Sept. 27, 2012
By Matt Dougherty, Patriot League Assistant Executive Director for Communications
When Fordham heads to Lehigh for its Patriot League opener on Saturday, most observers will focus on the long overall and Patriot League winning streaks for the Mountain Hawks. But there will be some history made on the visiting sideline as well.
Fordham Head Coach Joe Moorhead is the first former Patriot League football student-athlete to go on to hold the head position at one of the schools, so on Saturday he will become the first former player from one of the schools to coach a Patriot League game.
It's a long journey for a Pittsburgh native who had just one year of high school playing experience before coming to Fordham in 1992.
"Fordham really showed the most interest in me coming out of Pittsburgh Central Catholic," Moorhead said. "Coach (Larry) Glueck (Fordham Head Coach 1986-93) gave me an opportunity to take a visit, and when I stepped on campus I saw the beautiful setting, proximity to New York City and the educational opportunities. I wanted the opportunity to build with a program that was just entering I-AA football. I knew as soon as I stepped on campus that this was where I wanted to be and I called my parents and told them I wanted to commit to Fordham."
Moorhead was a three-year starter at quarterback for the Rams, and the first two campaigns were a struggle with a combined record of 1-21. But senior year brought the first signs of a turnaround for the program, as Fordham went 4-6-1 with a trio of memorable wins for the team captain.
"We kind of started to turn the corner," Moorhead said. "We beat Harvard 24-21 and kicked a field goal with about six seconds left to beat them, I set the single-game passing record for the school against Marist and then having the opportunity to play Holy Cross in the Bermuda Bowl and beat them (17-10) for the first time since 1930."
He added, "Aside from that I just remember the camaraderie with teammates and the chance to help Fordham progress from Division III into I-AA and take the steps to bring the program to a new level."
After graduating from Fordham in 1996, Moorhead went into the coaching world. His tenure included time in the Patriot League at Georgetown (2000-03), as well as stops at Pittsburgh (1998-99), Akron (2004-08) and Connecticut (2009-11), where he was the offensive coordinator for a team that won the 2010 BIG EAST title. Moorhead was ready for the next step, and there was no better place to do it than at his alma mater.
"There are very few opportunities to become a head coach in college football and even fewer at your alma mater," he said. "I've always believed that there was tremendous potential at Fordham and as a player we kind of got the thing going in the right direction. But I felt like there was still some unfinished business from my time as a player. To come back with scholarship football and have the chance to take the program to new heights was an awesome opportunity and one for which I am very thankful."
Just four games into his head coaching career, Moorhead has already produced two memorable wins. He led the Rams to a 55-0 thumping of Lock Haven on Aug. 30 for the 750th win in school history, and Fordham's 20-13 win at Columbia on Saturday allowed the school to keep the Liberty Cup for the third year in a row.
"Getting the first win was huge for us as a program moving forward," Moorhead said of the season-opening triumph. "It's a tremendous credit to the players for what we were preaching about attention to detail and to have their work from spring ball into fall camp come to fruition on the field in a win was great for the school and the kids. I felt happy for them as a group and it validated everything we had been preaching to them since we came in as a coaching staff. It got the ball rolling for the 2012 season to where we are now."
The win over Columbia took on an extra meaning. The teams play for the Liberty Cup, which honors the victims of the terrorist attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Fordham won the Liberty Cup for the seventh time in 11 tries, including the fifth in the last six meetings.
"It was huge to keep the Liberty Cup for another year," Moorhead said. "It's a tremendous rivalry of two schools with similar academic reputations and stories football traditions. The game was started to commemorate the memory of 9-11, including Fordham football student-athletes Kevin Szocik (1993-96) who was a teammate of mine and Nick Brandemarti (1998-00). It's great for the seniors in particular to end their careers in the rivalry by holding on to the cup and for the underclassmen to have it for another year."
