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Columbia Lions

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Columbia Lions

Columbia Lions
University Columbia University
Conference Ivy League
NCAA Division I
Athletic director Peter Pilling
Location New York, NY
Varsity teams 31
Football stadium Wien Stadium
Basketball arena Levien Gymnasium
Baseball stadium Hal Robertson Field at Phillip Satow Stadium
Soccer stadium Rocco B. Commisso Soccer Stadium
Lacrosse stadium Wien Stadium
Mascot Roaree the Lion
Nickname Lions
Fight song Roar, Lion, Roar
     Columbia blue       white
Website .com.gocolumbialionswww

The Columbia University Lions are the collective athletic teams and their members from Columbia University, an Ivy League institution in New York City, United States. The current director of athletics is Peter Pilling.


  • Ivy League athletics 1
  • The Lions 2
    • History 2.1
    • Men’s teams 2.2
    • Women’s teams (Columbia-Barnard) 2.3
  • Achievements 3
    • Football 3.1
      • Bowl games 3.1.1
    • Baseball 3.2
    • Men's basketball 3.3
    • Women's basketball 3.4
    • Men's and women's soccer 3.5
    • Women's cross-country 3.6
    • Fencing 3.7
    • Men's golf 3.8
    • Men's rowing 3.9
    • Men's swimming and diving 3.10
    • Women's swimming and diving 3.11
    • Men's tennis 3.12
    • Men's track and field 3.13
    • Wrestling 3.14
  • National team championships 4
  • Notable athletes 5
  • References 6
  • External links 7

Ivy League athletics

The eight-institution athletic league to which Columbia University belongs, the Ivy League, also includes Brown University, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, Harvard University, University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University, and Yale University. The Ivy League conference sponsors championships in 33 men's and women's sports and averages 35 varsity teams at each of its eight universities. The League provides intercollegiate athletic opportunities for more men and women than any other conference in the United States. All eight Ivy schools are listed in the top 20 NCAA Division I schools in number of sports offered for both men and women.

The Lions

Columbia University was founded in 1754 and currently fields 31 co-ed, men’s, and women’s teams. Women's teams are cooperatively organized with the affiliated Barnard College.[1] All Columbia teams compete at the Division I level in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA). The school's football team competes at the NCAA Division I FCS level.

It is believed that the school adopted the nickname "Lions" as a reference to the institution's royal past. The University was originally named King's College since its charter in 1754 by King George II of England. The lion is the animal depicted on the English coat of arms. Only after the American Revolution was King's finally renamed Columbia University.


A 19th-century football match between Columbia and Harvard

Intercollegiate sports at Columbia date to the foundation of the baseball team in 1867. Men's association football (i.e. soccer) followed in 1870, and men's crew in 1873. Men's Crew was one of Columbia's best early sports, and in 1878 the Columbia College Boat Club was the first non-English school to win a race at the Henley Royal Regatta. The third ever men's intercollegiate soccer match was played between Columbia and Rutgers University, with Rutgers winning 6 to 3. Columbia joined the American football movement soon after Harvard and Yale played their first game in 1875—in 1876, Columbia, Harvard, and Princeton University formed the Intercollegiate Football Association.[2] In addition, the Lions' wrestling team is the nation's oldest.

The Columbia football team won the Rose Bowl in 1934, upsetting Stanford University 7-0. Columbia also hosted the first televised sporting event: on May 17, 1939, the fledgling NBC network filmed the baseball double-header of the Light Blue versus the Princeton University Tigers at Columbia's Baker Field at the northernmost point in Manhattan.[3]

Men’s teams

Baseball, Basketball, Cross Country, Fencing, Golf, Lacrosse, Heavyweight Rowing, Lightweight Rowing, Soccer, Swimming and Diving, Tennis, Track and Field, Football and Wrestling.

