Columbia Lions

Columbia Lions
University Columbia University
Conference Ivy League
NCAA Division I
Athletic director Peter Pilling
Location New York, New York
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
Colors Columbia Blue and White[1]

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

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.[2] 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.

In 1910, the school adopted the lion mascot as a reference to the institution's royal past.[3][4] 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.[5][6] 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 foreign crew to win a race at the Henley Royal Regatta—considered to be Columbia's greatest athletic achievement.[7] 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.[8] 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.[9]

Men’s teams

  • Baseball
  • Basketball
  • Cross country
  • Fencing
  • Football
  • Golf
  • Rowing
    • Heavyweight rowing
    • Lightweight Rowing
  • Soccer
  • Swimming and diving
  • Tennis
  • Track and field
  • Wrestling

Women’s teams

  • Archery
  • Women's basketball
  • Cross country
  • Fencing
  • Field hockey
  • Golf
  • Lacrosse
  • Rowing
  • Soccer
  • Softball
  • swimming and diving
  • Tennis
  • Track and field
  • Volleyball


Columbia was one of the first schools to take up the game; Columbia's 1870 contest with Rutgers was the fourth intercollegiate football game ever played.[10]

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).[11] 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.[12] 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.

Pro Football Hall of Famer Sid Luckman played his college ball at Columbia, graduating in 1938. Luckman is also in the College Football Hall of Fame.[13] Other Lions to have success in the NFL include offensive lineman George Starke, the 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 Bagnoli became Columbia's head coach on February 23, 2015.

Columbia and Cornell play for the Empire Cup, emblematic for Ivy League supremacy in New York State. Beginning in 2018 the will play each other in their season finale.

Beat Dartmouth 9-7 in Homecoming 2016, on October 22, 2016.

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.[14][15] 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.[16]

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 Kentucky. The 1951 team went undefeated in the regular season and were one of the 16 teams invited to the championship. The Lions lost 79-71 to eventual semi-finalist Illinois for a final record of 21-1 (best record in the nation that year with win-loss percentage of .956)[17] 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 Chet Forte was a consensus All-American and UPI player of the year for NCAA Division I; he averaged 28.9 points (fifth in the nation.) He is even more famous for his later work as a producer for ABC Sports, especially on the program Monday Night Football.[17] The 1957 team had 2,016 rebounds, fourth highest in NCAA Division I history, even though they played only 24 games.[17]

The Lions have only won the official Ivy League championship once, in 1968, when they reached the "Sweet Sixteen" in the NCAA national tournament. Two members of the 1968 team went on to play professional basketball: Jim McMillian and Dave Newmark. (NFL great George Starke was also a member of the Lions' basketball team in that era.) 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 point guard Alton Byrd won the Frances Pomeroy Naismith Award, given to the best player under 6 feet in height.[17] 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.[18][19] 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.[19] 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


Men's golf

Men's rowing

Columbia's first intercollegiate regatta dates back to 1873, when it raced a six-oared shell in Springfield, Massachusetts.[26] The next year, Columbia won the intercollegiate title at Saratoga.[26]

Men's swimming and diving

Historical note:

1976 - First & only female varsity athlete at Columbia (before Columbia College began admitting women): Annemarie McCoy competed against the Lions' opponents.[50] 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

Men's tennis

Men's track and field


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.[54] 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.

NCAA team championships

As of March 27, 2016, Columbia has 15 NCAA team national championships.[55]

Notable athletes

The Lions have produced such notable athletes as:


