Bronx, N.Y. (June 5, 2009) – Fordham University will begin awarding football scholarships beginning in the fall of 2010, announced Joseph M. McShane, S.J., president of the University. This policy marks the first time that Fordham will award football scholarships since 1954.

“I am very pleased to announce this momentous news for the football Rams,” Father McShane said. “Momentous may be understating it, in fact. This is a sea change for Fordham athletics: these scholarships will allow more students to participate in Fordham football, and will make the team much more competitive both in Patriot League and non-league games.”

Fordham will remain as an associate member of the Patriot League for football, which currently does not offer athletic scholarships in the sport, and will be eligible for the 2009 League title and automatic playoff bid. Fordham will continue to be included in the League schedule until at least the 2012 season but will not be eligible for the Patriot League championship beginning with the 2010 season.  Fordham will also continue to abide by the League’s academic and eligibility requirements.

(See the Patriot League release on Fordham’s Athletics page.)

Despite not being eligible for the Patriot League title starting in 2010, Fordham will still be eligible for an NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS) Playoff at-large bid.  The NCAA will increase the number of playoff bids in 2010 from 16 to 20 (ten automatic bids/ten at-large bids).

The move will help Fordham compete at the highest level in the NCAA FCS division and aid the Rams in enhancing their non-conference schedule.  Fordham will offer 60 scholarships, allowing the Rams to schedule NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) schools.  Fordham has already scheduled games with Connecticut in 2011, Navy and Villanova in 2012 and Army in 2014 and 2015.  Fordham last played Army in 1949 while the Rams and Villanova last met in a scheduled game in 1996 (Fordham and Villanova played each other in the 2002 NCAA I-AA playoffs).

“I would like to publically thank the Patriot League as this has been a long process of ongoing discussion and I appreciate everyone’s understanding,” said Frank McLaughlin, Fordham’s executive director of athletics. “We look forward to continuing our relationship with the League’s schools, along with our ongoing annual rivalry with Columbia University.  We also look forward to the opportunity to compete in future games with other Ivy League schools now on the schedule such as Cornell, Penn, Yale and Harvard.  Finally, the scholarships will allow us to renew rivalries with Army and Villanova and to enhance our schedule with the addition of schools such as Navy and Connecticut.”

Fordham has a rich and storied football tradition, dating back to the first team in 1882.  Notables such as NFL Hall of Famers Vince Lombardi and Alex Wojciechowicz once walked the Fordham sidelines, being coached by “Sleepy” Jim Crowley, a member of the College Football Hall of Fame.  The Rams played in two major bowls games, the 1941 Cotton Bowl and the 1942 Sugar Bowl, and appeared in the first televised college football game when Fordham hosted Waynesburg College on Randall’s Island on September 30, 1939.  The game was televised by W2XBS (now NBC) as demonstration of the new medium at the World’s Fair.

Fordham fielded a football team from 1882 until 1954, with the exception of the 1943, 1944 and 1945 seasons when football was suspended for World War II.  Following the 1954 season, Fordham dropped the sport due to budget constraints but a group of students brought football back on the club level in 1964.  In 1970, the sport was elevated to the NCAA Division III level and the Rams moved to the NCAA I-AA level (now FCS) in 1989 when they joined the Patriot League.

“This is a great day for Fordham football,” said head coach Tom Masella.  “Being able to award scholarships based on athletic ability will greatly increase the pool of student-athletes that we are able to recruit.  We are pleased to be able to maintain our Patriot League schedule and at the same time, look to enhance our schedule with the addition of some FBS schools along with top FCS schools.  In the end this will aid us in achieving our ultimate goal, a spot in the NCAA FCS playoffs.”

Fordham will open its 110th varsity season on Saturday, September 5th, as the Rams travel to Kingston, R.I., to face the University of Rhode Island at 1:00 p.m.