For many on the Ithaca College campus, football season is inconsequential and unimportant, a passing fad that does not have anything to do with their lives. Being a school with a Division 3 football team keeps us from being a major presence in the college football arena so the games draw little attention and most students exist outside of the culture of tailgates and school spirit so prevalent on other college campuses.
One of the most attention-getting events in the Ithaca College sporting arena is the Cortaca Jug, the rivalry football game against our close neighbors in Cortland. It is almost shocking to see the amount of school spirit that emerges for this single event.
The American Red Cross club on campus presented the Rivals For Life Blood Drive Challenge: Ithaca vs. Cortland last week during October 4th and 5th in the Fitness Center and Campus Center. There were small flyers distributed in dorms, posters hung in all of the major centers of campus, and an obviously parked Red Cross truck parked near the Fitness Center quad on the days of the blood drive.
Why is this blood drive significant enough to write a whole article about? It sheds light on the politics surrounding this sporting event on our campus. The American Red Cross club has attempted to utilize the competitiveness of this football game to generate participation in a blood drive to “defend our winning title from last year” against Cortland’s blood drive results. One of the distributed flyers posted in an on-campus dorm advertises the offer of receiving a coupon for an oil change and a free tire rotation after giving blood. This seemingly random incentive is meant to add to the pre-existing sentiment that students should want to be involved in the blood drive to benefit Red Cross while contributing to an Ithaca College victory over Cortland.
Did the blood drive need to be based on the Cortaca game to attract a lot of student involvement? I asked Christina Matthews, an Ithaca College sophomore student, to share the reasons why she gave blood in this particular drive. She said, “I have never been able to donate blood before” and “I am O negative so I can save everybody” because type O is a universal donor. When asked if the football aspect of the blood drive had anything to do with her participation, Christina told me that she noticed the football helmets on the signs posted around campus but the competition with Cortland had nothing to do with her decision to contribute.
I engaged in a conversation with another student about the blood drive and asked him if he planned on taking part. He expressed that he had mild interest and that he planned to go if he had the time. He definitely wanted to participate but he was clearly not invested or motivated by the competitive spirit of the drive.
The blood drive is not the only way in which the Cortaca Jug is used as a mode of revenue for the college. Even students who have no vested interest in the game or the sport partake in the purchasing of the various event t-shirts available, which contributes to the money made off of the game. There is a strong need for people to feel a sense of belonging in a group and, in this instance, this can be achieved by proudly wearing a Cortaca shirt around campus to give the impression of having school spirit. It is curious to consider why the Cortaca game alone is able to generate so much campus support in the form of consumerism while anything that accentuates giving back and is meant to benefit the larger community suffers. It sparks the question of how valuable it is to spend energy on fostering school spirit at Ithaca College.
For many, the idea of school spirit boils down to silly things like pep rallies when in fact, a strong sense of community and excitement about the Ithaca College collective identity could fuel widespread eagerness and willingness to engage in initiatives that profit more than the college’s bank account and its student’s wardrobes.