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"Where's Eli", or, The Quest for Ivy League Football Information

Lehigh's next opponent, Princeton, plays in their season opener this Saturday at 6PM.

Based on the fact that it's Princeton's opener, as well as the opener of the seven other Ivy League schools, you'd think that the conference website would have plenty of articles evaluating the teams of the Ivy League, looking over offenses and defenses, checking out the prospects of all their member teams for the 2013 season.

You'd think so, but you'd be wrong.

I figured I'd share my experience with you, dear Reader, on my attempt to find out something - anything - about the Princeton Tigers from the Ivy League website.

For most conferences, a logical starting point when it comes to looking at a team's prospects for the season is the conference's web site.

Ostensibly the Ivy League athletics' website is the focal point for general information about the upcoming games of the week, with Week 1, the unveiling of the teams for the first time in 2013, a particular point of emphasis.

Additionally, when looking at a school's online digital network, you'd hope to see a wide variety of multimedia presentations there - interviews with players, athletes, or perhaps the executive director of the Ivy League, Robin Harris.

What happens when you go to these sites now, as of Tuesday, September 17th, 2013, at 6PM?

You'd get the Ivy League Digital Network page, with a picture of trophies and an article with the subheading, "Football Media Day Teleconference".

So far, so good, right?

Good - until you click the link.

Where it takes you is here - the "Ivy League Highlights" page.

Scroll down the 24 or so videos, and you'll see a lot of sports: cross country, indoor track and field, men's swimming and diving, and women's lacrosse.

All fine videos, probably, with strong production values.  But what you won't see is anything about the Ivy League Football Media Day Teleconference - nor will you find any videos about football at all.

Five days before the Ivy League season is about to begin, I start my quest with disappointment.

Having been skunked on my quest for football information there, the next Ivy League page I looked at was Ivy League confernce main page for football.

On there I found a link to the Ivy League media guide.  Great!, I said to myself.  Now I can get a quick capsule preview of the Ivy League teams.

I opened the webpage for the 2013 Ivy League media guide - and there was nothing about the teams playing this season.

Quite literally there is a nine-page introduction with contact information, future schedules, an "A-to-Z" glossary of Ivy League football, unhelpfully dropping the names of Chris Berman and Walter Camp, and then 135 pages of ancient history.

Records.  All-time Ivy League standings.  MVPs.  All-Ivy Teams.

All regular media guide fare.  Except for anything that would be useful to me for the current season.

Nowhere is there a current roster.  Nowhere is there the number of returning starters on offense or defense.  Nowhere is there a list of the coaches for the upcoming season.  Nothing I could use.

I've seen a lot of media guides in my life, but it's the first time I've ever seen a media guide that has no current, pertinent information about the league in the season that it's covering.

Undaunted, I continued to other links on the site, looking for more information on the current upcoming football season.  My disappointment turning into frustration, I then browsed the articles.

I discovered: since August 6th, the day of the Ivy League Coaches' teleconference, there are exactly five articles on the site.

One talks about the return of an online radio show, starting Wednesday at 7PM:
Season 3 opens Wednesday, Sept. 18 at 7 p.m. featuring interviews with Penn head coach Al Bagnoli and Princeton Director of Athletics Gary Walters, who will discuss the impact of 1951 Heisman Trophy winner and 1966 College Football Hall of Fame inductee Dick Kazmaier.
For all I know, it's going to be a fine podcast.  But again, not a single current Ivy League football athlete that is going to be suiting up on Saturday is even mentioned in the release as someone that they're interviewing.

Now I know of Dick Kazmeier, and I love his story.  He was an inspirational man.

And when I learned of his passing, I used Facebook to pass on a hearty RIP to the great Princeton Heisman winner.  Many Patriot League people knew him.

But is the right time to talk about him now, four days before the season opens?  Wasn't the right time to do something like this weeks ago?

When I looked at the other articles, they weren't much help to me, either, because I was going to the Ivy League's website looking for current season Ivy League sports information.

One article announces the Ivy League Digital Network, which, as mentioned, has nothing regarding football five days before the season is about to begin.

Another talks about all the Ivy League players currently on NFL rosters - which is interesting, but again, completely useless to anyone looking for information on a current Ivy League team.

The latest release with information on the current season anonymously penned by an actual employee of the Ivy League is dated August 22nd, where a release listing all the preseason all-Ivy teams show all the Ivy athletes on preseason all-America teams.

It's almost, but not quite, a month old.

That left the final article on the main page - the August 6th release of the preseason all-Ivy teams and an MP3 of the coaches' audio teleconference.

