5.12.06

FRONT PORCH? I've taken exception previously to our athletic director referring to the football program being the front porch for Northern Illinois, noting inter alia that the academic mission went forward even as the now making two bowl appearances in three years was going 0-for-the-late 1990s.

Now for a few more data points. I've discovered that the longest current losing streak in major college football belongs to Duke University.

Here are some humiliating tidbits that I've read various places or came up with that barely begin to describe the ineptitude of our program.

-At 0-12, Duke is one of only two winless D-1A football teams, the other being Florida International.

-Duke sports the longest losing streak of any D-1A football team, at 20 games.

-Duke has not beaten a D-1A football team in over two years (their win last year was against a D-1AA program, and this year they managed to lose to a D-1AA program).

-Over the last three years, Duke has managed a whopping 3 wins, and over the course of my four years at Duke, the squad has put up a grand total of 7 wins.

That streak comes not long after another losing streak.
Duke ran its losing streak to 23 games by the end of the 2001 season, and many prognosticators thought the Blue Devils had a good shot at breaking Northwestern's record of 34 straight losses by the end of this season. Blue Devils coach Carl Franks explained what, exactly, the problem was: "Winning football games has certainly been harder than I anticipated." On a positive note, Duke proved the prognosticators wrong by winning their 2002 season opener against East Carolina, 23-16.
I don't know that those losing streaks are hurting Duke's yield management. (That they have two pretty good basketball teams might offset their 0-for-the 21st century elevens; do their football spectators yell "hurry up, November" in the manner of 1970s Badger fans?)

The off-field problems of the lacrosse team might have some effect on their yield, but the hysterical reaction of some faculty members to the seriousness of the charges, notwithstanding the weakness of the evidence, ought to matter more than the strength of basketball or the weakness of football.

The survey of intercollegiate losing streaks identifies a few other universities that seemed to manage despite a rickety front porch.
The [Northwestern] Wildcats were in the midst of a 34-game losing streak (the longest in Division I-A history) during the 1981 season, when they lost all of their games, getting outscored 505-82 -- an average of 40 points a game. Northwestern fans celebrated a 61-14 home loss to Michigan State by tearing down the goalposts and marching through Evanston shouting, "We're the worst!" After the Wildcats ended their losing streak, defeating Northern Illinois 31-6 on Sept. 25, 1982, coach Dennis Green said, "When I woke up this morning, I knew it was a special day."
That's either the year of the California Bowl for Northern Illinois, or the year before. Kellogg students used to razz their winning guests: That's alright, that's OK, You're going to work for us some day!
Columbia lost 44 games in a row during these years, the second-longest in major college football history. Things got so bad that the band played the "Mickey Mouse Club" theme when the team took the field. During one 1985 game against Harvard, Columbia actually looked like it might win -- it was leading 17-0 with five minutes left in the third quarter. But the Crimson came back, and scored 49 unanswered points in the time remaining. When the Lions lost their 35th straight, to set a Division 1-AA record, their coach, Larry McElreavy, told The New York Times, "I'm realistic; there's not a lot of talent here."
Isn't "Ivy League football" an oxymoron? On the other hand, those HO-scale front porches on G-scale dwellings don't seem to scare applicants away. And again, Columbia's acquiescence in verbal terrorism by heirs to the 1968 rebellion ought bother applicants more than any history of ineptitude on fall Saturday afternoons. (Be grateful, Ivies, nobody's offering your athletic program pittances to play on Sunday evening or Wednesday night in November or the Friday morning immediately after Thanksgiving.)

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