John Costantino remembers school spirit surging during his student days at Fordham. The reason? After a 10-year hiatus, football came back—as a club sport in 1964 and a varsity sport in 1970.

“The restoration of football changed the entire dynamic of the University,” energizing students and prompting many alumni to reengage with Fordham, said Costantino, a 1967 graduate of the Gabelli School of Business and 1970 graduate of Fordham Law School.

These days, he and his wife, Barbara Costantino, are continuing to invest in this school spirit by giving to Fordham athletics. They are among the University’s most generous benefactors, as signified by the naming of the Costantino Room at the law school and the Fordham Founder’s Award presented to them in 2018.

They’ve supported everything from the law school’s Neuroscience and Law Center to its Feerick Center for Social Justice and WFUV, Fordham’s public media station, as well as various undergraduate scholarship funds.

But athletics are especially resonant for them. They’ve given to a wide variety of sports programs—softball, soccer, sailing, others—and co-led the fundraising for a new suite of football offices at the Rose Hill campus.

Basketball at the Forefront

And they’ve invested in Fordham basketball, one of the programs that is firing up Fordham the most these days—in particular, the men’s program, with its performance that is prompting comparisons with the program’s glory days under head coach Richard “Digger” Phelps in 1971.

The Costantinos traveled with the women’s and men’s teams in February as the teams were amassing their respective regular season records of 18-11 and 24-7. “We have really wonderful student-athletes at Fordham. We’re very lucky,” John Costantino said, noting their courteous behavior as well as the strong academic records they maintain, despite packed schedules.

Athletics is a pillar of the University’s $350 million fundraising campaign, Cura Personalis | For Every Fordham Student, because of its potential to engage students and alumni and raise the University’s national profile.

The men’s team seems to show this potential, John Costantino said. “The students are responding, there’s no question,” he said, citing the sellout crowds for recent games. He also lauded Tania Tetlow, president of Fordham University, for her commitment to athletics as an important part of the University experience. “I think she’s terrific—she goes to the games, she cares, she’s a believer in athletics,” he said.

For the Costantinos, supporting athletics has provided a lifelong source of camaraderie and community. “We made so many lasting friendships,” said John, a former managing partner of NGN Capital and a Fordham trustee emeritus. “It’s been, for us, a real joy to be involved.”

What are the roots of your longstanding giving to Fordham athletics?
Barbara and I both had athletics in our families. I always loved sports—I was playing since early childhood in Brooklyn. I played football and intramural basketball and played baseball until I was almost 22. My father brought me to my first baseball game, a Brooklyn Dodgers game. When I was at Fordham, the restoration of football really brought out the school spirit because of the great history of the Seven Blocks of Granite [the famous Fordham football line that included Vince Lombardi, FCRH ’37]. I think Barbara and I went to every game before I graduated from Gabelli.

Athletics are a very important part of the university experience—for players, the other students, and also for alumni. Through athletics, we’ve met so many good people, and knowing a lot of these people helped my career. When you know people and they trust you and they’ve enjoyed being with you, they will reach out and help when they can. And that extends to giving—we have friends that are very involved in the sailing program, for instance, so we support that, and they’ve supported us on football and baseball and so forth, like a quid pro quo, as we say in the law.

What do you think is the most important ingredient in a sports team’s success?
I think principally it’s leadership. A coach who’s successful can be tough sometimes, and that results in raising the quality of play. But in the end, you have to show you care about those players. It’s a very fine line. The other thing is the sense of team. It isn’t a one-man show or one-woman show, it’s a team, and teams win games. One thing you learn playing athletics is how to work with diverse people, how to deal with a lot of things, because you don’t necessarily like everybody in that room, but you try. And when it does work, it’s quite magical, I think.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever received?
Barbara: Don’t forget where you come from. Keep your friends, try to be good to people, and maintain your ties.

John: I actually had two. My father told me, “Treat people like you want to be treated.”

Do you have any advice for today’s graduates as they launch their careers?
I think the key is to work hard, just as hard as you “work” while you’re playing. And do the right thing, even though it’s painful, because in the end it’ll serve you much better.

To ask about contributing to Fordham athletics, contact Kara Field, director of athletic development and assistant athletic director, at 973-223-2157 or [email protected].


Chris Gosier is research news director for Fordham Now. He can be reached at (646) 312-8267 or [email protected].