Football Coach Receives Top Patriot League Honors

Masella Returns Home to Lead Fordham to 8-3 Record and Conference Title


Published: December 13, 2007

Leading the Fordham University Rams football team to its first Patriot League title since 2002 and garnering two Coach of the Year awards in the process, head coach Tom Masella has given the students, faculty and alumni something to cheer about.

“He’s brought stability to our program,” said Frank McLaughlin, executive director of athletics.

Masella, who grew up in Staten Island and graduated from Wagner College, was excited to return to New York after coaching jobs took him along the Eastern seaboard as far north as Boston University. Since returning to Fordham, Masella has benefited from the sense of familiarity that comes with coaching in his native city.

“It’s a great university and New York is home,” Masella said.

Prior to coming to Fordham, Masella was the head coach at Central Connecticut State University, where he won back-to-back Northeastern Conference Championships.

Two years ago, Fordham was in search of a football coach to turn around its program from three years of finishing below .500.

“We were looking for more than a coach. We were looking for an educator as well, for our student-athletes,” McLaughlin said.

According to McLaughlin, Masella has been able to recruit student-athletes that fit in with the academic standards and traditions of Fordham. Coming off of his first season in which the Rams finished 3-8 overall, Masella had to develop goals for his team.

“I thought we would be much better. Our goal was to win the league championship,” Masella said.

The team’s success this season has been a surprise to most, especially since the Rams were picked by the Patriot League to finish sixth. Going into the season, the Rams were laden with 13 seniors that led the turnaround.

Linebacker and senior captain Earl Hudnell, CBA ’08, who was named to the First-Team All-Patriot League, admits that Masella’s first year as head coach was an adjustment period.

“It was rough at first, but we came around. We had to learn the system,” Hudnell said.

Changing coaches in the middle of a college career can be tough for athletes, but Hudnell welcomed the change in leadership. “The biggest change was the attitude. He made football fun again,” Hudnell said.

The success of this season has brought Masella numerous accolades: a Coach of the Year award from the Patriot League; a Co-Coach of the Year award from the American Football Coaches Association’s (AFCA) Region 1, and being named a finalist for the Eddie Robinson Award, given to a coach in the NCAA Division I Football Championship Subdivision (FCS).

Despite all of this, Masella credits the season’s success to his players.

“It’s done as a team,” Masella said  They understood that we as coaches have to put the players out there that give us the best chance to win. We had to play a lot of different players to win.”

After a come-from-behind victory against Colgate University on Sept. 29, Masella began to realize that his team had a real chance to win the Patriot League title, but more importantly, the will to achieve the goals he had set forth in the beginning of the season.

“He’s a great motivator and a great people person that knows how to handle everyone individually,” Hudnell said.

Along with winning the Patriot League and qualifying for the postseason, 12 Rams earned All-Patriot League honors, including freshman running back Xavier Martin, FCRH ’11, who was named Rookie of the Year.

“We didn’t know the success would come this quickly but it is a credit to Tom and his staff,” McLaughlin said.

Described as “down-to-earth and a humble guy,” by McLaughlin, Masella has assimilated well with the administration and helped to cultivate alumni support.

According to McLaughlin, the Rams have received tremendous support at the football games, which has helped the program.  Re-establishing alumni support is a testament to Masella’s ability to build relationships and further enhances his ability to recruit.

“We recruit the best players that fit in with our program and have good character,” Masella said.

As expectations rise, Masella’s goals are to continue to get better and to make great strides.  If this year is any indication, the Rams will be a contender for years to come in both the Patriot League and the FCS.

“There’s some [thought] about Fordham football that we will be successful for a long time,” McLaughlin said.