In 1869, the first college football game ever took place between Princeton and Rutgers. For most of the early century, THE GAME referred to Harvard vs. Yale instead of Michigan vs. Ohio State. However, it’s been decades since the Ivy League has been relevant on the college gridiron, and today they’re not even in Division-I and nowhere near even the periphery of the BCS landscape.
The Ivies aren’t super relevant in college basketball either; although the Princeton Offense has a home in various high-major Division I programs, and the league champion once in a while makes a little bit of noise in the NCAA Tournament. The Ivy League doesn’t offer athletic scholarships anymore, and that is the biggest thing holding the league back from being a fixture in big time college athletics today.
Harvard alum and New York Knicks guard Jeremy Lin is starting to change that. Will it last?
Lin had 38 points versus Kobe Bryant and the New York Knicks. The legend grew. Then he hit a buzzer-beating, game winning three-pointer versus the Toronto Raptors last night. With Tuesday’s 90-87 win over Toronto, the Knicks are now 6-0 in the Lin era. In just a week and change, the Knicks have gone from coach-on-the-seat to playoff position.
According to Rachel Bachman of the Wall Street Journal:
Lin is one of only three Harvard players to reach the NBA.
He has emerged at a time when the school’s men’s team is ranked No. 25 in the nation and its games are sold out for the rest of the season. Since Lin cracked the starting lineup Monday, Harvard has seen a surge in media requests for basketball coach Tommy Amaker and a rush to watch clips of Lin on the school’s YouTube page. Martin Kessler, co-chair of the Harvard Crimson’s sports section, said three of the most-read stories on the paper’s web site this week have been about Lin.
Since Saturday, Lin’s Twitter followers have more than doubled. Ratings for Knicks games on MSG Network have jumped 36% since his first start. And in a Twitter post Thursday, Lin’s former employer, Houston Rockets general manager Daryl Morey, wrote that the team should have kept Lin but had “no idea” how good he was.
Harvard has since fallen from the national polls, but Bachman’s article goes on to quote a few Ivy League educated players in the four major sports, but they are still all just a dot on the overall map. They are few and far between, and all pretty much obscure. In order for Ivy League sports to be relevant again, they have to go mainstream, and that is exactly what is happening with Lin right now.
Greg Couch at Fox Sports quotes some big mainstream names that are all about Linsanity right now:
“Everyone should be a believer in @Jlin7 after his shot to win the game tonight,” Magic Johnson wrote on Twitter.
“Yes, he came out of nowhere, which is my nickname for Harvard . . . ” Stephen Colbert said on The Colbert Report. “I’m not some fair-weather fan. I’ve been behind my boy Lin since Day 1 of sometime last week.” In the past 12 days, Lin has gone from 29,000 Twitter followers to 280,000. He is on the cover of Sports Illustrated.
As long as this continues, Harvard hoops will be on the map. If/when similar Ivy League success stories emerge, the Ivies will go from crossover from obscurity. However, Lin still has a long way before determining his legacy. He’s off to a great start, but he hasn’t faced any special perimeter defenses yet. Also, NBA teams are only now learning their adjustments for defending him, and Lin will now have to adjust to playing major minutes every night, something he has never had to do.
How Lin handles all that will change for him now will be crucial.
Paul M. Banks is CEO of The Sports Bank.net, an official Google News site generating millions of unique visitors. He’s also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, Walter Football.com, Yardbarker, and Fox Sports
A Fulbright scholar and MBA, Banks has appeared on live radio all over the world; and he’s a member of the Football Writers Association of America, U.S. Basketball Writers Association, and Society of Professional Journalists. The President of the United States follows him on Twitter (@Paul_M_BanksTSB) You should too.