Let's Play Again

August 22, 2006

Remember when, as a kid, you would play a game and lose right off the bat, your automatic response was filled with hope and confidence, "Let's play again." In 1901, four years into its resuscitated existence on the gridiron, the preeminent university in the nation's capital traveled to New York City to play the preeminent university in the nation's leading city. On that second day of November, one hundred-and-five years ago, the Morningside Lions of Columbia thumped the Georgetown Hilltoppers, 18-0.

Incredibly, in all the years since, the two schools never met again on the football field. Fierce rivalries with the Hoyas subsequently sprung up at nearby New York schools, Fordham and NYU. But for more than a century, Georgetown - Columbia has been a one-game series.


It might have resumed in 1930, but it didn't. That was the year that Columbia dug deep into its pockets and for the reported sum of $18,000 per year - at the time, the highest coaching salary in the nation, hired one of the best football minds in America and the greatest gridiron mentor that has ever graced the Hilltop. All Luigi Piccolo, aka head coach Lou Little, had done at Georgetown was to turn around a 3-6 squad from the previous season and, frequently in dominating fashion, pile up 41 victories and three ties against 12 losses over the next six years. Georgetown's loss turned out to be Columbia's gain. Within four years of Coach Little's arrival in New York, Columbia defeated Stanford in the Rose Bowl, while the Hoyas sank to a four-year record of 12-22-3.

Consider this an invitation to attend

When Lou retired following his last game at Columbia in 1956, four players from his first team, the 1924 Georgetown squad, were in the Lions locker room to congratulate him afterward.

Not surprisingly, when the charter members of Georgetown's athletic Hall of Fame were announced in 1954, the name of Lou Little topped the list. In 1960, he was selected to the College Football Hall of Fame. Earlier this year, Columbia also added his name to their inaugural Hall along with Yankee legend Lou Gehrig and NFL great Sid Luckman -- nice company.

With no football games between them in the past 105 years, but with the shared heritage of a hall of fame coach, Coach Kevin Kelly's Hoyas will travel to New York City on September 23, 2006, to meet their one-time one-game nemesis -- a contest that today is still between the preeminent universities of their respective cities. Details are available here. I'll be there to cheer for the Hoyas, of course. But in my whimsical dreams, I imagine a celestial-bound Lou Little looking down at the coin flip to start the game, as the Hoya captains stare down their counterparts and growl, "Let's play again!"

Just like in his picture, Lou is smiling.


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