Cortland commotion aftermath, students pick up the pieces

By Megan Carpenter

November 17, 2013 Updated Nov 18, 2013 at 9:40 AM EDT

Cortland, NY (WBNG Binghamton) Thousands of college students packed Cortland Saturday for what they hoped would be an epic weekend.

The football game weekend where SUNY Cortland faces Ithaca College is known as "Cortaca." After Saturday's game put Cortland on top, some said the partying escalated.

"It was many more people than our department could handle at that moment," Cortland Police Chief Mike Catalano said. "We didn't want anyone else to get injured or hurt."

Others called it a full-fledged riot. Hashtag Cortaca (#cortaca) has cluttered Instagram. Students documented the events on their cell phones. WTVH in Syracuse reports the partying continued well into Sunday morning.

"People were in shopping carts coming down the street," said Frank Marsh, a SUNY Cortland Junior. "People were throwing beers everywhere...anything they could get their hands on."

Trash, bottles, and empty beer cans lined the streets of Clayton Avenue on Sunday, the morning after. Some students decided to take responsibility for their actions by coming together and cleaning up.

"I feel good," said Jenna Gregory, a SUNY Cortland Sophomore. "It's not going to be everybody cleaning up, but I helped and all of us are helping."

Gregory said about 30 of her classmates helped out. Some said the Clayton Avenue scene was just evidence of college kids letting loose after a big football win.

"I mean you could see there was a party going on that spilled out into the street," said George Seibel, owner of Dark Horse Tavern, "but nobody got seriously hurt."

While some may have taken things too far, others showed pride for their school and for their neighbors by picking up the pieces.

Police Chief Catalano said Cortland police made a number of arrests Saturday night. Police did not comment on how many were arrested, or any other aspect of Saturday night's riot.

Erik J. Bitterbaum, the president of SUNY Cortland, released a statement.

"As the president of SUNY Cortland, I would like to personally apologize to the Cortland community for the inexcusable behavior of some of our students related to Saturday’s football game with Ithaca College. Please be assured that the College will work closely with city officials to implement measures intended to prevent this type of activity from occurring again.

The annual Cortaca game is a time-honored athletic tradition that SUNY Cortland and its alumni take great pride in. Unfortunately, as we all saw Saturday, the athletic contest has become secondary to the celebration for some students, guests and visitors to the community. As an institution dedicated to academic and athletic excellence we are determined to turn this destructive culture around. I have been in communication with the College’s top officials over the weekend and we will meet together to discuss the options Monday morning. We will meet with city officials as soon as possible after that. Together, we will consider any and all ideas as we move forward.

SUNY Cortland takes pride in maintaining a positive, mutually beneficial relationship with its neighbors and the surrounding community. Several years ago, collaboration between the College and the city allowed us to stop the destructive Clayton Avenue block party that used to occur every spring. We are confident we can have a similar impact on the unruly celebrations surrounding Cortaca."