Big Red



Cornell Big Red

General Team Information:

NCAA Division: Division I

Conference: Ivy League

Past Conferences: Ivy and Ind

City: Ithaca, New York

Stadium: Newman Arena

NCAA Tournaments:1954, 1988, 2008, 2009, 2010


National Championships: 0

Conference Titles: 0

Team History

Cornell University was founded in 1865 and played its first official basketball game on December 13, 1898, when the team defeated the Waverly YMCA 48–12. It wasn’t until the 1908-09 season that the team recorded its first winning season, finishing with a 13-10 regular season record. 

The inception of the Cornell Big Red men’s basketball team showcased some solid peaks while facing difficult troughs throughout its history. Still, the foundation of the program would take years to be built, as many other Ivy League schools found more success.

Before the Ivy Conference came together, the program would compete in the Eastern Intercollegiate Basketball League from 1902 to 1955. Four of the eight schools that competed in this conference would join the Ivy League. 

The 1954 team was led by head coach Royner Greene who put together a 17-7 regular season record. The odds of punching their first ticket to the NCAA Tournament were coming to fruition, as they would win a playoff game against the Princeton Tigers.

There was a significant change in the Tournament bracket compared to how it is now. The Big Red would lose in the opening round to Navy by one possession. In the Regional third-place game, the Big Red would suffer a tough defeat against the NC State Wolfpack.

Best Run: EIBL

Their run in the EIBL would arguably be their best run, as the team would win four conference titles during that stretch. After leaving, a major post-season drought would take place as the school wasn’t able to find any consistency, and would go through many coaching changes in the process.

The 1988 season would be the year under head coach Mike Dement. This season would not amount to too much, as the team did not know how to face the Arizona Wildcats’ offensive and defensive schemes. In the first round, Cornell suffered a major defeat as the team lost by a 40-point margin. 

The Big Red made it to the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1988. In the program’s history, this three-year span would be the time when the men’s basketball squads would go all-in and make the post-season count, with head coach Steve Donahue leading the charge.

The Cornell team stats showed why the team’s morale was high as the regular season records showed. From 2008 to 2010, the team would win over 20 games for all three seasons. The 2008 season may not have shown the school’s best record overall, but they went 14-0 in conference play.

The 2010 season is when the team learned from their mistakes in the past by proving why the school couldn’t be taken lightly in the dance. During the NCAA Tournament, the school would make its second Sweet 16 run with an upset win over the Temple Owls in the first round.

Only Two Wins in an NCAA Tournament

In the second round of the NCAA Tournament, the Cornell Big Red men’s basketball team defeated the Wisconsin Badgers before falling to the Kentucky Wildcats in the Sweet 16. This would be the program’s only two wins in the NCAA Tournament.

After an incredible run, coach Steve Donahue would accept the job at Boston College. Currently, he is back in the Ivy League coaching the University of Pennsylvania Quakers.

Fast-forwarding a few years, Brian Earl is calling the shots heading into his fifth season. In the preseason, the Cornell Big Red was in the middle of the pact to win the Ivy League Conference; however, they have begun the season on a hot start by nearly pulling off an upset against the Miami Hurricanes. The team has strong NCAAB odds to make something happen.


All-Time Records

Points Scored

    • Matt Morgan 2,333
    • Ryan Wittman 2,028
    • John Bajusz 1663


    • George Farley 1,089
    • Walt Esdaile 840
    • Jack Sheehy 839


    • Chris Wroblewski 481
    • Louis Dale 470
    • Josh Wexler 377


    • Wallace Prather 197
    • Graham Dow 166
    • DeShawn Standard 155



What Is the Highest Win Total in Program History?

The highest win total in the program’s history was 29 wins, which includes a 13-1 conference record. In addition, the squad will pull off two major upsets to reach the Sweet 16.

Who Is the Winningest Coach in Program History?

When strictly looking at records, the winningest coach in the program’s history would be Royner Greene, as he accumulated a record of 165-143. However, Steve Donahue would lead the school to three NCAA appearances, which amounts to 60 percent or three out of the five total. He became the second coach in Cornell University’s men’s basketball program’s history to lead the team to the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA Tournament.

Who Is the Greatest Player in Program History?

Many talented players played in the program, which includes Jeff Foote, Ugonnabo Okoye, and Ken Bantum. However, Ryan Wittman is arguably the greatest player, since he was named to three-time, First-Team, All-Ivy selections, and played professionally in Europe with a brief stint in the G-League. 

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