runner Sean MacMillan said. "You know that your sweat and your blood is on that track." This weekend, MacMillan and the Quakers will have to share their home with numerous athletes who will be sure to provide Franklin Field with their own fair share of sweat and blood. This competitive spirit will draw thousands of people to Franklin Field for this very special weekend. Even celebrities like Bill Cosby and George Steinbrenner will make their annual trips to the Relays. Next week will again be a normal week of practice for the Penn teams at Franklin Field. The Relays will be finished, and the fans will be gone. But for this one weekend, the University of Pennsylvania will be the center of the track universe.
Unhappy with his playing time with the Quakers, forward Oggie Kapetanovic is hoping to play in Europe next season. Penn men's basketball player Oggie Kapetanovic has recently indicated that he may not return for the 2000-01 season. Citing frustration over playing time, Kapetanovic informed Penn coach Fran Dunphy of his feelings during a meeting last week. "I've been thinking about graduating and going overseas and playing ball there, because I want to play ball," said Kapetanovic, who has one year of eligibility remaining. "I feel like if I stayed here, I'd get similar time to what I got this year." Kapetanovic averaged 12.9 minutes per game this season, scoring 3.9 points and pulling down 2.6 rebounds per contest. A Wharton student, Kapetanovic is taking six classes this semester. If he is able to find a roster spot on a European team, he will take three summer classes in order to graduate early and begin playing next season. He plans to attend a camp in May in order to see what options are open to him. If Kapetanovic is unable to land in a good European league, he will return to Penn next year. "Our hope is that Oggie will come back, but that is obviously up to him," Dunphy said. Kapetanovic, a 6'10" forward/center, started in Penn's first game of the season, a 67-51 loss to Kentucky on November 17. For the rest of the season, however, he came off the bench to back up center Geoff Owens and forward Ugonna Onyekwe. Owens, who will petition the Ivy League for a fifth year of eligibility after missing his sophomore season with a medical condition, and Onyekwe, the '99-00 Ivy League Rookie of the Year, will both be returning to the Quakers' frontcourt next season. Kapetanovic sees little opportunity to get more playing time. "This year, there were some games when I played 19, 20 minutes a game, but it wasn't regular," Kapetanovic said. "I felt my playing time was based more on whether Owens or Ugonna was playing bad or in foul trouble. "I felt like I was just a sub. I want to play ball, and I want to play a lot." This past season, one which saw the Quakers win their second straight Ivy League title, was Kapetanovic's first playing for Penn. After beginning his career at Brown -- where he averaged 6.9 points while starting 20 of 26 games as a sophomore -- he transferred to Penn prior to the '98-99 academic year. Per NCAA rules, he was required to sit out a season. Midway through this past season, Kapetanovic became frustrated with his situation at Penn and decided to register for six classes, thus keeping his options open. "I started thinking about it in the beginning of February, right before the deadline for classes," Kapetanovic said. "I didn't tell any of the coaches then, because I thought it would be selfish of me to say something in the middle of the season." Last week, however, Rosemarie Burnett, the Penn Athletic Department's academic coordinator, noticed Kapetanovic's unusually heavy course load. Dunphy called him in for a meeting to discuss it. It was then that the coach first learned of Kapetanovic's intentions. Kapetanovic also met with Compliance Coordinator D. Elton Cochran-Fikes to discuss his future. As long as he does not make an agreement with an agent or sign a contract with a professional team, Kapetanovic will be eligible to play for Penn next season. In exploring his chances to play overseas, though, he will have an advantage over many other players seeking similar opportunities. Since he is a dual citizen of Canada and Yugoslavia, Kapetanovic will not be subject to the limit of two American players per team that is a rule in most European leagues. Dunphy said that he will do whatever he can to help Kapetanovic find a place to play next season, but the coach hopes that Kapetanovic will change his mind about returning to the Quakers. "I would love to see him play [for Penn]," Dunphy said. "But I will respect whatever he wants to do."
It may have gone somewhat unnoticed -- overshadowed by the men's basketball team's quick exit from the NCAAs, obscured by Brett Matter's national wrestling championship. But an important change took place in the program, and it is well worth noting. On Tuesday, the Penn women's lacrosse team won its second game of the season. In most years, this would not be big news. In most years, it would not deserve much attention. But in this particular season, it signifies something special -- a new beginning in the history of the team. For the first time since 1972, Anne Sage is not listed as the official head coach of the program. Former Princeton assistant Karin Brower has assumed that title, and with the change, her team has assumed a new outlook. Prior to last season, the Quakers petitioned the Athletic Department for Sage's removal. All 22 members of the squad signed the petition last February, refusing to play any games with Sage at the helm. They complained of the coach's frequent absences and unstructured practices. Going into the season, the players realized Sage had not prepared them at all. Sage was asked to take a leave of absence for the spring. Then-assistant coach Alanna Wren served in her place, and the Red and Blue stumbled to a 1-12 record, the worst in team history. Then, this summer, Brower replaced Sage as the official head coach. A new era had begun. Yes, much of the personnel is the same and the team has only won two games, but the 2000 Quakers are not the 1999 Quakers. And most of that can be attributed to Brower. While Sage did little to prepare her players for the spring in the past few years, Brower has been getting her team ready since the fall. The results can already be seen in the Quakers' early-season record. For the first time since before many of the current players ever stepped onto Franklin Field, Penn is above .500. On March 14, the Quakers traveled to Washington to take on American and left with a 17-8 win. A close loss to a tough Yale squad on the road followed, and then Penn recorded its second win by beating Villanova, 14-7, on Tuesday. They have not played a single home game yet, and the Quakers have doubled their win total from a year ago. Technically, two wins already makes this season more successful than last. But with this year's Quakers, much more is possible. That possibility for success is a result of the new attitude that was born when Brower took over the team. "I think everyone's really excited," Brower said yesterday. "I think they are gaining confidence every time they take the field, and it's totally different team." While last year's squad had the unneeded burden of worrying about the coaching situation, this year's team can focus solely on the action on the field. Tomorrow, Penn will be in Ithaca, N.Y., to play Cornell. Last year at Franklin Field, the Big Red jumped out to an early lead, and Penn never had much of a chance in a 14-6 loss. Tomorrow's game promises to be much more of a contest. The same could be said of every game the Red and Blue play for the rest of the season. No one at Penn should start planning an Ivy League championship party for the Quakers, but games like last year's 20-2 loss to Dartmouth or the 17-3 debacle against Princeton may be things of the past. "I'd like to see us be fourth in the league," Brower said when asked what would make this season a success. Tomorrow should indicate how far up the Ivy standings Penn can move this season. Brower calls Cornell a comparable team to the Red and Blue. A repeat of last season is unlikely, but the Quakers still know that every Ivy game will be a challenge. There are still things the Quakers need to improve upon, including pushing the ball in the attack and protecting it in the midfield. And although the six freshmen seeing significant time in the lineup are adjusting well to the college game, they still have much to learn. When the 2000 season comes to an end, however, Karin Brower's Quakers will be a far cry from the squad that ended last season. And the second chapter in Penn women's lacrosse history will be well on its way to success.
