If you can’t beat them, join them. If you can’t join them, run away and see if you can beat them next year. This is the lesson that the Columbia Lions have learned, as the entire team has withdrawn from school, saving each a year of eligibility and casting focus to the 2016-17 season.
The Light Blue will effectively dodge a a solid Princeton squad, an experienced Yale team with Justin Sears in his senior year, defending champion Harvard with the ever-problematic Siyani Chambers in his final year, and will no longer have to suffer at the hands of Dartmouth’s Alex Mitola, something Columbia coach Kyle Smith will not take lightly.
“Look, there comes a point at which you have to do what’s best for your team,” Smith said. “Plus, it’s not like we’re going to do any worse than the football team! Am I right? Guys?”
This strategy may prove especially prudent for the Lions as it will give them an extra year to find a center willing to pick and actually roll to the basket, and maybe even one who is not afraid of rebounding once or twice. A Columbia team with a more experienced Maodo Lo, Kyle Castlin and Jeff Coby makes them a front-runner for the Ivy title — eventually. Probably. The next big task is making sure everyone stays healthy in the offseason and the onseason and the offseason after that before play resumes. This hiatus is not only a boon for Lions fans in New York, but for those who follow the team outside of the tri-state area.
“Looks like that TV deal ‘fiasco’ wasn’t such a disaster after all, huh?” Ivy League Executive Director Robin Harris said. “I like the initiative that Columbia has taken in representing the league and helping us grow. Either you watch all of us, or you watch none of us. It’s a really smart move — one that I’d expect from a league as classy and sophisticated and also entertaining and great and super awesome as ours. Roar Lions.”
Everyone is not so enthusiastic, and perhaps the person most left out in the cold by the recent decision is forward Alex Rosenberg. Rosenberg, who could be found in Levien Gymnasium repeatedly heaving halfcourt shots while muttering what sounded like, “I’ve made a huge mistake”, could not be reached for official comment.
And while the voluntary hiatus in 2015 is a Columbia-specific enterprise for the moment, fans of the Ivy League have already speculated about similar strategies being used to benefit the rest of the league. Currently there is a petition circulating online directed to the NCAA Selection Committee to give the Ivy League #2bids in 2017 if the entire league stops playing for a year, effectively garnering a rollover bid. Various tweets and blog posts have commended the obvious and apparent integrity of the Ivy League, and believe that the restraint displayed by collectively stopping play must be rewarded with two bids to the Big Dance.
Columbia fans will have to turn their attention to baseball early next year, and next winter we will all have to refer to the Ancient Eight as the Stale Seven. Changes are plentiful in the Ivy League, for sure. No matter what happens these next couple of years, it remains ever clear that the Ivy League is a hotbed for intense college hoops, perhaps especially when no one is playing.