FCLC Has a Chance to Show New Concern For Athletes in Master Plan

University Must Reevaluate its Accommodation of Sports on Campus


Published: April 2, 2009

In the public relations blitz that has accompanied Fordham’s unveiling of the Master Plan, the university has missed a golden opportunity to elevate the reputation of its Lincoln Center campus above that of a postage-stamp-sized outpost for art students. The future of athletics at Fordham’s Manhattan branch is conspicuously absent from the exhaustively detailed Web site for the expansion plan. While extolling the benefits of more classroom space and improved landscape architecture, the commitment to Fordham’s Jesuit ideal cura personalis—care for the whole person—seems to have fallen short on the athletic front.

The disparity in the athletic culture at Rose Hill and Lincoln Center certainly widens the gap between the two campuses. That is not to say that all Bronx students are iron-pumping marathoners, and all downtown students prefer Broadway to the House that Ruth Built, but the implicit emphasis on sports at Rose Hill and the lack thereof in Manhattan creates the perception of two drastically separate student bodies.

Perhaps the biggest cause of this gap is the disparity in facilities. Visitors to Rose Hill enter the campus by driving past Jack Coffey field, lit up almost every night of the week even when the Rams aren’t in season in order to accommodate intramural soccer and softball. In past (read: better) seasons, the crowd noise coming from the Rose Hill Gym on a mid-winter afternoon created a sense of athletic community that is lacking at Lincoln Center.

The prominence of NCAA competition at Rose Hill is not the only source of division. The Bronx campus simply better accommodates student-athletes. Intramural and club sports abound, and the massive Lombardi Center athletic complex seems like it could swallow the entirety of Lincoln Center’s McMahon Hall, its puny second floor assortment of Nautilus machines and treadmills included.

Aside from that cramped gym, Lincoln Center does not have much to offer student athletes. The lone asphalt basketball court and dual tennis courts slope ominously toward Amsterdam Avenue, and they are entirely absent in the Master Plan. The green space between the academic buildings is hardly large enough to accommodate a game of catch; though increasingly, students have tried.

The past few years have seen an influx of athletic activity at Lincoln Center, largely the work of students frustrated with the state of the games on campus. A soccer club joined the Metro Soccer NY league; student-run tennis and tae kwon do clubs make the best of the school’s meager facilities; the campus’s first intramural softball team eventually garnered enough interested players to become competitive with its Bronx-based opponents, and they will be joined by a second Lincoln Center-based club this spring; an intramural volleyball team began Ram Vanning up to Rose Hill this winter, obviously taking the games much more seriously than their Bronx counterparts—every single one of the team’s opponents failed to show up in a league riddled with forfeits.

These examples all speak to the larger problem administrators face when trying to judge athletic interest at Fordham, and, consequentially, planning what athletic provisions to include in the expansion. Because there is so little administrative attention paid to sports at Lincoln Center, athletes remain a mostly silent, underrepresented group.

Keith Eldredge, dean of students at Lincoln Center, admitted that gauging athletic interest at the Manhattan campus can be difficult. “We need to find the people that are doing some of the athletic things on campus,” Eldredge said.

Eldredge pointed to a survey given to residents asking what they would like to see in a new campus center.

“[Athletics] were not a big piece of the first survey we did. There were some questions about some minor things, but it didn’t go deep into it… I think we’re going to need to make that a priority to ask questions [about athletics] and work a little harder,” Eldredge said.

While the Master Plan may eliminate the tennis and basketball courts, the reimagining of Fordham College at Lincoln Center that is currently underway represents a perfect opportunity to reevaluate the way the campus accommodates its athletes. Student athletes have subsisted on their own until very recently, with the Office of Student Affairs beginning to provide free transportation to intramural teams venturing to Rose Hill. Instead of reactionary measures such as this, Fordham should proactively reach out to athletes.

Speaking about the current use of Lincoln Center’s athletic facilities, Eldredge said, “Talking with folks in security and a little bit in the residential area, I don’t get the sense that the fitness center on the second floor of McMahon is jam-packed all the time or busting at the seams, or that there’s crowds of people waiting around the basketball courts waiting to get on the courts.”

While this may be a fair estimate, it is not an excuse to downplay the importance of athletics moving forward. It would be reasonable to guess that the facilities are underused not because of a lack of interest, but because the gym and the courts are outdated and insufficient.

Eldredge does recognize that the future of athletics at Fordham lies not in the creation of new fields or courts on campus, but a change in the way athletics are fostered by the school.

“I’m hoping that as the campus expands, the opportunities for athletics shift rather than downsize,” he said. “My hope is that we don’t just eliminate things, but that we find other ways to substitute new things that meet the [athletic] needs.”

This new attitude comes down to one thing: support. By helping students connect to off-campus athletic opportunities (at Rose Hill and in city leagues) and providing league fees, jerseys and transportation, Fordham College at Lincoln Center could overhaul its athletic image with a sense of pride equal to the rest of the Master Plan. When it comes to the future of this campus, please, remember the athletes.