A Little History Lesson of New York College Football

A Little History Lesson of New York College Football

If you will indulge this blog post today, this weekend’s opponent for North Dakota State hits close to home for yours truly. Colgate University is located in Hamilton, New York, just 75 miles from my hometown of Oswego. Many Bison fans may have never heard of this private school before last Saturday, when they beat James Madison, but this school has a proud football history.

Mike McFeely details one of Colgate’s biggest wins in 2003, when they knocked off Missouri Valley member Western Illinois, 28-27 in a blizzard in Hamilton. I was there that day, I was working at WSTM-TV in Syracuse at the time, it was one of the wilder sporting events I’ve ever covered.


The Raiders have won 10 conference championships and have appeared in the FCS Playoffs 11 times. They have had two Walter Payton winners and will come to Fargo off one of the biggest wins in program history.

Colgate though, gets forgotten even in the state of New York. Syracuse University is the most popular school in the state; the Orange are also the most successful. This is the school of Jim Brown and Ernie Davis, Donovan McNabb and Marvin Harrison. It’s been a while since they’ve been good, but a former FCS coach, Dino Babers (who coached at Eastern Illinois and Jimmy Garoppolo) have the ‘Cuse playing in a bowl game later this month.

Army is a close second with its football success and we’ll get to see that on a national stage this weekend when the Cadets play Navy.

College football in New York used to be one of the most popular sports for a large portion of the 20th century. The history of the game is filled with stories of Army and Columbia (which is in Manhattan); along with Fordham and Cornell.

Theres’s a great history of college football in the Empire State. The State University of New York at Albany is a member of the Colonial, and for a long time was the training camp home of the New York Giants. Stony Brook, also now a Colonial member has emerged as a solid program on Long Island.

Lastly, in western New York, the State University of New York at Buffalo has proven its success in the MAC. Turner Gill had the Bulls at the top of the league and now former Whitewater coach Lance Leipold has the Bulls as a perennial league contender.

Hofstra used to be the powerhouse on Long Island, the “Dutchmen”, the school that produced one of my favorite players, Wayne Chrebet, they discontinued the program in 2009.

If you really want to know how big college football is in the state, look to Division 3. The “Cortaca Jug” is played every year between SUNY Cortland and Ithaca College, two schools separated by 21 miles. The trophy has been contested every year since 1959 and routinely gets 10,000 people in attendance.

New York may not be thought of as a college football powerhouse, but its history says otherwise.


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