In the buildup to tomorrow's game against Williams, there are signs that the matchup will not only herald the beginning of a new season for the Polar Bears, but possibly a new era.
For years the football team has underachieved, and as head coach, much of the blame has been attributed to Dave Caputi. With a .291 winning percentage over the last 11 years, Caputi's tenure as head coach ranks as the fourth least successful in the history of the College's football program. Some argue that it may rank as the absolute worst tenure, considering that each of the three coaches with worse percentages (.200, .250, .271) only lasted a year.
Nevertheless, Jeff Ward, director of athletics, thinks that these statistics misrepresent the realities of the last 11 years. "I think they're remarkably deceiving and unfair. If you look at Dave's tenure here, there are two blocks of it. He had inherited a program that was really down, and his first five years we maybe only won two or three games total," he said. Caputi also explained that the side he inherited was racked with injuries, leaving the team with close to only 40 active players. To put this into context, 65 players partook in last Monday's practice.
As time progressed, things got better for Caputi. "In the last five years, he's won about 40 percent of his games, which if you look at the conference puts us right smack in the middle," said Ward. "What we want to do now is to take the next step to become consistently one of the better teams in the league."
Both Ward and Caputi said they believe that the team is well placed to take that step. "We can win because we've never before put all our resources into bringing our facilities and staffing to a level comparable to that of the top of the league," said Ward. "We're competitive now, and we haven't been before."
"We are closer to being successful on a regular basis now than we have been since I've been here," agreed Caputi.
However, if recent results are to be an indicator, this promise of success does ring a little hollow.
On the back of a 3-5 season with only a 19th Colby-Bates-Bowdoin Championship—an award equivalent to competing for the title of world's tallest midget—to show, the pressure has ramped up. Caputi acknowledged the stress he was under. "If you don't look in the mirror everyday, if you're not putting pressure on yourself for some of that stuff, you're in the wrong profession. The exam you take in football is on public display," he said.
Yet the pressure has slightly abated this preseason. While last season the team had to contend with the loss of three starting offensive linemen and three defensive starters to injuries, this year things have gone more smoothly and left the team with an almost entirely healthy squad—a rare occurrence in recent years.
And so where does that leave the team? "Do we want to have a winning season? Yes. Do we want the CBB title? Yes. Would we like to win the league championship? Yes. Would we like to go undefeated? Yes. But you can't go undefeated unless you win the first game. It's got to be one day at a time," said Caputi.
And in one day Williams awaits.