By Jack McLoone
Joe Moorhead’s tenure as Fordham Football’s head coach has come to an end. The four-year leader of the program has been hired as Penn State’s new offensive coordinator.
“My family and I are thrilled to be coming home,” Moorhead said in a press release from Penn State. “I look forward to rolling up my sleeves and getting to work.”
News started to circulate early Saturday afternoon when Tyler Feldman of the Centre County Report and Penn State University ComRadio, and Tom Loy of 247.com first reported the move.
“It was an honor to be able to serve as the head coach at Fordham,” the program-changing head coach said in Fordham’s press release. “Not many coaches get to coach at their alma mater and Fordham is a special place. I will always be grateful to the school for giving me the opportunity to lead such a great group of student-athletes.”
The official release did not name Moorhead’s replacement and did not immediately mention the plan to fill the vacancy. If the Rams were to look within the program, offensive coordinator Andrew Breiner and co-defensive coordinator Tim Cary could be viable options. Breiner, also the team’s quarterbacks coach, has worked under Moorhead for the past four years, and Cary has been at Fordham for seven years.
Later in the evening, in a University community-wide email, Fordham President Joseph M. McShane, SJ, shared his thoughts with mixed emotions.
“It is with very mixed feelings that I inform you that head football coach Joe Moorhead is leaving us to become the offensive coordinator of the Nittany Lions,” McShane said. “On the one hand, this is a terrific move for Coach Moorhead, both for personal and professional reasons; on the other, it is a great loss to the Rams. The Coach turned around a struggling team, and helped them grow into winners on the field and off. His shoes will be hard to fill.”
“Coach put his Alma Mater back on the map in ways that the Seven Blocks would cheer,” Fordham’s 32nd President said. “I rejoice in the recognition that he has rightly received from Penn State, and I wish him nothing but success in Happy Valley. Coach Moorhead departs with Fordham’s blessings and prayers. We will all miss him, but we say Godspeed with gratitude and pride.”
Moorhead, FCRH ’96 and former quarterback of the Rams, first landed the Fordham head coaching job when he was hired in 2011 by his alma mater.
He had a message for the Fordham community at his introductory press conference: “This coaching staff will not rest until we put Fordham Football back on the map.” And Moorhead stood true to his word.
He inherited an 1-11 team and turned them into an above .500 team in just one year, as the Rams went 6-5 in his first year at the helm. The following year, the Rams jumped all the way up to 12-2, securing a spot in the FCS playoffs, where they fell in the second round to eventual runner-up Towson University. The 2013 season also included Moorhead’s first of two FBS wins, when the team upset Temple in Philadelphia.
While the Rams fell to 11-3 in 2014, they were crowned Patriot League champions after going undefeated in conference play. For the second straight year, the team was ousted in the second round of the FCS playoffs. This time the Rams were taken out by the number one overall seed, the University of New Hampshire.
And in 2015, in what has become Moorhead’s final year as Fordham’s head coach, the team was once again a dominant force in the FCS. They opened the season with a win over Army West Point, another FBS school, before finishing second in the Patriot League. The team still made the FCS Playoffs, where they lost on the road to the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga in the first round.
Moorhead also helped produce talent such as sophomore running back Chase Edmonds, the 2014 FCS Rookie of the Year and Jerry Rice Award Winner and 2015 Patriot League Player of the Year. The offense, led by Edmonds, was the ninth highest scoring offense in all of the FCS in 2015, 20th in passing offense and 19th in total offense.
Moorhead, a western Pennsylvania native, will be replacing Penn State’s former offensive coordinator John Donovan who was fired during the season. The team went 7-5 in 2015 this past season. Moorhead will look to turn around an offense that was 101st in offensive scoring in the FBS and 112th in total offensive yards.
Prior to his coaching position at Fordham, Moorhead served as a graduate assistant at the University of Pittsburgh, running backs coach and offensive coordinator at Georgetown University, offensive coordinator at the University of Akron and offensive coordinator at the University of Connecticut. At UConn, Moorhead helped the team to a Big East title and a trip to the Fiesta Bowl.
Additional reporting by Sam Belden, Drew Casey and Anthony Pucik.
The original version of this story appeared differently and has been adjusted as more information has become available.