The Liberty Cup

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The Liberty Cup
Sport Football
Latest meeting September 19, 2015
Fordham 44, Columbia 24
Trophy The Liberty Cup (September 21, 2002)
Meetings total 14
All-time series 10-4 Fordham
Largest victory Fordham, 52–7 (2013)
Longest win streak Fordham, 6 (2010–2015)
Current win streak Fordham, 6 (2010–2015)
The Liberty Cup is located in New York City
Columbia University
Columbia University
Fordham University
Fordham University
Locations in New York City

The Liberty Cup, now defunct, was awarded annually to the winner of the college football game between Columbia University and Fordham University, two of only three National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division I (D-1) football programs in New York City. Wagner College, which only joined the D-I ranks in 1993 and located on Staten Island, was the third. The trophy was dedicated in 2002, a year after the Columbia-Fordham game was postponed due to the attacks of September 11, 2001. [1] At least 43 Columbia alumni and 39 Fordham alumni and students[1] died at the World Trade Center,[2] including two former Fordham football players: Nick Brandemarti '00 and Kevin Szocik '97. The final game of the 14-year series was played in 2015.[3]


Despite their proximity and long football histories, the schools had only met three times in the 100 years from 1890 until 1990. The first matchup took place in 1890. Another followed in 1902.[4][5] Both contests ended with lopsided shutout wins for Columbia.

Competing at different levels, the schools did not meet again but Fordham did move up to eventually join the Major/University level in 1928.[citation needed] [5] Aside from a hiatus during the 1943-1945 seasons due to World War II, Fordham stayed in the Division I ranks until the 1954 season. During that time however, contests against Columbia and most other "Ancient Eight" teams were shunned [6] as Fordham played a more national schedule. National aspirations ended following the 1954 season when after a string of losing seasons and, citing financial concerns, Fordham folded its own football program.

Varsity football was re-introduced at what is now known as the Division III level in 1970. Columbia, along with the rest of the Ivy League, still playing at what is now known as the FBS level (more like a lower level G5 FBS in terms of computer power ratings), [7] scheduled Fordham in 1972 as a replacement for Buffalo which, at the time, had temporarily terminated their own football program.[8] Like their previous two contests, the 1972 affair also ended in a lopsided shutout win for the Lions. Once again, competing at different levels kept the schools from establishing a series.

After decades of poor results, Columbia, along with the entire Ivy League, was relegated into what is now known as the FCS level by the NCAA following the 1981 season. Fordham moved up to that same I-AA level prior to the 1989 season. This put the 1991 encounter between the two on a more even footing. Fordham won that fourth meeting by a 20-16 score. Columbia gained revenge in sweeping the next four contests which were played in 1992, 1993, 1994 and 1996. After a brief break, the two renewed their series in 2000 which was typically used to open Columbia's season and was usually the third game on Fordham's schedule.

Origin Of the Liberty Cup[edit]

Liberty Trophy in 2015

The 10th meeting between Fordham and Columbia originally was scheduled for September 15, 2001. In the days following the September 11, 2001 attacks, Major League Baseball, the National Football League and many NCAA Division I teams canceled games for the following weekend. But Fordham and Columbia—two of the three Division I football teams in New York City—debated as late as Friday, September 14, 2001 about the possibility of playing. Fordham officials wanted to send a message about American resilience in the face of the attacks, but Columbia officials argued that it was too soon to think about playing a football game. "The question was, should we not play and mourn and honor our dead, or was normalcy in the face of this disaster the best response?" said the Rev. Joseph A. O'Hare, president of Fordham at that time.[2]

The schools decided against playing on Sept. 15, but later in the season agreed to meet on Thanksgiving morning (November 22, 2001). Fordham thumped Columbia 41-10 before a surprisingly large crowd considering the holiday and early start time. Afterwards, O'Hare said it had been the right decision to reschedule. "Oh, absolutely," he said. "I think we had put sports in perspective -- and we played great."[2]

Less than 10 months after that game, the underdog Lions gained their revenge, holding Fordham close for 59 minutes before winning with a 37-yard field goal with 10.5 seconds to play. This was the inaugural Liberty Cup game. The 13-11 victory would be Columbia’s only win of the 2002 season; Fordham would finish 10-3, gaining a share of the Patriot League title and reaching the quarterfinals of the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision playoffs.

Columbia Band's altar boy joke controversy[edit]

The Columbia University Marching Band drew protests from Fordham and Roman Catholics generally with an off-color double entendre reference to the priest abuse scandal during its halftime performance at the inaugural 2002 Liberty Cup game, when the Columbia band's self-appointed "Poet Laureate" read from a script over the stadium's public address system:[9]

"As well as the Mets' season going up in smoke, Fordham tuition going down like an altar boy, and the Fordham football team with a threat rating of a cute, neon pink, the band now presents an all-star gala halftime salute to more Columbia news."

In reporting the incident, The New York Times, the Associated Press, and most of the mainstream media found the reference to be too insensitive or offensive and refused to print it.[10] Columbia President Lee C. Bollinger apologized for the band's remark. The author of the joke refused to apologize.[11]

Recent history[edit]

The 2003 game was a thriller, with Fordham coming out on top in a wild 37-30 game. Jerry Glanville was the color broadcaster for that game for TV as a part of the now-defunct Football Network. After CBS executives saw his work on that game, he was offered a chance to call an NFL game the following week, the Detroit Lions/San Diego Chargers game.

