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Fordham Finally Building Their Brand Through Athletics

Why athletics can take Fordham University to the next level.

When the Fordham Rams vanquished Sacred Heart yesterday, only the football ramifications were obvious.

The Rams successfully hosted their first home FCS playoff game, drawing about 6,000 (announced attendance was an understated 4,787).  The feat was particularly impressive given the number of students and university personnel that weren’t in the building due to the Thanksgiving break.  For those who only slept for one hour on Friday night to make the game day experience a great one, we salute you.

More importantly, the crowd propelled Fordham to a 37-27 win over a fellow upstart in the Pioneers. The win puts Fordham on the road next week for a matchup with #7 Towson, a game which the Fordham Rams will be underdogs for the first time in two months.

But it has been the season long media coverage that the university itself must find most exciting.  

This season, Fordham has been featured on YES (with WFUV alum Jack Curry), SNY, News 12, CBS Sports Network, CBS Sports Radio, ESPN3, and of course WFUV.  Feature stories ran in the New York Times, Wall Street Journal, New York Post, and New York Daily News.  Game recaps ran on the AP wire, were reported by several New York papers, and could be seen across the country at the top of FCS round ups.

Yesterday’s game story can be found in the Miami Tribune, Chicago Tribune, New York Post, New York Times, Connecticut Post and the like. Not bad for a team that some probably felt was a waste of university resources three years ago.

Think about this: for the New York Times, it costs $1,243 per column inch to buy a half page advertisement for the entire tri-state area.  If you consider an article that begins with an explanation of the “Seven Blocks of Granite” an advertisement, then Fordham’s win over Sacred Heart earned the university $78,309 of free advertising.  It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that the column inches spent around the country on a single FCS playoff win earned over $100,000 in Fordham positive advertising.

That’s a good haul for a win over an unranked local opponent in Sacred Heart.  It doesn’t hurt that Fordham has more wins than the Knicks and Nets combined.  It also helps that the Jets and Giants are both struggling to remain relevant entering the season’s final weeks and that the Mets and Yankees both failed to make it to the postseason. It’s possible that a professional sports city may only see college teams earn a berth to the postseason.

So what does this mean for Fordham?  Organic advertising that reaches alumni, prospective students and parents, and future Fordham athletes is pure gold.

Instead of two posed students sitting in a staged photo with “New York is my campus, Fordham is my school” written across it and Keating Hall just beyond their obviously intriguing conversation, these articles are a far more subtle reason to come to Fordham.

Still, FCS football, regardless of its success at any one school, can only gain so much coverage. It will never permeate daily water cooler conversation or be the first highlight on SportsCenter (or Fox Sports Live if you’re so inclined), with or without a national championship.  This isn’t a slight to FCS football, as much as it is a reality that can be seen from the likes of Appalachian State and North Dakota State’s recent on field success.

The next step of taking advantage of the massive market that Fordham exists in is in the Rose Hill Gym. That process has already begun with the additions of big recruits Ryan Rhoomes, Jon Severe, and Eric Paschall. The less publicized but equally critical Mandell Thomas and Travion Leonard signings have the future at Rose Hill looking bright (while Branden Frazier’s play in the recent win over Manhattan reminds us that the present is nothing to scoff at either). 

Butler is a ridiculous comparison, but their run to the 2011 NCAA Championship earned the school an estimated $512 million in publicity (Fordham’s endowment is $568 million) between print, on-line, and television coverage (doesn’t add the value of talk shows and radio broadcasts that pushed the Butler brand as well). That doesn’t include the massive capital campaign to renovate the Hinkel Fieldhouse, the higher quantity of admissions applications, national buzz about a previously anonymous school, alumni contributions, and the like.  All that for a small school outside Indianapolis that isn’t even listed in the annual “National University” rankings by US News that Fordham loves to quote so much.

If football success can help lead to widespread basketball success and give recruits an idea of just how much potential lies on Rose Hill, then we may look back at the 2013 Fordham Rams (as well as the 2012-13 women’s basketball team which placed the first banner in the Rose Hill Gym in two decades) as the launching pad for Fordham University’s rise to national prominence. 

There are times when the administration and much of the faculty don’t seem interested in placing more resources in athletics.

But the results speak for themselves.

Mike Watts is a Fordham play by play commentator for WFUV.