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  • Anna Clemson

Schoellkopf Through the Years

In 1915 Cornell University opened its brand-new football stadium, Schoellkopf Field. The stadium is the fourth oldest in the Football Championship Subdivision (FCS), the NCAA Division I-AA football league. Currently Schoellkopf is home to Cornell football, sprint football, and men’s and women’s lacrosse. Many athletes have competed on the field and every year, Cornell’s commencement takes place in the stadium (weather permitting). However, the Schoellkopf we know and love today doesn’t quite look the same as it did over 100 years ago.

Cornellians supporting Big Red football in 1919 (courtesy of

In 1914, The New York Times published a blurb that work had begun on Cornell’s Schoellkopf Field. Willard D. Straight (1901) donated $100,000 for a clubhouse in memory of his friend Henry (Heini) Schoellkopf (1902), an accomplished football player; the Schoellkopf family followed his lead with a $70,000 donation for the stadium itself. The state-of-the-art facility could host 9,000 fans – a much-needed upgrade from Percy Field, the former home of the Big Red located where Ithaca High School is today. At noon on October 9, 1915, the university suspended all activities and President Jacob Gould Schurman led a parade from the Arts Quad to Schoellkopf Field for the dedication of the field, followed by the opening football game.

Cornell students on Schoellkopf for graduation in 2008 (courtesy of

The Cornell fan base quickly outgrew the original stands, resulting in the construction of the Crescent, a unique addition with a wide arching shape behind and above the lower seating, where fans still sit today. The capacity more than doubled to 21,500 in 1924. About 20 years later, steel stands were added on the west side of the field, bringing the capacity up to 25,597. These stands were eventually torn down and the stadium has undergone improvements in several other areas since then. Only five years after its opening, General Electric Company installed a flood searchlight system which lit up the field, especially important in Ithaca during the dark months in fall and winter. In 1986, Schoellkopf saw renovations that included a brand-new press box, which won an award from the Sports Writer’s Association of America. Additionally, new light fixtures were put in place once televised games became possible. Most recently, Memorial Hall underwent renovations in order to expand and update its locker rooms and training facilities. It now also includes a museum of football memorabilia.

View of Schoellkopf’s turf pitch prior to it being resurfaced (courtesy of

The changes that have had the biggest effect on play in Schoellkopf have been on the field itself. When the stadium was first built, its primary purpose was as a football field, but The New York Times also highlighted the regulation track that went around the field. Today Cornell’s track and field teams practice at the Robert J. Kane Sports Complex which surrounds Berman Field, the soccer pitch. Since 1915, the field itself has undergone several changes to match the technology of the time. In 1971, the introduction of an artificial turf called ‘Politer’ transformed the field to make it more versatile. This changed the way sports could be played and may have helped Ed Marinaro ’72 break Cornell football’s rushing record. Following that initial transition, the turf was upgraded in 1979, 1988, 1999, and 2008. Schoellkopf has seen many shades of green, but today the iconic field is covered in FieldTurf.

Cornell Football competes against Yale during the 2018 homecoming weekend game at Schoellkopf Field on Saturday, September 22, 2018.

Throughout the years, Schoellkopf Field has remained a landmark on Cornell’s campus. The Big Red continue to make memories on the field and Cornell puts the stadium on display for commencement and homecoming events every year. Hopefully the unique Crescent stands can be filled once again for sports and graduation festivities soon.


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