Women’s teams (Columbia-Barnard)

Archery, Women's Basketball, Cross Country, Fencing, Field Hockey, Women's Golf, Lacrosse, Women's Rowing, Women's Soccer, Softball, Women's Swimming and Diving, Women's Tennis, Track and Field, and Volleyball,


Columbia University hosts one of the oldest and most storied traditions of athletics in the United States.[4]


Columbia was one of the first schools to take up the game; Columbia's 1870 contest with Rutgers was the second intercollegiate football game ever played.[5]

The Lions compete in the Ivy League, which is part of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (formerly known as Division I-AA).

The football program unfortunately is best known for its record of futility set during the 1980s: between 1983 and 1988, the team lost 44 games in a row, which is still the record for the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision. The streak was broken on October 8, 1988, with a 16-13 victory over archrival Princeton. That was the Lions' first victory at Wien Stadium (which was already four years old, having been opened during the streak).[6] Even before the streak, the Lions had long been regarded as one of the worst football teams in the country.

The program was much more successful in the first half of the 20th century, and was at times a national power. The 1915 squad went undefeated and untied.[7] The 1933 edition of the Lions won an unofficial national championship by upsetting the top-ranked Stanford Indians 7-0 in the Rose Bowl on New Years Day 1934. Lou Little, who coached the team from 1930 to 1956, is in the College Football Hall of Fame.

Washington Redskins' "Head Hog," during the 1970s and 1980s, quarterback John Witkowski in the 1980s, and defensive lineman Marcellus Wiley in the 1990s. Perhaps the most famous personality associated with Lions football was a running back who had limited success on the field: the writer Jack Kerouac left school and went on the road after one injury-marred season at Columbia. Another Lions back who became legendary for his accomplishments off the gridiron was baseball great Lou Gehrig, who was a two-sport star at Columbia.

Norries Wilson is the first African-American head coach in the history of Ivy League football. He served as the Lions' head coach from 2005 to 2011. Former Penn Quakers football coach Al Bangoli became Columbia's head coach on February 23, 2015.

Bowl games

Season Bowl Champion Runner-Up
1934 Rose Bowl Columbia 7 Stanford 0


Lou Gehrig played college baseball at Columbia (he joined the New York Yankees in 1923, after his sophomore season) as well as Hall of Fame inductee Eddie Collins. In 1939 the first live televised sporting event in the United States, was a Columbia vs Princeton baseball game, broadcast from Baker Field in New York City.[9][10] Other Columbia Lions who have gone on to play in Major League Baseball include Gene Larkin and Fernando Perez. The team plays at Hal Robertson Field at Phillip Satow Stadium, located at the northern tip of Manhattan.

Men's basketball

Columbia was one of the first schools to take up basketball. The Lions' rivalry with the Yale Bulldogs is the longest continuous rivalry in NCAA college basketball (tied with the Yale-Princeton rivalry): the two teams have played each other for 108 seasons in a row, going back to the 1901-1902 season.

The Lions were retroactively recognized as the pre-NCAA Tournament 1904 and 1905 national champions by the Premo-Porretta Power Poll, and as the 1904, 1905, and 1910 national champions by the Helms Athletic Foundation.[11]

During the years just before the Ivy League formally became a sports conference, the Lions made it to "March Madness" on two occasions. In 1948, they were one of eight teams in the tournament, losing in the East regional semifinal to the eventual champion [12] The 1951 team is, however, sadly best known for the tragic story of its brilliant but troubled star forward Jack Molinas, who eventually ended up in prison for crimes related his longtime involvement with gambling and who was murdered in 1975 in what appeared to be an organized-crime related assassination. Molinas still holds several school scoring records.

In 1957 [12]

The Lions have only won the official Jack Rohan was voted Coach of the Year in 1968.

The Lions had a powerful squad in the late 1970s, even though they never won the Ivy League championship or made it to post-season play. In 1979, the diminutive [12] Byrd never made it to the NBA, but he moved on to a legendary career in European pro basketball.

Women's basketball

Until the 1980s, the women's basketball team (like the other women's teams) was known as the Barnard Bears, playing under the aegis of Columbia's affiliated undergraduate women's college, Barnard College. When Columbia College went co-ed in 1983, the schools formed the Columbia-Barnard Athletic Consortium, and today all Barnard athletes compete on Columbia teams.

