Cornell cheerleaders during last year's homecoming football game.

Katie Sims / Sun Staff Photographer

Cornell cheerleaders during last year's homecoming football game.

September 18, 2017

McDEVITT | The Fall Blues of a Cornell Sports Fan

Print More

Last Friday, I stood in a crowd of 100 sweaty 20-year-olds at the State Theatre of Ithaca to enjoy a performance by one of my favorite bands, Two Door Cinema Club. A long wait between the opener and the main act had left the crowd antsy, and as the build up was about to culminate in the band’s arrival onstage, I felt an urge to yell something. “Let’s! Go! Red!” I yelled at the top of my lungs into the hot and sticky air of the concert venue. At that moment –– as if I was the cue –– the crowd roared, the lights went out and the concert was underway.

Perhaps my exclamations were just fortuitously well-timed, but I nonetheless felt the same fire and energy in my bones that I feel whenever I hear those words. It had been ages since I spoke them so enthusiastically, and it left me with a hankering for more school spirit. As a sports fan and proud Cornellian, I often lament that it isn’t easier to find some school spirit around here.

When I applied as a high school student, they told me Cornell was “an Ivy League school with a Big Ten heart.” Surely a reference to the size of Cornell’s undergraduate population compared to the rest of the Ivy League, this saying does not carry much weight when it comes to Cornell Athletics. It is most noticeably off the mark during the fall season, when the dearth of quality sports teams is most evident.

Cornell boasts strong programs in the winter –– men’s and women’s hockey are some of the best programs the nation has to offer, each making an appearance in the ECAC Championship Game and NCAA Tournament last season. Cornell wrestling is a powerhouse in the sport and a perennial contender for national titles. Even the spring puts successful programs on display in men’s and women’s lacrosse, both tennis teams and lightweight rowing.

But the lineup of Fall teams leaves much to be desired, headlined by a football team that has struggled to win more than a couple of games per season. This is where that “Big Ten heart” saying seems to really be a misnomer. How can the student body be expected to embody that same spirit when the football team has finished with a winning record in just three of its last 21 seasons?

I, like many other sports fans at Cornell, genuinely want this to change. Put simply, if the football teams won games, students would show up. And the onus is on the athletics department to make that happen. Cornell is a school with a vast and successful alumni network; garnering support for a football team isn’t supposed to be difficult.

And this is not to say that the program lacks character; this would be far from the truth. Head coach David Archer’s ’05 op-ed last week puts that character on display, as he asks us to follow his team on a “journey.” I respect Archer’s position, and I mostly agree. But Cornell should have the resources to put a winning product on the field, both in football and in other programs, too. The fact is football is a popular sport, and Cornell is a large and unique school, so the formula to produce something special seems to be there.

There are hundreds of Cornell sports fans like me out there, who do little except sit around until the middle of October, waiting and waiting for hockey season to finally get underway. We are a penetrable market: sports fans eager for something to cling to year-round. Sports are our great distraction from rigorous academics and campus commitments. And while many of us cherish the time we spend watching football on Sundays, we desperately want to cherish watching it on Saturdays, too.

  • cr8tvt

    while i agree that having a winning football team is fun and can add a lot to “school spirit”, i think you should also recognize that the guys who are playing are students (like you) who would be playing somewhere else if they had post-college football career aspirations. so get out there and scream and have some fun and support those guys who work their collective asses off because they are just fellow students who also love playing college football. 🙂 – (or, you could transfer to Alabama . . . )
    charlie, ’73

  • Suicide is an Option

    I’ve certainly got a market that’s penetrable for some of these good looking athletes =) if you get my drift… is heavy petting a sport??

  • Football isn’t the only sport

    While I agree having a Football powerhouse and tailgate on Saturdays like Big Ten schools would be really fun, and I admit, I also wish we had that. Firstly, Football season has just started for us so at least give them a chance to see what they do this year. They have a lot of promise and have been working to turn the program around for a couple years now. I don’t completely agree with you that every Cornell Fall sports team is bad and disappointing. Have you checked out Women’s Field Hockey lately, who are 5-1 overall so far and just upset a nationally ranked team two weeks ago? Or how about a Volleyball game which always has a hype crowd at games and have also been turning their program around over the past couple years? As for more winter sports to be excited about, Swim & Dive has former NCAA qualifiers & Ivy Champions and their meets are really fun & exciting to watch. And how about our Gymnastics team, who are back-to-back Ivy League Champions, have placed in the top two at ECACs over the past 2 years, and who crowned individual Ivy, ECAC, and National champions for the past two years? (While difficult to a spectator at their events, we also have one of the top Rowing programs nationally). To top it off, every one of the Student-Athletes here works just as harbdon the field as they do in school, achieiving 4.0+’s at Cornell while also training 20 hours/week, and oftentimes losing a whole weekend of studying due to travelling for games during season. We’re not a Big Ten powerhouse because we’re not a Big 10 school. We are, however, an Ivy powerhouse of overall very accomplished Athletics and Scholars and that’s pretty awesome.

    I agree that having a football powerhouse would be fun, and the season has just started so you shouldn’t cancel them out yet. But if you want more school spirit, I encourage you to hold yourself accountable for knowing and going to all of the other great sports’ games at this school as well. Check out Field Hockey or Volleyball’s next game, or even women’s Soccer who play at home Friday, or Men’s Soccer who just upset a nationally ranked team and shows great promise this year as well.

  • Memoi

    Cornells Sprint Football team is 4-0! Yes its sprint & not varsity but its still a school sport & exiting to watch. They are undefeated & students dont show up. Mr McDevitt please write an article on the Sprint team, and their undefeated to date season, & hopefully they & the varsity team will get more student support.