Fordham University sports, though not part of the Ivy League, has nevertheless been credited with inspiring the term by comparison. The first usage of "Ivy" in reference to a group of colleges is from sportswriter Stanley Woodward (1895-1965). In an article that appeared in the New York Tribune on October 14, 1933, Woodward, referencing football, wrote
A proportion of our eastern ivy colleges are meeting little fellows another Saturday before plunging into the strife and the turmoil.
According to the book "Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins"(1988), author William Morris writes that Stanley Woodward actually took the term from fellow New York Tribune sportswriter Caswell Adams. Morris writes that during the 1930s, the Fordham University football team was running roughshod over all its opponents. One day in the sports room at the Tribune, the merits of Fordham's football team was being compared to Princeton and Columbia. Adams remarked disparagingly of the latter two, saying they were "only Ivy League." Woodward, the sports editor of the Tribune, picked up the term and printed it the next day.
There have been 56 major leaguers who have played for Fordham, including All-Star pitcher Pete Harnisch and Baseball Hall of Famer Frankie Frisch. Frisch, a star athlete in four different sports at Fordham, was known as the "Fordham Flash".
Jack Coffey Field, a multisport field, is named after John "Jack" Coffey, former athletic director and baseball coach at the University. He amassed 817 wins as a baseball coach. Coffey's name is also the answer to a popular baseball trivia question, since he is the only player to play with both Ty Cobb and Babe Ruth in the same season (1918 Detroit Tigers and Boston Red Sox). A renovation completed in 2005 resulted in an official renaming of the baseball portion of the field to "Houlihan Park at Jack Coffey Field".
On September 30, 1939, Fordham participated in the world’s first televised football game. In front of the sport’s first live TV audience, the Rams defeated Waynesburg College, 34-7. The following week they lost the second ever televised game to the University of Alabama, 7-6. It was not for another month that a professional NFL game was televised.
On December 15 1954, Fordham scratched its football program for various reasons, mainly financial. A club football team was established in 1964 (on shaky authority) and football was re-established as a varsity sport in 1970, but in Division III. Fordham joined what is now the NCAA Division 1 Football Championship Subdivision in 1989.
With 722 all-time wins at the close of the 2005 season , Fordham's football program ranks 15th among Division I programs on the all-time NCAA wins list, and fifth among programs currently playing in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision, trailing only Yale University, the University of Pennsylvania, Harvard University, and Princeton University.
Fordham was invited to play in the 1942 Rose Bowl, but declined the invitation because it had previously accepted a berth in the 1942 Sugar Bowl. The Rams, who defeated the University of Missouri by a 2-0 score, were the 1942 Sugar Bowl champions. The Rams also played in the 1941 Cotton Bowl but lost, 13-12, to Texas A&M. At least one source lists Fordham as the 1929 National Football Champions.
Since 2002, Fordham has played Columbia University for The Liberty Cup. The trophy was dedicated after the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 forced the postponement of the first annual meeting between New York City's two NCAA Football Championship Subdivision programs.
In 2008, the men's Track and Field team won the Outdoor Metropolitan Championship. The title was the first ever Metropolitan Athletic Conference team title captured by the Rams in the school's history.
Fordham Crew trains on the Harlem River. For many years the University maintained a boathouse off the river in Manhattan on "sculler's row" along Sherman Creek (the last remaining there), until it was destroyed by suspected arson in 1978. It has yet to be replaced.
Since 1989, Fordham has medaled every year at the Dad Vail and other major collegiate regattas. During that period the team has had 9 undefeated seasons and 13 national championships: eight at the Dad Vail, three at the Eastern College Athletic Conference National Invitational Collegiate Regatta, one at the Division-I National Championships, and one at the IRA Championship. Fordham was the 2007 Dad Vail Champions in Men's Varsity Lightweight 4+.
The University supports men's and women's rugby as club sports. They play in the Metropolitan New York Rugby Union, a member of USA Rugby, and field within it Division I 'A' and 'B' side rugby squads. The men's team won the conference championship in 2003 and 2004, and made it to the first round of the national tournament in 2004. The women's team is a three time champion of the Big Apple Classic, which is hosted on Randall's Island, NY. They were also east coast champions in the spring of 2005. The Rose Hill Campus is host every spring to the "Irish-Italian" men's rugby game, a staple of Fordham's Spring Weekend festival.