The Quakers were close, but never quite caught up to No. 4 seed Illinois WINSTON-SALEM, N.C. -- For the Penn Quakers, the door was open. The chance to pull off an upset was right in front of them. But as the seconds ticked off the clock, that chance slowly slipped further from their grasp and soon disappeared as the clock wound down at the Lawrence Joel Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Fourth-seeded Illinois would be the one to move on to the second round of the NCAA Tournament, and the 13th-seeded Penn men's basketball team (21-8) would soon find itself on a plane back to Philadelphia from Winston-Salem, N.C. Penn's Ivy League championship season came to an abrupt end last Friday, as the Fighting Illini (22-10) came away with a 68-58 victory in the first round of the Eastern Regional. "We had a number of opportunities in the second half, but we missed a couple of easy chances at that," Penn coach Fran Dunphy said. "Against a team like Illinois that will hurt you badly." Penn's inability to capitalize on their chances indeed hurt in the end. Despite limiting star Illinois guard Cory Bradford to just five points on 2-of-9 shooting and forcing 11 turnovers in the second half, the Quakers were just never able to close the gap. Part of the reason for the loss was the fact that center Geoff Owens and senior point guard Michael Jordan found themselves in early foul trouble. Part of it was because the Quakers shot just 34.6 percent from the field in the second half, and part was that the Red and Blue could not get to the foul line enough. These parts added up to a victory for Illinois, which went on to fall to Florida in the second round on Sunday. "We were pleased with the number of turnovers we forced. We were disappointed that Mike [Jordan] and Geoff [Owens] got into foul trouble," Dunphy said. "A culmination of a lot of those factors leads to the fact that a good team like Illinois wins the game." Another reason for Illinois coming away with the win was the stellar play of freshman point guard Frank Williams. While Bradford, last year's Big 10 Freshman of the Year, was never able to make an impact against the Quakers, it was Williams who did much of the damage. The freshman scored a career-high 21 points in 35 minutes of action. "[Williams] stepped up and made some outstanding shots. He penetrated and laid the ball up, and we didn't play well enough defensively," Jordan said. "He is a good player, a scoring machine and that is what he did." It's also exactly what the Quakers did not do. Penn opened the game with a 6-2 lead on three-pointers by Ugonna Onyekwe and Matt Langel. That lead, however, did not last very long. With 17 minutes and six seconds remaining in the first half, Williams buried a three. That sparked a 16-0 run by the Illini, giving them a 18-6 lead, one they would never relinquish. Penn eventually closed that lead, but as the margin got smaller, the Quakers started finding themselves in foul trouble. With 11:52 remaining in the half, Jordan picked up his first foul. Thirty-nine seconds later, Dunphy had him on the bench with three personals. "I never got three fouls in the span of like 30 seconds before," Jordan said. "I should have backed off, but I try to play with as much intensity as I can." Owens also found himself on the bench with three fouls of his own as the first half wound down. With starting Illini center Brian Cook only playing 13 minutes, Owens was often matched up with reserve center Marcus Griffin, who finished with 17 points and 10 rebounds. Griffin consistently found his way to the basket, and the Quakers often reacted by fouling. "That was one of our main focuses going in," Griffin said. "We had to let them know the Big 10 is a rough, tough conference." With Owens seated on the sidelines, Dunphy turned to reserves Oggie Kapetanovic and Koko Archibong. As time expired in the first half, Kapetanovic hit a short baseline jumper to pull the Quakers to within five at 34-29. It seemed as though Penn might have finally gained the momentum. After a turnover by Bradford to open the second half, Jordan made a slashing drive down the lane to cut the Illini's lead to three. Three minutes later, as Frank Brown swished a jumper from the top of the key, Penn was only trailing by one at 38-37. But then it all fell apart. Three-pointers by Langel missed the mark, and Onyekwe's layups just would not go down. During the last minute, Penn resorted to fouling the Illini. Illinois buried most of its foul shots and walked off the court with a 68-58 win. And so, an Ivy championship season came to an end. The Langel-Jordan era in the Penn backcourt is over. A 16-game winning streak was halted, and the Quakers returned home with another less-than-memorable tournament performance. The chance was there, but Penn was simply not able to take hold of it.
The Quakers clinch an Ivy title and NCAA berth The Quakers clinch an Ivy title and NCAA berthThe Quakers emerge as true champs They did it. They made all preseason predictions come true. They won the Ivy League. In many ways, the Red and Blue are doing nothing more than what was expected of them. But in doing so, they proved that they are indeed a championship team. It may have seemed like the Ivy season was a cakewalk for the Quakers, like they were playing on a level far above the one on which their opponents operate. At times, they were. But to think winning a second consecutive Ivy title was an easy task would be wrongheaded. It was a difficult journey for the Quakers, but the only important thing is that they came out on top. And with a win tomorrow night against Princeton in the regular season finale, they can emerge from the league season unblemished -- a feat Penn has not accomplished since the 1994-95 season. However, if Harvard's Dan Clemente had hit his final three-point attempt on February 26 or if Cornell had made a few more shots in its close loss to Penn on January 29, the thousands of Quakers fans at Saturday's game might not have had any reason to rush the court. But rush the court they did. Championship teams are too tough to lose games like the ones against the Crimson or the Big Red. The Penn Quakers are a championship team. Over the course of the past month, they proved it several times. Back on January 27, I wrote a column on these pages that said that the Quakers needed to be prepared for the dangers that lay ahead in the quest for their second straight league title. It was the day before Penn was to open its Ivy season at Columbia, and there was plenty to be worried about at the time. The freshmen starters were making stupid mistakes; the entire team suffered from poor shot selection; no one in a Quakers uniform could hit a free throw; and most of the time, the five players on the court were never on the same page. In that column, I wrote, "There is no doubt in my mind that the Quakers have more skill than any team in the league, and I believe that eventually everything will come together for them. Before the end of the season, we will see a cohesive unit that can go out and be competitive with anyone. "But league play begins tomorrow night, and that cohesive unit has yet to make an appearance." Well, here we are at the end of the season -- 13 Ivy games and 13 Ivy wins since I wrote those words, and the Quakers are champions. Penn is riding the second-longest winning streak in all of Division I college basketball. Its 15 consecutive wins are second only to Utah State's 16. The Ivy title is wrapped up; the net on the Palestra's west basket is down; and the Quakers' invitation to the Big Dance is sealed and in the mail. Does that mean everything is perfect with Fran Dunphy's squad? No. The freshmen still make freshman mistakes. There are still lapses in the offense. And there are definitely times when the shots just do not fall for this Penn team. But the point is that they made it through the conference season. They are undefeated in the league. They are the best in the Ivies. They are champions. When the Ivy season began back on that cold Friday night in Columbia's Levien Gymnasium, I firmly believed that Penn was the most talented team in the league. But a talented squad does not always equate with a successful squad. To their credit, the Quakers knew what they needed to do to repeat as champions, and they did it. Weekend escapades to the north, visiting the tiny gyms of the other Ancient Eight schools, can be dangerous tasks, but Penn survived. It survived for many reasons. Michael Jordan and Matt Langel led this team, often hoisting it on their backs and refusing to let it lose. Two weeks ago at Dartmouth, the Big Green would not relent, and it was Jordan and Langel's combined 44 points that kept Penn on top. But Jordan and Langel are not alone. Frank Brown is ending his up-and-down five-year career on a high note, busting back into the starting lineup and burying open jumpers when needed. Geoff Owens has returned to full force after suffering from shin splints, establishing himself as a tough inside presence and the best shot blocker in Penn history. And Ugonna Onyekwe is putting the finishing touches on a season that should earn him the Ivy League Rookie of the Year award. Most importantly, though, the 14 men in Red and Blue have finally come together as a team. A team that can now call itself champions of the Ivy League.
