Last week, Harvard’s student newspaper, The Harvard Crimson, ran a piece describing 2011-12 as “A Historic Run for Harvard Sports.” While reading about how Harvard is now “King Midas of the Ivy League,” thanks to its success in college and professional sports, I couldn’t help but remember one thing: In the middle of possibly its best athletic year ever, the Crimson has won five Ivy League championships. Princeton has eight so far, with a few more likely coming in the spring.
(In case you’ve lost count, Princeton’s Ivy titles are in field hockey, men’s cross country, men’s squash, men’s fencing, women’s fencing, women’s basketball, men’s indoor track and field, and men’s swimming and diving.)
This isn’t exactly a new phenomenon. Last year, Princeton won 15 Ivy League titles, setting a conference record. (Harvard had five, two behind Yale.) The year before, the Tigers took 12. According to the athletics department, Princeton has placed first in the Ivy League all-sports points standings for 25 consecutive years. (For the breakdown by program, check this PAW graphic.)
Sure, Ivy League titles aren’t the only measure of success. Harvard drew national attention largely for dominating the two marquee sports, football and men’s basketball. But Princeton’s fingerprints were all over the latter story: The Tigers erased Harvard’s national ranking in February, then gave the Crimson a bid to the NCAA Tournament with a victory over Penn a month later. (And let’s not forget what happened the last time these two teams met on a neutral court.)
Princeton also provided perhaps the most dramatic triumph in any Ivy League sport this year, coming from behind to end Trinity’s streak of 13 national squash championships.
Admittedly, Harvard’s sports success has not all come at the collegiate level. With three players currently in the NFL and Jeremy Lin tearing up the NBA, Crimson alumni have been making plenty of national headlines. But Princeton can claim three pretty good marquee-sport professional athletes as well, including one in a major market. Ross Ohlendorf ’05, now with the Red Sox, might not match the hype of Linsanity (Ross-steria?), but he, Will Venable ’05 (an outfielder for the San Diego Padres), and Chris Young ’02 (who last pitched for the New York Mets) have been solid major-league baseball players for several years.
This spring, Princeton expects to be among the Ivy League’s top contenders in men’s track and field, baseball, men’s and women’s lacrosse, men’s and women’s tennis and various crews. Some Tigers likely will compete for national championships in a few of those sports.
All of which highlights one apparent truth: Top to bottom, this is still Princeton’s league.