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History of the Cortaca Jug

A football rivalry between the SUNY Cortland Red Dragons and the Ithaca College Bombers has been ongoing for nearly a century, dating back to when the teams first met on the gridiron in 1930. It now culminates in a high-profile game that’s known as “the biggest little game in the nation.”

Cortland and Ithaca played each other regularly since the series began, but the Cortaca Jug was first awarded as a "traveling trophy" for the winner in 1959. That year, Tom Decker '61, a Cortland captain, and his friend Dick Carmean, an Ithaca captain, thought of creating a trophy prior to the game. Decker bought a ceramic milk jug for $2 at a yard sale run by Freddy Moss, a farmer in nearby Homer, N.Y. The jug was painted in Ithaca’s blue and gold and Cortland’s red and white, and was first awarded to Cortland after a 13-7 win by the Red Dragons at Ithaca in 1959.

Every year the score of the rivalry game is added to the Cortaca Jug. A second jug was created in 1985 when the first one ran out of room for scores, and a third jug, created by Giotto Zampogna '15, made its debut for the 2016 game.

Ithaca leads the Cortaca Jug series, winning 37 of the 62 contests between 1959 and 2021 (the 2020 game was not played as both teams had their seasons canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic). Ithaca also leads the overall series between the schools, 42-34-3, including a non-Jug home victory in the second round of the 1988 NCAA Division III playoffs just a few weeks after Cortland had captured the Jug, 21-20, in Cortland.

Sportswriter John Walters helped coin the rivalry's nickname in a story in the Aug. 26, 1991 edition of Sports Illustrated when he wrote: “The biggest little game in the nation could turn out to be Ithaca vs. SUNY Cortland by the shores of New York state’s Cayuga Lake on Nov. 9, 1991.”

The games have often lived up to the hype, as 31 of the Jug games have been decided by a touchdown or less. Both colleges have dominated stretches portions of the series. Between 1969 and 1995, Ithaca didn’t lose a Cortaca Jug game at home. SUNY Cortland won seven straight games from 2010 to 2016, including a dramatic 23-20 last-second victory in 2014 that led off that evening’s SportsCenter and made ESPN’s list of the top 10 college football plays of the year.

The game reached new heights in 2019 when the teams played in front of an NCAA Division III record 45,161 fans at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., and the 2022 contest is scheduled to be played at Yankee Stadium.

Alumni from both schools trek back to campus to watch the game in person and thousands more attend watch parties at locations across the country.

Series Record

YearWinnerScoreSite
1930 Cortland 12-0 Cortland
1931 Ithaca 12-6 Ithaca
1932 Tie 0-0 Ithaca
1933 Tie 6-6 Cortland
1934 Ithaca 7-0 Ithaca
1948 Cortland 19-0 Cortland
1949 Cortland 32-7 Ithaca
1950 Ithaca 7-6 Cortland
1951 Ithaca 13-6 Ithaca
1952 Cortland 39-6 Cortland
1953 Cortland 32-0 Ithaca
1954 Tie 13-13 Cortland
1955 Cortland 28-0 Ithaca
1956 Cortland 37-0 Cortland
1957 Cortland 32-13 Ithaca
1958 Cortland 16-6 Cortland
1959 Cortland 13-7 Ithaca
1960 Ithaca 12-6 Cortland
1961 Ithaca 34-0 Ithaca
1962 Ithaca 24-12 Cortland
1963 Ithaca 22-7 Ithaca
1964 Cortland 16-0 Cortland
1965 Ithaca 13-12 Ithaca
1966 Cortland 24-11 Cortland
1967 Cortland 11-7 Ithaca
1968 Cortland 34-13 Cortland
1969 Ithaca 36-28 Ithaca
1970 Cortland 7-0 Cortland
1971 Ithaca 21-13 Ithaca
1972 Cortland 21-16 Cortland
1973 Ithaca 41-33 Ithaca
1974 Ithaca 34-33 Cortland
1975 Ithaca 21-6 Ithaca
1976 Ithaca 28-12 Cortland
1977 Ithaca 38-17 Ithaca
1978 Ithaca 27-13 Cortland
1979 Ithaca 42-7 Ithaca
1980 Ithaca 24-7 Cortland
1981 Ithaca 42-0 Ithaca
1982 Cortland 21-17 Cortland
1983 Ithaca 49-26 Ithaca
1984 Ithaca 42-6 Cortland
1985 Ithaca 41-0 Ithaca
1986 Ithaca 40-12 Cortland
1987 Ithaca 37-15 Ithaca
1988 Cortland 21-20 Cortland
1988* Ithaca 24-17 Ithaca
1989 Ithaca 28-0 Ithaca
1990 Ithaca 28-14 Cortland
1991 Ithaca 23-14 Ithaca
1992 Cortland 22-20 Cortland
1993 Ithaca 32-14 Ithaca
1994 Ithaca 15-13 Cortland
1995 Ithaca 35-19 Ithaca
1996 Cortland 41-13 Cortland
1997 Cortland 33-28 Ithaca
1998 Ithaca 37-29 Cortland
1999 Cortland 26-21 Ithaca
2000 Ithaca 19-14 Cortland
2001 Ithaca 21-14 Ithaca
2002 Cortland 16-12 Cortland
2003 Cortland 16-15 Ithaca
2004 Ithaca 47-22 Cortland
2005 Cortland 37-30 Ithaca (OT)
2006 Cortland 23-20 Cortland (OT)
2007 Ithaca 40-17 Ithaca
2008 Ithaca 35-13 Cortland
2009 Ithaca 23-20 Ithaca
2010 Cortland 20-17 Cortland
2011 Cortland 27-3 Ithaca
2012 Cortland 16-10 Cortland
2013 Cortland 28-24 Ithaca
2014 Cortland 23-20 Cortland
2015 Cortland 11-8 Ithaca
2016 Cortland 28-16 Cortland
2017 Ithaca 48-20 Ithaca
2018 Ithaca 24-21 Cortland
2019 Ithaca 32-20 MetLife Stadium
2020 Season cancelled (COVID-19)
2021 Cortland 28-27 Cortland

*Cortland won the regular-season game for the Jug in 1988 by the score of 21-20. Ithaca won, 24-17, in a rematch in the NCAA Division III playoffs a few weeks later, but the Jug was not on the line in that game.