With Palestra wins over Brown and Yale, penn can secure its second straight league crown. Michael Jordan has accomplished many things during his four years at Penn. He has been named first team All-Ivy for the past two seasons and is the heavy favorite to win this year's Ivy League Player of the Year award. He is leading the Quakers in scoring for the third straight year, and with 12 more points, he will pass Ron Haigler for third place on the all-time Penn scoring list. But there is one way in which the 6'0" point guard has never put the ball through the hoop during his Penn career. With three games remaining in his time at the Palestra, Michael Jordan would like to dunk. "If the score is well enough out of hand and I have a chance, I'll try," Jordan said. "I'm not as an accomplished dunker as Ugonna." If Jordan does successfully throw one down, it could serve as an exclamation point on what should be a very exciting weekend for the Penn men's basketball team (18-7, 11-0 Ivy League). Heading into this weekend's contests with Brown and Yale, the Quakers hold a two-game lead over Princeton in the Ivy standings. If they emerge victorious over both the Bears and the Elis, the Red and Blue will clinch the Ivy title before even stepping onto the Palestra floor to face the Tigers in Tuesday's season finale. But the Quakers are not getting ahead of themselves. "I'm quite sure that Brown and Yale this weekend are going to want to knock us off," Penn coach Fran Dunphy said. "It's up to us to make sure that doesn't happen by playing as hard as we can, as intelligently as we can and trying to execute our game plan as best we can." By winning the final three games on the schedule, the Quakers will finish undefeated in the Ivy League for the first time since the 1994-95 season. Last week, however, the Quakers almost faltered on their way to an unbeaten league season. Leading 62-61 with 1.9 seconds remaining in the game against Harvard at Lavietes Pavilion, Penn gave the Crimson a final chance to win. A three-point attempt by Dan Clemente, however, bounced off the rim, and the Quakers escaped with their closest win of the Ivy League season. Penn will make sure that it does not give the Bears (8-17, 4-8) a similar chance to pull off an upset tonight at the Palestra. "We're prepared for a fight both games, both nights," Quakers center Geoff Owens said. "I think if we play hard for 40 minutes, we have a good chance." To make sure they defeat the Bears, the Quakers will need to contain two freshmen stars. In fact, tonight's game could help determine the Ivy League Rookie of the Year award, as Penn forward Ugonna Onyekwe will go up against the Bears' Earl Hunt and Alaivaa Nuualiitia. Hunt is third in the league with 16.8 points per game, while Nuualiitia leads the Bears in rebounds with 6.7 boards per game and averages 14.2 points per contest. In the first meeting between the two teams on February 5 at the Pizzitola Sports Center, Hunt led the Bears with 13 points, while Nuualiitia scored eight and pulled down nine boards. Penn's star freshman, Onyekwe, only played 17 minutes in that game, as the Quakers routed the Bears, 83-48. All 14 Quakers scored against the Bears, and Matt Langel led the way with 24 points on eight three-pointers. The Red and Blue also had little trouble with the Elis (7-18, 5-7), when they met at the Lee Ampitheater in New Haven, Conn. Oggie Kapetanovic scored 12 points off the bench, and the Elis never really had a chance. Penn ran away with a 61-36 win, holding Yale to 23.7 percent shooting. Despite cruising to two easy victories when visiting these Ivy foes last month, Penn knows that it cannot feel comfortable just yet. "You can never get too comfortable, because that is when somebody sneaks up on you," Jordan said. And with three games remaining, the Quakers know there are still things they need to work on. "I think we're making a few mistakes," Owens said. "There are a couple turnovers here and there, a few needless ones. If we can [control] that, I think we'll be alright." The Quakers are currently turning the ball over 12.9 times per game, which is good for 13th best in the nation, but several turnovers last Saturday against Harvard allowed the Crimson to stay in the game. If the Quakers can keep the mistakes to a minimum and emerge with two wins this weekend, they will extend their winning streak to 15 games. Currently, Utah State, with 14 consecutive wins, is the only team in the nation with a longer streak than the Red and Blue. More importantly, though, two wins would clinch the Ivy title for Penn on Saturday night. And although Tuesday's game against the Tigers has been sold out for months, only about 4,500 people are expected for each of this weekend's games. "If we are fortunate enough to win both games, it would be nice to have as many people as we can here," Owens said. "Don't wait for Princeton to come out. You should come out to these games too." The people who do show up at the Palestra this weekend might even get a special treat if Jordan can indeed get the first dunk of his Penn career. "I've seen him dunk lots of times. This summer, he said everyday after we'd get done working out for a few hours, he'd dunk one just so he'd be ready for this year," Owens said. "If he gets an opportunity, there's no reason he can't throw down."
Penn hosts Cornell tonight, while Columbia visits tomorrow night. Although the Penn men's basketball team looks to be on a clear path to the NCAA Tournament after defeating Princeton on Tuesday, the season is only half over. The second half begins tonight. And Penn (14-7, 7-0 Ivy League) could not be in a better position in the race to the league championship. The Quakers now hold a two-game lead over the Tigers in the Ivy standings. In order for Princeton to steal the title from Penn, the Orange and Black must win their seven remaining games -- including the Penn rematch at the Palestra on March 7 -- and hope that the Quakers slip up and lose to one of the six other league opponents. However unlikely it may seem that Penn will fall to one of the other Ivy teams, perhaps the best chance for an upset is tonight. The Quakers will host Cornell at 7:30 p.m. tonight at the Palestra and will welcome Columbia tomorrow at 7 p.m. In the first meeting between the Quakers and Big Red in Ithaca, N.Y., on January 29, Penn escaped with a hard-fought 50-47 victory. "The last game was a fight the whole game, so we don't want that to happen again," Penn guard Matt Langel said. And even though some may look at Tuesday's triumph over the Tigers and think that the Quakers will stroll to the NCAA Tournament without much trouble, the Quakers are focused on the seven remaining games -- and they know that Cornell will not roll over and hand them a win. "Last year, they came in here and gave us a battle. If it was not for Jed Ryan saying he was not going to lose and taking over the game, we may have lost," Penn coach Fran Dunphy said. "Then, we went up there and only won by three, so I'm sure they'll be shooting for us." And the Big Red (8-13, 1-7) certainly have some players who can do that shooting, most notably junior forward Ray Mercedes. Mercedes was named to the Ivy League's weekly honor roll on Monday after dropping a season-high 26 points on Yale this past weekend. Although the Quakers held Mercedes to 12 points in Ithaca a few weeks ago, the last visit Mercedes paid to the Palestra is definitely fresh in the minds of the Red and Blue. Last February, Mercedes and teammate Wallace Prather were basically a two-man team, keeping the Big Red close throughout the entire contest. Mercedes poured in 28 points, hitting 6-of-10 from three-point territory. Point guard Prather was just as dangerous, scoring 22 points and tallying four assists. Both players have been playing well so far this season too. Mercedes leads the Big Red in scoring with an average of 14.6 points per game, while Prather is tops on his team in both assists (78) and steals (44) and is second in scoring (13.8 ppg). Containing these two dangerous players will not be an easy task for Penn. But if anyone is up to the task, it is the Penn defense, which has been stellar of late. During the first half on Tuesday night, Penn forced Princeton into shot clock violations on two separate occasions. While the defensive effort may have been impressive at times, Dunphy and his players know that there is constantly room for improvement. "Our defense has been good, but it can be better," Dunphy said. "We allowed a couple of backdoor cuts. Matt Langel fell asleep on one play and let his guy get behind him." Although the Quakers hope to improve their defense, offensive execution remains the top priority at this point in this season. "We need to get smoother on offense," Michael Jordan said. "That's a concern for us." Jordan has certainly been doing his part in contributing to the Quakers' success on offense. The current Ivy League Player of the Week is averaging 15.8 points per game and continues to move up the list of all-time Penn scoring leaders. He now stands sixth on that list with 1,472 points. As the senior guard leaves his mark in Penn basketball history, though, he is only concerned with getting through the rest of the Ivy schedule. And if the Quakers can get by the Big Red tonight, they can probably expect Columbia to offer more of a challenge than it did earlier this season. Although Penn disposed of the Lions (10-11, 4-4) with ease in a 63-37 romp on January 28, Dunphy acknowledges that Columbia is playing much better and cannot be taken lightly. The Quakers may have a lead in the race for the league title, but they know the race is far from finished. They start to head for the homestretch tonight.