Columbia took the 2006 meeting, 37-7, in the most lopsided result of the cup series until Fordham defeated Columbia 52-7 in 2013. The 2006 win was the Lions' second consecutive victory over Fordham, and made Norries Wilson the first Columbia coach since Aldo T. "Buff" Donelli to win his debut. Fordham responded by winning 8 of the next 9. As a result of the rise of Fordham's team as a top FCS program in the 2010s, resulting in several lopsided victories, Columbia chose not to renew the series after 2015.

The Liberty Cup results[edit]

In 2015 Fordham became the first team to earn six consecutive victories, giving them a 10-4 Cup series lead.

Columbia victories Fordham victories
# Date Location Winner Score Attendance
1 2002 Manhattan Columbia 13–11 3,865
2 2003 The Bronx Fordham 37–30 6,895
3 2004 Manhattan Fordham 17–14 2,176
4 2005 The Bronx Columbia 23–17 6,912
5 2006 Manhattan Columbia 37–7 4,454
6 2007 The Bronx Fordham 27–10 3,721
7 2008 Manhattan Fordham 29–22 2,304
8 2009 The Bronx Columbia 40–28 6,449
# Date Location Winner Score Attendance
9 2010 Manhattan Fordham 16–9 4,454
10 2011 The Bronx Fordham 21–14 6,820
11 2012 Manhattan Fordham 20–13 4,318
12 2013 The Bronx Fordham 52–7 7,026
13 2014 Manhattan Fordham 49–7 4,805
14 2015 The Bronx Fordham 44–24 8,052
Series: Fordham leads 10–4

Results of all previous meetings[edit]

Including meetings going back to the 19th century, before the Liberty Cup was dedicated:

  • 2001 Fordham 41, Columbia 10 - Attendance 3,715 (@ Fordham) [12]
  • 2000 Columbia 43, Fordham 26 - Attendance 5,007 (@ Columbia) [13]
  • 1996 Columbia 17, Fordham 10 - Attendance 5,713 (@ Fordham) [14]
  • 1994 Columbia 24, Fordham 13 - Attendance 5,266 (@ Fordham) [15]
  • 1993 Columbia 7, Fordham 0 - Attendance 3,325 (@ Columbia) [16]
  • 1992 Columbia 18, Fordham 9 - Attendance 3,521 (@ Fordham) [17]
  • 1991 Fordham 20, Columbia 16 - Attendance 3,650 (@ Columbia) ) [18]
  • 1972 Columbia 44, Fordham 0 - Attendance 6,845 (@ Columbia) [19]
  • 1902 Columbia 45, Fordham 0 - Attendance 1,000 (@ Polo Grounds II, aka Columbia Field) [20][21][22]
  • 1890 Columbia 40, Fordham 0 - Attendance ? (@ Polo Grounds III, aka Brotherhood Park) [23]


  1. ^ Fordham University Remembers 9/11
  2. ^ a b c Berkow, Ira. "Reflections on Making the Proper Decision Over Postponing a Game." The New York Times Sept. 12, 2002.
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ a b
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^
  9. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 2007-09-27. Retrieved 2005-12-12. 
  10. ^ Wolper, Allan. The Joke Unfit to Print Archived September 27, 2007, at the Wayback Machine. Editor & Publisher Journal. October 15, 2002.
  11. ^ Wakin, Daniel J. "Columbia U. Head Apologizes To Fordham Over Public Gibe." The New York Times Sept. 25, 2002.
  12. ^ By BRANDON LILLYNOV. 23, 2001 (2001-11-23). "FOOTBALL; Columbia Is Overmatched As Fordham Rolls in Finale - The". New York Times. Retrieved 2016-12-01. 
  13. ^ By BRANDON LILLYSEPT. 17, 2000 (2000-09-17). "COLLEGE FOOTBALL; Columbia Offense Rumbles In Opener - The". New York Times. Retrieved 2016-12-01. 
  14. ^ By JACK CAVANAUGHSEPT. 29, 1996 (1996-09-29). "Mistakes Abound, but Columbia Finds Itself at 2-0 - The". New York Times. Retrieved 2016-12-01. 
  15. ^ Curry, Jack (1994-10-09). "FOOTBALL - Norman Rockwell Would Have Loved It. Columbia Surely Does, 24-13. -". New York Times. Retrieved 2016-12-01. 
  16. ^ "COLLEGE FOOTBALL - The Friendly Confines, but Not for the Lions' Opponents -". New York Times. 1993-09-26. Retrieved 2016-12-01. 
  17. ^ "COLLEGE FOOTBALL - Hail Columbia, the Gem of the Bronx -". New York Times. 1992-09-27. Retrieved 2016-12-01. 
  18. ^ "COLLEGE FOOTBALL - Rams Bounce Back And Frustrate Lions -". New York Times. 1991-10-06. Retrieved 2016-12-01. 
  19. ^ "Columbia Daily Spectator 2 October 1972 — Columbia Spectator". 1972-10-02. Retrieved 2016-12-01. 
  20. ^ "Harold Weekes, Columbia vs Fordham, October 8, 1902" (PDF). Retrieved 2016-12-01. 
  21. ^ "Omaha Daily Bee (Omaha [Neb.]) 187?-1922, October 09, 1902, Page 5, Image 5 « Nebraska Newspapers « Library of Congress". 1902-10-09. Retrieved 2016-12-01. 
  22. ^ "Columbia Daily Spectator 9 October 1902 — Columbia Spectator". 1902-10-09. Retrieved 2016-12-01. 
  23. ^ "Columbia Daily Spectator 6 November 1890 — Columbia Spectator". Retrieved 2016-12-01.