The Herd Seeks to Bring Student Engagement to Fordham Athletics


Run by Fordham students, The Herd aims to put school spirit back in the culture of Fordham Rams athletics. (Courtesy of Twitter)

Once all of the coronavirus madness is over and one day, it will be over college campuses will go back to some form of the normal they had experienced before. A huge part of that normal will be the ability to congregate at sporting events and crowd together to root for their college teams. In times such as these, one begins to realize just how important these events are to a school not just for the revenue, but for the culture and morale of the school.

However, at Fordham University, big congregations of sports fans to root for teams are a rarity compared to other schools. The big crowds of students that some schools attract for soccer, basketball and even football games are matched by the occasional half capacity student crowd at Fordham. Barring last year’s women’s basketball game against Notre Dame, those unfilled bleacher seats are the norm.

In August, a group of Fordham student-athletes began a project that looks to have the energy, enthusiasm and school spirit to potentially change that mentality towards Fordham games of all types.

That group has started a collective known as The Herd, an organization with the specific initiative of bringing increased awareness to Fordham sporting events and creating a culture of enthusiasm for university athletics. As they put it on their Instagram page, The Herd is “bringing the hype back to student engagement in Fordham Athletics.”

Simply put, The Herd is the new Fordham Athletics student fan club.

The group is run by an assortment of Fordham varsity athletes, club athletes and non-athletes who together make up the original members of The Herd and serve in various positions on their staff.

A prevalent participant in the group’s social media, primarily on Twitter and Instagram, is Dillane Wehbe, a junior on Fordham’s swimming and diving team who, along with junior women’s basketball player Kaitlyn Downey, is one of the founders of the group and one of the head social chairs. Wehbe describes himself as “the biggest Superfan Fordham Athletics has ever seen.”

“We’re trying to make a culture shift to make our athletic department more focused on by the student body,” Wehbe said of the group’s initiative. “We want the school to be better as a whole, more fun as a whole and more inclusive as a whole, and that starts with the athletes.”

Wehbe equated this attempt to shift the culture of and around Fordham Athletics to the transformation of Villanova University in the 1990s. As Wehbe described, in that period, Villanova went from “Villa-no fun” to a school that both sports fans and athletes wanted to go to. 

The Herd’s Instagram page additionally includes testimonials from athletes regarding just how important the enthusiasm of a group like this will be to the athletics teams themselves.

Women’s basketball senior Bre Cavanaugh is one of the athletes featured on the page, discussing the way that a stronger fan base helps teams like hers and referencing that sold-out matchup against Notre Dame to open up the last basketball season.

“Having The Herd [there to] back us up [and] cheer us on … gives us a little energy boost,” Cavanaugh said in the short video posted to Instagram on Aug. 23. She went on to say that, for the athletes, getting the chance to cheer on other Fordham teams and athletes “amps [them] up.”

Cavanaugh’s head coach, the effervescent and energetic Stephanie Gaitley, also had some words of encouragement and urgency, hoping to get Fordham students to join The Herd.

“We need you to join The Herd to help us become such a great student body.”

That message perfectly describes the goal of the organization: to bring more energy to the student body regarding Fordham’s athletics, put people in the seats of games, make recruits want to come to the university and improve the athletic programs.

The Herd can be found on both Twitter and Instagram under the handle @theherdrh.