Famous Coach Helps Students Examine Social-Emotional Effects of Sports Rivalries

David Lawrence's Sports in Society class virtually hosting Cortland State's Head Football Coach, Curt Fitzpatrick, as a speaker. On Oct. 10, David Lawrence’s Sports in Society class virtually hosted Cortland State’s Head Football Coach, Curt Fitzpatrick, as a speaker. Fitzpatrick discussed the longstanding rivalry between Cortland State and Ithaca in the world of football and its effect on the community. The session taught students about the emotional and psychological dynamics behind athletic rivalries.

The Sports in Society class is a new social studies offering for grades 11-12 students. Students research and analyze topics such as inequality in youth sports, breaking the color barrier, violence in sports and trailblazers who opened doors for others. Students explore how the sporting world impacts our society culturally while looking at the political and economic impacts. 

Fitzpatrick was invited to provide a unique insight into the psychology and sociology of sports rivalries, drawing on the history of the Cortaca Jug game, which draws colossal and often emotional Division III football crowds. 

Coach Fitzpatrick spoke about how this intense rivalry has left a significant mark on both colleges. He said the Cortaca Jug game helps recruit students and get the SUNY Cortland name out there, but that sometimes social media posts about the game can target players and put a toll on players’ mental health. Lawrence said it was a critical perspective for students to hear.

“This was a great experience for the students to learn about the social and economic impact of a well-known Upstate NY sports rivalry,” Lawrence said. “Hearing from someone at the heart of it added meaning to our study.”  

His students agree.

“Overall, as a student interested in going to Cortland next fall, I felt like the experience was very beneficial,” said senior Marleigh Delisle. “Coach Fitzpatrick did a great job of explaining many different aspects of being a coach and was informative about sports rivalries.” 

“Talking to Coach Fitzpatrick was an awesome experience not only as a student but as an athlete,” according to junior Ainsley Esposito. “Coach Fitzpatrick talked us through everything from his journey through coaching to the recruiting process.” 

Previously, the class analyzed the legalization of sports betting by examining the economic, social and ethical impacts. In the future, students will look at different professions in the sports market, analyze the cultural phenomena of the Super Bowl, and analyze violence in sports.