The Longest Winning Streak in College Sports Has Ended
The Yale men’s squash team defeated Trinity College Wednesday night, ending Trinity’s streak of 262 consecutive victories, the longest in intercollegiate sports history.
Behind every extraordinary college winning streak is an extraordinary college coach: John Wooden led the UCLA men’s basketball team to 88 straight victories over 12 years and was named Coach of the Year six times. Penn State’s women’s volleyball coach Russ Rose won 109 games in a row thanks to what The New York Times described as “an office of shelves, lined with binders, filled with decades of handwritten scribbles and diarylike entries” detailing every play of every game he ever coached.
This particular story happens to involve two extraordinary coaches: Trinity’s Paul Assaiante and Yale’s Dave Talbott, both legends in a relatively unknown sport who have spent a combined 40 years coaching their respective teams.
As a member of the Yale squash team from 1997 to 2001, I had the privilege of playing under Coach Talbott and against Coach Assaiante. I was on the court when Trinity’s streak began in 1998, albeit briefly. Never in my life had I lost something so decidedly, and so quickly. It’s remarkable how much perspective one can gain at the hands of an old-fashioned ass kicking. And I got one every year when Coach Assaiante and his boys came to town.
But after every match, Assaiante would make a point of sitting down with me. He’d ask how my classes were going. He’d send his regards to my parents and siblings, whom he referenced by name. Across the room, Coach Talbott would be having similar conversations with groups of Trinity players, sporadic laughter filling the cavernous corridors of Payne Whitney Gym.
These are the moments that comprised Trinity’s 14-year winning streak. And they’re also the moments that led to Yale’s ending of that streak last night.
In a 2009 interview with ESPN, Coach Assaiante said, “When we lose—and we will—it won’t be because the bar dropped. It will be because other teams came up to the bar.”
Hats off to both teams and their coaches. And here’s to keeping that bar right where it is.
- — C. Brian Smith