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How Blue is the Red's Blood?

The Red keeps chugging along and the team's engine is powered with nuclear energy.

The video up there has little to do with the rest of this piece, save for the fact that I watched it -- it's about Cornell's fall preparations -- and started thinking about the Big Red.

Here's a straightforward question: How good has Cornell been in the last 10 years?

I'm not sure how most folks would answer that question. In the last decade Cornell has:

  • Made four Championship Weekend appearances (2007, 2009, 2010, and 2013);
  • Made nine NCAA Tournament appearances (missing out only in 2012);
  • Participated in every Ivy League Tournament since the conference started sponsoring a postseason throwdown;
  • Won at least a share of the regular season Ivy League crown nine of the last 10 years;
  • A 121-37 record (an average 12-4 effort);
  • Had a player win the Enners Award three times (Max Seibald in 2009; Rob Pannell in 2011 and 2013);
  • Had a player win the Kelly Award (Matt McMonagle in 2007);
  • Had a player win the Schmeisser Award (Mitch Belisle in 2007);
  • Had a player win the Turnbull Award twice (Pannell in 2010 and 2011);
  • Had two players win the MacLaughlin Award (Joe Boulukos in 2006; Seibald in 2009); and
  • Had two players win the Tewaaraton Trophy (Seibald in 2009; Pannell in 2013).

Does that change your feeling on where Cornell stands on the national landscape? If not, are you hung up by the fact that the Red haven't corralled a gold medal since 1977? Looking past the lack of titles for Cornell in the last decade, though, there's little keeping the Big Red removed from the fanciest party hosted by devotees to the brandy snifter.

From a macro level, there are seven schools that most people would consider the game's power programs: Duke, Johns Hopkins, Syracuse, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, and Notre Dame. (It should be noted that I excluded Princeton from this group, not because the Tigers don't have a rich history, but because they're handled elsewhere in the piece.) These teams generally draw the most ink from lacrosse-focused oracles and have, as a group, won 34 of the 44 awarded NCAA championships (over 77 percent of the gold medals that the NCAA has awarded since 1971) and have made a total of 211 NCAA Tournament appearances (five of the seven schools reside at the very top of the NCAA's list of most all-time NCAA Tournament appearances). This core of programs are generally identified as those with the heaviest weight in terms of contemporary power and prestige, yet based on the last 10 years of play, that group isn't an isolated island of lacrosse brilliance.

Looking at two ranking measures that attempt to utilize performance on the field as a basis for analyzing team strength (LaxPower and the Massey ratings), Cornell is not only in the class of the nation's most revered programs but also exceeding the thrust of a handful of these programs:

CORNELL v. "BLUE BLOODS"
TEAM LAXPOWER MASSEY TEAM LAXPOWER MASSEY TEAM LAXPOWER MASSEY TEAM LAXPOWER MASSEY TEAM LAXPOWER MASSEY TEAM LAXPOWER MASSEY TEAM LAXPOWER MASSEY TEAM LAXPOWER MASSEY
CORNELL DUKE JOHNS HOPKINS SYRACUSE MARYLAND NORTH CAROLINA VIRGINIA NOTRE DAME
2014 10 13 2014 1 1 2014 8 7 2014 9 5 2014 3 4 2014 5 12 2014 12 10 2014 4 3
2013 1 2 2013 4 1 2013 3 10 2013 10 4 2013 5 7 2013 2 3 2013 17 18 2013 15 14
2012 11 14 2012 7 5 2012 10 9 2012 16 21 2012 4 7 2012 13 11 2012 6 6 2012 8 3
2011 1 3 2011 8 8 2011 2 5 2011 5 1 2011 4 4 2011 10 9 2011 3 2 2010 6 7
2010 10 10 2010 2 2 2010 12 14 2010 3 3 2010 4 5 2010 5 4 2010 1 1 2010 7 6
2009 2 3 2009 4 2 2009 10 7 2009 1 1 2009 8 9 2009 7 8 2009 3 4 2009 6 6
2008 10 8 2008 1 1 2008 3 3 2008 2 2 2008 7 7 2008 12 10 2008 6 4 2008 4 5
2007 1 1 2007 2 2 2007 4 3 2007 15 20 2007 10 11 2007 9 9 2007 8 4 2007 3 6
2006 2 4 2006 5 10 2006 8 8 2006 7 5 2006 4 3 2006 19 23 2006 1 1 2006 16 15
2005 4 5 2005 2 2 2005 1 1 2005 8 9 2005 5 4 2005 6 11 2005 3 3 2005 7 12
AVERAGE 5.20 (2) 6.30 (4) AVERAGE 3.60 (1) 3.40 (1) AVERAGE 6.10 (5) 6.70 (5) AVERAGE 7.60 (5) 7.10 (6) AVERAGE 5.40 (3) 6.10 (3) AVERAGE 8.80 (8) 10.00 (8) AVERAGE 6.00 (4) 5.30 (2) AVERAGE 7.60 (6) 7.70 (7)
STDEVA 4.44 (4) 4.67 (5) STDEVA 2.46 (2) 3.20 (2) STDEVA 3.93 (3) 3.86 (3) STDEVA 5.13 (7) 7.45 (8) STDEVA 2.22 (1) 2.56 (1) STDEVA 4.94 (6) 5.44 (7) STDEVA 5.14 (8) 5.19 (6) STDEVA 4.45 (5) 4.37 (4)