Sitting in the Franklin Field press box on Saturdays last fall, my fellow reporters and I always listened intently as the scores from other Ivy League football games came rolling in. But whenever an Ivy team was scheduled to play a non-conference game against Lehigh, we really didn't need to hear the score coming from the press box speakers. We knew what to expect -- a blowout. It was as if the Ivy teams did not have a chance against the Engineers. Dartmouth, Princeton and Columbia all went down without putting up much of a fight. Although Lehigh is a non-scholarship school just like the Ivies, the Engineers were playing on another level. This was especially true on offense, where they were nearly unstoppable in games against most other non-scholarship programs. It wasn't always like that. As recently as two years ago, games with Lehigh were actually winnable for Ivy League teams. But in the past two seasons, Lehigh has taken off, earning a spot among the Division I-AA powerhouses and leaving most Patriot and Ivy League teams in the dust. And next fall, one of the men most responsible for creating this offensive machine in Bethlehem, Pa., will have a home on the sidelines at Franklin Field. On January 27, Andy Coen was introduced as the Quakers' new offensive coordinator. Coen had been the offensive coordinator at Lehigh since 1996. He replaces Chuck Priore, who had been with the Quakers since 1990 before leaving to take the top job at Trinity College in December. For a preview of what you may be seeing on Saturdays during the next few falls, just take a look at what happened 80 miles up the Northeast Extension of the Pennsylvania Turnpike. Lehigh qualified for the NCAA Division I-AA playoffs in each of the past two years and in 1998 became the first non-scholarship program to ever win a playoff game. The main reason for this was the offense that Coen helped to create. In Lehigh history, there have been eight seasons with a 1,000-yard rusher. Under Coen, there were five consecutive years. Most recently, Lehigh started All-Everything running back Ron Jean, who set Engineers single-season records for most rushing touchdowns (23), most total touchdowns (26) and most points (156). Lehigh also featured quarterback and NFL prospect Phil Stambaugh, who recently completed 12-of-17 passes for 82 yards in the annual Blue-Gray Game. It is not out of the realm of possibility for something similar to happen at Penn. But fans should not expect the Quakers to shoot into the national rankings just yet. Lehigh is a very fine school, but the Engineers can recruit athletes who may not be able to meet the academic standards for admission to an Ivy League institution. That does not, however, mean Penn cannot get some very talented players. Coen is originally from southern New Jersey and while at Lehigh, he spent a considerable amount of time recruiting athletes around Philadelphia and in other areas targeted by the Quakers. In fact, Coen and the other members of the Lehigh coaching staff heavily recruited current Penn running backs Kris Ryan and Matt Thomas when they were in high school. Teams from the Patriot and Ivy Leagues always compete for recruits, and hiring someone already familiar with that recruiting scene will help the Quakers in the next few seasons. But while the next few years may be very promising, next year could be just as good. In Ryan and quarterback Gavin Hoffman, the Red and Blue feature the most dangerous one-two punch of any Ivy League offense. Last season, Ryan rushed for 1,197 yards and earned a spot on the All-Ivy first team. All Hoffman did in his first season as a Quaker was pass for more yards in a single season (2,150) than any other quarterback in Penn history. And now that Brown's James Perry and Yale's Joe Walland will be lost to graduation, Hoffman can assume the role of the premier signal-caller in the conference. The receivers aren't exactly slouches either. Next season, Rob Milanese and Colin Smith will lead an experienced group of pass-catching Quakers. So it is obvious Coen and head coach Al Bagnoli will have quite a considerable amount of talent to work with in next year's offense. Although the offensive line may be a bit depleted due to graduation, Penn should still be the league's dominant offense. Since arriving at his office in Weightman Hall, Coen has been looking at films and figuring out ways to improve the Penn offense. He has also been traveling with other members of the coaching staff on recruiting trips. Coen plans to strike a 50/50 balance between running and passing plays next season, but also plans to allow Hoffman to make more decisions at the line of scrimmage. You might be seeing a few more passing plays on first down as well. None of this will automatically make the Quakers a better team. It will not be a revolution. Andy Coen is not a savior, and there really isn't all that much that needs saving anyway. Priore had success with this offense in the past few years, and you can't ask for much more than some of the performances of recent seasons. But you may be seeing a difference when the Quakers have the ball this season, and maybe, just maybe, you'll see a bit of a transformation resembling the one that took place in Bethlehem over the last few years. Coen wants to be a head coach somewhere someday, and he feels that having success at a school with a winning tradition like Penn's will help that cause. And if he does have that success, reporters in the Franklin Field press box might not have to wait for the Lehigh score to be announced. They might be seeing some stellar offensive performances happening right before their own eyes.
The Quakers' home season begins after a loss to Cornell on Saturday. The Penn gymnastics team did not succeed in its attempt to get a win in its inaugural meet of the year on Saturday, but the Quakers will not have to wait very long for another opportunity. After dropping their season opener to Cornell by the excruciatingly close score of 186.660-186.125 in Ithaca, N.Y., the Red and Blue will host Ursinus today at 6 p.m. in Hutchinson Gymnasium. "I expect them to be very upbeat at home in Hutch. School's back in session, we've got fans that come in, and I'm looking for a good, solid first start at home with a much improved Ursinus team," Penn coach Tom Kovic said. "We're looking at it as a transition from one meet to the next." Last season, the Quakers did not have much trouble with Ursinus, registering a 185.200-172.475 victory. And although the Quakers did not come away with a win against the Big Red this past weekend, there were several good signs from the Quakers' performance in their season opener. Sophomore Lauren Hittner led the way with a 9.60 performance in the vault to help the Quakers claim the event. Hittner also had the high score (9.75) on the beam, but it was not enough to beat the Big Red. Junior Kelly Haberer was another highlight for Penn, finishing first on the bars with a 9.375. The Quakers will need these top performers to compete well as they try to defend their Ivy Classic title, and the athletes will get their next chance to show their mettle tonight when the Bears visit Hutch. The Quakers, who head to the GW Invitational on Saturday, are hoping to receive significant support in their first home appearance of the season. "We're hoping for people to come out and support us," Hittner said. "We have room for improvement, so we're looking to improve. I hope for people to come out and watch, but I don't know what to expect. It's always fun to compete at home."
