Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Know Your 2014 Opponents: Bucknell

You might have been forgiven for overlooking them last year.

After all, Lehigh always beat Bucknell.  It was what they did.

The last time the Bison beat the Mountain Hawks anywhere, RB Rich Lemon was their star back, and Monica Lewinsky was still welcome in the Bill Clinton White House.

But for a fifteen year stretch, the Bison couldn't beat Lehigh with a ten-point head start.

So you might have been forgiven for not making the trip to Lewisburg fully anticipating No. 16.

Except that, on October 26th, 2013, Bucknell changed the narrative.

Bucknell didn't just beat heavily-favored, nationally-ranked Lehigh in their own house.  They put on the type of beating that left Lehigh fans absolutely stunned, a 48-10 stampeding that will not soon be forgotten by either side.

Bucknell used to be another name on the Patriot League schedule for Lehigh to beat.  Now?  Their name is circled, a critical game in early October that will be a pivotal game for both sides in the Patriot League title race.

Friday, August 22, 2014

Know Your 2014 Opponents: Monmouth

By definition, every team I profile in this "Know Your 2014 Opponents" series is new.  There are new faces, a fresh, new 0-0 record, and a fresh start for the football season.

For Monmouth, though, who visits Lehigh on September 27th, there's a whole lot more new stuff.

Start with a new football conference.  The Hawks (or Jersey Hawks, as I call them) move to the Big South in football only, where they will be competing against some football powers like Coastal Carolina and Liberty.  Gone is their independent schedule from 2013.

Then head to the helmets and uniforms, where it shows off Monmouth's status as an up-and-coming athletics program.  Gone are the gothic interlocking "M" and "U", and in its place a silver helmet, with a classic looking "M", takes its place.

Perhaps unfortunately for the Mountain Hawks, though, the players who inhabited the old uniforms last season return to inhabit the new ones, meaning Lehigh will face a team with a boatload of experience.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

In Preseason, Lehigh In Unfamiliar Territory, Especially on Defense

Once upon a time, Lehigh's football team was many preseason pundits' consensus No. 1 in the Patriot League.  It wasn't even a question.

Sure, some of that was due to the fact that Fordham, now for the first time in years an full, card-carrying member of the Patriot League, was ineligible.

But in 2010 and 2011, Lehigh was the undisputed king, with wins over their Rivals, undisputed Patriot League championships, and even playoff victories against Northern Iowa and Towson.

This season, it's a new team with a dynamic offense and a team loaded with talent that is the undisputed champion going into the 2014 season.  With one of the best FCS quaterbacks in the nation, QB Michael Nebrich, and a talented defense backing them up, the Rams now have the targets on their backs.

And if Lehigh hopes to stand a chance to challenge the new kings of the hill, they will have to improve immensely on the defensive side of the ball.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Don't Attack The Summer of "Ice Buckets" - Just Do It

It's been called "slacktivism".

It's been called narcissism masked as charity.

But the "ice bucket challenge", which has torn its way in the amazing span of three week from a thing that college athletes and coaches were doing to a world-wide phenomenon, is nothing to cynically wag your finger at.

During the last few weeks, a multitude of Lehigh coaches, players, media members, and even athletic director Joe Sterrett have taken the icy bucket of water over their heads.

In doing so, they have done incredible good in raising awareness about an awful disease that really needs all the help it can get in regards to a cure.

I know this because I didn't just start giving to ALS causes in the last two weeks.

Friday, August 15, 2014

LFN Look Back: Bonfires and "P-Rades" Lead Up To The Game

For a very long period during the Rivalry, parades and bonfires have played a large part of the festivities, though their timing and purpose have changed over time.

And just like “smokers”, parades bonfires started out as athletic celebrations separate from the Rivalry, but ultimately became intertwined with the traditions of the game.

The tradition of the parade and bonfire dates from the times when cars were still rare, and most of the transportation into South Bethlehem came by the Lehigh Valley Railroad, whose station was only a few blocks from campus.

Bonfires celebrating athletic victories were not unknown in the late 1890s at both Lehigh and Lafayette, as well as parades for successful athletic teams.  They may have been inspired by Harvard, Yale and Princeton, who were starting to celebrate their biggest victories over each others with large bonfires.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Know Your 2014 Opponents: Yale

As you meander to Yale's website, you're greeted by an intro video when you click on the link to bring you to "Inside Yale Football".

The video, featuring a pump-up-the-faithful talk by head coach Tony Reno, has a gothic soundtrack, panning over Yale's 100 year old stadium, and also panning over walk of fame involving players from as far back as 1872.

That's not going to be Lehigh's issue, however, when they're Yale's opponent in the Eli's opening-day game, where the Bulldogs will be celebrating their 100th season playing in the Yale Bowl.

Yale saw its first game played there 100 years ago, minus six days, with a team that was one of the college football powerhouses in the entire nation.  This time around, though, they'll be a team that is picked to finish fifth in the eight-team Ivy League, and is a very young team.

Monday, August 11, 2014

"Team Market", "Libertarianism" And The Right Direction for College Athletics

When you look at politics, whether on a formal or informal basis, you see fads appear and disappear as so many fashion trends.

Today the fad goes to "libertarianism", which, supposedly is being revisited by the younger set and some of the cognigentia as an interesting, currently viable political philosophy.

I've always been of the philosophy that people can believe politically in what they want.  Generally, I have no quarrel with "libertarians".

Until their worldview creeps into a narrow subset of collegiate athletics, using faulty, incorrect applications of economic theory to justify an economic world that is wrong - and dangerous.