The Rams and Lions Legacy, and a Final 9/11-Inspired Match for Homecoming

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Those in the athletics community have been whispering it: this year’s homecoming game may be the last time Fordham plays Columbia University for a while.

Last year Columbia made a quiet reorganization of their playing schedule. Although they had been starting each season since 2001 with the Liberty Cup game against Fordham, a decision was made to focus on games with peer colleges in the Ivy League going forward. (Fordham is in the Patriot League.)

As such, this may possibly be the last Liberty Cup, too, as well as the last New York City team on Fordham’s football schedule.

The history between the Rams and other New York teams makes for an interesting story in a town that isn’t particularly known for college football.

The Rams first played Columbia in in 1890, and then again in 1902. They didn’t play again until 1972, and then they played from ’91 through ’94, in ’96, and in 2000.

In 2001, the world changed.

Fordham and Columbia were scheduled to play the weekend after 9/11. The game was canceled, but the teams agreed to reschedule and play that Thanksgiving Day. Like so many efforts around the city, the game was an attempt to move forward and to move on, and the teams agreed to play an annual Liberty Cup starting in 2002.

Crosstown Rivalries

As crosstown rivalries go, however, Fordham vs. Columbia isn’t exactly the Yankees vs. Mets. Old-time Rams swore by another rival team that was also Catholic and in the Bronx.

“The single biggest rivalry was Manhattan College, that was always the biggest game of the year,” recalled Fordham Trustee John Zizzo, FCRH ’69. “In 1967 we got Jerseys made that said ‘Beat Manhattan’ and the Manhattan team was livid. So in ’68 they wanted to get back at us and they put decal of Ram on their helmets and crossed it out with an ‘X,’ but we still slaughtered them.”

But Manhattan College lost their team in 1987.

Another city rival was NYU, but it was a friendly rival. In fact, if it weren’t for NYU, Fordham might not have the team it has today. After the Rams disbanded for several years, the Class of 1964 attempted to bring the storied team back into existence as a club team. It was NYU Coach Vic Obeck that agreed to play the scrappy team.

“We wanted desperately to play Columbia, but they would’ve been embarrassed to get beaten by a club team,” said Zizzo, who noted that, two years after turning varsity in 1970, Fordham and Columbia were back as rivals once again.

Memorializing 9/11

In 2002, Fordham and Columbia memorialized members of their communities who were lost on 9/11 with the Liberty Cup, and a 13-year legacy began. The Liberty Cup features a scholarship for students who lost a parent in the 9/11 attacks. Each year the host team has selects a scholarship winner, regardless of who wins the game. The record thus far has been Fordham 9 and Columbia 4.

“We would certainly like to play them later on in the year if that ever works for them,” said David Roach, director of Fordham Athletics. “With the Liberty Cup proceeds going to the 9/11 scholarship fund, I think it’s a great event.”

Soon there will be very few college-age children of parents who died on 9/11. Today’s freshman class was 4 years old when the event occurred. So in many ways the purpose of the Liberty Cup games has been served, having helped the city to move forward and help those left behind.

Still Roach still holds out hope for a New York City rival revival.

“We’ve had some pretty great success against them the last couple of years,” he said. “But everything goes in cycles. We hope to get it back and have it be a good rivalry.”

Join us on Sept. 19 when the Rams play the Lions.

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