The Fordham football team is in the midst of its most successful season since the Vince Lombardi years. With their 7-0 start, the Rams have already matched their win-total from last season.
Fordham has recorded three marquee victories so far this season, including defeats of Lehigh and Villanova (both ranked at the time in the top 25 of Division 1-AA), as well as a win over Temple, which was Fordham’s first ever victory over an NCAA FBS (Division 1-A) team. The Rams are currently ranked ninth in the country in FCS rankings according to both College Sports Madness and Yahoo Sports.
What has been the key to Fordham football’s recent success on the gridiron? Fordham’s Athletic Director Dave Roach believes that it is a mixture of great coaching on the part of second-year head coach Joe Moorhead, and more specifically, the ability to offer 60 full scholarships to football student-athletes.
“Right now, with Joe Moorhead, I think we have a terrific coach, so it’s really the combination of both full scholarships and great coaching that has made the difference for us,” Roach stated following Fordham’s victory over Lehigh. “It allows us to recruit kids who we couldn’t recruit before, so it has had a terrific impact.”
Fordham began offering athletic scholarships to incoming freshmen football student-athletes in the fall of 2010. The 60 full scholarships have allowed Coach Moorhead to recruit better players and schedule tougher non-conference games, including games with FBS schools.
“Under the old need-based model, your financial aid package would be dictated by your parent’s income, relative to the school’s tuition, so if you were recruiting against a full scholarship school, 99% of the time you wouldn’t get the kid,” Moorhead said. “Now, when you have the opportunity to offer full scholarships, you can compare apples to apples instead of apples to oranges.”
Because Fordham began offering football scholarships before the rest of the Patriot League, league presidents voted last year that the Rams would be ineligible to win the Patriot League title until the 2014 season. All other Patriot League teams (Bucknell, Colgate, Holy Cross, Lafayette, and Lehigh), except Georgetown, just began offering football scholarships this season. Georgetown has elected to continue giving need-based aid for its student-athletes, rather than athletic scholarships.
Although the rest of the Patriot League teams only have a total of 15 football scholarships this season (as compared to Fordham’s 60), the amount of scholarships available will increase by 15 each season until 2016, thus leveling out the playing field across the league.
Coach Moorhead believes that the implementation of athletic scholarships will have a vast impact on the entire landscape of Patriot League football.
“I think you’ll continue to see the league improve since its profile won’t be considered need-based anymore,” Moorhead stated. “Once everyone gets to a full 60 scholarships (in 2016), I think you’ll see the quality of the play improve significantly and the reputation of the league will improve, as well.”
Despite their inability to win the Patriot League this season, the Rams are in search of their first ever at-large bid into the FCS (Division 1-AA) playoffs. At the end of the regular season, a field of 24 teams will be selected, with 13 at-large bids available for non-conference winning teams. All playoff games lead up to the FCS National Championship game, to be played on January 4, 2014 at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.