Sports: June 7, 2000
Jason Garrett '89 is back in town
Former Tiger quarterback signs with NFL's Giants
After seven years in the NFL with the Dallas Cowboys, quarterback Jason Garrett '89 signed a free agent contract with the New York Giants on February 22, bringing him back to the area where he was once the Ivy League Player of the Year. In Dallas, Garrett won three Super Bowl rings and established himself as a very capable backup to perennial All-Pro Troy Aikman, making his decision to leave and join the Giants something of a surprise. But according to Garrett, while his decision to leave Dallas was difficult, his choice was less about leaving the Cowboys than it was about accepting the Giants. "The Giants, for years, have been one of the best organizations in the NFL," he says. "I know from playing them two times a year with the Cowboys, they're a team that always plays hard, they're always competitive, and I have always had a tremendous amount of respect for the team. Then, when I was a free agent, I had the chance to talk with Giants general manager Ernie Accorsi, coach Jim Fassel, and also with Sean Payton, the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach. It just became a very attractive situation and one that I really wanted to be around."
In addition, the Giants drafted a potential star running back in 1999 Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne, and the team has been active recently in signing other free agents to bolster their offense. "There's a lot of ability and explosiveness on both sides of the ball with the Giants," says Garrett. "It's really an exciting situation, and I think it will be a high-percentage passing game along with a power running game, so as a quarterback, that's a real favorable situation to be involved in."
Garrett says that geography and family contributed to his decision to sign with New York. "[Changing teams] also offered a chance to come back to the Northeast. My parents live on the Jersey Shore, my wife [Brill Aldridge '88] and I both went to Princeton, and it's a very familiar territory."
The highlight of Garrett's NFL career to date came on November 24, 1994, when he quarterbacked the Cowboys to a 42-31 victory over the Green Bay Packers in a nationally televised Thanksgiving Day game. In what he calls "one of the best days of my football life," Garrett led the team to 36 points (including five consecutive touchdown drives) in the second half.
Following that game, Garrett was named the National Football Conference offensive player of the week. Playing in five games with Dallas in 1999, Garrett threw for 314 total yards, three touchdowns, and only one interception.
With the Giants, Garrett is slated to be the backup to starter Kerry Collins. "The biggest thing that a backup has to do is he has to play well when he gets the opportunity, first and foremost. Then, beyond that, he has to be someone who creates a positive situation for the starting quarterback and hopefully is a positive influence on other people on the team. That's going to be my role, and I'm excited about it." The Giants have relied heavily on their backup quarterbacks in recent years, which could bode well for Garrett in terms of getting more playing time in 2000.
Garrett's football roots run deep. His father, Jim, is a longtime NFL scout, and two of his brothers-John '88 and Judd '90-played both at Princeton and in the NFL. Judd recently joined the coaching staff of the Miami Dolphins as an offensive assistant, and John is the quarterbacks coach of the Arizona Cardinals.
At Princeton, Jason had the opportunity to play with both John and Judd, and although he played only two seasons for the Tigers, Jason finished his football career ranked second in university history in total passing yardage.
"I tell everyone that [going to Princeton] was probably the best decision I made in my life," he says. "You learn and you develop so much in those years, and there was no better environment in which to do that than Princeton. I learned a lot in the classroom and on the football field, but being in that atmosphere was where I learned the most. My wife is from Princeton, two of my brothers went to Princeton, and most of my best friends in the world are Princetonians, so it was just a great experience through and through."
-John McMurray '95
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Baseball prospect of a different
He can't hit or field, but Ryan Cotton '01 has major league aspirations
Major League Baseball scouts drool over what they call five-tool players-those with superior arm strength, speed, fielding prowess, and the ability to hit for both power and average.
Of those five tools, Ryan Cotton '01 has none. Cotton can't hit the long ball; he has little arm strength; and nobody is going to mistake him for a slick-fielding middle-infielder who can steal bases. Yet he is on his way to a career in the big leagues-in the front office, not on the field. Cotton, who is an assistant to the baseball coaching staff at Princeton during the academic year, spent last summer with the Boston Red Sox as an intern in their scouting department and will return to Beantown once he completes the spring semester.
