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Princeton U football outside looking in at playoffs

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There should be a PU football photo left over you could use with this

By Bob Nuse

Sports Editor

The Football Championship Subdivision playoffs, a 24-team event, got underway last weekend with eight opening-round games.

But the playoffs got underway without the No. 9 team in the country.

Princeton won the Ivy League and finished 10-0, outscoring its opposition, 470-130, during the season. The Tigers clearly established themselves as one of the 24 best teams in the country.

But due to Ivy League rules that do not allow its teams to play in the football postseason, the Tigers were not one of the teams getting a chance to play for a national championship.

“I don’t understand why we are not able to play in the FCS playoffs,” Princeton coach Bob Surace said after the Tigers had completed their season with a 42-14 victory over Penn on Nov. 17. “We have certainly beaten teams that have had good FCS playoff runs in my five years here and as far as that is concerned, it is a question that can’t be answered. It is frustrating.”

Colgate, a program fairly comparable to Princeton in terms of level of competition, is the No. 8 seed in the playoffs. Monmouth, a team the Tigers defeated, 51-9, in the second week of the season, was considered to be one of the top three teams to just miss a spot in the 24-team field. The Hawks finished 8-3, with their two other losses coming to FBS level Eastern Michigan and Kennesaw State, the No. 4 seeded team in the FCS playoffs.

Of the 11 conferences in the FCS, 10 receive automatic bids to the playoffs. Only the Ivy League does not.

“Athletes want to compete,” Surace said. “And when a school and our presidents are all about excellence, social and economic diversity, and all of those things. It is about opportunity. These guys should be on Cloud 9 and getting ready to play somebody. All we have got is the transitive property. We beat Yale and Yale beat Maine (the No. 7 seed in the playoffs). That is not football. You have to play the game. A game is that you go up against them and do it on the field. It is really an empty feeling that way.” 

The Ivy League has added post-season tournaments in basketball and lacrosse in recent years. The hope is that allowing the football champion to compete in the playoffs is something on the horizon. In the last several years, the Ivy League champion has performed well enough on the field to deserve a shot at the postseason.

“I think Robin Harris (the Executive Director of the Ivy League) and her administration have done a great job (with adding tournaments and opportunities) and if you don’t get football into the playoffs it is a black mark on her legacy,” Surace said. “Yale should gone last year. We should have gone the year before. We would have figured out the three-way tie or maybe multiple teams would have gone.

“Penn, Yale, Harvard, they have experienced it. Their team feel the same way we do. I think we just have to work together on this and do  a better job working together with them. You see the basketball and the lacrosse tournaments. Our guys cheer for the other teams. We were at the women’s basketball game the other day. I want them to go and I want them to experience the joy of winning in the NCAA tournament. If they end up losing, that is okay too. That is what competition is about.”

Surace, for one, feels the issue can be resolved through making sure everyone understands the process.

“I think most of the ADs are on board,” Surace said “We just have to educate because the presidents are brilliant people, ours is. But when Cornell’s president is worried that we are going to have to play Alabama, they haven’t done a great enough job educating their president. We are not in the FBS playoffs. We have got to do a better job educating them because they are brilliant and they are passionate and i love this league. It is an unknown and they don’t know the hurt that our players go through.”

The Football Bowl Subdivision, which is the FBS playoffs, is reserved for the major college teams in their pursuit of winning the national championship. Alabama won the FBS this past season when it defeated Georgia in the national title game in January.

The Ivy League has produced some outstanding players who are not afforded the opportunity to show their talents on a national stage against the rest of the top teams at their level. 

“The only way to find out is to play,” Surace said. “We don’t get to play. It is frustrating. We are all frustrated by it and it is something that I don’t understand. All I know is that I believe in my team. We believe in each other and that is what has gotten us to this point. So we really wouldn’t be worried about facing anyone.”

If only they had the chance.

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