The Greatest Show on Turf
Schoelkopf Field 1919, the last year Columbia and Cornell did not play each other
You can keep Harvard-Yale, Yale-Princeton, and heck, even Ohio State-Michigan... because over the last 60 years or so, the rivalry that has produced the most exciting games is none other than Columbia-Cornell.
As Casey Stengal used to say, "you can look it up."
First, there's tradition. The Columbia-Cornell rivalry has been renewed EVERY YEAR since 1920! Not even Harvard-Yale can say that.
Let's take the last 20 years as a quick example. Since Columbia ended its 44-game losing streak in the middle of the 1988 season, the Lions and Big Red have met 19 times. Cornell has 10 wins, Columbia has 9. It doesn't get any closer than that. The average margin of victory in those 19 games is 12 points, (which is very close for such a large sample), with an amazing 11 of those games decided by a touchdown or less.
And there have been many memorable last-minute wins, comebacks, collapses and record-setting performances.
In the last 10 years, we had the 2004 contest where Columbia blew a 12-point fourth quarter lead and lost 32-26. In 2001, Columbia's Jonathan Reese broke free for a long game-winning TD on a 4th and short in the fourth quarter. In 2002, Cornell squeaked through with an improbable 4th down and long pass play that led to a late TD to win 17-14. In 2000, the Lions fell 35-31 when the clock ran out on them at the Big Red 2-yard line.
Going a little further back in history, it was against Columbia in 1971 that Ed Marinaro broke the NCAA career rushing record in a 24-21 nail-biter that ended up deciding the Ivy championship.
It was against Cornell in 1968 that Lion QB Marty Domres helped Columbia to a 34-25 win as he shredded several records including a mark of 396 yards passing that lasted atop the Lion record book until 1982.
It was against Cornell in 1989 that the Lions picked up the first victory for Head Coach Ray Tellier, (and their only win that year).
What's very strange and exciting about this rivalry, is that no matter how well or poorly one or both of the teams is playing coming into the game, it usually is a very exciting contest. The 1992 game was one special example, as the Big Red came into Baker Field with a legitimate shot to win the Ivy title the following week. Instead, Des Werthman did everything but sell tickets and game programs, as he had 16 tackles, two fumble recoveries, two rushing touchdowns, a 2-point conversion, two extra points, just missed a field goal attempt, and even threw a pass, which went incomplete. Columbia won 35-30.
The list goes on and on.
Last year's game was no exception. The 21-14 Lion win at Wien Stadium went down to the wire, and was only sealed by a late interception by Drew Quinn. The game also featured highlight reel worthy plays from Justin Masorti who had a huge sack on the Cornell series before the Quinn interception, Jamal Russell, who broke free for a TD catch along the west sideline, Tad Crawford, who went unbelievably high in the air for a key interception, and Adam Brekke, who made an interception and returned it for a score.
I know Harvard, Yale, Princeton and all the others trade a lot on their traditional rivalries, but Ivy fans would be foolish to overlook the excitement, star quality, and record-breaking nature of the annual Columbia-Cornell game.
With both teams pretty much at their low points for the season coming into this contest, I still expect an excellent contest. So should you.