Cornell all-time moment No. 8: Big Red's first modern Ivy League title

Cornell 1988 Picture
The 1987-88 Cornell Big Red.


We’re counting down the top 10 moments in each Ivy school’s history as part of our Ivy League at 60 retrospective. Cornell is next because nothing compares 2 Cornell.

Ivy League schools have been competing in basketball for a long time. Cornell, Columbia, Princeton, Yale and Harvard have met on the hardwood since 1901. Penn joined in 1903, Dartmouth in 1911, and finally, Brown in 1953. For the first 53 years, these school competed in what was known as the Eastern Intercollegiate Basketball League. Results were pretty even. Penn led all schools with 13 titles, followed by Columbia with 12, and Dartmouth with nine. Cornell won the league four times – in 1913, 1914, 1924, and 1954.

Official “Ivy League” competition begun in 1956, a year that also marked the start of Penn-Princeton dominance. From 1956 to 1987, the total number of Ivy League Basketball championships looked like this:

Princeton: 15

Penn: 14

Yale: 3

Dartmouth: 2

Columbia: 1

Brown: 1

Cornell: 0

Harvard: 0

The 1980s were different. Tom Miller took over as the head coach in 1981, replacing Ben Bluitt, who averaged just 7.5 wins per season. Miller started the turnaround, leading the Red to three straight winning seasons from 1984-86 before bolting to become the head coach at Colorado. Next up was Mike Dement. Dement led a solid 1987 campaign before putting it all together with the 1988 squad led by senior Sam Jacobs.

On Feb. 27, 1988, Jacobs poured in a career high 40 points to lead Cornell past Brown to clinch a share of Cornell’s first title in 34 years and its first ever Ivy League title. Cornell best online casino dropped its final two contests, ending its 11-game winning streak, but a Dartmouth loss at Yale on the final day of the Ivy slate would secure the outright title in Ithaca.

Cornell’s reward, an automatic bid to its first ever NCAA tournament, was Lute Olson’s 35-3 Arizona Wildcats littered with future NBA players including Sean Elliott and Steve Kerr. The game wasn’t even close, Arizona won, 90-50.  Putting the loss to Arizona aside, Cornell finally broke through, and after 34 years could again sit on top of the conference.  We’re not going to say Cornell changed the landscape of the Ivy League in 1988. We won’t say that the 1988 title pulled the Ivy League out of Penn-Princeton dominance, (hint, hint – those words come later), but everyone remembers their first, and this was the first “Ivy League” title for Cornell and good for the No. 8 all-time moment in Cornell basketball history.

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