Penn's offensive coordinator was named head football coach of the Division III Bantams in Hartford. Chuck Priore, who has served as the Penn football team's offensive coordinator and offensive line coach since 1992, was named head football coach at Trinity College on January 6. While Priore finds the opportunity of becoming a head coach for the Division III school in Hartford, Conn., to be inviting, he admits that it will be difficult to leave Franklin Field. Not only will he be leaving the staff that he has worked with for the past eight years and with whom he has won three Ivy League titles, but he will also be parting ways with several close friends in Philadelphia. Priore has worked with Penn head coach Al Bagnoli for the past 13 years at both Union College and Penn, and he will also be moving away from his brother, Ray, the Quakers' defensive ends coach since 1989. "For the past eight years, I've been happy at Penn," Priore said. "It will be difficult, but sometimes you have to put your career goals ahead of you." Priore's exit marks the second straight year that the Quakers have lost a coordinator. Defensive coordinator Mike Toop left the squad last winter to take the same position at Connecticut. This past season, Bagnoli assumed the duties of defensive coordinator in addition to his head coaching responsibilities. Although Penn has not yet named a replacement for Priore, an announcement of his successor is expected shortly. Whoever takes Priore's spot, however, will have a tremendous amount of talent with which to work. In 1999, sophomore tailback Kris Ryan led the Ivies with 1,197 rushing yards and sophomore quarterback Gavin Hoffman set a Penn single-season record with 2,328 passing yards. The Quakers will also welcome back a strong corps of wide receivers, including All-Ivy honorable mention Rob Milanese. "I've talked to a few of the players, and I'll be interested to see how they do next year," Priore said. At Trinity, Priore will replace Bill Decker, who led the Bantams to a 5-3 record in his one season as interim head coach. Decker will remain on Priore's staff as defensive coordinator and linebackers coach. In 1999, Decker, who served as interim coach following the retirement of Don Miller after 32 seasons, returned Trinity to the winning tradition that characterized it for much of its history. In fact, the Bantams only had four losing seasons under Miller. In that time, they posted a record of 174-77-5. While Priore tries to continue Trinity's tradition of success, his former coworkers will be rooting for him. "Obviously, you want to see anyone you work with, not only your brother, be successful," Ray Priore said. "Knowing him and the way he works, I know he'll be successful." And what will Priore remember most about his time at Penn? "The first time I got hit in the head with toast. It was actually a bagel," Priore jokingly replied. But as he moves on to the head coaching ranks, Priore says that he will always remember his three Ivy titles under Bagnoli and the Quakers' 24-game unbeaten streak from 1992 to 1995.
And you really can't blame them. Penn's first half against Lehigh on Saturday was one of the poorest shooting performances I've ever seen from the Quakers, and the sloppy play throughout the game was really not much of a confidence-booster. So what's the problem with Penn? It is obvious that they are full of talent, but for some reason, things just are not coming together for these Quakers. It's impossible to pinpoint any one reason for Penn's underwhelming performance so far. But one thing is clear -- if the Quakers continue to play as they did Saturday night, getting through the Ivy season and back to the NCAA Tournament will not be easy as previously thought. It's hard to know what to expect from these Quakers any longer. They go to California and play well enough to beat a tough Cal team in the final of the Golden Bear Classic and then go to Kansas, only to have the Jayhawks make them look like the Washington Generals in a 105-59 debacle. It wasn't supposed to be like this. The Quakers were supposed to play tough teams like Kansas down to the wire and then make teams like Lehigh look like high school JV squads -- just as they did for much of last year. Yes, a five-point win over the mediocre Engineers counts just as much in the win column as the Quakers' upset of No. 6 Temple last season. But with the way these Quakers have been playing lately, people have to be worried. Fran Dunphy certainly is. "We're very concerned. I thought we had more mistakes in the second half than the first half [against Lehigh]," Dunphy said. "We shot 8-for-30, so it wouldn't matter what the mistakes looked like. We just didn't shoot the ball well in the first half. We didn't turn the ball over very much in the first half. We had a couple of foolish mistakes in the second half." Dunphy went on to highlight an intentional foul committed by Koko Archibong and a play in which Ugonna Onyekwe saved a ball while falling out of bounds. Onyekwe passed it to a wide-open Jared Hess, who took one dribble and then scored an uncontested layup for the Engineers. "Ugonna made a very foolish mistake by saving the ball under the basket," Dunphy said. "I'd say he's been told that maybe 100 times during the course of the practice settings we've had. "Those things were foolish. I'm very concerned." Archibong and Onyekwe are freshmen, and freshmen make freshman mistakes. But as the two starting forwards on a team that expects to win another Ivy League title, they are making mistakes that need to stop. Eventually these problems will be fixed, but that needs to happen soon. Onyekwe and Archibong have more athletic ability than last year's starting forwards, Paul Romanczuk and Jed Ryan, but then-captains Ryan and Romanczuk did not make foolish mistakes like this. The Quakers' troubles, however, extend beyond the freshmen. When a team tries to work five new players into the rotation -- as the Quakers are doing now -- growing pains are expected. The problem is that by this part of their schedule, the Quakers should be past that point in their development. "It's not just the seven new faces. The alley-oop I threw to Ugonna, I probably should have pulled back," guard Michael Jordan said. "We just gotta buckle down and start playing more fundamentally sound." Well, it's clear they have to do something, especially with Temple next in line on Thursday. The Owls have had their share of difficulties this season as well, but if the Quakers come out on Thursday like they did on Saturday, Penn fans might as well not even make the trip to the Apollo. If you take away the silly mistakes, the Quakers still will not come away with many wins when they shoot 26.7 percent from the field as they did in the first half against Lehigh. You also don't win many games when Matt Langel shoots 1-for-7 from the field. And even though Geoff Owens came through with a monster second half to lead the Quakers to victory on Saturday, his performance -- which has been hampered by shin splints for most of the season -- has been inconsistent. It's not just one thing that has caused the Quakers' troubles thus far. The only thing that is clear now is that they cannot continue to play this way. Those midseason Ivy weekends can be trying anyway. But the possibility of a team like Cornell or Yale upsetting Penn only seems to be growing. "We were lucky to get out of here," Jordan said on Saturday. Yes, they were, but luck will not be enough against Temple. And luck will not carry them to an Ivy title.
