Early one morning last week, inside Columbia’s subterranean athletic center in Upper Manhattan, M. Dianne Murphy leaned over a conference table and wrapped her fingers around a disposable cup of coffee. There was no time to sleep these days, she said.
Murphy, the university’s athletic director, was in the midst of a nationwide hunt for a new football coach, a circumstance shared by a high number of top-flight programs this fall. Earlier that week, Ohio State made headlines by hiring Urban Meyer, the former coach at Florida, enticing him with a compensation package that included a base salary of $4 million per year, a country club membership, a $12,000 automobile stipend and the use of a private jet.
As Murphy, bleary-eyed yet cheerful, prepared for another day of telephone interviews, the situation in Columbus seemed a far cry from the situation at Columbia. The quirks of coaching Ivy League football — not to mention finding a coach in the first place — are well known, but the idiosyncrasies feel multiplied at Columbia, a university in the heart of a bustling city with a football program famous for losing 44 straight games in the 1980s. And, of course, Murphy does not have an airplane to use as a bargaining chip.
“Wouldn’t that be nice?” Murphy said with a laugh. “Yeah, that would be nice. But the right person for us is probably sitting in coach somewhere.”