One of the biggest obstacles for future, top-division football is our stadium. For Fordham to reach FBS status, we will need to play our home games in a larger stadium than Jack Coffey Field. With its mere 7,000 seat capacity, the 83-year-old home of Fordham football is not suited for FBS football. A potential solution would be to install temporary riser seating on the baseball side of the stadium. This could accommodate up to another 7000 fans, but that 14,000 seat capacity would still be the lowest in the FBS. Other on-campus stadium ideas, such as expanding onto the O’Hare parking lot or building a new baseball field, are costly and would require months, if not years of construction.
The ideal new home ground would be Yankee Stadium. Many FBS teams — like UCLA, Pittsburgh, and Miami — play their home games off-campus, and Yankee Stadium would allow us to consistently draw five-figure crowds in our home borough. Moreover, Yankee Stadium officials want to host additional college football games and Fordham has a strong relationship with the Yankee organization. While the cost of renting out Yankee Stadium would be significant, probable increases in ticket price, attendance and revenue could overcome that deficit. Finally, this move would increase our national profile and possibly improve our overall college ranking.
Despite the allure of FBS football, Villanova, Montana and Montana State are three notable programs that have declined invitations into the first division. Villanova first refused its chance to join the Big East in 1997, while Connecticut accepted the move. Then in 2011, Villanova did not consider entering a non-BCS conference and the Big East (now AAC) turned its attention elsewhere. That same year, Montana and Montana State declined FBS invitations from the Western Athletic Conference. Each team declined for financial reasons. Another cautionary tale for Fordham is UMass football. The Minutemen moved to the FBS in 2012 and have gone 2-17 while playing in the nearly empty Gillette Stadium. They are playing superior Midwestern opponents in the Mid-American Conference and fans have turned on this formerly proud FCS team.
Before Fordham can make the move to FBS football, the Rams should consistently be a top-two program in the Patriot League, and resolve the current stadium dilemma in a cost-effective manner. I hope we can someday host teams like Temple, Connecticut and Army in front of 50,000 fans at Yankee Stadium. Until the right opportunity comes, however, we must continue to crowd into Jack Coffey Stadium and make life miserable for our FCS foes.