November 26, 2021

Return to campus added buzz to the rivalry

Paul Cifonelli/sports editor

SUNY Cortland Stadium was packed with 8,642 fans for Saturday’s 62nd Cortaca Jug game. This was the first Cortaca played at either Cortland or Ithaca since 2018

Fans packed the SUNY Cortland Stadium Complex Saturday for the 62nd Cortaca Jug game that the Red Dragons won 28-27 thanks to a blocked field goal late in the game. With a maximum capacity crowd of 8,642 in attendance, the stadium was loud from the opening kickoff until the clock hit zero after the fourth quarter.

SUNY Cortland’s tickets for the game sold out in 12 minutes. Ithaca College’s were slightly slower.

However, that is a rare scene nowadays in the rivalry, with this year’s game the only one being played at a college campus over a four-year period. In 2019, Cortaca was moved to MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey. In 2020, the entire fall sports season was cancelled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2022, the game will be played at Yankee Stadium in the Bronx.

The two games being moved to the New York City area are both Ithaca home games. Cortland Director of Athletics Mike Urtz said that isn’t a coincidence that the Red Dragons’ home games are kept at the SUNY Cortland Stadium Complex.

“This game has meant a lot to me,” Urtz said. “I was a student here and I’ve lived in this community. Sometimes I have to take my AD hat off and I know the excitement it brings to the community. I like to have it here, personally. It’s got a good small-town feel to it. There’s a great buzz in the town and a lot of people come and fill our restaurants and hotels up.”

The game also means a bit more to the players and coaches when it is hosted at one of the two schools. Ithaca head coach Dan Swanstrom, who coached in his second Jug at Cortland, noticed how different the game feels when it is at one of the schools.

“Each game and each week has its own energy and own entity,” Swanstrom said. “The facility’s great, it’s an opportunity to host a big crowd and it’s an easy trip for us. It (The game) has great energy and great excitement.”

This year’s Cortaca game was Cortland head coach Curt Fitzpatrick’s first as the Red Dragons bench boss. Before the game, he acknowledged that it was nice to get to experience the game at a venue it had been played at for years.

“I am glad we’re playing the game at home, or on Ithaca’s campus,” Fitzpatrick said, Nov. 10. “I think being on a campus is cool. It creates a little bit more of a crazy environment for the students. I am excited that it’s here.”

The game was a back-and-forth affair that saw both teams blow double-digit leads. It was the preparation for the atmosphere that helped the Red Dragons battle back and secure the victory.

“We knew we were going to have to stay poised because of the emotions of the game,” Fitzpatrick said. “We knew it was going to be hectic and we knew Ithaca was going to provide adversity because they are a good football team. We just tried to remind our guys to stay calm, stay poised and focus on your job. If you do that and believe in each other for 60 minutes, you have a chance to win, and we did.”

Fitzpatrick tried to keep all of his own routines this past week the same despite the special circumstances revolving around the game.

“I did the same as the players. I tried to stick to the plan,” the second-year Red Dragons coach said. “Coaches are very regimented. We are creatures of habit. I tried to stay with my habits and just plan for this game like we do all the other games.”

The 2022 Cortaca Jug is at 1 p.m. Nov. 12, 2022 at Yankee Stadium. Tickets for the game go on sale at noon today and can be purchased on either ticketmaster.com or cortacajug.com.