After five games, however, it's also safe to say that the Quakers are not in bad shape. Sure, there are obvious areas of concern, such as an inability to get to the free-throw line and the lack of experience for starting forwards Ugonna Onyekwe and Koko Archibong. But one area that looked like a potential problem early in the season seems to be resolved. Michael Jordan. He's Penn's best player and its emotional leader. He's perhaps the main reason for the high expectations of the Quakers. And he's finally back on track. While the Quakers did not pull off an upset in Birmingham over the weekend, none of the blame can be placed on Jordan. The senior co-captain was sharp against the Tigers, and without his fiery play, Penn would not have been able to keep it so close in the 77-70 loss. "[Jordan] really played great. He's a great guard. I haven't played somebody with that much energy in a long time," Auburn guard Scott Pohlman said. "He was just out there running around all kinds of screens. It's just a compliment to him and shows just what a great player he is." From the start on Saturday, it was clear that Jordan would be relentless throughout the night. Two minutes into the game, he made a slashing cut through and past Auburn's big men to score on an impressive, swooping layup. He then came back on the next possession to hit Geoff Owens on a backdoor cut to even the score at nine. He was back to being the Michael Jordan people are used to, the one who led the Quakers to the Ivy title last season -- not the one who opened this season at Kentucky with one of his worst performances ever as a Quaker. In that game in the first round of the Preseason NIT, Jordan was just 2-of-14 from the field and totally off his game. After struggling again two weeks later versus Penn State -- he shot a mere 1-of-12 from the field -- Jordan was understandably frustrated. This is Michael Jordan's team, and if he is not performing up to the exceptionally high standards he sets for himself, he will not be happy. Two games and two losses after the Penn State game, Jordan is still not happy. He will only be satisfied when the Quakers start winning consistently. And from watching Jordan play against the Tigers this weekend, it's easy to see that the wins will start piling up for Penn as it plays its final 23 games of the regular season. "I think gradually my performance is getting better. I'm not happy with the way I've played yet, I'm kind of up-and-down. The first couple of games I played really bad. The last couple of games I played OK," Jordan said. "I have to play well all the time, so until I start playing well game after game after game, I won't be satisfied. If we're not winning, then I won't be happy with the way I'm playing." Against the Tigers, Jordan finished with 20 points on 8-of-14 shooting and brought his characteristic fiery leadership to Birmingham. With two straight good games under his belt -- he knocked in 22 points against La Salle on Tuesday night -- Jordan is looking like the player he was last season. Jordan has been named the Quakers' team MVP in each of his first three seasons at Penn. Now, he is on probably the most talented Penn team of his career, and the Quakers, a very young squad with several freshmen seeing a lot of time, need him to be the team MVP now more than ever. Jordan played the entire second half against the Tigers, his aggressive play helping the Quakers keep the score close despite having all of their big men in foul trouble. Throughout the season, freshman David Klatsky has sometimes come in to play the point while Jordan moves to the shooting guard position. In the second half against the Tigers, Klatsky never left the bench. With Jordan running the show for the entire second 20 minutes, he was able to create plays and to dictate the offense. He was allowed to be himself. And he shined like he has so many times during his Penn career. Klatsky is very talented and has a great court sense. His contributions off the bench will be crucial throughout the season, but by keeping Jordan at the point for the whole second half, Penn coach Fran Dunphy gave his star freedom to run the show. If it weren't for the foul trouble that plagued Penn inside, Jordan could have probably led the Quakers to an upset of the powerful Tigers. "I thought Mike did a great job tonight at both ends of the floor, both offensively and defensively," Dunphy said. "He made some big baskets, played very intelligently, and led our team extremely well. I'm very pleased." But Michael Jordan is not pleased. He will only be pleased when the Red and Blue start to win games. From the way he played against Auburn on Saturday, however, it seems as though that time is not too far off. After a shaky start, Jordan is back to his old ways -- old ways that are likely to lead Penn back to success.
Quarterback Gavin Hoffman broke Penn's single-game passing record as the Quakers stormed past Columbia. NEW YORK -- Now this is what we've been waiting for. After a disappointing first four weeks which put him under a lot of criticism and raised questions about his effectiveness, Penn quarterback Gavin Hoffman had a breakout day Saturday, completing 25-of-32 passes for a school-record 399 yards and four touchdowns as the Quakers stomped Columbia, 41-17, at Wien Stadium. With Hoffman's career day, the Quakers (3-2, 2-0 Ivy League) had a balanced offensive attack for the first time this season. In addition to Penn's passing numbers, sophomore tailback Kris Ryan, the leading rusher in the Ivy League, picked up 172 yards on 30 carries. By the end of the day, that balanced attack had tallied 626 yards of total offense -- one short of the school record set in 1973 against Columbia. "We were waiting rather patiently for the quarterback and the receivers to finally get on the same page," Penn coach Al Bagnoli said. "Today at least, we saw a glimpse of that happening." That glimpse Hoffman and his receivers gave Bagnoli was certainly impressive. Throughout the whole game, Hoffman's passes were tight and on target. He also let loose a bit by throwing several long passes, something that was not a common occurrence in the season's first few weeks. This included a 77-yard touchdown pass to Rob Milanese in the second quarter and a 63-yard touchdown to Brandon Clay in the opening minutes of the third. "I think, in the weeks before, I kind of let myself get frustrated out there and this week I just tried to come in sort of pissed off and prove people wrong because I was getting a lot of criticism," said Hoffman, who broke Mark DeRosa's 1994 record of 360 passing yards. "I just knew things would turn around so I just kept plugging away at it this week." The improvement of the receiving corps, however, also contributed to Hoffman's big numbers. The Columbia secondary was little match for the Penn receivers, who seemed to be open all day long. "We've had the confidence all year. We know we have what it takes," Milanese said. "We know Gavin's talented and we have confidence in ourselves as receivers, so it's a matter of time before we get going." Milanese certainly got going on Saturday. The sophomore was Hoffman's favorite target, finishing the day with eight catches for 184 yards -- the sixth-best receiving day in Penn history. Things, however, did not look so good for Penn at the beginning of the afternoon. Less than two minutes into the game, Columbia running back Johnathan Reese caught a short pass over the middle from quarterback Mike Glynn, dodged several Penn defenders and then burned everyone for a 72-yard score to give the Lions (2-3, 0-2) an early 7-0 advantage. It was then that the Gavin Hoffman show began. After Matt Thomas gave Penn good field position by running for 22 yards on a draw play, Hoffman evened the score by lofting a perfect 35-yard pass to a streaking Brandon Carson in the endzone. Then with two minutes gone in the second quarter, Penn marched 48 yards before Hoffman connected with Ben Zagorski for a three-yard touchdown pass that put Penn up 14-7. But the Lions refused to die in front of their Homecoming crowd. On the Quakers' next series, Ryan fumbled to give Columbia possession on Penn's 39-yard line. This set up the Lions' second touchdown of the half, a five-yard pass from Glynn to Armand Dawkins. After Milanese's sprint down the right sideline for the 77-yard touchdown and a field goal by Columbia kicker Neil Kravitz, Penn entered halftime with a 21-17 lead. The second half, however, turned into a laugher. On the second play of the half, Hoffman hit Clay on a play-action pass. Lions cornerback Justin Logan bit on the fake and Clay raced 63 yards down the field for the touchdown. Penn then continued its offensive showcase in the fourth quarter, as Ryan busted through the line to rumble for a 35-yard touchdown with 12:09 remaining in the game. While Penn was piling up these huge numbers, though, the Quakers defense crushed nearly all of the Lions' weak attempts to advance the ball. In fact, the only creative thing to come from Columbia during this part of the game resulted from its new half-million dollar video scoreboard. Every time the Quakers squashed the Lions' futile hopes of establishing an attack, the scoreboard flashed appropriate messages like "D'oh!" and "Aw Shucks!" The Red and Blue held the Lions to a mere 56 yards of total offense in the second half. Columbia could not establish anything at all resembling a passing game, as the Penn secondary -- led by Anthony DeSalle's two interceptions -- did not let the Lions find any open spots. And in addition to the fine play of the defensive backs, the front line allowed the Lions a net gain of just two rushing yards in the second half. "We played a team that got after the passer real well. We were concerned about their front," Columbia coach Ray Tellier said of the Quakers defense. "Between the rush and defending, they did a nice job." With 626 yards of total offense, a breakout performance from Hoffman and a convincing Ivy win, it's fair to say the Quakers did more than just a "nice job."
