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When Tom Masella was hired as the head football coach at Fordham University, hopes were running high that he could repeat the success he had at Central Connecticut State University, where he led the Blue Devils to consecutive Northeast Conference championships in 2004 and 2005. But no one knew how long it would take.
In 2007, Fordham fans discovered that it would only take two years for Masella to work his magic at Rose Hill as he led the Rams to one of the best turnarounds in the NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (FCS). Fordham rebounded from a 3-8 record in 2006 to post an 8-4 mark that year and won the 2007 Patriot League crown, earning a berth in the NCAA FCS Championship.
At the conclusion of the 2007 season, Masella was honored as the Patriot League Coach of the Year as well as the AFCA Regional Co-Coach of the Year. He also was named the Bronx Sportsperson of the Year by the New York Daily News as well as being a finalist for the Eddie Robinson Award, presented annually to the NCAA FCS National Coach of the Year.
In 2007, the Rams had 12 players named All-Patriot League, four of whom were Masella recruits, including running back Xavier Martin, who was named the League's Rookie of the Year.
The Fordham turnaround was the result of a potent spread offense instituted by Masella prior to the 2007 season, combined with a tenacious defense. After finishing seventh in scoring offense in Masella's first year at Fordham, the Rams moved up to second in 2007, averaging 29.0 points per game. The passing offense also showed tremendous improvement in 2007, going from sixth in the League in 2006 to second.
Last fall, the Rams finished 5-6 but four of the six Fordham losses were by six points or less. The Fordham offense came alive, ranking second in the Patriot League in both rushing offense and total offense while the Rams also had the third best rushing defense in the league. Fordham also had 38 players named to the Patriot League Academic Honor Roll, the most Rams honored by the league since Fordham joined in 1989 and the most for any league team.
In 2009, Fordham compiled a 5-6 overall record, 2-4 in the Patriot League, with quarterback John Skelton becoming the first Fordham player since 1967 to be drafted into the NFL (he was selected by the Arizona Cardinals in the fifth round) and two other players (Jason Caldwell and Andrew Tyshovnytsky) earning All-America honors. Skelton, Caldwell and Tyshovnytsky, who signed a free agent contract with the Indianapolis Colts, were also among the eight Rams earning All-Patriot League accolades. The All-League selections were led by Skelton, who set school single season records for passing yards and completions and graduated as the school's all-time leader in completions, passing yards and passing touchdowns. In addition, 23 players were named to the Patriot League Academic Honor Roll.
As a team in 2009, the Rams led the NCAA FCS in total offense, averaging 488.9 yards/game while also ranking second in passing offense, throwing for 337.1 yards/game. The Rams were also eighth in passing efficiency (149.3) and 30th in scoring offense (28.6 points/game).
In 2008, Fordham went 5-6 overall and had five players earn All-Patriot League honors as well as having 20 named to the Patriot League Academic Honor Roll.
A Staten Island native, Masella took over the reins at Fordham on December 8, 2005, after serving as the head coach at Central Connecticut State University for two years. He became the 14th head football coach at Fordham since 1922.
"Fordham University is an excellent academic institution in the greatest city in the world and I'm thrilled to have this opportunity," said Masella at his hiring. "I believe all the resources are here, from the administration to the facilities to the alumni support that will allow us to compete for a Patriot League championship."
Masella served as head coach at Central Connecticut State University in 2004 and 2005, leading the Blue Devils to back-to-back Northeast Conference (NEC) titles, the school's first ever football championships. He led the squad to 15 wins over the two seasons, the most wins recorded over a two-year period by a Central Connecticut State football team in school history.
In 2005, the Blue Devils finished with a 7-4 record, tying for the NEC crown with a 5-2 conference record. Eleven of Masella's student-athletes received All-Northeast Conference accolades in 2005, including one who was named Offensive Rookie of the Year and another who received Defensive Rookie of the Year honors.
In his first year in New Britain, Masella and the Blue Devils put together one of the most successful campaigns in program history, posting an 8-2 overall record and a 6-1 mark in Northeast Conference play. The conference record was good for a share of the NEC Championship, the first conference title in football in school history. For his efforts, Masella was named NEC Coach of the Year, becoming the first Blue Devil head football coach to garner Coach of the Year honors, while the Blue Devils also sported the Offensive Player and Offensive Rookie of the Year.
The 8-2 record in 2004 was even more impressive considering that Central Connecticut had not experienced a winning season in football for the previous 17 years. The eight wins were the most for a Blue Devil team since the 1973 squad finished 9-1.
Masella has now been a part of five conference championships in the past nine years, winning titles in 2005 and 2004 at Central Connecticut, in 2003 at the University of Massachusetts and in 2001 at Louisiana Tech in addition to the 2007 Patriot League crown.
Prior to his two-year stint at Central Connecticut, Masella served as the defensive coordinator at the University of Massachusetts for two years under head coach Mark Whipple. In 2003, the Minutemen won the Atlantic-10 championship and received a bid to the Division I-AA playoffs. Massachusetts finished 11th in the final Sports Network I-AA poll that year with a 10-3 overall record with the three losses coming at the hands of Division I-A Kansas State, I-AA national champion Delaware, and I-AA national runner-up Colgate.
In Masella's two seasons at Massachusetts, the Minutemen compiled an 18-7 record, finishing the 2003 season as the 30th ranked team in I-AA in rushing defense (125 yards per game). Individually, three of his defensive players were named to the All-Conference First-Team and four more players were named to the Second and Third Team All-Conference squads.
Masella arrived in Amherst after spending three seasons as the defensive coordinator at I-A Louisiana Tech, helping turn the Bulldog defense into one of the top defensive units in the country. His 2001 defense ranked 11th in the nation in I-A in interceptions and 13th in turnovers forced as the Bulldogs won the Western Athletic Conference championship in their first season in the conference.
Before venturing south, Masella served as the assistant head coach and secondary coach at the University of Connecticut in 1998. That Huskies squad ended the season ranked eighth in I-AA with a 10-3 record and posted their only Division I-AA playoff appearance.
Central Connecticut wasn't Masella's lone head coaching experience, as he served as the head coach at Boston University in 1996 and 1997 after a stint an assistant there from 1990-94. In 1993, he was the defensive coordinator for the Terriers as they finished the regular season undefeated, winning the Yankee Conference and earning a bid to the NCAA I-AA playoffs where they advanced to the second round. He left the Terriers when the University disbanded its football program following the 1997 season. Prior to being the head coach at Boston University, Masella was named the first head coach at Fairfield University when the school started a football program in 1995.
A 1981 graduate of Wagner College, Masella started his coaching career with the Seahawks as an assistant under Walt Hameline from 1982-84. Following his three years at Wagner, Masella moved on to his first coordinator position, serving as the defensive coordinator at the United States Merchant Marine Academy in Kings Point, N.Y., under Dennis Barrett from 1985-89 where he also served an assistant athletics director.