Never having played above the junior high school level, Cotton has taken an unusual path to the major leagues. "I was a student manager/statistician at first," Cotton says, "just trying to stay around the game." But after his junior year in high school, Cotton signed on with the Dallas Mustangs, an elite summer league team for high school and college players, in a jack-of-all-trades role. That summer he began to learn some of baseball's intricacies-swing mechanics, pitch selection, defensive positioning, and managerial game strategy-which sparked an intense love for the game.
When he arrived at Princeton, Cotton immediately called head baseball coach Scott Bradley and offered his services. Bradley encouraged him to carve out his own niche with the team. In the beginning, Cotton struggled to gain credibility with some of the players. "As someone who never played the game at a very high level, there is definitely distrust and doubt that has to be overcome, and sometimes that's hard to do," he says.
The players had trouble getting past what they saw. Cotton's frail build and relative lack of athleticism caused them to question his understanding of the game. They were already better players than he had ever been, so they doubted his ability to help them. And in some cases, they treated him as an outsider.
After an initial feeling-out period, Cotton has found ways to contribute to the team. He charts the performance of pitchers and batters, highlights relevant or unusual statistical data, and compiles scouting reports that are used for defensive positioning and game strategy. And after three years, Cotton is much more comfortable in his role with the team. "I feel just like any player. When the team is struggling . . . it tears me up inside, and when the team is winning, I'm proud," he says.
Last summer Cotton got the call that every player dreams of; he was headed to "The Show." The Red Sox selected him for an internship in their scouting department. Cotton spent the summer working alongside the big league brass in historic Fenway Park. He charted games, maintained a baseball operations database, coordinated videotaping of games for advance scouting purposes, researched statistical and signing information related to the amateur draft, and helped out at scouting tryouts. Cotton says, "It was like intense summer school for baseball."
But the highlight came when Major League Baseball brought its midsummer all-star festivities to Boston. Cotton got to rub shoulders with baseball's elite. He says, "I got to be a part of All-Star week and meet just about every great player in the game today."
Cotton will return to his post with the Red Sox once the Princeton team concludes its season-after an NCAA tournament appearance. And the Sox will be happy to have him back, according to assistant scouting director Tom Moore. "Ryan is intelligent and aggressive," Moore says. "He goes after the tasks that he is assigned, and his biggest strength is that he has a passion for the game. That made him someone we liked having around."
This season, the Sox plan to expand Cotton's role and expose him to additional areas of their baseball operation. According to Moore, Cotton will have significant involvement with the amateur draft. "It would be easy for the [Red Sox] to sit me at a desk, pile papers in front of me, and have me do menial work," Cotton says. "But that never happened. The internship has been more for my benefit than theirs."
As with any prospect, Cotton's career in the big leagues is far from guaranteed. But despite his lack of playing experience, he hopes eventually to make it to the top of baseball's ladder-as a team's general manager. Moore doesn't discount Cotton's chances: "In today's game more and more GMs and front office people are coming from nonplaying backgrounds. They bring other strengths and can gain baseball experience within the organization."
Becoming a GM would go a long way toward fulfilling Cotton's baseball dreams. "Since I couldn't play worth a darn, I always had slightly different variations of the World Series dreams of most players," he says. "I dreamed of being the guy who made the call to pinch-hit the guy who hit the home run."-M.G.
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Women's tennis grabs league title, NCAA berth
Freshman phenom Kavitha Krishnamurthy '03 helped lead the women's tennis team to its first undefeated Ivy League season since 1980, its first league championship since 1994, and a spot in the NCAA Team Championships in Williamsburg, Virginia.
Louise Gengler, Princeton women's tennis head coach, had high hopes for her top freshman recruit, but didn't expect Krishnamurthy to play such a pivotal role in the team's flawless Ivy League season. "Though Kavitha's junior record was outstanding, she is Canadian, so her international record was not necessarily as proven or as rigorous as some U.S. players," Gengler explained. "With a freshman, there is definitely an adjustment period-a time to prove oneself-and she did that beautifully and immediately."
The 19-year-old Krishnamurthy, who hails from Toronto, made her mark immediately. By the end of last fall's season, which primarily consisted of individual competition, she was the top-ranked collegiate female tennis player in the East, spoils earned from winning the Intercollegiate Tennis Association East Regional Tournament-an event that draws the top 128 players from all East Coast Division I schools. Krishnamurthy also earned a number 14 national ranking.
