Countdown to Cortaca: The Road to MetLife Stadium, Part 9

By Kerry C. Regan, October 18, 2019
Historic game provides experiential learning opportunities for IC students.

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.

The 2019 Cortaca Jug at MetLife Stadium has captured the attention of the Ithaca College community, which sees the historic game as an opportunity to be part of the biggest crowd ever to attend a Division III football game while two highly ranked football teams square off.

Tickets have sold at a record rate, while the new Cortaca countdown clock ticks down the seconds to kickoff. But the game is merely part of the story about how Cortaca has integrated itself into the campus.

Cortaca has also become part of the curriculum, as students in associate professor Annemarie Farrell’s classes have had several opportunities to use Cortaca to apply the skills they’ve been taught. These opportunities correspond with an important objective of the Ithaca Forever strategic plan: to expand experiential learning opportunities across the curriculum and encourage students to come up with solutions to real-world challenges.

The first experiential learning opportunity came during the 2019 spring semester, when students in professor Farrell’s Sport Marketing and Sales class were tasked with developing a marketing plan for the weekend’s events.

“Marketing should be taught like biology, where you have two lectures then a laboratory,” explained Farrell, who is the chair of the sport management program. “For us, Cortaca was a lab.”

This wasn’t the first time Farrell has utilized current events to teach concepts in her classroom.

“Marketing should be taught like biology, where you have two lectures then a laboratory. For us, Cortaca was a lab.”

Associate professor Annemarie Farrell

Past classes have addressed the marketing needs of the Women’s National Basketball Association and NASCAR events at Watkins Glen. But this year’s Cortaca game was a particularly pertinent topic because of the unique marketing opportunities presented by MetLife Stadium’s massive seating capacity and its location in a region with tens of thousands of Ithaca College alumni and prospective students.

Farrell’s class broke into several teams, each of which developed a marketing plan targeted at three distinct populations: current students, and prospective students and alumni located in the greater New York City area.

Fans lining up to buy tickets

Demand for tickets was high among IC students.

Their work involved creating and applying market research tools, such as surveys and focus group questions; meeting with members of the Cortaca Planning Committee; and formulating realistic budgets. At the conclusion of the project, they presented and defended their plans in classroom sessions with members of the college’s marketing and communications staff also in attendance.

“They really gave it a 360-degree analysis and delivered some excellent plans,” Farrell said.

While the initiative last spring focused on presenting hypothetical marketing scenarios, the fall presented a much more hands-on opportunity. With thousands of students, faculty, and staff eager to buy tickets for the historic matchup, the college turned to professor Farrell’s students to handle on-campus ticket sales, which took place over four days in September.

“Ticket sales is where many careers in professional sports marketing begin,” Farrell said. “We have students who spent the whole summer doing this with the Mets, the Red Sox, and other organizations, so [I wanted] them be the drivers of this.”

As such, Marco Fontana ’20, who interned with the Mets last summer and had ticket sales experience, was put in charge of the student ticket sales group.

Over the summer, Fontana recruited 14 students — all of whom were sport management majors — to join the team. Their first task was publicity. Early in the semester they promoted the sales dates via social media, banners that played on campus televisions, and physical posters around campus. Several team members also gave brief presentations on the Cortaca tradition and this year’s game to several classes of first-year students.

During the sales days, the team pulled out all the stops. To create a festive atmosphere, the marketing team played a lively music playlist that’s used at IC sporting events and worked with members of the college’s Auxiliary Services department to provide refreshments. Additionally, several team members walked through the long lines, answering student questions and explaining transportation logistics.

Marco Fontana

Marco Fontana ’20 used sales experience gained from an internship with the New York Mets to lead the Cortaca student ticket sales group. (Photo submitted)

For the ticket sale operation itself, Fontana organized the team around three tasks: accepting payments at two registers, recording sales and coordinating seating assignments at a ticket manifest station, and relaying information between the two, a job handled by “runners.” Several also helped staff the bus transportation desk.

All 15 members of the team were pressed into service at busier times, such as the first night, when lines began forming an hour before sales began, and the team was still feeling its way. That night several additional team members were deployed along the ticket-buying line, offering snacks like pizza and popcorn while striking up conversations to help keep everyone engaged.

“It really came down to organization,” Fontana said. “We were super organized from the start, so we had our basic processes down, and we were staffed well enough to also take care of the different situations that arose, like where someone lost their ticket.”

Fontana credits his classes with Farrell and his internship with the Mets for teaching him how to organize and promote ticket sales—and he embraced the opportunity to lead the Cortaca sales operation.

“We always try to have experiential learning opportunities at Ithaca,” he said. “I think this was a great way to continue that tradition. We basically called the shots for this project. We definitely learned a lot, and it was really cool to be deeply involved with something like this.”

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: