With New Contract in Hand, Roach Eyes Optimistic Future for Athletics (in the Afterglow of a Football Season)

David Roach (Twitter)

David Roach

In the wake of some strikingly successful seasons that shattered school records, made every student #ProudtobeaRam and catapulted Fordham’s athletic program to the forefront of national headlines, David Roach, director of athletics, learned last week that he’ll be around until at least 2019.

“It just solidifies the fact that I really like being at Fordham,” Roach told me by phone last week, speaking about his contract extension. “And I think Father McShane is happy with what I’ve done so far.”

Let us hope the luck Roach seems to have rubbed off on Rose Hill since his arrival in late 2012 — most prominently seen within last year’s (and perhaps this year’s?) women’s basketball team and the football team of last fall — remains visible for years to come.

Exhibit A: Women’s basketball went 24-7 last March and fell just one point shy of a place in the N.C.A.A. tournament — a huge about-face for the program that held a record of 0-29 just a few years prior. (See New York Times article here.)

Exhibit B: Football famously crushed age-old records last fall and had an incredible season, which ultimately ended at 12-2. Again, it was an incredible improvement from the 1-10 record of 2011. (See New York Times article here.)

Looking back, Roach points to football’s season as evidence — a time of huge campus-binding celebration and gleeful attention — and says: “We can be good.”

“If you have a terrific coach and a dedicated group of student athletes and an institution that supports what they’re trying to do, then we can be successful and do great things for the university,” he said proudly.

It should be noted here that Joe Moorhead, head football coach, has signed a contract extension through 2021. It’s unclear when the current contract of Stephanie Gaitley, head coach of the women’s basketball team, expires — though fordhamfans.com would like it to be extended anyway.

While still enjoying the sunny afterglow of football’s season, Roach says one of his greatest priorities right now is finding ways to boost student attendance at games across the board. Though, he readily concedes, the heft of that effort ultimately falls on the shoulders of student-athletes.

“Students at Fordham want to support the winning program, and support their fellow students,” he said.

Still, he wants to work with representatives from Rose Hill’s United Student Government — which recently deleted its vice president of athletics position and create a new post in an apparent effort to streamline efficiency — to help bridge the gap between headphone bearing, sweatpants-wearing athletes and just plain old students.

One idea Roach has: athletes eat dinner once a month in the McGinley Center’s Marketplace not with teammates, but with everyday students. “Students want to support fellow students no matter what the endeavor is,” he said.

When asked about the apparent disparity between fan attendance at women’s games versus men’s games, Roach conceded that a problem exists, but quickly added that it is a problem most every campus faces.

“Relatively speaking, they have a pretty good turnout compared to a lot of other schools,” he said of the women’s basketball team. “We would certainly love to have more people coming out, supporting female student-athletes. But it’s something that takes time.”

“It’s probably taken longer than it should have,” he added.

The problem was written about at length last semester by a female student athlete on campus. (See The Ram Realm article here.)

Prior to arriving at Rose Hill, Roach served as the president of the National Association of Collegiate Athletic Directors. He also spent eight years as athletics director at Colgate University.

When he isn’t meeting with players or coaches, Roach may often be found sitting courtside or on the sideline, cheering and grimacing like the student fans behind him. That’s “the fun part of the job,” he said.

And while Roach certainly likes to win, the secret sauce he seems to be dabbling around the athletics department encapsulates a holistic image of student development, one that rests in diligent accordance with Fordham’s Jesuit values.

“We want to strive toward success, and do it the right way, going by all the rules and giving our student-athletes a great experience both athletically and academically,” he said.

So, now, I suppose, the question becomes: Will Roach’s Midas touch continue to shine? He’s optimistic.

“I look forward to continuing some of the things we’ve started to do,” he said. “I look forward to a bright future for Fordham Athletics.”