Columbia-Cornell: The Real Rivalry
I've made the case for considering Cornell our true Ivy football and basketball rival a few times over the years.
The basketball argument is easy to sell. As travel partners, we usually open the Ivy season agains Cornell and we see the same other opponents back-to-back the rest of the season.
Now Columbia can't make a case that the Lions and the Big Red are one of the best bets, if not the best bet, in the Ivies for a close contest year after year with very little long-term dominance by either school.
Since 1989, Columbia and Cornell have played 20 games. Columbia has won 10, and Cornell has won 10. Neither team has won more than three in a row, (Columbia did it from 1992-94).
Cornell fans probably like to consider Penn as their biggest rival, but the last 20 games don't bear that out as well. The Big Red is 7-13 over those 20 games, and has won a share of just one Ivy title in that period where Penn has won seven championships since 1988.
Below is a look at the results of the last 20 meetings between all the other Ivy rivals. You'll see that only two other Ivy rivalries, Brown-Dartmouth and Cornell-Yale are also even at 10-10.
Brown 16 wins, Columbia 4 wins
Brown 12 wins, Cornell 8 wins
Brown 10 wins, Dartmouth 10 wins
Harvard 13 wins, Brown 7 wins
Penn 12 wins, Brown 8 wins
Princeton 14 wins, Brown 6 wins
Yale 12 wins, Brown 8 wins
Dartmouth 14 wins, Columbia 6 wins
Harvard 16 wins, Columbia 4 wins
Penn 17 wins, Columbia 3 wins
Princeton 16 wins, Columbia 4 wins
Yale 15 wins, Columbia 5 wins
Cornell 11 wins, Dartmouth 9 wins
Cornell 11 wins, Harvard 9
Penn 13 wins, Cornell 7 wins
Princeton 11 wins, Cornell 9 wins
Cornell 10 wins, Yale 10 wins
Harvard 13 wins, Dartmouth 6 wins, 1 tie
Penn 14 wins, Dartmouth 6 wins
Dartmouth 10 wins, Princeton 9 wins, 1 tie
Dartmouth 11 wins, Yale 9 wins
Penn 12 wins, Harvard 8 wins
Harvard 13 wins, Princeton 7 wins
Harvard 11 wins, Yale 9 wins
Penn 13 wins, Princeton 7 wins
Penn 13 wins, Yale 7 wins
Yale 11 wins, Princeton 9 wins
I think the relative even nature of most of these rivalries, (with the exception of the Columbia matchups, unfortunately), speaks volumes about the even nature of the league, despite the fact that it seems like just 2-3 teams have dominated the league for the last two decades.
Hopefully, the next 20 years will be kinder to Columbia. The Lions have chance to scratch a win this Saturday against one of the teams that's dominated them the most over that period. Brown's rise may have been to some degree at Columbia's expense... as was Penn's rise from the ashes of the league beginning in the early 1980's.
Now it's time to climb over someone else.