Ivy Hoops Plus: Q&A with Cornell visiting assistant professor Kevin Kniffin

We present a new feature, Ivy Hoops Plus, in which we shine a light on the many impactful works that those in the Ivy League are doing off the court, whether they”re Ivy academics conducting sports-related research, former basketball players embarking on noteworthy projects, or anything else that merits checking in on.

First up is Kevin Kniffin (@KevinKniffin), visiting assistant professor of organizational behavior and leadership at Cornell. Kniffin coauthored a 2015 study in the Journal of Leadership & Organizational Studies, “Sports at Work: Anticipated and Persistent Correlates of Participation in High School Athletics,” which examines whether former high school athletes make better employees than nonathletes. The study found that former student-athletes are expected to possess relatively greater leadership ability as well as more self-confidence and self-respect than others, and that participation in competitive youth sports results in demonstrated higher-status careers. Perhaps most importantly, the study found that there is a troubling lack of studies focusing on the effects of youth sports participation, suggesting that sports participation”s impact on the workplace need to be further examined as well.

Let”s hear from Kniffin after the jump…

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Cornell all-time moment No. 1: The 2010 Sweet 16 run

We’ve counted down the top 10 moments in each Ivy school’s history as part of our Ivy League at 60 retrospective.

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We Cornell did last because they are the Men of Last Call

Over the course of writing the most memorable moments in Cornell basketball history, I’ve tried to lay out a story – the path a school with no discernible basketball pedigree took to becoming the top story of the biggest event in all of college sports.

It didn’t happen overnight.

Eventually, a novice group of freshmen with potential became young guns taking the league by storm and finished as savvy veterans playing with a purpose. After two straight defeats in the NCAA Tournament, the novelty of seeing the Cornell logo on college basketball’s biggest stage had worn off for the eight-man senior class. It was the last chance for the group who turned around Cornell basketball to become the first Ivy League team since 1998 to win an NCAA Tournament game. It was a mindset that had permeated throughout the whole team even before the season began.

“Obviously the first goal is to win the league and make it three in a row and then hopefully get to the tournament again and definitely win a game or two, Sweet 16 at least, and see where we go from there.” freshman Peter McMillan said in Nov. 2009. “I definitely think we can win a lot of NCAA Tournament games, get kinda far, you know, make some noise,” fellow freshman Errick Peck added.

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Cornell all-time moment No. 2: The undefeated Ivy season

We’re counting down the top 10 moments in each Ivy school’s history as part of our Ivy League at 60 retrospective. Cornell is next because it’s good to be healthy!

Nov. 10, 2007 – Cornell opened the 2007-08 season with a win against Lehigh. During halftime, members of the 1988 Ivy League championship team walked onto the court to be honored for the 20th anniversary of their title. It was a fitting time for the celebration. In the 20 years since the 1988 team hung a banner in Barton Hall, Cornell hadn’t been back to the promised land.

The 2007-08 campaign was set up to tell a different story and Cornell poised to play an unfamiliar role in it – the favorite. For the first time since the 1987-88 season, a school other than Penn or Princeton was projected to win the league. The preseason hype was real. Steve Donahue’s teams had made significant strides over the past few seasons, Adam Gore and Jason Hartford were returning from injury, Ryan Wittman and Louis Dale were coming off arguably the two best freshman seasons in school history, and by the seventh game of the year, a new 7-footer would be eligible to step on the court.

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Cornell all-time moment No. 3: The Jeff Foote story

We’re counting down the top 10 moments in each Ivy school’s history as part of our Ivy League at 60 retrospective. Cornell is next because there are some improbable connections you just can’t make up…

Jan. 6, 2010 – Cornell was in Allen Fieldhouse taking on the No. 1 team in the country. The game was so close and so good that ESPN cut away from the Duke game it was airing to show final 10 minutes of Cornell-Kansas. (When does ESPN ever cut away from a Duke game?) It took a Sherron Collins driving layup with under a minute left for Kansas to retake the lead for good. Cornell lost that night, 71-66.

In the postgame press conference, the first thing out of Kansas coach Bill Self’s mouth was, “They [Cornell] have a terrific big man [Jeff Foote] that could play for anybody in the country.”

Self’s commentary was a far cry from back when Cornell coach Steve Donahue was scouting a high school tournament Foote played in and recalled thinking, “There were some Division III coaches watching that day and none of them thought he was good enough for them.”

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Cornell all-time moment No. 5: Winning the MSG Holiday Festival

Cornell Holiday Festival

We’re counting down the top 10 moments in each Ivy school’s history as part of our Ivy League at 60 retrospective. Cornell is next because there’s nothing quite like radio calls of memorable crunchtime moments…

Everyone knows where this countdown is heading. Cornell had to win a lot of games to build itself up to winning three straight Ivy League championships and reach the Sweet 16. Some stand out more than others. We talked about beating Northwestern in 2006; a win that showed the rest of the league Cornell was for real. Next, Cornell had to make that statement to the rest of the country. Their chance – the 2009 MSG Holiday Festival.

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Cornell all-time moment No. 6: Jeff Foote signs NBA contract

We’re counting down the top 10 moments in each Ivy school’s history as part of our Ivy League at 60 retrospective. Cornell is next because Jeff Foote is the man.

Cornellians are no stranger to professional basketball.  Since 1995, more than 25 Big Red basketball alumni have extended their career to the professional ranks.

Cornellians are also no stranger to the NBA. Bryan Colangelo (’87) is the former general manager of the Phoenix Suns and Toronto Raptors. Larry Tanenbaum (’68) spearheaded the effort to bring an NBA franchise to Toronto. Steve Belkin (’69) is a former owner of the Atlanta Hawks who sold his 30 percent stake in 2010. Mark Tatum (’91) is currently the deputy commissioner and chief operating officer of the NBA, commissioner Adam Silver’s No. 2.

Big Red alumni playing in the NBA is a different story. In the league’s early years, Cornell had somewhat of a presence. Shortly after the NBA’s inaugural 1946-47 season, Nat Militzok, Ed Peterson, and Gene Berce were all drafted by the New York Knicks. But recent NBA history wasn’t as kind to basketball players from Cornell. In the past 50 years, 3,071 men have suited up for an NBA game, only one of those men played college basketball at Cornell.

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Cornell all-time moment No. 7: Beating Northwestern in 2006

Louis Dale drives for a layup in his first collegiate game, a 64-61 win over Northwestern.
Louis Dale drives for a layup in his first collegiate game, a 64-61 win over Northwestern.

We’re counting down the top 10 moments in each Ivy school’s history as part of our Ivy League at 60 retrospective. Cornell is next because a dynasty has to start somewhere…

It didn’t happen overnight for Steve Donahue, but a steady stream of talent was starting to come into the program, and results were slowly showing on the court. In 2005, Cornell went 8-6 in conference play, its first winning record in the Ivy League since 1993. The Red followed its second-place Ivy finish with a third-place finish in 2006, the first back-to-back top-half league finishes since the 1988 and 1989 campaigns.

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