Howard Mitchell never wore a Penn uniform as a player. He never stalked the sidelines as a coach. In fact, in his 44 years as a regular at Penn games, Doc Mitchell really had no official connection to the basketball program. The impact he had on it, however, cannot be measured. Doc Mitchell passed away last Thursday. For the first time since since Eisenhower was in office and the Ivy League was in its infancy, he will not be there to support the Quakers this season. Memories of him, though, will live on throughout this year's campaign and for many to come. To tell you the truth, I never met Doc Mitchell and until this week, I really didn't know anything about him. But after speaking to a handful of the countless people he touched, I really wish I had the opportunity to know this extraordinary man. Doc Mitchell was more than a fan of Penn basketball. He was more than a Wharton professor who loved to attend games at the Palestra. He was more -- much more. He was a mentor, a supporter and a friend. And he will be sorely missed. "I'm going to miss him very much," Penn coach Fran Dunphy said. "He and his wife had season tickets where he would sit above and to our left. He was always there for you. "It didn't matter if you won or you lost, he was always there." Always. Over the past 40 years, the names in the Penn basketball world have been ever-changing. Doc Mitchell was one name that remained constant. "There was no generation gap with him," Dunphy added. "He transcended all generations." And the members of all generations felt connected to him. Meeting Doc Mitchell was one of the reasons Quakers great Corky Calhoun decided to attend Penn as a recruit. The same is true for Frank Brown, who was recruited nearly 30 years after Calhoun. The names may have been different but the love and dedication to Penn basketball shown by Doc Mitchell never wavered. Corky Calhoun, Craig Littlepage, James "Boonie" Salters, Bobby Willis, Jerome Allen, Ira Bowman, Frank Brown, Michael Jordan. Different generations. Same respect for Doc Mitchell. "During my years at Penn, he was like a second father to me," Calhoun recalled. "He was a permanent fixture," Salters said. "He enjoyed basketball but we went to him for other things." And Doc was always there for those other things. Calhoun remembers that Doc Mitchell had an open-door policy at his office. Calhoun and his teammates went there to hear stories about the struggles Doc faced in the Negro Leagues when he played baseball with men like Jackie Robinson. Calhoun didn't go there to get advice on basketball or academics. He went there to visit a friend. Doc was a friend to many. When Willis was a senior at Penn, he was a few credits short of graduating. It was Doc Mitchell who pushed Willis to get his degree and Salters believes Doc is responsible for kickstarting the success Willis has had in life after Penn. In their lives since graduating from Penn, Willis and Salters -- like so many other former Quakers -- have not forgotten Doc. When asked if Doc Mitchell kept in touch with former players, Dunphy replied, "I think it was more that they kept in touch with him." Every time an old player would come back to the Palestra, he made it a point to see Doc. Calhoun even invited him to his wedding. Numerous Quakers came back to honor Doc Mitchell at the Penn basketball banquet two years ago. Many more will be there on Saturday for his memorial service. Doc Mitchell loved all sports and he was a star in basketball, baseball and football as a young man. His love for Quakers hoops, though, exceeded most other interests. Long-time Penn fan Mo Szporn, a close friend of Doc's, fondly recalls one time when Doc's Red and Blue loyalties were on clear display. Several years ago, Doc had just had his second aortal bypass surgery at HUP and Szporn went to visit him on a Saturday afternoon. The Quakers were in the middle of the Ivy season at the time. Szporn doesn't remember the opponent, the game or the details, but he remembers Doc. Several hours before tip-off, Szporn walked into Doc's hospital room. Doc, fully decked out in his Penn hoops sweatsuit, was sitting by a window facing the Palestra. Before Szporn had a chance to say hello or ask how he felt, Doc told him to get a hold of Dunphy. Why? "The other team arrived an hour and a half late for their shoot-around," Szporn recalled Doc telling him. "We have to tell coach Dunphy to go out in a zone defense because they won't be ready to shoot." Maybe Dunphy used a zone that night, maybe he didn't. But since Doc was in the hospital, that was one of the few games he missed in his long affiliation with Penn basketball. Recently, however, Doc was not able to attend many games because he had been ill. For that reason, most of the current players -- with the exception of Brown, who is in his fifth year -- did not have the relationship with Doc that older players did. While Doc might not have been as much of a mentor to the current guys, he still had an impact on them. "He was always around. Wherever we were, he was always there," Jordan said. "I wish I had the opportunity to get to know Doc Mitchell better than I did." Penn's basketball season will begin in a little over a month. Jordan will still be leading the offense, Brown will still be burying jumpers, Dunphy will still be sitting on the bench. To most observers, nothing will be different. But that seat above and to the left of the Penn bench kept warm for more than 40 years by one beloved friend will not have its usual occupant. And Doc Mitchell will be missed.
But now he has proven that he is not only good enough to play in the majors, he is good enough to be a star. In each of the past two summers, I have had the opportunity to visit a big league clubhouse. While college sports writers don't usually frequent major league clubhouses, I wanted to interview Doug Glanville, and the Phillies allowed me to talk to him. Each of the times I interviewed Glanville he was in very similar situations. Both years, he was hitting well above .300 and was among the league leaders in hits. The environments surrounding him, though, could not have been more different. In 1998, everyone loved Glanville. By July of last year, fans were praising the Phillies for the trade that brought Glanville to Philadelphia and baseball people thought he deserved serious consideration for the All-Star team. But the excitement surrounding Glanville quickly faded in the second half of the season when he disappeared. The spark he provided at the top of the Phillies lineup burned out as he hit .206 in the final two months of the season and appeared to be a totally different player. When I visited him again this past summer, it seemed, as Yogi Berra would say, "like dZj^ vu all over again." Glanville was again hitting above .300 and his 22 RBIs at the time led all major league leadoff men. Only this time around, he was drawing less praise and more concern. The day I went to the Phillies clubhouse, Glanville was the center of attention. Several sports writers pressed him with questions about his collapse last year and how he could prevent a repeat. Glanville, of course, didn't have all the answers. If he had known what happened last season, he would have done something to stop it. He did, however, seem confident that this season would not end the same way. That week, I wrote a column in The Summer Pennsylvanian, which said that while Glanville was already a star in the Penn sports world, we must wait until the season is over to see if he would become a major league baseball star as well. Well, the baseball season is almost over and guess what? Congratulations, Doug Glanville. You're a star. OK, so Glanville might not be one of the most recognizable players in the game but no one who knows baseball can fail to miss his talent. Glanville not only kept up his first half performance this season, he improved upon it. After hitting the All-Star break with a .321 batting average, Glanville has hit at a .331 clip since. Although the Phillies faltered and fell completely out of the wild card race, Glanville never lost a step. He is currently second in the National League in hits, behind only Arizona's Luis Gonzalez. With two hits against the Cubs last night, he only needs one to become the first Phillie to record 200 hits in a season since baseball's all-time hit king Pete Rose got 208 in 1979. Why the dramatic turnaround? It is the result of several factors. While Glanville did not significantly alter his offseason workouts this year, being with the Phillies another year has made him more comfortable. More importantly, though, Glanville has settled in. The novelty of being the Penn guy coming home has worn off by now. Last year when I spoke to him, he said that he was constantly doing interviews, making appearances and letting people pull him in every direction. His phone was ringing off the hook and his schedule was consistently booked. When that lifestyle is added to playing a 162-game season and leading the league in at-bats, it's easy to see why Glanville burned out. This year that has all changed. He has managed his time much better, not allowing his performance to suffer. Glanville didn't hit the wall this year; he busted right through it. Only a handful of Penn athletes ever make it to the professional level in one of the major sports. Having a Quaker become a star at that level is even more rare. When I spoke to Glanville this past summer, he said, "The real test will be when the season is over." Now, that test is almost over and Glanville has certainly passed.