The MP3, which literally has audio of about three sentences from executive director Robin Harris, isn't broken out by team - meaning, if you want to find out any information from a school, you need to skip around, trying to seek out the morsels of outdated preseason information you seek.

In conclusion: in order to find out any information on the Ivy League site about Princeton, I literally had to click about two dozen links, and found nothing that I could use until I finally, in Where's Waldo fashion (you could call it "Where's Eli?" if I were doing it for Yale), found two articles with datelines of August to find something I could possibly need.  And on one of these articles, I literally have to jump randomly through an MP3 file to look for the information I'm looking for.

It would actually be kind of funny if it weren't so sad.

*****

Thankfully I am not relying on the Ivy League to give me information about the teams of the Ivy League.

Fortunately for me, the two Ivy League schools that Lehigh play this season, Princeton and Columbia, not only have good sports media departments and press people, they also have very active bloggers covering them as well.

Roar Lions, run by Jake Novak, and the Princeton Football Blog, run by members of Princeton's football department, are two of the best out there.  They're on my regular reading list anyway, even if the Mountain Hawks weren't playing them this year.

With them, and, of course judicious use of Google News Search and Twitter, I can find what I need to make my two previews.

But it's worth showing how pathetic the Ivy League's web presence is compared to what else is out there.

Not to toot the Patriot League's horn, but they had a Patriot League Preseason Central page, complete with every team's roster and schedule, team capsules and video previews of every team, links to every media guide and prospectus, and for good measure had links to a month's worth of preseason press reports, not to mention specials on the Patriot League Network, the league's new digital offering.

The CAA had extensive video previews of their teams, too, which continues during the season with video segments, "This Week in CAA Football" presented by Tim McDonnell and Bobby Broyles, and the excellent CAA Football Blog run by the league (and also required reading for me).  It's a complete cornucopia of stuff, including pictures, weekly storylines, and lots of other goodies.

The NEC hosted a NEC Google Hangout with all of the school's coaches in the preseason for Media Day, as well as offering a whole host of preseason content on their free media service, NEC Front Row.  There's also NEC Overtime!, the official football blog, and tons of preseason content and weekly releases.

In other words, when it comes to current sports information, the three leagues that surround the Ivy League are running rings around the Ancient 8.  There's no debate about this fact.  Clicking on all four websites makes this fact painfully obvious.

When I do my preview of New Hampshire, I'll be able to go to maybe three sites to get everything I need to preview the games.  For Princeton, I had to take half a day to hunt down each nugget of information.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but the whole idea of sports information is to make this whole job easier.

And the sin of it all is that it's not hard, and it's not expensive, for the Ivy League to at least come up with something approaching the coverage of the other leagues.  It doesn't cost anything to sign up for a YouTube account and start posting football videos from your phone.  Making RSS feeds for the releases of each football team is literally set up once, and forget.  Once you have the links of the media that cover your teams, how hard is it to have a person post the links on a page?

But the Ivy League chose not do so, at least in the run-up to the football season.  The schools that gave us Elon Musk, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg cannot generate employees to make an athletics website worth reading.

Why?

Maybe it's ineptitude - maybe making a usable Ivy League website is too trivial a task for the Elon Musk's or Mark Zuckerberg's of today.  Or perhaps they simply don't care - perhaps they're too busy creating a private company infrastructure for spaceflight, say, or using their billions to eradicate malaria, to care about promoting Ivy League football.

Or maybe, just maybe, the Ivy League is quietly trying to let football wither on the vine, edging it into obscurity and history, first by taking a season or two to simply talk about football in the past tense, not focusing on the achievements of current seasons, and then planning, perhaps, to make it into a museum on the website first, then pull the plug on football, making Ivy League football officially into a museum.

Crazy talk?  I don't think so.

I mean, isn't it strange that there are 14 videos on the Ivy League digital network site, and none of them involve football in any fashion?  I mean, they're acknowledging some sports.  Just not football.

Isn't it interesting that every reference in the media guide is to the past, not the present - as if someone didn't want the current Ivy League season to exist?

Isn't it odd that I can't get a direct link to the football pages of the Ivy League schools directly from the main Ivy League football page?  I can get to the main athletics website of, say, Princeton, but I can't directly access Princeton's football news, or roster?

Isn't it strange that the Ivy League website's most recent actual news concerning the upcoming season is nearly a month old?

And isn't it off-putting how... easy it would be to make their site into something that at least can do the bare minimum when it comes to delivering information talking about their member schools, but that the people there are (at best) unable, or (at worst) unwilling to do so?

Some fans of the Ivy League schools are worried that the Ivy League will be dropping football in the future.  After playing "Where's Eli?" for football content on their official conference website, I see why they're concerned.

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