“…cheer for the big red team.”

Athletics at Cornell have played an important role in student life since the very first days of the University. Cornell athletes first shocked the nation by sweeping the races at the 1875 and 1876 Saratoga regattas. Cornell’s rowing teams from this era were so surprisingly dominant that Harvard and Yale teams refused to compete against them. The crew’s success put Cornell athletics on the map, leading to national recognition.

The Ivy League athletic conference, founded in 1954, prohibited its member institutions from giving athletic scholarships. Nevertheless, Cornell teams have continued to win numerous national championships and other honors in both men’s and women’s sports. Cornell has always maintained the true definition of the scholar athlete. Dozens of Cornell graduates appear in national halls of fame including football, baseball, track and field, lacrosse and hockey.

The impact of sports goes well beyond the athletes. The Big Red spirit and traditions have provided memorable experiences for the entire student body, faculty, staff and the Ithaca community. Successful performances by Cornell athletes, whether nationally, like the 2010 men’s basketball team’s Sweet 16 run, or internationally, with Cornellians competing in the Olympics, inspire the Cornellians around the globe to cheer passionately for the Big Red.

The “Cornell Yell” originated at the Intercollegiate Rowing Association Saratoga Regatta of 1875. An estimated 25,000 people saw Cornell defeat twelve other schools in what was hailed as one of the best contested races ever rowed. This megaphone was used to cheer the team to another victory at the 1897 Poughkeepsie Regatta.

Cornell fans enjoy a baseball game at Percy Field, before the construction of Hoy Field on campus.

Between 1910 and 1916, tobacco companies began providing small textiles as premiums, perhaps to attract women consumers. These cigarette “silks” were generally made of satin; some woven, some printed. Among other subjects, they included college athletes, pennants, seals, yells, and songs.

Crew fans lined Cayuga Lake on and off the water. Those with tickets could ride the observation train that ran alongside the eastern shore during the races, keeping pace with the boats.

This ball was used in the inaugural pitch at Hoy Field, April 22, 1922. The ball was thrown by David Fletcher Hoy, Class of 1891, University Registrar, baseball fan, and namesake for the field and the famous fight song, “Give My Regards to Davy.”

Listen to “Give My Regards to Davy”:

“Davy” Hoy throws the first pitch at the field named after him. The baseball he is throwing is also in this exhibit case.

From sporting equipment to items “liberated” from competitors, spectators often saved souvenirs of important Cornell victories. When the fans pulled the goal post down after Cornell’s dramatic 17 point 4th quarter comeback win over Dartmouth in 1926, some pieces were kept for posterity.

Just as students meet on campus today to watch out-of-town Cornell athletic events, before the Internet and television fans of the football team would gather in great numbers to follow the games. Complex manual and later electronic scoreboards showed all the plays as information came in via the telegraph, telephone or radio. Games in Ithaca were broadcast to other schools by students in the R.O.T.C. Signal Corps as training exercises.

With a current capacity of 25,597, Schoellkopf Field frequently saw close to 30,000 fans attend games during the football team’s most competitive years. Some fans viewed the game from the trees!

For the Lynah Faithful, several nights sleeping in Barton Hall or camping outside were a small price to pay for hockey tickets. Here students sleep during the early morning as they await tickets for the home Harvard hockey game. The wait was worthwhile as Cornell won 5-4 in overtime.

Bristow Adams graduated from Stanford University. In 1904 he became vice president of H. M. Suter Publishing Company, designing a series of college athletic posters, editing forestry publications, and managing a weekly news review. He joined the information office of the U.S. Forest Service in 1906. In 1914, he became a professor in the College of Agriculture at Cornell, and department head in charge of publications and information. At Cornell he started courses in journalism, advertising and publicity, and forestry and conservation. Combining his love of students with his love of journalism, Bristow became a member of the board of directors of the Cornell Daily Sun and an advisor to the Cornell Countryman and the Cornell Widow.

Joseph Christian Leyendecker, one of the preeminent American illustrators of the early 20th century, is best known for his poster, book, and advertising illustrations, especially for the Saturday Evening Post. This poster was advertised in the Cornell Daily Sun and sold at Rothschild Brothers department store and in Collegetown.

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