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Columbia Football Teams Wins - That’s Right 3/8 Wins

October 10, 1988

NEW YORK (AP) _ For the first time in a long, long time, people smiled at Columbia University on a Sunday morning.

The sky was blue - Columbia blue, of course. Students had happy faces. The streak was gone. Dead. Buried. Over. Finished.

Columbia beat Princeton 16-13 Saturday, ending the longest losing streak in the history of major college football at 44 games.

″I hadn’t realized how this had all built up on me,″ Columbia coach Larry McElreavy said Sunday. ″I don’t cry and I was crying on the field. All the demons exorcised out of my body.″

Not since Oct. 15, 1983, when Columbia beat Yale 21-18, had the Lions walked off the field in triumph. In the 1,820 days that followed, Columbia football gained infamy. The Lions tied Bucknell, lost to Holy Cross, tied Dartmouth on Nov. 5, 1983, and then began their spiraling descent.

In winning, Columbia played its first turnover-free game since a 44-0 triumph over Fordham in 1972. Sophomore Greg Abbruzzese rushed for 182 yards, the most for a Lions’ running back since Doug Jackson ran for 191 against Pennsylvania in 1975.

The Lions, a three-touchdown underdog, won for the first time in Lawrence A. Wien Stadium, where they had lost 23 straight since it opened in 1984.

Wien, 83, is ill with cancer, according to Columbia officials. McElreavy was pleased the Lions won in his stadium while he is alive.

″We’re going to get a ball and have the players sign it. I think we’ll have the film copied so he can put it in his library,″ McElreavy said.

The end came on homecoming day, and many of the players who never won looked on through tears of bliss.

″I never thought this would happen,″ said Matt Sodl, who graduated last year after 30 losses. ″I even started crying. What a feeling. It lifts a burden off my shoulders.″

McElreavy said he sensed something. And his wife sensed something, too. They celebrated Saturday night with a three-year old bottle of Dom Perignon.

″Karen, I don’t know why, put the bottle in the refigerator in the morning. She hadn’t touched it in three years.″

The bottle and Columbia’s campus became uncorked Saturday night. Fraternities on 114th Street erupted into raucous celebrations.

″No one knows what to do,″ student Bernard Ravina said, ″because we’re not used to celebrating.″

As night turned into morning, the newspapers proclaimed the end of the streak in big, bold print. The normally somber New York Times ran a banner headline across the sports section with two exclamation points: ″Columbia Wins 3/8 That’s Right, Wins 3/8″

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