Outside the Limelight: Basketball in the Ivy League

Outside the Limelight: Basketball in the Ivy League

Outside the Limelight: Basketball in the Ivy League

Outside the Limelight: Basketball in the Ivy League


The Ivy League is a place where basketball is neither a pastime nor a profession. Instead, it is a true passion among players, coaches, and committed sports enthusiasts who share in its every success and setback. Outside the Limelight is the first book to look inside Ivy League basketball and at the boundless enthusiasm that defines it.

With painstaking reportage, Kathy Orton vividly captures the internal fervor of the personalities who champion their game- all the triumphs and disappointments of an Ivy hoop season. Scholarships for student athletes? None, and this is the only Division I conference that does not offer them. The TV spotlight? It barely shines, despite the passion, talent, and commitment of the players. Megadollar contracts from the NBA? Rarely does a player receive an offer. These age-old institutions are better known for turning out presidents, not point guards, and CEOs and captains of industry, not centers on the court.

Orton weaves together the stories of coaches and players as they move from fall practice through an entire season and ahead to the NCAA tournament. From Harvard to Penn, Princeton to Cornell and beyond, players- perhaps more accustomed to pomp and circumstance- face leaky gyms, endure long bus rides, rigorous courseloads, and unbearable exam schedules. Why? Just to prove they can hang with the big boys despite juggling multiple non-athletic responsibilities? Maybe. But more importantly, for the sincere love of the game.

Outside the Limelight provides frontcourt vision for college basketball fans everywhere to achieve an appreciation of this captivating conference and for diehard enthusiasts to gain greater insight into what brings Ivy League basketball to center circle.


When I was a kid growing up in New York City, my favorite college basketball team was the Columbia Lions. Frequently, I would ride the subway up to 116th Street and hope to find an unobstructed seat in University Gym to watch Jack Rohan’s teams play. I still remember 1968 when Columbia finally beat Penn and Princeton and won the Ivy League title with a team that was led by Jim McMillian, Heyward Dotson, and Dave Newmark. (The other two starters, for those of you scoring at home, were Roger Walaszek and Billy Ames).

To me, Columbia was just a very good basketball team. After winning the Ivy League championship, the Lions went on to beat La Salle in the first round of the ncaa tournament before losing to Davidson in overtime in the round of sixteen. I can still remember Davidson coach Lefty Driesell calling a time-out with the score tied at 55 with one second left in regulation when Columbia’s Bruce Metz had a one-and-one that could have won the game. Metz missed, Davidson won in overtime and, forty years later, I’m still a little bit upset about it.

What I didn’t understand—couldn’t understand—at that point was how special that Columbia team was. I was a little too young to follow Princeton and Bill Bradley in 1965, but I was aware of the fact that Princeton made the Final Four that year and that Bradley scored fiftyeight points in the third-place game (still a Final Four record) and then went on to something called a Rhodes Scholarship before coming home to play for the New York Knicks.

Now, I understand.

Bill Bradley was a once-in-a-lifetime person, not just a great basketball player. What Columbia achieved in 1968 was extraordinary. the Penn team that went to the Final Four in 1979 was the best college basketball story this side of George Mason in 2006, and Princeton’s upset of defending ncaa champion ucla in 1996 was the perfect climax to one of the great coaching careers ever—that of Pete Carril.

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