This December will mark the 20-year anniversary of Fordham joining the Atlantic 10 Conference.
Leaving the friendly confines of the Patriot League in every sport except for football, the university made the decision to give big-time college athletics a try. Men's basketball would be its flagship program.
Two decades later, the results have been mixed.
In just the past few months, the women's basketball and softball teams won conference championships and played on national television in NCAA tournament games.
Those two programs prove it can be done. It just hasn't happened yet for men's basketball, and that's the one that counts the most. That's the one that has always faced the biggest challenges.
"We want to be good across the board," Fordham athletic director David Roach told Bleacher Report earlier this month. "If we can do that, that brings everybody up."
Fordham needs to get its men's basketball program going. It's the school's marquee program—a high-profile sport in one of the best conferences in the country.
The numbers reveal a dark past, one that's spanned the last two decades.
Fordham has finished below .500 in 17 of its 19 seasons in the A-10, and only three times has it finished .500 or better in league play. Perhaps most telling is that the Rams are 72-232 against conference foes since joining the A-10. They've won only five conference tournament games in that time and haven't had a winning season since 2006-07. I could go on, but I think you get the point.
Fordham had to know that making the move to a conference of this caliber wouldn't be easy. Growing pains were to be expected.
But 19 years? Could anyone have predicted it would be this much of a struggle?
"I think that it’s probably a little bit more difficult," Roach said about balancing expectations with the reality of what it takes to build a winning program in the A-10. "You need to be patient, and there aren’t a lot of quick fixes."
Tom Pecora, who took over in 2010, is the latest coach to try to turn it around at Rose Hill. Nick Macarchuk, Bob Hill and Dereck Whittenburg, all experienced coaches, gave it their best shot, but things didn't work out for a whole host of reasons.
As I've said before, I believe Pecora could very well be the school's last, best hope.
"Sometimes you need the right person at the right time at the right institution," Roach said.
You also need everyone on board. One of the most frequent concerns over the years has been just how committed the university, from the president (currently Joseph M. McShane, S.J.) on down, is to doing what it takes to win at this level.
Roach, who was hired in 2012, insists that the commitment is there.
"We want to be good. We want to be successful," he said. "We’re putting the resources into it. The support is there. We’d love to be able to get good enough to where people are knocking the doors down to get into the Rose Hill Gym. That would be great.
"I wouldn’t have come here if I didn’t think we could do it."
Roach spent eight years as the AD at Colgate and 14 years in the same position at Brown before coming to Fordham. He took over for Frank McLaughlin, who was the athletic director from 1985 to 2012. McLaughlin was the one who oversaw the school's move to the A-10.
"I think the commitment was there, and we’ve been making some changes here and there," Roach said, pointing out that approximately $750,000 was spent on two video boards on opposite ends of the Rose Hill Gym. He also mentioned that the athletic department was understaffed when he arrived, but that he's been able to add personnel where needed.
"I’m always looking for the different things you can do," he said before explaining some truths about modern-day athletics. "It takes time, people and money. We’re investing in doing some things to make those kinds of changes to do the little things that people on the outside see, but maybe even more importantly, that our student-athletes see.
"It shows them that we’re thinking and we’re moving forward."
Roach said that can only happen with the support of those above him.
"The support and commitment from Fordham as an institution is there," he said. "Fr. McShane and (Vice President for Student Affairs) Jeff Gray have been tremendous in letting me do what I feel we need to do as an overall department to be moving forward.
"I see myself as a renovator and a builder, but not a maintainer," he added. "I’ve always gone to places and as long as the university is supporting athletics and wants to always be moving forward and doing what’s best for student-athletes, the institution and our programs, then I’m always happy."
That may not assuage the concerns of alumni and fans who have questioned the commitment for a long time, but they're not the ones sitting in Roach's chair.
"It’ll be two years in October that I’ve been here," he said. "The administration has been terrific in allowing me to do what I want to do."
A fan of the Jim Collins' book Good to Great, which explores how companies can go from average to superior, it's clear that Roach has tried to change things up a bit.
"When I got here I said to the entire staff, 'If you get up in the morning and you’re not excited about coming to Fordham to do great things for student-athletes, go do something else. Because that’s not fair to the student-athletes, not fair to the institution," he said.
"Life’s too short to be doing something you really don’t have a passion for."
It's obvious that Roach has a passion for doing what he does. Fair or unfair, it's harder to convince skeptical fans who have suffered through far too many bad seasons of men's basketball that the university shares that passion.
"We’re doing it," Roach said. "It’s not from a lack of effort or support. Maybe in the past people have been a little bit too impatient before it was going to happen.
"I just say it’s a new day, a new era. Hang with us and give us some time, and we’re going to get it done."
Quotations in this article were obtained firsthand.
Like the new article format? Send us feedback!