The women's basketball team joined the Ivy League in 1986-1987, and for many years were a perennial cellar dweller, reaching their low point in 1994-1995, when they went 0-26. They had never finished higher than fourth in the league standings in their first 23 seasons. In 2009-2010, however, they finished third, putting together a 9-5 record in the Ivy League, and, at 18-10 overall, their first winning season.

Men's and women's soccer

Columbia's soccer program traces its origins to the same Columbia-Rutgers game that the gridiron football program counts as its first contest. (The 1870 Columbia-Rutgers game was played by a set of rules which combined elements of present-day soccer and rugby.) The Lions soccer team has a long history of success, spanning three centuries, highlighted by national collegiate championships in 1909 and 1910 (Intercollegiate Soccer Football League), and a second-place finish in the 1983 NCAA championship.[13][14] Dieter Ficken was named NSCAA Coach of the Year in 1983 after the Lions' 1-0 double-overtime finals loss to seven-time champion Indiana University.[14] 18 Lions players have been first-team all-Americans, and Amr Aly earned the 1984 Hermann Trophy national player of the year award.

The women's team was the 2006 Ivy League champions.

Women's cross-country

  • Caroline Bierbaum won the 2005 women's cross country Honda Sports Award (most outstanding NCAA women's cross country athlete of the year) and was NCAA Division I runner-up with a time of 19:46.0[15][16]
  • Top-25 national finishes from 2000 through 2005[15]
  • Five straight Heptagonal Ivy League Championships: 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, and 2005


  • Coed NCAA champions: 1992 and 1993[17]
  • Coed NCAA runners-up: 1990 and 1991[17]
  • 7 coed individual national championships[17]
  • 6 coed weapon team national championships[17]
  • 16 top-6 coed national finishes in 17 years, 1990-2006[17]
  • Men's NCAA champions: 1951, 1952, 1954 (tied), 1955, 1963, 1965, 1968, 1971 (tied), 1987, 1988, and 1989[18]
  • Men's NCAA runners-up: 1956, 1957, 1958, 1970, and 1986[18]
  • 21 men's individual national champions[18]
  • Women's NCAA runner-up: 1989[18]
  • 2 women's individual national champions[18]

Men's golf

  • A.L. Walker, Jr., NCAA champion, 1919[19]
  • Ivy League championships (since 1975): 1999, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2014[20]

Men's rowing

  • In 2008, the men's heavyweight crew had a regular season record of 10-1 and finished sixth in the nation at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association National Championship being the only Ivy League school in the Grand Final. They then went on to be the only American crew competing for The Ladies' Challenge Plate at the Henley Royal Regatta in Henley-on-Thames, UK.
  • In 2003 the men's lightweight crew team finished second in the nation by just two seconds[5]
  • Won the Varsity 8s at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association regatta at Poughkeepsie in 1895, 1914, 1927, and 1929[5][21]
  • Won Varsity 4s at the 1879 Rowing Association of American Colleges regatta at Lake George[21]
  • In 1878 the Columbia College Boat Club won the Visitor's Challenge Cup at the famed Henley Royal Regatta in the first-ever defeat for an English crew rowing in English waters (1st Race, defeated University College, Oxford; final, defeated Hertford College, Oxford)[5][22]
  • Won Varsity 6s at the 1874 Rowing Association of American Colleges regatta at Lake Saratoga[21]

Men's swimming and diving

  • Head Coach: Jim Bolster
  • 8 individual NCAA Division I championships

Historical note:

1976 - First & only female varsity athlete at Columbia (before Columbia College began admitting women): Annemarie McCoy competed against the Lions' opponents (Columbia Spectator article). Thanks to Title IX, all Columbia University students (including those women from The School of Engineering and Applied Science) were eligible for Columbia athletic programs—and so McCoy was able to stay afloat with her teammates.