The next step is Patriot League play, and the Rams have a daunting challenge in their opener when they visit No. 11/15 Lehigh on Saturday. The Mountain Hawks have won an FCS-best 13 straight regular-season games, and their 14-game winning streak against Patriot League opponents started with a win at Fordham in 2009.
"I think it's going to be a tremendous challenge," Moorhead said. "We've got to go up there and play a complete game. It's exciting for our kids to have an opportunity to play a nationally-ranked team on the road. We have all the respect in the world for Coach Coen and Lehigh and our kids are going to need to have a great week of practice to go up there and compete."
The Rams will remain ineligible for the Patriot League title until 2014 as a result of awarding athletic merit aid beginning with the class entering in the fall of 2010, when it was still not allowed in the Patriot League. The League has since permitted the use of athletic merit aid for football student-athletes beginning with next year's freshman class. But that doesn't mean the Patriot League games take on any less importance for Moorhead and his team for the next two seasons.
"We set a series of goals for the season," Moorhead said. "Our first, primary goal is to win a national championship and then there are a number of goals that we need to accomplish on the road to do that. The number one thing is beating Columbia, which we did. Our second is to secure a winning non-conference record, which we did. And our third is to have the best record in the Patriot League. Even though we're not eligible for the title we talk about being the best team in the Patriot League whether our games count in the standings or not. If we take care of those three goals it will hopefully give us an opportunity to secure an at-large bid into the playoffs and then it's a one-game season. We treat the games as League games and we want to be the best team in the Patriot League even though our games don't count in the standings."
Moorhead hopes Fordham will become not just the best team in the Patriot League, but the best in the nation.
"I think the sky's the limit at Fordham, he said. "The potential is unbelievable here. I'd like to see Fordham University be a team that is consistently a Patriot League champion and that makes the playoffs and competes for a national championship all while having success in the classroom, graduating our student-athletes and doing the right things in the community."
The first step comes on Saturday, as Moorhead hopes to show that former student-athletes can be just as successful as head coaches in the Patriot League as they were as players.
While Moorhead is the first Patriot League head coach that played in the League, a number of current full-time assistants at the seven schools also have histories as Patriot League players. The following list shows the 17 former Patriot League student-athletes that now coach at League schools, including six that played for Lafayette Head Coach Frank Tavani and four who played under Dick Biddle at Colgate.
Matt Borich, Bucknell (1997-00) - Borich is in his third season as the Defensive Run Game Coordinator and Defensive Line Coach on Joe Susan's staff. He totaled 62 tackles in 32 career games and graduated in May of 2001 with a degree in economics.
Mike O'Connor, Lafayette (2000-03) - O'Connor is in his fourth season with the Bison and third working with the quarterbacks. He was a two-time letterwinner at Lafayette, where he earned Second Team Academic All-America honors in 2002 and graduated in 2004.
Stan Dakosty, Colgate (2001-02) - After injuries cut his career short, Dakosty was a student assistant on Colgate's 2003 team that advanced to the national championship game and worked with the tight ends in 2004. He is in his fourth season in his return to Colgate, serving as the assistant coach for the secondary and as recruiting coordinator after three years of working with the tight ends and fullbacks.
Chris Young, Colgate (1993-96) - Young is in his 10th season on Dick Biddle's staff and coaches wide receivers for the Raiders. Young was a three-year letter winner while earning first-team all-Patriot League honors in his senior season at tight end. He was a linebacker his first three seasons with the Raiders and graduated from Colgate with a degree in sociology and anthropology in 1997.
Andrew Kirkland, Colgate (2005-08) - Kirkland gained experience as a student assistant in 2008 when he missed his senior season due to injury. He is in his first season on the staff as an assistant coach in the secondary.
Greg Sullivan, Colgate (2007-10) - One of the top quarterbacks in Patriot League history, Sullivan led the Raiders to the 2008 Patriot League title and earned a pair of All-Patriot League honors in his tenure, including first-team status as a senior. He is in his first season at his alma mater as the running backs coach.
