Countdown to Cortaca: The Road to MetLife Stadium Part 8

By Kerry C. Regan, September 18, 2019
Students share how they learned about the Cortaca Jug rivalry, and why it’s been a part of their Ithaca College experience since then.

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.

When Andrew Vito ’21 stepped onto the field for his first Ithaca College football practice before the 2017 season, he proudly wore gear from his high school team, Bergen Catholic (N.J.). Vito was an integral part of a team that reached the state semifinals his junior and senior seasons.

But a teammate quickly called for a wardrobe change. Why? Bergen Catholic’s school colors were red, just like a certain rival school located in Cortland, N.Y.

“That was the last time I wore red on the field,” Vito said.

While Bomber players need to ‘shed the red’ almost immediately, for the rest of the student body, the learning comes gradually.

Most freshmen hear about the rivalry in their first weeks on campus. By the week before the game it’s almost unavoidable. “Before I came to Ithaca, I didn’t know what Cortaca was,” said Gabriela Espailiat Fernandez ’21. “My boyfriend told me it was the biggest Division III game of the year, so that got my attention. Then as the game got closer, all my friends were excited about the festivities that surround the game. It really made me to want to go. And the game was a lot of fun.”

Fernandez said her only football exposure prior to attending IC was attending a Super Bowl party. “Cortaca is what got me more interested in football,” she said. “I actually wanted to pay attention, to understand how everything was playing out and why.”

Jackson Roberts ’19, who served as the ICTV play-by-play announcer for IC’s football games last year, was introduced to Cortaca by virtue of playing in it — sort of. A television radio major, Roberts worked for the radio station (WICB) during his freshman year. That meant that his first Cortaca experience actually occurred before that year’s football game, when he participated in the Cortaca Mic game — a touch football game between members of Ithaca and Cortland sports radio.

In addition to being an opportunity for a little Cortaca glory, Roberts noted that it also helped cement his understanding of the rivalry’s stature. “I had heard about Cortaca from alumni, read about it being called the biggest little game in the country,” he said. “Coupling that with everyone talking about it in sports radio, I came to recognize the magnitude that the game has for both schools.

“That’s the power of Cortaca to have that effect, not just on fans but to the community as a whole, bringing people together and keeping them engaged,” Roberts continued. “I think that’s really something special.”

Max Prestwich ’20 is a member of the IC tennis team and a big sports fan who roots for the New England Patriots, so attending most of IC’s home football games came naturally to him when he came to Ithaca.  And during his time on campus, he became even more involved, working for ICTV and operating a camera during the game as a sophomore. “Just being there around the players there’s an extra energy and passion that comes with the game and with the fans as well,” he said. “They are so much more into it than the typical D-III game.”

“Cortaca is the one game all year that has something different about it, an electricity like nothing else at IC.”

Max Prestwich ’20

He also recognizes the game’s broad appeal. “Plenty of people on campus go to the game even if they’re not sports fans,” he said. “They go for the atmosphere and the experience. It’s a very social event where you can hang out with your friends. Cortaca is the one game all year that has something different about it, an electricity like nothing else at IC.”

What advice do current IC students have for first-year students who haven’t had a taste of Cortaca yet? “Just go, even if you’re not sure you’re going to like it,” Fernandez said. “Because it will turn out to be really, really fun.”

Many students in the class of 2023 have already heeded this advice. During move-in day for the fall semester, students were greeted by a table selling tickets for this year's Cortaca tilt at MetLife Stadium. A total of 140 tickets were purchased that day, and with on-campus ticket sales set to commence later this evening, you can expect a large cohort of IC students in New Jersey, ready to support their Bombers, something that Prestwich has already seen during on-campus games.

Tickets and Merchandise

On-campus ticket sales for Ithaca College students, faculty and staff will take place at the following dates and times, at the first floor ticket window at the Athletics and Events Center.

Wednesday, September 18, from 6 to 9 p.m. 
Thursday, September 19, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. and from 6 to 9 p.m. 
Friday, September 20, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. 

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

Cortaca Jug 2019-branded T-shirts and other merchandise is available for purchase at the campus store and also is available on the website at

“It’s one event I always look forward to,” said Prestwich. “When it comes, you really have to take advantage of it.”

That goes double for this year’s game at MetLife Stadium. Not only will there be triple the crowd of a typical Cortaca game, plans are in the works to create plenty of memorable in-game experiences for spectators.

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime event,” Prestwich says. “I’m really excited.”