Scheduling Is Fordham's Latest Challenge

Charles CostelloContributor IMay 19, 2014

NEW YORK, NY - MARCH 16: The American Flag is held on the court as the National Anthem is sung before the game between the Virginia Commonwealth Rams and the Saint Joseph's Hawks during the Championship game of the 2014 Atlantic 10 Men's Basketball Tournament at Barclays Center on March 16, 2014 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City.  (Photo by Mike Lawrie/Getty Images)
Mike Lawrie/Getty Images

Not only is the Fordham basketball program a work-in-progress, but so is its schedule.

A week and a half ago, the Atlantic 10 announced its pairings for next season. For the first time since 1990-91, the league is moving to an 18-game schedule.

The Rams will play five home-and-home matchups and eight single games against conference foes.

Fordham will face Dayton, La Salle, Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Saint Joseph's twice and the remaining schools once.

Duquesne, George Washington, Saint Louis and Virginia Commonwealth will make the trip to the Bronx, while the Rams will play at Davidson, George Mason, Richmond and St. Bonaventure.

This past season, the A-10 got six teams into the NCAA tournament. Next season, Fordham will see even more of what's become one of the best basketball leagues in the country.

"That was a big bone of contention," head coach Tom Pecora said last week, referring to the switch to 18 conference games. "We were really trying to decide at last year's [league] meetings whether to go to 18 or stay at 16.

"All of the big conferences have gone to 18. We're a major conference. We're the fifth-ranked conference in the country.

"That's one of the reasons why we did it. Obviously it gets you another home game. But coming off a conference year playing 16, and you got six a league we said we'd keep an eye on it over the next year or two and then we'll make some decisions moving forward."

Fordham has struggled against its league competition since joining the A-10 prior to the 1995-96 season. The Rams are 72-232 against conference opponents in the last 19 years. Over that span, the A-10 has only gotten better, creating even more challenges for the struggling Rams.

"Our challenge is leapfrogging people in this league because everyone's going after it," Pecora said.

"The commitment at Fordham now is greater than it's ever been," he added, "but so is the commitment in the A-10."

To illustrate his point, Pecora pointed to UMass, which is building a $28 million practice facility, and Richmond, which last year put $17 million into its home arena.

As challenging as league play is certain to be, what's uncertain is who Fordham's nonconference opponents will be.

What's known so far is that the Rams will play St. John's at Madison Square Garden and Manhattan in a game that could be played at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn. Also, Monmouth and Siena will come to Rose Hill. The rest of the schedule is not yet determined.

"It's not done yet; we're still working on things," Pecora said last Wednesday.

Fordham is now looking at teams that would come into Rose Hill for one year, and the Rams will go on the road for buy games.

On another note, Pecora confirmed that Fordham will take part in a foreign tour to Canada in late August. That will allow it to have 10 practices in addition to the offseason workouts. 

Pecora mentioned the advantages of playing regular-season games at the Barclays Center, the site of the A-10 tournament.

"It's very hard to not go play at Barclays when you're going to play your conference tournament [there]," he said. "You'd like to get a game under your belt in that building.

"It's a good opportunity if they put us in there in a doubleheader. I think it's a great opportunity for us to get more exposure—more television and media exposure—for the team and the program."

Of course, Pecora also pointed out that when Fordham played Dayton in March in the first round of the A-10 tournament, the Flyers had more fans in the building for the Thursday-afternoon contest than the Rams did.

On the other hand, he said the school was trying to get the Garden to offer Fordham's fans better seats closer to the court, instead of making those tickets available exclusively to St. John's fans.

In any event, Pecora said it's essential to play games at the top two basketball venues in New York City. 

"When you talk about the Garden and Barclays, you have to," he said. "I think we have a tremendous home-court advantage here, but I can't get major schools, as we did with Georgia Tech and St. John's our first two years, to play us here.

"That's the issue you have here. Scheduling is a challenge and we have to be very creative in doing it."

These days, everything seems to be a challenge for Fordham. Scheduling is just the latest.


Quotations in this article were obtained firsthand.

Charles Costello covers the Fordham Rams for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter @CFCostello.