Countdown to Cortaca: The Road to MetLife Stadium Part 7

By Kerry C. Regan, August 16, 2019
Ithaca College community ready to come out in force at MetLife Stadium.

The 61st Cortaca Jug football game between Ithaca College and Cortland State University will be played on its biggest stage yet this fall — MetLife Stadium, the home of the National Football League’s New York Giants and New York Jets. To shine a light on this historic matchup, we will run a multi-part series in this space leading up to game day on Saturday, Nov. 16 at 1 p.m. We’ll cover all things Cortaca — interviews with Cortaca Jug legends, plans for alumni gatherings around the nation, ways the game is being incorporated in academic programs and other topics. Previous stories in the series can be found here.

Dennis Kayser ’74, who is both a former Ithaca College football player and former head football coach at SUNY Cortland, has worked at all levels of the sport during his career, including the NFL. But the Division III game holds a special place in his heart.

“Division III is the purest football you can have in college,” he said. “You have kids playing for the love of the game, because they really want to be out there and have a great experience to complement their academics.”

Two men pose for a photo in a football stadium

Bob Garone ’87 (left) and Marc Hudak ’90 helped bring the Cortaca Jug game to MetLife Stadium, and both relish the opportunity to join other alumni at the game in November. (Photo by Bob Wagner/Ithaca College)

One thing D-III football players don’t typically get, however, is the chance to play on a grand stage. That’s one of the reasons Marc Hudak ’90 is so excited for this year’s Cortaca Jug game at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, New Jersey.

“I’m glad that we were able to create a high-profile opportunity that will put the school out there and give our players and coaches an incredible experience,” said Hudak, who was a captain on the Bombers’ 1988 national championship team.

But players aren’t the only ones who are going to enjoy this game. “Many of our students and alumni live in the region,” he said. “It’s going to be a great opportunity for them to bring their friends and families to the game and experience the Cortaca tradition in person.”

And as a former graduate assistant coach at Division I Cornell University and Syracuse University, and offensive line coach at the University of Pittsburgh, Hudak knows that high-profile games can be a big draw for alumni. And he sees the same opportunity for Ithaca at MetLife, thanks to the 17,000 graduates who call the tri-state area their home as well as others who will travel even farther for the once-in-a-lifetime game. “The Cortaca Jug is one of the top small-college football rivalries in the country,” Hudak said. “I think it’s something our alumni follow and enjoy. The game gets a lot of attention, and with this year’s game being played in MetLife Stadium, it will give our alumni from the area a great opportunity to reconnect to the school."    

“This is a big event in the life of the college. And I wanted to share that with my fellow alumni.”

Amy Doonan Cronin ’82

Amy Doonan Cronin ’82 is one alumna who is taking advantage of the historic nature of this game. She hasn’t been to a Cortaca contest in several years. But when she heard about the MetLife matchup, she immediately purchased a block of 30 tickets and reached out to former classmates, asking them if they wanted to attend. The tickets were scooped up in minutes. So many of her friends wanted to go, in fact, that she had to buy five more.

“This is a big event in the life of the college,” she said. “And I wanted to share that with my fellow alumni.”

And for Cronin and her peers, this game is about more than cheering on the Bombers against their rivals from Cortland. Many of them haven’t seen each other in years, and this game is going to provide a chance for them to come together from across the country — some as far away as Colorado. 

Many are staying in the same hotel and have plans to meet up on the Friday night before the game. There’s even going to be a little friendly ribbing, as one of Cronin’s friends, Bonni Hodges ’82, is a longtime faculty member at Cortland.

“We’re going to try to make sure she wears nothing but Bomber blue,” Cronin quipped, adding, “It’s going to be a fun weekend.”

Tickets and Merchandise

Tickets for the game are sold through Ticketmaster and at can be purchased at

Cortaca Jug 2019-branded T-shirts and other merchandise has arrived at the campus store and also is available on the website at:

For Katie Sica ’07, who grew up in Westchester County and now lives in Stamford, Connecticut, getting the chance to be a part of Cortaca again made the decision to travel from home an easy one. As a student, she worked for the college’s two radio stations, 106-VIC and 92 WICB, and was part of the radio broadcast team for several Jug games.

Sica hasn’t been able to attend any Ithaca games since leaving South Hill due in part to the distance. But that’s not a problem with the game now three hours closer. “As soon as I heard about this, I said, ‘I have to go to this game.’”

The MetLife showdown also brings back fond memories of a family member for Sica. Her uncle Bruce McCutcheon, the former athletic director at Lafayette College, helped organize a similar event in 2014, when Lafayette and Lehigh played their 150th game at Yankee Stadium . “[A small-school rivalry game in a big stadium] is something close to my heart,” Sica said.

“As soon as I heard about this, I said, ‘I have to go to this game.’”

Katie Sica '07

Ultimately though, this game is about returning to her Ithaca roots. “I finally get to see another Cortaca Jug game,” Sica said. “And I made sure my seats are in IC country, so I’ll be surrounded by my fellow Bombers.”

Alumni aren’t the only Bombers excited about the move to MetLife. Daniel Zuberman ’20 grew up in Fair Lawn, New Jersey, and now lives in Fort Lee, a 25-minute drive from MetLife Stadium. Cortaca’s always been an event for him when it was on campus, but this season with the game so close to his hometown, he’s going all out. He and a trio of friends from IC are going to take a road trip, and he plans to make the game the centerpiece of a weekend spent showing his classmates around his hometown.

“I thought it was absolutely fantastic,” he said about hearing the news of this year’s game location. “Filling up MetLife for Cortaca is going to be amazing.”

Because so many Ithaca College students are from high schools in the Greater New York City area, it’s no surprise that more than three dozen players on the 2019 Bomber roster hail from the region, making this game something of a homecoming for them as well.

One of the captains, Nick Garone ’20, is from a Long Island football family — father Bob 87 and brother Bobby 15 were both Bombers — and most of his immediate family travels to see his games. But for his last regular season game as a Bomber, he’s expecting to suit up in front 60 to 70 friends and relatives. “It’s going to be crazy,” he said. “I never thought I’d play at MetLife. I don’t have words for it.”

Wide receiver Andrew Vito ’21, who grew up in Lincoln Park, New Jersey, 15 minutes from MetLife Stadium, is relishing the opportunity to play in front of his family. “I’ve got younger siblings, which means my parents can’t always come to the games in Ithaca,” he said. “So they’re already planning for this game.”

The game also gives Vito a rare chance to make up for an opportunity he missed in high school. His team at Bergen Catholic High School lost in the semi-finals of the state playoffs in both his junior and senior years, falling one game short of playing the state championship game in — you guessed it — MetLife Stadium.

 “For anyone who has played high school football in New Jersey, their goal is to play in the championship at MetLife,” Vito said. “When they announced we would play Cortland there, it was a surreal moment. Honestly, this is like a dream come true, and I’m just happy to share it with my family and friends and our fans and this team.”

Up Next

We talk to current Ithaca College students about how they learned about — and became fans of — the Cortaca Jug.