Cornell football

The Cornell Big Red Sprint Football team competes against Chestnut Hill on Schoellkopf Field in Ithaca, NY on Saturday, Oct. 13, 2018.

One fine day in mid-September in 1992, I sat across the table from then-Managing Editor Claudia Montague, and she said, “You have done a nice job with the freelance assignments you have submitted to us, and given (then-sports columnist) John Ettinger is moving to Nashville, I’d like to ask that you consider writing the weekly sports column here at the Ithaca Times.” I replied, “I will do it for a month and we’ll check back in to determine whether we have a good match.”

Here we are, 27 years later, and to celebrate this warm and cozy milestone I called my pal Terry Cullen. Terry was one of my first interviews in 1992, and we talked about what was then known as Cornell 150’s Football (it would later be Lightweight, then Sprint Football. Players must weigh 178 pounds or less, 48 hours prior to the game). In ‘92, Terry said, “I’ll try to remember last week’s game…I’m getting old you know, I have been coaching here since 1964.”

That’s easy math. In 1992, Terry was halfway into what is still a very rewarding career, as he is still at the helm of the program, although his role has changed.

“I’m more of a G.M. now,” Cullen offered. “I do a lot of the sh… I mean, grunt work. I let the other guys coach.”

Speaking of “the other guys,” I have been connected with many of them for the entirety of my Ithaca Times tenure as well. Bobby Gneo, Ron Amato and Jeff Tilton have all helped me out with stories as players and as coaches, I know Dan Donahue and Willie Evans, it’s a veritable treasure trove of knowledge and experience.

I told Terry that I am very pleased that the Sprint version of the (sort of) Big Red got underway last weekend, as the varsity football team starts so late it feels like they don’t play until Thanksgiving (actually, they open up at Marist this weekend).

The Sprint team took the longest road trip they will take this year when they visited AldersonBroaddus, a college in West Virginia. In Cullen’s words, “We went to State College (PA), turned left and went another 3 hours. The school is very nice, very pretty, but it’s the middle of nowhere. No cell phones. That’s God’s country.”

Alderson Broaddus (AB) is a first-year Sprint program, and Cullen said, “They have some players, but they’re young. Their coach told us that they only have seven players from West Virginia, and some are from Georgia, Alabama and Florida.” AB got off to a fast start, going up 14-0, but their inexperience showed and Cornell would battle its way back into the game and ultimately come away with a 38-21 victory.

I asked Cullen how a brand new program found its way into the league, and he replied, “One of the teams – Franklin Pierce – was expelled from the league (for violating weight rules), and the league likes to have an even number to avoid bye weeks, so they were admitted.”

Cullen knows I love writing about local athletes, and this year’s Sprint roster features three of them. Two Julians – Iacovelli and Korfine – hail from Ithaca High School and Denver Space is from just up the road in Dryden.

I asked the veteran coach if he took his private helicopter to West Virginia (knowing he does not have one), and he laughed and said, “Of course not! I’m a team guy so I took the team bus!” I said, “That must have been rough on you after 54 years of coaching, Terry,” and he replied, “Actually, when we got to State College, Willie Evans figured out how to plug into the internet, and we watched the Syracuse/Clemson game. It was the best bus trip ever!

The Cornell Sprint Football team schedule can be found at www.cornellbigred.com. If you have never seen a Sprint game, I highly recommend it.

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Sorry I am a little late with this: The 43rd annual Tompkins County Sports Council Football Luncheons got underway last week, and the weekly luncheons will commence at 11:45 a.m. each Thursday through Nov. 14, at the Clarion, at 2310 N. Triphammer Road.  The cost is $125 for the 10 Thursdays.

Each week the head football coaches at Ithaca High School, Ithaca College and Cornell University will discuss the previous week’s games, and give a scouting report on the future opponent. 

Head football coaches at area high schools will make guest appearances throughout the fall. The Tompkins County Sports Council is a not-for-profit organization.  All money available at the end of the fall season, after expenses, goes to the high school football programs in Tompkins County. You have the option of obtaining your tickets by credit card by calling Becky at the Ramada by phone at 607-257-3100.

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