What’s the Most Iconic Cornell Tradition? The Bracket Narrows!

Slope Day? Dairy Bar ice cream? The Swim Test? Big Red stalwarts continue going head to head in Week Two of our March Madness!

Editor’s note: The bracket is currently in its final round, and the poll at the bottom of this post is closed. Here’s the ballot for the final, running until 8 a.m. EDT on Monday, April 22!

By Corey Ryan Earle ’07

We’ve made it through the first round of our Iconic Cornell Traditions bracket, with more than 1,100 Cornellians chiming in on what experiences are essential to being a Big Red student. Voters have narrowed down the field from 32 to 16—and voting is now open for the next eight matchups below.

The biggest blowouts in Round One were perhaps to be expected. “Cheering for Big Red hockey at Lynah Rink” trounced “Failing a prelim (then studying so hard, you ace the next one)” with 83% of the vote.

An illustration of Corey Earle with the text "Storytime with Corey" and a badge that says "March Madness"!

While both may be part of the Cornell experience, one is certainly a lot more fun than the other. (And it’s been a great year for the Lynah Faithful: on Saturday, the Big Red won the ECAC championship for the first time since 2010.)

But the largest margin of victory went to “Hanging out with friends on Slope Day,” handily defeating “Bowling at Helen Newman” with 88%. Helen Newman Bowling Center will continue to languish as an underappreciated hidden gem on campus.

The largest margin of victory went to ‘Hanging out with friends on Slope Day,’ handily defeating ‘Bowling at Helen Newman.’

Two quintessential Cornell icons were unexpectedly knocked out of the tournament in the first round. In one of the closest matchups, “Strolling around Beebe Lake” took down “Snapping a photo with the Ezra Cornell statue,” 57% to 43%.

Our beloved mascot also came up short, with “Seeing a world-renowned speaker or performance at Barton Hall” outpacing “High-fiving Touchdown the Bear,” 67% to 33%.

Touchdown the bear, looking angry
Sorry, Touchdown! (Cornell University)

(Alumni remembering the 1977 Grateful Dead concert at Barton Hall may have influenced the outcome there.)

The closest matchup? “Sipping a glass in Intro to Wines” snuck into the next round just ahead of “Struggling to get into a course during add/drop,” 53% to 47%, in another matchup that pitted a positive experience against a negative one.

(But perhaps these two experiences are best when combined.)

We have some tough decisions to make in Round Two, so don’t forget to vote below. May the most Cornell-y tradition win!

As a reminder, here are the basics:

• Over the next four weeks, you can help determine the most iconic Cornell tradition by voting weekly in a series of matchups until we reach the championship final, with voting opening on April 15.

• The second bracket of eight pairs is below, and you can download the full bracket here:

Corey’s March Madness Bracket 2024: Round 2

• Round Two voting runs from now until 8 a.m. EDT on Monday, April 1.

• Look for the results—and the next round of match-ups—that afternoon!

Corey's March Madness: Cornell Traditions, Round 2

An expert on Big Red lore, Corey Ryan Earle ’07 teaches “The First American University,” a wildly popular spring semester course on Cornell history.

Published March 25, 2024

What’s your favorite Cornell tradition, and why?


  1. Adam Feldman, Class of 2022


  2. Anthony Boyadjis

    Gotta be late night triple sui at hot truck

    • Steve Sauter, Class of 1975


    • Matthew Siegal, Class of 1984

      Whomever put Louie’s Lunch in the same category as Bob’s Hot Truck knows nothing about the best of all Cornell traditions!

    • Tom Sennett, Class of 1978

      I could usually only afford the PMP or a wet garlic.

  3. Karin Abell, Class of 1993

    Risley Spring Fair, Risley Theatre, Risley Rocky Horror, rock concerts from the Cornell Concert Commission or whatever it was called

  4. Lindsay, Class of 1999

    How can you pick one? I love them all.

  5. Philip Smith, Class of 1977

    Still protesting the exclusion of tray sliding

    • Steve Sauter, Class of 1975

      I agree!

    • Ann B Addis, Class of 1974

      Agree as well- should be included!

    • Nancy Clark, Class of 1962

      Tray sliding was so much fun. And we had snow in those days!

      • Brinda, Class of 1989

        Yes! Traying down Libe slope should be on this list. Sneaking trays out from the dining halls…

    • Matthew Siegal, Class of 1984

      Agree too

    • Ellen Coy Mandell, Class of 1970


    • Michael

      Agreed! Including figuring out a way to get the plastic trays out of The Straight. (They later substituted cardboard trays to discourage tray sliding.)

    • Diane Bishop Hanson, Class of 1959

      How could you possibly have not included tray sliding? Have we all become so OLD that no one even remembers it?

      • Amy (Fuchs) Nutig, Class of 1995

        Pretty sure the kids are still traying, at least they were in 2010 during a winter visit to Ithaca (cripes, that was 14 years ago!).

    • Sheldon Susan

      Absolutely the best!

  6. Mark Steckel, Class of 1980

    Cheering on the hockey team at Lynah!


    We still make the pilgrimage twice a year to continue that tradition 44 years later!!!!!

  7. Scott Craver, Class of 1981

    Alma mater at schoelkopf with band after football games

  8. Mary Ellen Simoni, Class of 1994

    Still so many wonderful memories thirty years later!

  9. Ellen Pigage Elliott, Class of 1965

    Some of the choices were not available for those of use whose graduation year is long past.

    • Melissa Yorks, Class of 1975

      Exactly! No food truck in the 70’s!

      • Mary Anderson, Class of 1973

        Food trucks in 73 and earlier for sure

        • Gail Grella, Class of 1972

          Louie’s truck across the street from Risley, 1970-72, that I personally frequented.