Joe Moorhead, Fordham (1992-95) - Moorhead became the first former Patriot League student-athlete to take over as head coach this season. He was a three-year starter at quarterback for Fordham who earned second-team All-Patriot League honors as a senior.
Matt Fanning, Holy Cross (2003-06) - Fanning is in the second year of his second stint on Tom Gilmore's coaching staff in 2012, serving as the running backs coach, recruiting coordinator and video coordinator. He also coached the running backs during the 2008 campaign before going to Boston College for two seasons. Fanning had 35 receptions for 475 yards and four touchdowns as a senior in 2006.
Dakota Allosso, Holy Cross (2006-10) - Allosso is in his second season at Holy Cross, and his first year as the outside linebackers coach. He served as the assistant secondary coach during the 2011 campaign. He played defensive back at Holy Cross from 2006-10, and took home the team's Unsung Hero award in its championship season in 2009 and the Connor Award as the Holy Cross senior who was the person the players are most proud of as a teammate in 2010.
Marcel Quarterman, Lafayette (2004-07) - Quarterman is is in his fourth season on the Lafayette staff and coaches the wide receivers. Quarterman is a 2008 Lafayette graduate and former team captain who earned first-team All-Patriot League honors as senior. He won three Patriot League titles in his career and never lost to rival Lehigh.
Ian Dell, Lafayette (2006-09) - Dell, a former first-team All-Patriot League defensive lineman, is in his first season on Frank Tavani's staff and coaches the tight ends. He graduated from Lafayette in 2010 with a degree in Neuroscience and was the team's defensive line MVP as a senior in 2009.
Evan Nardone, Lafayette (2006-09) - Nardone is in his first season at Lafayette and serve as a defensive assistant while also handling football operations. In his playing days, Nardone won the 2008 Most Improved Player Award and the 2009 Unsung Hero Award as a contributor on defense and special teams. He graduated from Lafayette in 2010 with degrees in Economics and Business and Government and Law.
Tim Nish, Lafayette (2002-05) - Nish is in his seventh season as a member of the Lafayette coaching staff and works with the defensive line. He graduated in 2006 with a degree in Mechanical Engineering. Nish was the scout team defensive co-MVP in 2004 and 2005, and won the team's Unsung Hero award as a senior.
Dave Cecchini, Lehigh (1990-93) - One of the top wideouts in Patriot League history, Cecchini is in his third season as the Mountain Hawks Offensive Coordinator and Quarterbacks Coach in his second stint on the Lehigh coaching staff. He also coached at his alma mater from 1995-02. In 1993, Cecchini had 88 catches for 1,318 yards and 15 touchdowns, which still stands as a Patriot League record, to earn consensus first-team All-America recognition. He received his bachelor's degree in Marketing from Lehigh in 1995.
R.J. Ryan, Lehigh (1995-98) - Ryan is in his fourth season of his second stint as an assistant with the Mountain Hawks, also working at the school from 2004-06. He has been a part of four Lehigh championship teams in his six seasons with the coaching staff. He oversees Lehigh's special teams and coaches the running backs. Ryan was a two-year starter at tight end for Lehigh, and was part of the school's 1998 title-winning team and the inaugural winner of the Barry Fetterman award for his dedication and determination to the program.
Justin Stovall, Lafayette (2003-06) - Stovall is in his first season at Lehigh and works with the team's outside linebackers. He played on the other side of the rivalry, winning three Patriot League titles and defeating Lehigh three straight times while at Lafayette from 2003-06. Stovall graduated from Lafayette in 2007 with a degree in Economics and Business.
Jarard Cribbs, Lehigh (2007-10) - Cribbs is in his first season at his alma mater as an assistant defensive backs coach. He was a three-year starter at cornerback and punt returner for Lehigh who earned first-team All-America honors while helping the Mountain Hawks to the Patriot League title as a senior in 2010. Cribbs is a three-time All-Patriot League selection who earned first-team honors in his junior and senior seasons.