Deep in the heart of the hustle and the bustle of the Bronx is a team that's all-time roster includes an iconic member of sports history. Babe Ruth and the Yankees? Yes, but that's a different review. We're talking football here and the great Vince Lombardi cut his teeth at Fordham University as a player in the 1930's. Coach Lombardi was a member of "The Seven Blocks of Granite" offensive line in 1936-37 that posted a 12-1-3 record with eight shutouts. He then went on to do bigger and better things in Green Bay.
The Fordham Rams play on campus in Jack Coffey Field. The campus itself is amazing. Beautiful gothic buildings and well manicured lawns are just steps away from the busy thoroughfare of the Bronx. The stadium's namesake (Jack Coffey) was a long time athletic director of the program and was a former pro baseball player for the Red Sox and Tigers. The stadium consists of one side of bleacher seating that sits approximately 7,000. The stadium shares the field with the baseball team, and has a field turf surface.
The Rams play in the Patriot League and are one of the few NCAA FCS schools that have an alumni as a current NFL starting QB (John Skelton). While the Rams are coming off a disappointing 1-10 season in 2011, their new coach hopes to turn things around quickly.
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Each area is rated from 0 to 5 stars with 5 being the best. The overall composite score is the "FANFARE Score".
Painfully generic fare is offered at Jack Coffey Field. If your favorite foods are soft pretzels and hot dogs them you're in luck here. The fare is moderately priced, with dogs and pretzels going for $3 and bottled soda for $2.50. As a food option the stadium is located next to the school cafeteria, but The Princeton Review ranked Fordham as having the worst cafeteria food in the nation. My inside advice? Eat before or after the game, off campus, far off campus.
There are no alcoholic beverages allowed into the stadium, and campus security searches everybody that comes in. With this policy, Fordham has one of the most kid-friendly environments you can ask for in Division 1 football.
One of the many advantages of having an on-campus stadium is it encourages a high student turnout at football games. The Fordham student section was packed for a Thursday night game. They were into it and quite rowdy. The school has a ram mascot and a really good pep-band to get everyone fired up. The PA system and the scoreboard play the "Winning is a Habit" Lombardi speech before the team comes out. A Fordham tradition is having the cheerleaders do pushups after every Fordham score. At the game I attended Fordham defeated Lock Haven (PA) 55-0. The cheerleaders were not happy campers in the 4th quarter.
One of the most striking details about the neighborhood around Fordham is the difference between on and off campus. The university is located in an area of the Bronx that gets a little rough a couple of blocks away from the campus. Located next to the university and the stadium on the north side is the New York Botanical Gardens, and 99 cent stores and bodegas border it on the south side. The university seems to be an ecosystem to itself in the neighborhood, and security guards check everyone's ID as they enter the campus. As a New Yorker, I don't get frazzled much walking around anywhere, but I can imagine anyone visiting from out of town that walks from the D train to the campus might get a little nervous, especially at night.
There is a bar on campus (Dagger John's) that is located in the student center. There's nothing real special about it, but if you're in need of a halftime cocktail it's pretty convenient. The bar offers up a game day menu that includes nachos, wings, burgers etc. Bear in mind that their food is from the same kitchen that has the worst college food in the nation.
I asked some of the students which bars they hang out in after games. Most of them said Howl at the Moon on Arthur Ave. right off of campus. A couple of them said Applebee's. I stopped asking after that.
I was impressed by the general school spirit that I saw from the alumni and the current students.
There were at least 2,000 students at the game I attended. All of them were wearing Fordham shirts and were very supportive of the team. As an added bonus several priests were spotted in the stands rooting on the Rams. The alumni mingled in the spirit area in the concourse. It was a much better than average FCS crowd, especially when you factor in the fact that it was a Thursday night game against a Division-II opponent. The Rams opponents probably feel like they're on the dark side of the moon on the visiting sideline. There are no bleachers behind them, just an empty baseball field.
This is not an easy campus to find if you're driving. Take a look at the driving directions via the Fordham website, and good luck:
Parking in the main lot on campus will cost you $10. I really wouldn't recommend off campus parking, unless you want a New York crime story to tell your friends about.
Public transportation seems like the best idea. The metro-north train out of Grand Central Station has a stop at Fordham. The D line on the subway is walkable from Fordham Rd. to the campus, but is somewhat risky. You can always use your Metrocard to transfer to a bus, just make sure the bus is going down the hill on Fordham Rd. when going to the campus, and up the hill coming back.
The ticket prices at Fordham are pretty fair for the product you're seeing. It's $15 for reserved seating (40 yd line to 40 yd line) $10 for general admission and $5 for kids tickets. So for $20 bucks you can get a ticket, a hot dog, a soft pretzel and a soda. For today's pricing at sporting events, Fordham football is somewhat of a bargain, especially for the kind of history that surrounds this program.
There's a monument dedicated to Vince Lombardi and the rest of the "Seven Blocks of Granite" outside of the stadium gates. The scoreboard looks brand new, but is way too far away from the stands. The Fordham cathedral is just past the end zone, and is a neat sight from the bleachers. Allow yourself some time to walk around the campus before or after the game, it is a gorgeous campus.
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