After watching the football team’s 21-9 loss to Yale on Schoellkopf Field Saturday afternoon with his teammates from the 1971 Ivy League championship team and other football alumni, Ed Marinaro ’72 pulled himself away from the post-game tailgate to speak with the Sun. The Ivy League’s record holder for career rushing with 4,715 yards and the owner of every Cornell record a running back could lay claim to had plenty to say about returning to his old stomping grounds, what it takes to win a title, and what’s in store for his acting career.
The Sun: How does it feel to be back in town?
Marinaro: Oh, it’s great. I’ve been coming back in the summer for the golf outing, and I’ve been back for our five-year reunions — we were just talking about that, I don’t know if I’ve missed any. It’s great. I love being back in Ithaca. At this stage in your life, it’s kind of an assault on your senses as far as how you remember things, and things were so different when I was here.
[img_assist|nid=18552|title=Big Ed|desc=Ed Marinaro ’72 joined others from the 1971 football team last Sat-urday to commemorate their Ivy title. (Robert Bonow / Sun Photo Editor)|link=popup|align=right|width=65|height=100]
The Sun: What changes do you see in the football program since your playing days?
Marinaro: Sports in general, it’s different sensibilities, a different kind of athlete. Life has so many more options for young people today. Society’s different, and I think sports reflects those changes. You can’t really compare.
The Sun: Do you ever try to give junior tailback Luke Siwula or any of the other running backs on the team now advice?
Marinaro: No, I’m not that old. That would be a big mistake. These guys have got really good running backs. It’s a system that they work in — every system is different and your role is different in the system. Our system we played 35 years ago was primarily a running deal so I carried the ball 40 times a game. If these guys got that many opportunities, it would be different, but they don’t have that system.
The Sun: Even with all those changes, Harvard’s Clifton Dawson is on pace to break your Ivy League career rushing record. Is it hard to watch him creep up on you?
Marinaro: Well, you know what? I held the record for 35 years, which is a long time. Again, I don’t like to compare generations … but I’d be lying if I said I wanted to see my records broken. The biggest difference is I didn’t play as a freshman, and I only played in a nine-game schedule, so those overall records should have been broken a long time ago when you’re playing four years and 40 games as opposed to three years and 27 games. But it certainly doesn’t diminish the accomplishments of this guy.
The Sun: And everything you’ve done since you left Cornell — any movies coming out this year?
Marinaro: No, I don’t have anything coming out. I did something last year — I did a movie that went straight to video, a teen horror movie. I was the evil dad.
The Sun: Do you get teased by your teammates when you come back as the big Hollywood actor on the squad?
Marinaro: Yeah… it was worse years ago, but now they’ve kind of gotten used to it. Coming back during the summer, I get to see these guys a lot more than I did, because for a long time I only came up every five years. But now, I get up in the summer time, and it’s really great. I really look forward to it.
The Sun: The 1971 team was the first time a Cornell football team won an Ivy League title. What do you think it will take for this year’s team to prove the media and any doubters wrong and win an Ivy League title?
Marinaro: It’s like catching lightning in a bottle. Not to flatter myself or my teammates, but no one ever thought that we were going to be [champions]. … When we played freshman football, we had a good team, but we weren’t, you know, powerhouses. No one would have ever thought that we would become this 8-1[6-1 Ivy] team, and it was a process. Sophomore year, I don’t even really remember it, I think we were 4-5 as sophomores, 6-3 as juniors, then 8-1 as seniors, we had that progression. I think in the Ivy League, the one thing that you don’t have is real depth at the skill positions. And what has to happen is you kind of just get somebody who is a late bloomer, a guy that you never expect to all of a sudden turn out to be that one player or the quarterback who the stars line up for, and he gets confidence, and he gets a good wide receiver, and that’s what it takes. It’s really luck, it’s a lot of luck.
The Sun: From what you saw [Saturday], and what you know of head coach Jim Knowles ’87 and the guys on the team, do you think they have the potential?
Marinaro: Yeah! I saw a lot of really fine athletes out there, the young quarterback [sophomore Nathan Ford] I think is a really good athlete. You need good athletes, not just football players, good athletes, guys who can do special things, not just be football players — especially at the skill positions. No one wants to start off 0-2. The good thing is they’re still in the Ivy League hunt, they control their own destiny. I’m sure if they won all their Ivy games, they’d probably win the title.
The Sun: And what’s next for you? Another movie coming out?
Marinaro: I’ve got a four-year-old son, my first child, which has been great. I’m just kind of relaxing. I’ve been trying to produce a few things, and life is pretty good.