        • Alice Singleton, Class of 1968

          Meatball subs at Louie’s in front of Noyes Lodge!

      • Pamela Hanna, Class of 1975

        Louis’ Lunch Truck on Thurston, and the Hot Truck on Stewart Avenue, well-loved!

      • Jim Warren, Class of 1970

        Louie’s was below the fresan dorms in the “60s.

        Mmmm, hot meatball sub topped with mozz!

    • Diane Lawrence, Class of 1969

      Exactly. Which is why Corey should break the tournament into senior varsity and junior varsity with a cutoff year of 1979. Right now the odds strongly favor the younger generation since they outnumber the seniors at least 4 to 1.

  10. Reid Bowman, Class of 1982

    What about Senior Slip day? That occurs when a senior, trudging up Libe Slope, slips and has to return home for the day, blowing off all classes.

    • Tom Sennett, Class of 1978

      Freshman year, trudging up the slope, near the top, my roomie slipped and slid on hands and knees all the way to the bottom, his books following him. We watched him go, and watched him gather himself and his books, and then disappear into the Memorial, and give up on class for the day. Classic.

  11. Candace Crocker Warren, Class of 1980

    Walking on the trail that goes across the suspension bridge

  12. Beril Afsar, Class of 1992

    Dragon day
    Wines class

  13. Heather Cook, Class of 1994

    Slope day! Best day of the year

  14. Gary W Bullis, Class of 1983

    A couple of my most memorable moments:
    * 1st week of Freshman football with 150 players wondering how am I ever going to even see the field. Turns out I figured it out quickly as I was chosen captain for our 1st game.
    * Freshman year (1980) Slope Day (aka Mudslide).
    * Green face and green beer at Dunbar’s.
    * 611 E. Seneca St. and the lifelong friends made there.
    * Checking the roster posted in the Ag School to see if I graduated.

  15. Gina Strauch, Class of 1980

    The Grand Course Exchange. Students now have no idea what the beginning of the semester was like back in the days before the internet.

  16. Ken Griffin, Class of 1975

    Sunset from the Willard Straight upper deck overlooking the Finger Lakes as each lake sequentially “lights up” as the sun sets.

  17. Eric Key, Class of 1977

    What happened to kissing your sweetie on the suspension bridge? 50 years later I still get to do it.

  18. Dick Jones, Class of 1971

    After the first snowfall, sliding down the Lib slope using cafeteria trays.

  19. Brian Myers, Class of 1980

    First home football game “Freshman on the field” and last home football game “seniors on the field.”

  20. Joyce Thompson, Class of 1970

    *When skirts were required at meals, putting together the weirdest possible outfits

    *When there were curfews, lingering goodnight kisses outside the dorms

    *Concerts with world-class talent performing just for us

    *Mass political actions, like seizing and occupying Barton Hall or not wearing and cap at graduation and donating the rental fee to a worthy political cause


    • Johanna Birkland, Class of 2003

      I did not know about the donation of the cap and gown tradition or about the skirts being required for dinner!

  21. Carlyse, Class of 1989

    Sleeping out for hockey tickets!

  22. Eric Beane

    Hockey at Lynah Rink, particularly now that late night Hot Truck and traying on Libe Slope are gone.

  23. Stephen Jester, Class of 1982

    Phi Psi 500 when it was a beer chugging race through Collegetown.

  24. CHRISTINA REYES MORALES, Class of 1988

    I remember being on crutches, and having to walk down the slopes just to get to class.

    Great memories of being in the presence of “The Hangovers”, who sang “High Above Cayuga’s Waters, Goodnight My Sweetheart”, and many other favorites. I still have a cassette from when they sang for us in our kitchen for an event.

    Freshman orientation – that darn swim test! I did however learn to swim well and remember how enjoyable the saunas were.

    Playing my clarinet in the Big Red Band at the football games. Memorable.

    Philly Cheese from the Louis’ Food Truck was AMAZING!

    Class registration day. I was telling my daughter about how insane those days were, standing in line, the right line for the classes you wanted. She’s now a freshman and said it was all done online!

    Great memories.

  25. Anne Catlin Johnson, Class of 1995

    No fair – Slope Day was my favorite time to climb the clock tower and hear the concert before heading down to the slope to… study for finals! With Kool Aid! Yeah! But we can’t vote for them as a combo! Maybe that’s the next game – combine iconic experiences… for example, wine + traying may not be a great idea, whereas singing the Alma Mater in the Dairy Bar would be fun (best in Bailey, but fun with ice cream)!

  26. Cindy Fuller, Class of 1978

    Cornell lacrosse! I loved the webinar last week co-sponsored by the classes of 1977 and my own 1978.

    Some enterprising students used alternatives to trays to sled down Libe Slope. My freshman year, one guy utilized an ironing board from the U Hall 1 laundry to make his descents.

  27. Johanna Birkland, Class of 2003

    Waiting outside Barton Hall for course add/drop.

    Then there’s the nightmare course enroll system of the late 1990s/ early 2000s. Add a course and go have dinner. Add a course then go to sleep. Unless you had a Mac, those were on their own server.

  28. Jeri Frank, Class of 1976

    I stayed in Ithaca for the summers. Here are my top wonderful summertime activities that I enjoyed on many days. For me they are iconic Cornell/Ithaca memories.
    Swimming every sunny warm day at the reservoir
    Watching the sunset over Lake Cayuga from the Straight Terrace, followed by —
    Hanging out in Collegetown on the bank wall, followed by —
    Hanging out at the Royal Palms bar

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