No one is complaining about Gavin Hoffman's performance on Saturday. No one is running out to have his name engraved on the Bushnell Cup either. But expectations were not so high yesterday, and they shouldn't have been. If Gavin Hoffman is not a star in Ivy League by next season, I'd be surprised. And if he had come out looking like a star on Saturday, I would have been equally surprised. Hoffman announced his transfer in July and has had less than two months to learn an entirely new offense. That's not an easy task by anyone's standards. At the post-game press conference on Saturday, Dartmouth coach John Lyons was asked his impressions of Hoffman. "I thought he was okay," Lyons responded. Less than 10 minutes later, Bagnoli sat in the same chair in the same room and was asked the same question. Appropriately, Bagnoli offered the same response. "I thought he was okay." And he was okay. Not great. Not bad. Just okay. Right now, I'll take okay from Gavin Hoffman. His numbers on Saturday were respectable. Twenty-three-of-36 passing for 196 yards and one touchdown is not a bad day. In fact, statistically, it's a day quite similar to one that occurred two years ago. On September 20, 1997, Matt Rader put on a Quakers uniform for the first time and completed 22-of-39 passes for 206 yards and one touchdown. Rader would leave Penn a year and a half later with his name etched all over the Penn record book. But Gavin Hoffman is not Matt Rader. First of all, Rader transferred to Penn for the spring semester of 1997. He worked with the team in spring practice and had nearly eight months to learn the Penn system before ever throwing a pass in a real game. That extra time is a luxury Gavin Hoffman did not have. Hoffman is still learning. People who expected the ex-Big Ten player to be an immediate star in the Ivies were just fooling themselves. True, Hoffman has gone from facing the likes of Penn State linebackers LaVar Arrington and Brandon Short -- two potential first-round NFL draft picks -- to matching up against up against a Dartmouth defense that is mediocre at best for the Ivy League. But that does not mean Hoffman should have had his way with the inferior talent. It takes time to adjust, and Hoffman still needs more of it before he can feel comfortable in the pocket while facing Ivy teams. "Everyday I am feeling more comfortable with the guys I'm playing with," Hoffman said. And he now has three weeks to get even more comfortable with those guys. Before the Quakers travel to Columbia for their game against the Lions on October 16, they will play Villanova, Bucknell and Fordham in three games that mean absolutely nothing in the league standings. Those games will be three opportunities for Hoffman to improve and to learn the tendencies and characteristics of his receivers, offensive linemen and backs. When comparing the debuts of Rader and Hoffman, another stat that jumps out is the number of interceptions. Rader threw three back in '97, while Hoffman tossed two on Saturday. But those picks cannot be attributed solely, or even primarily, to Hoffman. On his first interception, Hoffman hit Brandon Carson in the numbers. But just as the ball hit Carson, Dartmouth linebacker Marshall Hyzdu hit him, popping the ball out of his grasp right into Big Green lineman Kyle Schroeder's hands. And on Hoffman's second interception, he was blindsided just as he was about to release the ball, causing him to loft the ball up for grabs. While Hoffman's stat sheet may show two interceptions, they were not interceptions caused by his inability to read the defense or hit his receivers. They were, however, interceptions that may be avoided once Hoffman and his teammates learn more about each other. This same phenomenon can be seen in the number of dropped balls. On more than one occasion, Hoffman hit his receivers in the hands, but those hands were not ready to catch a football. Looking at his performance this way, Hoffman's respectable numbers from Saturday would have been even better if he had more time to work with his receivers. Gavin Hoffman has talent. It's just that the talent is sometimes hidden when the quarterback is not totally familiar with his receivers. Hoffman is probably more talented than Matt Rader. He may not yet be as good as Rader was last year, but he is better than Rader was when he first played at Penn. And by the time Hoffman is done after three years here, he may be one of the best signal-callers Penn has ever seen. In the next few weeks, expect Gavin Hoffman to get better. Expect him to get on the same page as his receivers, and expect the Penn coaching staff to allow him more free reign in the offense, instead of calling so many short routes and dump passes. Gavin Hoffman was "okay" on Saturday, but he has the ability to be much better.
Courtney Martin shot two balls into the cage. Maria Karas scored the game-winner in the second half. And coach Val Cloud and assistant coach Donna Mulhern scouted the Wildcats extensively. But one contributor to the win just sat in the Franklin Field bleachers and watched. His name is Keith Waldman -- and anyone on the team would tell you he played a part in the team's victory. "Last night was the culmination," Cloud said. "Everyone played so hard and had fun." What Cloud is referring to is the relationship her team developed with Waldman during the preseason. Waldman is a psychologist. He currently works for Optimal Performance Associates and helps various sports teams that are having difficulty with things unrelated to skill level or knowledge of the game. Last season, Penn finished with an 8-9 record. Although the Quakers' 4-3 mark in the Ivies was nothing spectacular, it was also not something that would typically sound off alarms. But all was not well with the Penn field hockey program. "There was a lot of frustration," tri-captain Leah Bills said. "We expected to do a lot better than we did." And tri-captain Maureen Flynn added that there were "a lot of issues that came to a head last year." Cloud saw the environment around her team and knew that it was not one conducive to attaining a championship. The level of trust and respect that most members of good teams have was nowhere to be found among members of the Quaker squad. So last spring, Cloud and Mulhern gathered with the six seniors on this year's team in what Cloud described as "a meeting of the minds." They needed a way to establish that missing component -- the much-needed trust and respect -- before the '99 season. And that is where Waldman entered the picture. Waldman has worked with numerous sports teams in the recent past, including various squads at Temple, Rutgers, Rowan and other colleges in the northeast. Penn softball coach Carol Kashow had dealt with Waldman before and recommended him to Cloud. And Cloud consulted Penn strength coach Rob Wagner, who also gave Waldman's work high praise. So Cloud made the call. What was in store for the returning players was a preseason unlike the ones they had experienced in recent years. The regular schedule of running, lifting, practicing and watching film was expanded to included team-building exercises. "Some of the games were silly, like playing with hula hoops," Bills said. "It was stupid kid games but you can see that the other people trust you." What Waldman is doing is nothing new. Bills and Flynn spoke of the exercise in which a person falls back freely, knowing her teammate will catch her. It's a simple exercise, one that has been performed many times before. But it was something the field hockey players needed. The players needed to know that they can trust a person to catch them while falling, so they know that same person can be trusted in an important game situation. Waldman met with the Quakers in six preseason sessions and has made himself available to the team for contact by e-mail or phone throughout the year. Waldman will readily admit the team that beat the 'Cats earlier this week was not the same one he met in August for their first session. That group had the talent, the knowledge and the will to compete, but it was missing two important characteristics needed for team success -- respect and trust. "Their mission, which bonded them together, was to get on the same page," Waldman said. And after six team-building sessions, that page features every member of the team. Waldman is not a revolutionary. The things he says can be heard from coaches across the country. He speaks of the "Cs of Championships," which include cohesion, commitment, communication, composure, common goals and complementary roles. These phrases are a part of every coach's vocabulary. Have a conversation with any coach of any sport at any level, and you are bound to have one of these terms spit back at you. But the Quakers needed to hear it from someone new. Hearing Cloud say these things just wasn't the same as having a third-party offer a new perspective. Bills and Flynn readily point out that this year's team is by far the best they've played with in their four years and that that is due to more than Keith Waldman. The impact he had, however, is evident to anyone who speaks to the team members. Could a similar experience help other teams at Penn? Maybe, but a psychologist is not something that all teams could use right now. When situations like the one the field hockey team had last year do arise, however, perhaps other Penn coaches will take a lesson from Val Cloud. As Waldman watched the Quakers defeat Villanova, he could see the impact he had when the Wildcats tied the game at two. "Rather than getting down, they came out and scored right away," Waldman said, referring to Karas' goal six seconds after 'Nova tied up the game. Would Penn have beaten Villanova if they had never met Keith Waldman? Possibly. But would they be a satisfied and focused team whose members trust each other completely? Probably not.