Some brief thoughts on that (poorly formatted) table:

  • Cornell's average LaxPower ranking over the last decade is stronger than all but Duke's position. The team's average Massey ranking trails only Duke, Maryland, and Virginia. In terms of sustained pop over the last 10 years, the Red are outpacing many teams that earn more words and worries.
  • Not only is Cornell residing toward the top of the national hierarchy in terms of average ranking position, the Red have been consistent -- relative to its "elite" peers -- at maintaining their position in the pecking order. Syracuse, the Red's upstate neighbor, has been wildly inconsistent in its year-end rankings compared to Cornell (even though the Orange claim two titles in the examined period). The only programs among this cohort that have a legitimate argument around asserting that they've been as strong or stronger than Cornell and done so at a level that's more consistent than the Red are Duke and Maryland (and maybe Johns Hopkins). Everyone else is in Cornell's wake.

Looking specifically at the Ivy League in the same context as the nation's power cell, Cornell stands head and shoulders above its conference peers:

CORNELL v. THE IVY LEAGUE
TEAM LAXPOWER MASSEY TEAM LAXPOWER MASSEY TEAM LAXPOWER MASSEY TEAM LAXPOWER MASSEY TEAM LAXPOWER MASSEY TEAM LAXPOWER MASSEY TEAM LAXPOWER MASSEY
CORNELL PRINCETON YALE HARVARD PENNSYLVANIA BROWN DARTMOUTH
2014 10 13 2014 16 19 2014 13 20 2014 14 16 2014 11 8 2014 30 26 2014 54 54
2013 1 2 2013 8 11 2013 7 5 2013 26 27 2013 11 13 2013 25 25 2013 36 43
2012 11 14 2012 3 10 2012 14 13 2012 27 30 2012 31 31 2012 24 26 2012 36 33
2011 1 3 2011 21 24 2011 15 14 2011 18 16 2011 20 18 2011 34 32 2011 44 43
2010 10 10 2010 15 9 2010 29 20 2010 24 24 2010 30 31 2010 17 19 2010 36 33
2009 2 3 2009 5 5 2009 32 32 2009 9 14 2009 33 27 2009 14 11 2009 40 41
2008 10 8 2008 16 18 2008 33 37 2008 19 29 2008 32 27 2008 14 11 2008 29 25
2007 1 1 2007 6 7 2007 21 22 2007 33 27 2007 27 25 2007 23 23 2007 25 30
2006 2 4 2006 6 9 2006 24 29 2006 20 20 2006 18 13 2006 34 38 2006 23 24
2005 4 5 2005 13 20 2005 26 23 2005 31 33 2005 34 35 2005 21 24 2005 16 14
AVERAGE 5.20 (1) 6.30 (1) AVERAGE 10.90 (2) 13.20 (2) AVERAGE 21.40 (3) 21.50 (3) AVERAGE 22.10 (4) 23.60 (5) AVERAGE 24.70 (6) 22.80 (4) AVERAGE 24.60 (5) 23.80 (6) AVERAGE 33.90 (7) 34.00 (7)
STDEVA 4.44 (1) 4.67 (1) STDEVA 6.05 (2) 6.46 (2) STDEVA 8.86 (5) 9.51 (6) STDEVA 7.52 (4) 6.69 (2) STDEVA 8.97 (6) 9.17 (5) STDEVA 6.60 (3) 7.91 (4) STDEVA 11.05 (7) 11.60 (7)

Some brief thoughts on that (poorly formatted) table:

  • The Ivy League is Cornell's world. No other program over the last 10 years has matched the Red's average overall position on the national hierarchy and no team has been as consistent as Cornell at maintaining their station.
  • Once the tent pole program for the Ivy League through the 1990's and early 2000's, Cornell has passed Priceton and is now providing shelter for the conference. This is interesting to me, mostly because I think most people -- when thinking about "elite" programs in a contemporary context -- would have Princeton ahead of Cornell.