Founding Famers: A Closer Look at the Class of 1971


Vince Lombardi also left his mark on Fordham athletics. (Courtesy of Fordham Sports)


Fordham has a very extensive and successful athletic history. Famous names such as Vince Lombardi, Frank Frisch and Jack Coffey paved the way for Fordham’s reputation as a major threat in collegiate athletics. The “big three” are all members of the inaugural Hall of Fame class of 1971.

Vince Lombardi, Fordham College at Rose Hill (FCRH) ’37, is one of Fordham’s most recognized Hall of Famers, as well as one of the most iconic sports figures of all time. While attending Fordham, Lombardi was a superstar on the football team as a member of the offensive line known as “The Seven Blocks of Granite.” During his tenure the team compiled a stellar 23-5-5 record.

Although Lombardi was a powerhouse in his Fordham days, he is best remembered for what he did outside of college. After graduation, Lombardi took a coaching job at St. Cecilia High School in New Jersey before returning to Fordham in 1946 as an assistant head coach for football. He spent two years at his alma mater before he was asked to be the assistant coach at the United States Military Academy where he helped build one of the toughest college football teams.

His success with the Army football program vaulted him into the ranks of the NFL in 1954, where he was the assistant coach of the New York Giants for a number of years. He finally obtained his first head coaching position with the Green Bay Packers. The rest, as they say, is history. Lombardi coached the Packers from 1959 to 1967, leading them to an outstanding 89-29-4 record. His stellar postseason record was an even better 9-1, that included the first two Superbowl victories in history. Lombardi passed away in 1970 and was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1971.

Like Lombardi, Frank Frisch, FCRH ’20 excelled in many sports, including football, basketball and track, but he truly excelled in baseball. Nicknamed “The Fordham Flash” because of his speed in track, as well as around the bases, Frisch starred as the team’s second basemen and led them to a 21-6 mark in 1919.

Vince Lombardi also left his mark on Fordham athletics. (Courtesy of Fordham Sports)

Following this historic season, Frisch was signed by the New York Giants to begin his career as a Major League Baseball player. During his 18 years in the big leagues, the switch-hitting Frisch compiled a .312 batting average, nearly 3,000 hits, three all-star selections, four World Series titles and one league MVP award. He began managing the St. Louis Cardinals in 1933, becoming the first player-manager in the team’s history, but he eventually retired from playing in 1937. Frisch also managed the Pirates (1940-1946) and the Chicago Cubs (1949-51), and was inducted to the National Baseball Hall of Fame in 1947.

Jack Coffey, FCRH ’10, was also famous for his prowess in baseball, but unlike Frisch it was for his managing skills. Coffey was drafted to the major leagues in 1909 by the Boston Doves (now the Atlanta Braves), but he didn’t see much playing time in his short career. Although he is not a Hall of Famer like Frisch, Coffey does have the distinction of being the only person in major league history to play with both Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth in the same season (1918). His career ended that same season, and he took the helm of Fordham’s baseball team in 1922, where he stayed for 40 years. As manager, he had an impressive 817 wins. He retired in 1958 but remained at Fordham as Graduate Manager of Athletics until his death in 1966.

Lombardi, Frisch, and Coffey had an incredible impact on the Fordham community as well as in the professional ranks. Coffey’s name is immortalized by the baseball field that bears his namesake, and Lombardi by the field house and not to mention the Superbowl trophy. These three were a few of the first of Fordham’s 358 Hall of Famers. Only time will tell who else will join their ranks and leave their legacy on Fordham and possibly the world of professional sports.