Brown’s latest coaching move is a historic one. Heather Marini was officially promoted to the role of quarterbacks coach, the Ivy League program announced on Monday. Marini is now the first woman to hold a position coaching position in all of Division 1 football (FCS or FBS).
Marini joined the Brown football program last year as an offensive quality control assistant coach. In that short period of time, Marini proved herself to be worthy of this latest role on the staff.
“Heather has earned the coaching position,” Brown head coach James Perry said in a released statement. “In one season with our program, Heather has done a great job for us. She has proven through her efforts in the office every day with us in an off-the-field role that she’s ready to run the quarterback room.”
“Promoting Heather to our Quarterback Coach makes us a stronger program and I know she will be a pioneer in the expanding roles women have in collegiate football,” Brown’s First-Team All-Ivy League quarterback EJ Perry said in a released statement.
If the intent of changing the rules regarding kickoffs and touchbacks was to enhance the safety of the players, then early data in the Ivy League are showing some very positive results. A change to the kickoff rules made in 2016 has potentially led to a significant drop in the frequency of concussions to players on kickoff plays.
The Journal of the American Medical Association published a report breaking down the numbers from two years of observations from within the Ivy League after the league was given permission to adjust the yard line where the football was kicked for league games. The Ivy League moved the kickoff line from the 35-yard line to the 40-yard line, and a touchback moved back to the former standard 20-yard line as opposed to the NCAA-mandated 25-yard line. In that report, it was found there were 1,467 kickoff plays during Ivy League games in the 2016 and 2017 seasons with a total of three diagnosed concussions. That worked out to an average of 2.04 concussions per 1,000 kickoffs.
That data was compared to similar data compiled from the 2013, 2014, and 2015 seasons, which showed a total of 2,379 kickoff plays. A total of 26 concussions were on record from those three seasons, an average of 10.9 concussions per 1,000 kickoffs.
The study did note that the results seen in the Ivy League should be used to suggest the impact of the rule is as dramatic and noticeable in other conferences or levels of play, specifically at the FBS or NFL level, but the data is interesting to see.
Starting in 2017 the Ivy League will award its automatic berth in the men’s and women’s NCAA basketball tournaments to the winner of a brand new four-team tournament to be held at the historic Palestra in Philadelphia. The new postseason mini-tournament is a brand new concept for the Ivy League, which has traditionally gone against the grain when it comes to conference tournaments and postseason play for the sake of academics. As the Ivy League amends its basketball championship philosophy, could there be a chance it adopts a new philosophy when it comes to football?
Well, probably not. But let’s discuss briefly.
Back in 1945, the Ivy League membership agreed together to prohibit their football programs from competing in the postseason. For the sake of tradition, the Ivy League has stood by that agreement to this day, prohibiting otherwise playoff-worthy Ivy League champions from playing for a national championship. Considering every other Ivy League sports program is allowed to compete in a playoff or tournament, like the upcoming men’s and women’s basketball tournaments, the outdated football agreement continues to be hypocritical without any suggestion it will be amended.
Ivy League fans can hope the new approach to crowning a basketball champion can lead to a rethinking of how to reward a football champion for a successful season and conference crown. For now, it may only be a dream.
A tie was broken Saturday afternoon between Ohio State and Harvard. The Buckeyes, winners of 23 straight games after pulling away from Illinois, now own the nation’s longest active winning streak in college football after previously being tied with the traditional power of the Ivy League.
Harvard was upset at home in Cambridge by the Penn Quakers. Harvard, like Ohio State, had started the day winners of 22 straight games dating back to 2013. Remember, Ivy League teams do not participate in the FCS playoffs (which is silly), so Harvard has been able to end the season with a win each of the past two seasons with nothing more to show for it than a pair of Ivy League titles (which, of course, isn’t all that bad). Before yesterday, the last time Harvard lost was October 26, 2013 against Princeton.
Penn took an early 21-6 lead on the Crimson, but the Quakers needed a second-half rally after Harvard took a 25-21 lead into halftime. Penn outscored Harvard 14-0 in the second half to leave with a win, their second win of the season against a top 25 team in the FCS. Penn opened the season with a win against No. 4 Villanova. This marks the first time in Penn’s history the Quakers beat two FCS top 25 teams on the road in the same season. The last time Penn beat two ranked FCS teams in the same season was 2006 (No. 22 Lafayette, No. 17 Harvard). The Ivy League is now a three-team race between Harvard, Dartmouth and Penn. Each is 5-1 heading into the final week of Ivy League play.
Meanwhile, in Columbus, Urban Meyer continues to roll in regular season games with the Buckeyes. Only three head coaches since 1936 have had more seasons with 10-0 starts than Meyer; Paul “Bear” Bryant (9), Joe Paterno (8) and Tom Osborne (7). Meyer has had five 10-0 seasons, which equals the number accomplished by Bobby Bowden and Bud Wilkinson. Those are some really good names to be sitting alongside for Meyer.
You probably do not pay much attention to the Ivy League, and that is probably understandable. However, on what is an otherwise slow day perhaps you might be intrigued by what is a very interesting coaching change within the Ivy League.
Columbia has officially introduced Al Bagnoli as head coach. Why is this significant, at least to the Ivy League faithful? Bagnoli is the long-time head coach of the Penn Quakers. Bagnoli announced his retirement from Penn before the start of the 2014 season and seemed to be calling it a career. But now he is jumping right back into the fray of the Ivy League by taking on what can probably best be described as the Wake Forest of the Ivy League.
Columbia has an all-time record of 373-633-43, although it should be noted one of those wins is a Rose Bowl victory in 1934 (take THAT Nebraska). If the program is aiming to improve its competitiveness in football, then Bagnoli may be the best possible hire it could land. Bagnoli knows the Ivy League like few other coaches can and he brings a winning pedigree with him. At Penn, Bagnoli led the Quakers to a 112-49 record in Ivy League play and nine Ivy League titles. Simply hiring Bagnoli is not going to change Columbia into a program that will rival Harvard for conference bragging rights, but it may help build something depending on how long Bagnoli puts up with the job.
So why did he leave Penn anyway?
As Mike Jensen of The Philadelphia Inquirer notes, Bagnoli appeared to be on good terms with the personnel at Penn and there did not seem to be a bitter taste as he left the program. If anything, the lack of a guarantee Bagnoli would be able to continue working with the athletic administration, but he did end up taking on some of those responsibilities. Jensen suggests Bagnoli likely realized he still wanted to coach. With the job in Philadelphia filled by his successor, Ray Priore, Bagnoli took advantage of an opportunity floated his way without much warning. Of course, at this stage in the football calendar, the coaching carousel has mostly come to a stop, at least among head coaching positions.
Not Columbia though.