Category Archives: Frank Tavani

Frank Tavani Retires After Thirty Years Of Rivalries And Thirty Years At Lafayette

The first time I asked a question of Lafayette head football coach Frank Tavani was in 2004.

It was at Fisher Field, and I had just spent my first game ever in the press box.

I had gone into that press box hoping to cover an expected Lehigh victory over Lafayette, the final crowning glory to yet another Lehigh football season.

I barely knew what I was doing, how I should act, or how to set up a computer in the press box.  But there I was, taking notes for a "game diary" for a national website called I-AA.org.

I had proven my bona fides for writing by penning a very long, very detailed summary of the Lehigh/Colgate game a few weeks prior.  That game, a Lehigh victory that went down to the wire, was sort-of a precursor to the type of coverage I do now during Lehigh games in terms of tweeting, except rather than tweet it out instantly to followers, I would write all the observations down, shuffle them up, edit them, and put them in a thousand-word article.  (Trust me when I say it made sense at the time.)

But Lehigh did not beat Lafayette in 2004.

Instead, fourth year head coach Frank Tavani's team would dominate the Mountain Hawks on both lines of scrimmage to secure a well-deserved 24-10 victory, and in so doing punched their first-ever ticket to the I-AA Playoffs.

It was in this environment where I would first ask a question of Frank Tavani, that year a finalist for the Eddie Robinson award for the best head coach in I-AA football.
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Fate Determined That Lehigh Would Crush The Sweet Dreams Of Their Rival Lafayette, 45-21

The parties raged on in the parking garage next to Fisher Field, which were packed with Lafayette fans eager to enjoy a party with plenty of great food and copious drinks.

The tiny businesses below Fisher Field, the small bits of capitalism next to the concrete husks of factory jobs that have left ages ago, had plenty of visiting Lehigh fans, enjoying the tailgates and ready to invade the stadium that they hadn't seen in four years.

In the line coming into the stadium, a silent protest of hundreds of Lafayette students clad in black, handing out a political statement on a piece of paper and showing some signs that were up seemingly to simply show that these people exist, and are not happy.

Somewhere in this mix of people escaping, people expressing and people denying, a football game was played, one that matched an 8-2 team that was headed to the national stage and the FCS playoffs, the other a 2-8 squad that had their fans questioning the tenure of their head coach.

It was one of the strangest disconnect of emotions that I've ever seen in a Rivalry game, one where the outcome, a 45-21 victory by the Brown and White, was almost expected by everyone going through the crowded gates at Fisher Field.

There was plenty to celebrate - for one side, anyway.
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#Rivalry152 Game Breakdown And Fearless Prediction: Don’t Sell Lafayette Short

We break down #Rivalry152 - and we give our fearless prediction, below the flip.

When you take away The Rivalry, when you take away the emotions, when you take away the craziness, the energy - what do we have?  When you look at the Xs and Os, what do you have?

Certainly, this game, like every Rivalry game, will be dictated and informed by emotion.  You can count on the fact, as a Lehigh fan, that Lafayette will play out of their minds.  For their seniors, it is guaranteed to be their last game played together as a team.  For them, there is no practicing on Thanksgiving.

Countless football teams have taken this "300" mentality and turned it into wins.  Quarterbacks that used to struggle to not get intercepted suddenly become the second coming of QB Tom Brady.  Linebackers that didn't wrap up their tackles before suddenly become LB Mike Singletary.  It can happen to Lehigh.  Don't think that it can't.

That shouldn't stop us, though, from looking over the Leopards and seeing what they're all about.  They will put together a gameplan to come away with victory.  It's up to the Mountain Hawks to keep that from happening.

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#Rivalry152 Game Preview: Two Different Paths For Two Ancient Rivals

It is an easy narrative to point at the 150th meeting of The Rivalry as the turnaround for the Lehigh football program, where the Mountain Hawks got together after that bitter, bitter loss and decided that enough was enough, and that they were going to not allow their team to be a cellar-dweller.  

For Lafayette, though, you need to go back further, past some very enormous wins over Lehigh, and wonder. 

"I can't believe I typed it, but there it is," I wrote back in 2006 after a crushing 49-28 loss where Lehigh was dominated on both lines of scrimmage.   "We've lost three straight to Lafayette. and I've got some news: We're no longer the hunted. The sooner we realize that we now have to be the hunter, the better off we'll be."

The co-championship they shared with the Leopards that year had the feel of the worst consolation prize imaginable.  For the second straight year, Lafayette had stolen the FCS Playoff bid right from under the Mountain Hawks, and it was Lehigh left to sit at home to stew.  The post game press conference was as down and dark as could be, the double indignity of losing to Lafayette, and losing any chance at a postseason bid, at the same time.