  1. "Logo – Columbia University in the City of New York". Retrieved 2016-04-01.
  2. "Athletics".
  3. The American College. Higher Education Association. 1910. p. 162.
  4. The Christian Work and the Evangelist. 1910. pp. 122–.
  5. "About College". Columbia Spectator (Vol XL, No 9). New York, NY: Columbia Spectator. 6 April 1897. p. 96. Retrieved 8 July 2016.
  6. "On the Sidelines: Diamond History". Columbia Spectator (Vol LXVI, No 69). New York, NY: Columbia Spectator. 26 March 1943. p. 3. Retrieved 8 July 2016.
  7. "Sidelines". Columbia Spectator (Vol LVIII, No 92). New York, NY: Columbia Spectator. 7 March 1935. p. 3. Retrieved 8 July 2016.
  8. Harvard Athletics: A Timeline of Tradition
  9. Baker Field: Birthplace of Sports Television Archived October 7, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  10. 1 2 3 C250 Celebrates Columbia Athletics: Columbia Athletics Highlights
  12. NCAA Records Books: Football Records - 2006 Division I-A/I-AA Football Records Book Archived December 22, 2006, at the Wayback Machine.
  13. NCAA Records Books: Football Records - NCAA Division I-A Football's Finest
  14. "Sportscasting Firsts: 1920 - Present". Archived from the original on May 5, 2013. Retrieved May 5, 2013.
  15. "Sports and Television". Museum of Broadcast Communications. Archived from the original on May 5, 2013. Retrieved May 5, 2013. The first televised sporting event was a college baseball game between Columbia and Princeton in 1939, covered by one camera providing a point of view along the third base line.
  16. ESPN, ed. (2009). ESPN College Basketball Encyclopedia: The Complete History of the Men's Game. New York, NY: ESPN Books. pp. 530–31. ISBN 978-0-345-51392-2.
  17. 1 2 3 4 NCAA Records Books: Basketball Records Archived March 23, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  18. College Soccer Championships URL accessed February 9, 2007
  19. 1 2 NCAA Records Books: Soccer Records Archived June 14, 2007, at the Wayback Machine.
  20. 1 2 NCAA Record Books: Cross Country Records
  21. Columbia's Caroline Bierbaum Wins Honda Award URL accessed March 4, 2007
  22. 1 2 3 4 5 NCAA Records Books: Fencing Records
  23. 1 2 3 4 5 Official 2002 NCAA Winter Championships Records Book: Discontinued Championships Archived June 25, 2008, at the Wayback Machine.
  24. NCAA Records Books: Golf Records
  25. "The Ivy League Men's Golf Records Book 2012–13" (PDF). Retrieved June 26, 2013.
  26. 1 2 The Undergraduate Record: Columbia College. A Book of Statistical Information. Gillis Bros. 1881. pp. 146–.
  27. "Lightweight Rowing Claims National Championship at IRA's". Columbia University Athletics. 5 June 2016. Retrieved 5 June 2016.
  28. "Lightweight Rowing Felled by Oxford Brookes in Henley Quarterfinals". Columbia University Athletics. 1 July 2016. Retrieved 1 July 2016.
  29. "Lightweight Varsity Eight Edged by Université de Lyon to End Henley Run". Columbia University Athletics. 4 July 2015. Retrieved 4 April 2016.
  30. "Lightweights Make Lion History with Gold and Bronze Medals at IRA National Lightweight Championships". Columbia University Athletics. 1 June 2014. Retrieved 4 April 2016.
  31. "Crew Travels to England for Henley Royal Regatta". Columbia Spectator (Vol CXXXII, No 70). New York, NY: Columbia Spectator. 4 September 2008. p. 10. Retrieved 25 June 2016.
  32. 1 2 3 4 "Rowing in New York City" (PDF). Columbia Athletics. Columbia University. Retrieved 3 April 2016.
  33. "2000 Eastern Sprints Regatta Results". Eastern Sprints Regatta Results. Eastern College Athletic Conference. Retrieved 3 April 2016.
  34. "Varsity Lightweight Lion Eight Earned Trip to the Thames". Columbia Spectator (Vol CXXII, No 81). New York, NY: Columbia Spectator. 11 September 1998. p. 10. Retrieved 25 June 2016.
  35. A. Dunlap-Smith (12 June 1998). "Men's Crew Finishes 2nd in the Nation". Columbia University Record (Vol 23, No. 24). New York, NY: Columbia University. Retrieved 3 April 2016.
  36. John E. Mulligan III ’72 (March–April 2007). "Masters of the Harlem River". Columbia College Today. Retrieved 3 April 2016.
  37. "Abele New Head of Crew Program". Columbia Spectator (Vol CXVI, No 6). New York, NY: Columbia Spectator. 6 October 1971. p. 8. Retrieved 25 June 2016.
  38. Martin M. Goldstein ’67 (May–June 2007). "A Season to Remember". Columbia College Today. Retrieved 3 April 2016.
  39. "Lion Lightweights To Row Tomorrow In Annual Classic". Columbia Spectator (Vol LI, No 150). New York, NY: Columbia Spectator. 25 May 1928. p. 1. Retrieved 7 June 2016.
  40. Robert F. Kelley (May 27, 1928). "COLUMBIA'S EIGHT SCORES IN HENLEY". The New York Times. Philadelphia: The New York Times. pp. 141, 145. Retrieved 3 April 2016.
  41. "Lion 150's Triumph In American Henley, Score Five-Length Victory". Columbia Spectator (Vol LI, No 151). New York, NY: Columbia Spectator. 28 May 1928. p. 1. Retrieved 7 June 2016.
  42. "150'S WILL EMBARK FOR ENGLISH RACES". Columbia Spectator (Vol LII, No. 144). New York, NY: Columbia Spectator. 4 June 1929. p. 1. Retrieved 3 April 2016.
  43. David A. Boehm (22 March 1932). "Lightweights Show Promise With Seven Frosh in Shell". Columbia Spectator (Vol LV, No 106). New York, NY: Columbia Spectator. p. 1. Retrieved 3 April 2016.
  44. 1 2 "150-Pound Columbia Crew to Row Abroad". The New York Times. New York: The New York Times. May 10, 1929. p. 31. Retrieved 3 April 2016.
  45. 1 2 Thomas E. Weil. "A Brief Time-Line of Rowing". Retrieved 4 April 2016. Columbia’s entry in the Thames Cup marked the first appearance of a lightweight crew at Henley.
  46. "COLUMBIA HONORS LIGHTWEIGHT CREW". The New York Times. New York: The New York Times. December 10, 1929. p. 42. Retrieved 3 April 2016.
  47. 1 2 3 "Intercollegiate Rowing Association Regatta Results". Friends of Rowing History. Retrieved 4 April 2016.
  48. Thomas E. Weil. "U.S. Winners at Henley Royal Regatta". Retrieved 4 April 2016.
  49. "THE VICTORY IN ENGLAND". The New York Times. New York: The New York Times. July 17, 1878. p. 2. Retrieved 3 April 2016.
  51. The Collegiate Women Sports Awards
  52. 1 2 3 4 NCAA Records Books: Tennis Records
  54. "Columbia Wrestling History" (PDF). Lion Athletics. Retrieved 2014. Check date values in: |access-date= (help)

External links

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