The night before the men’s basketball team played Saint Louis University at the Rose Hill Gym in late January, Nikhil Mehta discovered a small problem.

“I didn’t have too much gear—it was all in the laundry,” said Mehta, who graduated from the Gabelli School of Business in May.

He texted his friends: “What if we just went shirtless and just painted our chests for this game?”

They were immediately in.

“I got the text at like 11:30 the night before the game,” his friend John O’Friel, FCRH ’23, said with a smile. “And I was like, ‘Bet.’”

The Shirtless Herd

The pair recruited other friends and the group painted their chests to spell out R-A-M-S. The Shirtless Herd was born, and the Rams upset Saint Louis, the top team in the A-10 conference at that time.

O’Friel said the group grew over time, adding members and changing up their lettering.

“People were like, ‘Oh, this is cool, let’s do this,’” O’Friel said. “And that’s how we got ‘Bronx Built’ going, and ‘Urgonomics’—we started getting longer words, because more people want to be a part of it.”

The group caught the eye of Coach Keith Urgo.

“How about Rose Thrill, man!” Urgo said in the postgame press conference, using the nickname he coined for the loud atmosphere that the Shirtless Herd and other fans brought to the Rose Hill Gym. “The last couple of games, they have no idea how intense that atmosphere really is…we gotta continue that. We need that. It makes a world of difference.”

Sign in the stands that says 'Keith Urgo for Prez'
Students packed the Rose Hill Gym for the game against the University of Massachusetts. (Photo courtesy of Fordham Athletics)

Social Media and Word of Mouth

The Shirtless Herd was just one part of a much-talked-about student fan section that came to life in 2023 as the men’s basketball team reached heights not seen for 30 years. Students packed the gym, creating a standing-room-only, loud, competitive atmosphere that caught the attention not only of Urgo but also the media.

In addition to the Herd, there were Instagram pages created that helped publicize the games and related events, such as @thehillfordham run by Sam Jones, a rising junior in the Gabelli School of Business.

“I thought, ‘maybe if we started an Instagram page, we could get a core group of people that went to every single game,’” he said.

Jones talked about the account with people in the community, including David Greco, the owner of Mike’s Deli on Arthur Avenue, which is a sponsor of Fordham athletics. Greco put him in touch with a few athletics staff members who were also working on increasing turnout.

“It just merged beautifully—we worked together throughout this semester to put on events [like pre- and post-game meetups] and and push the times of the games and push people to get there,” he said.

The main draw, of course, was the team’s performance. The men’s team finished third in the conference—after preseason polls projected them to finish last—and reached the semifinals of the A-10 tournament

While Urgo made sure his players were ready on the court, he also emphasized the importance of building a culture off the court, with slogans like “It’s a great day to be a Ram” and shoutouts to the fans for their support. Urgo and the players said it was a big part of why the Rams won their final six home games and went 18-2 overall at home.

Jones said being a part of this fan culture was “an absolute dream.”

“It changes your college experience—just to be walking around campus and hear, ‘oh, are you going to the basketball game?’” he said. “I loved it.”

Students at the Barclays Center
Samuel Jones (left) poses for a photo during Fordham’s run at the A-10 tournament. (Photo courtesy of Samuel Jones)

Subway Chants on the Ride to Barclays

Mehta said that the credit really goes to Urgo for fostering the environment.

“He’s built a great culture here,” Mehta said. “He has a relationship with the students, with the fans. They’ve done a great job feeding off the energy and encouraging students to come back.”

And that energy expanded beyond students. When the team played in the A-10 tournament at the Barclays Center, Fordham fans, including students, alumni, and parents, packed the arena.

“It was great—on the subway on the way to the games, you had ‘let’s go Fordham!’ chants ringing throughout the cars,” Mehta said.

Keeping It Going

While many members of the fan section graduated, they hope that the tradition will be carried on. Jones, who is a junior, said that the plan is to build on this past year’s success and use it for other sports.

Jones said one of the most special things about Fordham is “how much of a family it really is.” That’s why he encourages students, particularly first-year students, to attend the games.

“Those are the events that you’re really going to remember—going to all the basketball games and yelling your heart out and standing the entire time in the fan section,” he said. “You’re meeting all these new people and you have all these friends and you see them at the next basketball game—it just creates such a strong culture.”

Visit to find the schedules for all teams and athletics events. Students attend for free with a student ID, while others can purchase tickets in advance.