It felt like Lafayette was on the brink of becoming permanent contenders for the Patriot League championship, meaning their torture of Appalachian State and UMass in the playoffs in consecutive years would be a regular happening over the next decade.  

But it never happened.

This year, Lehigh travels to Easton in their big Rivalry game, sitting at 8-2 and having already clinched a portion of the Patriot League championship, only seeking to remove the "co-" from the word "championship".  As emotions go, the Mountain Hawks couldn't be riding more of a high, winners of eight straight.

And Lafayette sits at the opposite extreme, sitting at 2-8 and wondering how they've gotten to this point, with only three wins over the last two years.
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Know Your 2016 Opponents: Lafayette

Today's "Know Your 2016 Opponents" series continues with the team that is predicted by College Sports Journal to finish 6th in the Patriot League: Lehigh's arch-Rival, Lafayette.

(Last week, I published Know Your 2016 opponents: Georgetown.)

Lafayette needs little introduction to those who know Lehigh well.  (151 meetings on the gridiron will do that to a Rivalry.)

In parallel to the College Sports Journal preview, this preview encompasses the one that is printed there - with some additional goodies for Lehigh fans as well.
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The 2016 Patsy Ratings: No. 4 – Lafayette

"Come over here," one Committee member said.

She ran to the door, and saw a basket with two spotted creatures.  She couldn't help but stifle an "Aw!" as, for a moment, her heart, hardened by hours or work on the Patsy ratings, melted.

"Oh great," another Committee member said.  "More strays.  Should we print out more flyers to see who might adopt them?"

"More worryingly," another Member said, "is this an attempt to try to impugn the sanctity of the Patsy Ratings?  Could this be an attempt to bribe the Committee by offering them some cute Leopard cubs?"

The Committee  member looked back at the Member quizzically.  "Since when did the Patsy Ratings have sanctitiy?" they asked seriously.

"Look, they're playing!" she said.

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Game Breakdown, #Rivalry151, Lafayette at Lehigh, 11/21/2015

We break down the #Rivalry151 - and we give our fearless prediction below the flip.

One of the things that makes Lafayette such a dangerous and frightening team is the fact that they're 1-9, oddly enough.

As a Lehigh fan, despite the Xs and Os, you have to wonder if Lehigh will come out flat tomorrow, after a heartwrenching loss last week to Colgate, 49-42.

Coupled with that is the fact that Lafayette has had two weeks to contemplate the end of their football season, to get healthy, to come to terms with the end of their football careers.

Sometimes, even in a huge Rivalry game, with a Patriot League championship on the line last week, you wonder if the Mountain Hawks can bring it as intensely as they brought it to Colgate.

Despite the breakdown, despite the football side, the question is - can they?

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Game Preview, #Rivalry151, Lafayette at Lehigh, 11/22/2015

Chuck laid down on the couch, his therapist staring at his pencil.  He focused at a spor on the celing, listing to the pelt of rain on the thin roof overhead.

"Do you remember it now?" the balding doctor with the shaggy salt-and-pepper beard asked.

"I... I don't remember," Chuck said.  "I have a vague recollection, some faint memories, about being... excited.  About being excited for a football game, but not The Rivalry I expected.  It was being played... in a stadium I didn't recognize.  It was a dream.  A nightmare.  It had to be a nightmare."

"Go on," the doctor said.  "This is good.  Very good.  By confronting what.... happened last year, you can finally face up to it and defeat it.  Defeat your nightmare.  Defeat a year's worth of angst.  Defeat it."

"I don't know," Chuck said.  "It's all so hazy."

"Let's see if we can work this out," the doctor said.  "We'll work it out, and fix this."

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The 2015 Patsy Ratings – Lafayette’s Class of 2019

Art was extremely tired.  He had no idea what he had signed up for.

With the businesswoman that looked uncannily like Nicki Minaj, he was staring... staring... staring at some webpage with the latest Lafayette recruits on Rivals.

Eventually the numbers blurred, becoming more and more blurry, until...

"Wake up!" the businesswoman said.

Art's head shot up from the keyboard, awoken from a strange dream.

He dreamed that the businesswoman had become a full-fledged Lafayette Leopard fan, complete with crazy hair and very high heels.

"We need to get this done!" the businesswoman said.  "Stop napping!  Get back to work!"

"Sure thing," Art said, as he deleted his browsing history, and returned to his spreadsheet.  Much to his surprise, his analysis of the Leopard's Patsy Rating was complete.

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