Women's swimming and diving

  • Head Coach Diana Caskey and Assistant Coach Demerae Christianson
  • 2013-2014 Ivy League Dual Meet Championship Team
  • 4 individual NCAA Division I championships
  • Cristina Teuscher, 1999-2000 Honda-Broderick Cup winner (NCAA Collegiate Woman Athlete of the Year)[23]

Men's tennis

  • Ivy League Champions 2009
  • Ivy League Champions 2007
  • NCAA Division I tournament appearances, 1984, 1987, 1998, 2000[24]
  • Robert LeRoy, two-time NCAA singles champion, 1904 and 1906[24]
  • Oliver Campbell and A.E. Wright, NCAA doubles champions, 1889[24]
  • Oliver Campbell and V.G. Hall, NCAA doubles champions, 1888[24]

Men's track and field

  • 3 outdoor track and field individual NCAA Division I championships
  • Once sported the world's fastest man, Benjamin Washington Johnson, the Columbia Comet. The sprinting champion's most incredible achievement was at the 1938 Millrose Games, in front of more than 17,000 fans at Madison Square Garden. His winning time in the 60 yard dash was 5.9 seconds, breaking the world record of 6.2 seconds for the third time in the same day. His final time of 5.9 seconds was rounded up to 6.0 seconds, because the referees claimed it must have been a timing error, arguing that no human being could ever break 6 seconds in the 60 yard dash.
  • In 2007, Columbia won the Championship of America 4 × 800 m race at the prestigious Penn Relays. The team of Michael Mark, Jonah Rathbun, Erison Hurtalt, and Liam Boylan-Pett ran 7:22.64, outkicking the anchor legs of national powerhouses Michigan, Villanova, and Oral Roberts. The team has finished no lower than fifth in the past three years.
  • In March 2010, Kyle Merber became the first Columbia athlete to break four minutes in the mile, running 3:58.52 at the Columbia Last Chance Meet at the 168th St. Armory. The mark is also an Ivy League indoor record.


Dating back to 1903, wrestling has a history at Columbia. Since 2011, Carl Fronhofer has been head coach of the Lion Wrestling team which currently competes in the EIWA Conference. There has been 19 EIWA Conference Champions and 5 NCAA All-Americans, most recently to Matt Palmer who placed 8th in 05' & 07' and Steve Santos who placed 3rd in 13' at the NCAA Wrestling Championships.[25] The Blue Gym (or University Gym) is located within the Dodge Physical Fitness Center on campus which is home to the Columbia Lion Wrestling team.

National team championships

As of March 2015, Columbia has 14 NCAA team national championships.[26]

Notable athletes

The Lions have produced such notable athletes as:


  1. ^
  2. ^ Harvard Athletics: A Timeline of Tradition
  3. ^ Baker Field: Birthplace of Sports Television
  4. ^ Columbia University History
  5. ^ a b c d C250 Celebrates Columbia Athletics: Columbia Athletics Highlights
  6. ^
  7. ^ NCAA Records Books: Football Records - 2006 Division I-A/I-AA Football Records Book
  8. ^ NCAA Records Books: Football Records - NCAA Division I-A Football's Finest
  9. ^
  10. ^
  11. ^
  12. ^ a b c d NCAA Records Books: Basketball Records
  13. ^ . URL accessed February 9, 2007www.sover.netCollege Soccer Championships
  14. ^ a b NCAA Records Books: Soccer Records
  15. ^ a b NCAA Record Books: Cross Country Records
  16. ^ . URL accessed March 4, 2007www.sover.netColumbia's Caroline Bierbaum Wins Honda Award
  17. ^ a b c d e NCAA Records Books: Fencing Records
  18. ^ a b c d e Official 2002 NCAA Winter Championships Records Book: Discontinued Championships
  19. ^ NCAA Records Books: Golf Records
  20. ^
  21. ^ a b c Intercollegiate Rowing Association Regatta Results
  22. ^ Friends of Rowing History, Regatta Records: U.S. Winners at Henley Royal Regatta
  23. ^ The Collegiate Women Sports Awards
  24. ^ a b c d NCAA Records Books: Tennis Records
  25. ^
  26. ^
  27. ^

External links

  • Official website
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