Adding Krishnamurthy to an already powerful Tiger squad gave Gengler high expectations for her team-namely, capturing Princeton's first Ivy title in six years. Gengler admitted that a team goal is always to "gun for" Harvard, but this year, the Crimson-two-time defending Ivy League champions-proved little trouble for Princeton. The Tigers cruised to an easy 72 victory, beating Harvard 51 in singles and 21 in doubles.
Yale gave Princeton its toughest battle of the season when, plagued by illness, the Tigers narrowly defeated the Bulldogs, 54. The match came down to the winner of the number two doubles contest, and a weary, flu-stricken Jyotsna Vasisht '00 and her partner, Kristi Watson '02, won the final set 86 to claim the victory.
"That was just one of those wins that takes a lot of heart," Gengler said. "When we were sick or hurt, which happens to all teams at some point, we could move strong players into the starting positions because of our depth."
Behind Krishnamurthy, who finished 70 in team play, number two singles player and team captain Amanda Hastings-Phillips '00 contributed both leadership and her own 70 league record.
On May 12, Krishnamurthy, Hastings-Phillips, and the rest of the Tigers faced the 17th-ranked Lady Vols of the University of Tennessee in the NCAA team tournament on the campus of William and Mary. "We were definitely the underdog coming into this situation," Gengler said. "I thought we had a legitimate shot at three or four matches, but finding the fifth one was going to be a little tough."
Princeton lost to Tennessee 51. But Gengler contends that her 54th-ranked Tigers made a strong showing. "The match was definitely closer than the score," Gengler said. "It just didn't happen this time, but we gained valuable experience and I am confident that we can compete [with] and beat a top-20 team. We have nothing to hang our heads about. We gave them a great match, a great scare."
-Patrick Sullivan '02
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The baseball team won its fifth consecutive Gehrig Division championship and then bested Dartmouth in the Ivy League Championship Series to claim the league title and a berth in the NCAA tournament. The Tigers swept the first two games of the best-of-three showdown behind the strong pitching performances of Chris Young '02 and Jason Quintana '00.
Andrew Hanson '01, the hard-hitting Tiger first baseman, was named to the GTE Academic All-America District II first team. In addition to his 3.24 grade-point average, the psychology major posted a .371 batting average and led the team in home runs with five this season.
A thrilling 9-8 overtime win over Duke propelled women's lacrosse to a two seed in the NCAA tournament, where the team fell to Maryland, 16-8, in the championship game. Ten Tigers earned postseason honors, with Lauren Simone '02, Kate Smith '02, Julie Shaner '01, Jess Nelson '02, and Charlotte Kenworthy '02 named first team All-Ivy; Hilary Maddox '00, Brooke Owens '02, and Laura Field '00 named second team; Molly Hall '00 given honorable mention; and Whitney Miller '01 selected Ivy League Rookie of the Year. Simone, Smith, Shaner, Nelson, and Maddox were also named to the Mid-Atlantic regional All-America teams.
The Ivy League champion men's lacrosse team earned a three seed in its NCAA tournament and advanced to the Final Four. Midfielder Josh Sims '00 was named the Ivy League Player of the Year. He is a three-time first team All-Ivy selection and ranks sixth among Princeton's career goal-scoring leaders. Joining Sims on the All-Ivy first team were B. J. Prager '02 and Ryan Mollett '01. Matt Streibel '01 and Scott Farrell '02 earned second team honors.
The women's water polo team won the first Mid-Atlantic title in its history with a defeat of Villanova on April 16. The team finished the season with a 25-6 record and an eighth-place finish at the Collegiate National Championships.
The men's track team completed its third straight triple crown by winning Heptagonal Championships in cross-country, indoor track, and outdoor track.
Men's golf earned a trip to the NCAA West Regional after capturing the Ivy League championship. This is the first regional appearance by the Tigers since 1996.
For the first time in Princeton history both the men's and women's rugby teams qualified for the national tournament. The men's team lost in the first round to national power Indiana, while the women's team, which won the national championship in 1996 and 1997, earned a trip to the tournament's Final Four.
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