Murphy vows to turn Ivy program around

NEW YORK -- One day on the job, and Columbia University athletic director M. Dianne Murphy wasted little time saying what she thought of the school's sports performance.

"Facilities are woefully inadequate," she said. "The women's sport programs overall have been noncompetitive over the last decade; technology to support compliance and student-athlete welfare programs is nonexistent; class scheduling for student-athletes is a nightmare, and many sport programs have difficulty finding a time when practices can be attended by an entire team."

Her remarks, part of those made to the athletic department Monday, were included in a statement posted on the university's Web site.

"The tradition of losing in most sport programs at Columbia frustrates and demoralizes alumni, parents, students, faculty and staff," she said. "Compared to our Ivy League peers, Columbia suffers from significant underfunding and understaffing at all levels of the athletics program."

Murphy, who spent six seasons as director of athletics and recreation at the University of Denver, was hired in August to replace John Reeves, who retired in June. She helped Denver move from Division II to Division I, and the school won this year's NCAA men's hockey title.

Lee Bollinger, who took over as Columbia's president two years ago, did not return a telephone message left with the public information office; Murphy did not reply to a message asking for comment.

However, Columbia spokeswoman Katherine Moore said: "This is the kind of leadership we sought when we recruited Dr. Murphy."

Columbia's football team, 1-7 this year, has had only two winning seasons since 1971, in 1994 and 1996. The Lions lost 44 consecutive games from 1983-88, an NCAA Division I record at the time, and won just five of 95 games over one stretch that began in 1978. Columbia's only Ivy League title, which was shared, was in 1961.

The men's basketball team also has one Ivy title, in 1968, and it has had just four winning seasons since 1979.

Columbia has won 13 NCAA titles -- 11 in men's fencing and two in combined men's and women's fencing. It reached the 1983 men's soccer final, losing to Indiana in overtime.

"Columbia is a highly bureaucratic institution that has not been a major player in NCAA Division I or Ivy League athletics, and the athletics program is not integrated into the university community," Murphy said. "Coaches and faculty do not interact together very much, and student-athletes feel isolated and disconnected."

To turn around the program, she plans "a more aggressive and expanded sports marketing and corporate sponsorship program."

"In time, Columbia will be very aggressive in seeking corporate support," she said, adding that fund-raising will increase.