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The Season


How do you go from losing to winning? Columbia University's football team hasn't won in two years. Each week, we see what it takes to make a comeback. This isn't just about football.

How do you go from losing to winning? Columbia University's football team hasn't won in two years. Each week, we see what it takes to make a comeback. This isn't just about football.
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How do you go from losing to winning? Columbia University's football team hasn't won in two years. Each week, we see what it takes to make a comeback. This isn't just about football.




Episode 11: Year One

In their 10-game season, the Lions have seen success with wins against Wagner and Yale — the team's first victories in years — but remained a team that lost far more than it won. Yet the Lions did learn to hold their own — at least sometimes — against some of the best teams in the Ivy League. So at the end of this season, Al Bagnoli's first as coach for the team, there's just one question left to ask: Was this the turnaround everyone was hoping for? Fans root for the Lions during the...


Episode 10: And The Band Plays On

The Lions define success by wins and losses. But members of the Columbia University Marching Band — who are sometimes the only Columbia students in the stands — couldn't care less how their team actually does. (At least, that's what they'd like you to think.) Both groups are defined by the traditions and values they pass from class to class. And that means change can only really happen one year at a time. For the football team, the best hope at a turnaround may rest not in its current...


Episode 9: Moral Victory

The Columbia Lions are quick to tell you that they don't believe in "moral victories." In football, you either win or lose; there's no gray, in-between area. But it's not so simple in real life. Take the story of senior defensive lineman Chad Washington. In the spring of 2013, he was arrested and charged with a hate crime. Overnight, he became the poster child for what was wrong with football at Columbia. The charges were later dropped and since then, Washington's been working rebuild his...


Episode 8: 'The Worst Part About Our Sport'

Everybody knows football is a tough, violent sport. But the long-term consequences of playing — particularly as they relate to concussions — have only recently started to emerge. The game has gotten safer, but it still poses big risks for the young men who play it. Football forever changed the life of Jack Kerouac, who played for the Columbia Lions in the early 1940s. It brought him to New York, where he met the likes of Allen Ginsburg and Neal Cassady and established himself as an early...


Episode 7: Necessary Toughness

Hang around a football team long enough and you'll probably start hearing one phrase over and over again: mental toughness. Coaches, athletes, and fans alike say it's an intangible factor that separates good teams from great ones. And it turns out it's way harder to master than just about anything else in football. This week the Columbia Lions, still at the bottom of Ivy League rankings, traveled to New Hampshire to face the Dartmouth College team — their toughest opponent yet. So far...


Episode 6: The Bagnoli Bowl

Fresh off its first win in more than two years, the Columbia Lions go up against the University of Pennsylvania Quakers and try to prove last week wasn't just a fluke. But Penn is where Columbia’s new coach, Al Bagnoli, confronts his own legacy. He led the Quakers to nine Ivy League championships over a 23 year career. Defeating his old team now could signal the turnaround that Columbia’s been looking for. Subscribe to The Season on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts. New episodes...


Episode 5: It Happened

After three weeks of steady progress — but still no win — there was a sense that Saturday's game between the Columbia Lions and the Wagner Seahawks could be the night things finally changed. And let’s not sit on the news: After two years of losing, Columbia won, beating Wagner 26-3. But the game was more than just a clash between two football teams. With the win, it might finally put to rest a conflict that pitted Columbia alums against one another and with the university at large. That...


Episode 4: They’re Losing, Better

At many colleges, football players are like celebrities. Tens of thousands of fans pack the stadium — home or away, rain or shine — to root for their team. This isn't the case at Columbia University where players are met most often with indifference, and sometimes, outright hostility. The Lions need some fans. That means they need improve their reputation on campus. And for that to happen, they need to start winning. Subscribe to The Season on iTunes or wherever you get your podcasts....


Episode 3: Scrub Talk

There's an unwritten rule in Columbia football: no bragging about past glory. On a team like the Lions, it's the last thing that matters. Plus, we hear from Bill Campbell, the former chairman of Columbia's board of trustees and onetime head coach of the Lions. A confidant of Steve Jobs and former CEO of Intuit, Campbell has been hugely successful in the business world. But he's never figured out how to make the Lions a good football team. Editor's note: Bill Campbell was the Lions'...


Episode 2: 'Where Is It Written That You Guys Can't Win?'

Fans of the Columbia Lions hadn't seen a football game like this in years. Though the team ultimately fell to the Fordham Rams 44 to 24, the Lions were in it for the first three quarters. They scored two touchdowns, one of them a first-in-a-decade, return off a kickoff. But that wasn't good enough for new head coach, Al Bagnoli. "I don't want our kids happy that we made this thing respectable." This loss wasn't just the first of a new season. It was the team's 22nd consecutive defeat,...


Episode 1: The Closest Person You’re Gonna Get to a Miracle Worker

Columbia University’s football team hasn’t won a game in over two years. They've had just three winning seasons in the past five decades. Turning things around won't be easy, but this year, the university is redoubling its efforts to try. "What we're trying to do here is no different than a company that's been bankrupt and it's been bought by somebody and they're coming in here with a new management team," said Al Bagnoli, the team's new head coach. "How do you get that business to be...


Welcome to 'The Season'

The Season is a new weekly podcast from WNYC that will follow Columbia University's football team, the Lions, over their ten-game season. It's been two years since the Lions had a win. That’s a 21-game losing streak. But this fall, hopes are high, because Columbia has a new head coach, Al Bagnoli, who is legendary for leading winning teams. Winning, losing, and what it takes to change the score. This isn’t just a story about football. It’s about what it takes to turn around something...