For the most part, the Ivies don’t mix–schedule-wise–much with the schools outside of their region. Maybe a Patriot League team or an NEC school or a service academy, or a stray CAA matchup might happen … but for the most part they keep to themselves. And when it comes to recruiting, their non-scholarship approach makes things different–but the approach hardly scares off talented recruits. The incredible academic situation makes an Ivy League football offer very alluring–and Columbia has been a great example of that so far in recruiting.
Folks, recruiting is kind of like college football’s weather forecast for what’s going to happen in the next few years. And after cloudy skies for many years, Columbia’s fanbase must be stoked by the improvements it saw on the field this year and what’s happening with this incredible recruiting class of 23.
The Lions snapped a 24-game losing streak earlier this season and finished 2-8–but six of those losses were by 8 points or less, including two of the three co-champions, Harvard and Dartmouth. The recruits must have noticed the program is rebounding, because already 23 commitments are on board–including arguably one of the best individuals in all of FCS recruiting in quarterback Matt Dame. Dame is a south Florida product who could just as easily have accepted his scholarship offer to play for the Miami Hurricanes.
“It wasn’t an extremely tough decision for me,” Dame told HERO Sports in an interview a few weeks ago. “FCS football in my eyes is equal to FBS. You see a lot of guys go to the league from smaller schools and most FCS games are televised now, too … For me, it came down to making that 40-year decision over a 4-year decision. With Columbia hopefully I can put myself in a position to be set up life, while still playing football at a high level and even having the opportunity to go into the NFL.”
Keep in mind, in non-scholarship football in the Ivy League, programs are allowed to keep 120 players in the program. That means you may see 30, 33, 35 kids “commit” to the school in a given year, depending on how many spots are open and how many the staff wants to fill (this differs from the roughly 20-25 kids FBS schools take). These recruits have accepted an offer to play football at Columbia, or Yale, or Harvard, but they aren’t actually accepting a scholarship. Financial aid agreements are handled just like any other student’s aid is handled–and that’s how it works. But the selling point–an Ivy League education–has caused multiple kids with Power Five Conference offers to choose the Ivy League instead.
Dame is one example heading to Columbia. Early November addition Tanner Thomas, another leader within the group, could have run the ball for Cincinnati and played in bowl games. Linebacker Jalen Williams, another November addition, could have been the next defensive star in the Army-Navy game for the Midshipmen in front of 70,000 people. These are just some of the examples of the great recruiting job first-year Columbia coach Al Bagnoli, recruiting coordinator Jon Poppe and the rest of the staff are doing. Obviously Bagnoli’s 9 Ivy League titles at Penn prior to his Columbia stint have also been a selling point–he’s a winner, and it appears the mood is contagious and it is affecting recruiting.
“Yeah, I feel like this class is really an awesome class,” Williams told HERO Sports this week. “I feel like we can really be a part of something special and be the catalysts for change.”
Williams about summed it up, didn’t he? Thomas did too.
“There are multiple factors going into the making of the decision to go to Columbia,” Thomas told HERO Sports. “The prestigious academics, unbelievable placement of the university (in New York City), early playing time and the coaching. Having Al Bagnoli, one of the best coaches in the history of the Ivy League? I mean, that really impacts my decision as well.”
Here’s a look at Columbia’s huge class of 23 commitments (NOTE: Only one Power Five Conference school currently has more than 23 commitments–Virginia).
Also note: “Star” means a player’s highest rating with any recruiting service.
|WR||Kyle Baskin||Quakertown, Pa.||6’4″||210||0|
|OL||Parker Coogan||Humble, Texas||6’1″||280||0|
|QB||Matt Dame||Riviera Beach, Fla.||6’2″||172||3|
|LB||Daniel DeLorenzi||Oradell, N.J.||6’3″||230||0|
|WR||Chris Everett||Chicago, Ill.||6’2″||200||0|
|OL||John Fischer||Springfield, Ill.||6’3″||290||0|
|RB||Alex Gibson||East Doylestown, Pa.||5’10”||195||0|
|DL||LinDon Harris||Washington, D.C.||6’2″||215||0|
|TE||Ben Hill||Memphis, Tenn.||6’3″||230||0|
|RB||Hogan Irwin||San Diego, Calif.||5’10”||180||0|
|WR||Ben McKeighan||Scottsdale, Ariz.||6’0″||190||0|
|ATH||Max Mullaney||Colts Neck, N.J.||6’2″||225||0|
|LB||Michael Murphy||Tampa, Fla.||5’11”||195||0|
|OL||Lamine Nouck-A-Nwal||East Doylestown, Pa.||6’4″||250||0|
|WR||Will Ontiveros||Davenport, Iowa||6’2″||175||0|
|QB||Hunter Petlansky||Modesto, Calif.||6’2″||225||2|
|DT||Alex Robin||Birmingham, Ala.||6’0″||260||3|
|DL||Arman Samouk||Copley, Ohio||6’2″||270||0|
|OL||Joseph Scowden||Nashville, Tenn.||6’4″||300||2|
|RB||Tanner Thomas||Knoxville, Tenn.||5’10”||183||3|
|DB||Jonathan Webster||Sammamish, Wash.||6’0″||180||0|
|TE||Taylor Weldon||Americus, Ga.||6’2″||240||0|
|LB||Jalen Williams||Trussville, Ala.||6’0″||200||3|