College basketball fans can finally own a piece of “The Prairie.”
Six distinctive memorabilia pieces from the venerable Rose Hill Gymnasium at Fordham University are available for collectors through the collaborative effort between the New York City college and CollectibleXchange.com.
The announcement was made Tuesday by Fordham Director of Athletics Ed Kull and CollectibleXchange.com founder Brandon Steiner.
All six pieces feature wood from the original Fordham basketball court, which was part of the gym’s floor from 1925 through the 2019 season and range in price from $79.99 to $179.99. Rose Hill is the oldest active arena in Division I basketball and is only one of 14 gymnasiums nationwide to host 600 victories for the home team. According to the Fordham athletics website, the entire floor and subfloor of the gym were replaced with a new wood surface in 2019.
There are two desktop pieces for sale, including a 6-inch by 6-inch piece of the court with a Fordham Rams sticker that sells for $79.99, and a 6×6 piece of hardwood in a glass display case that is being offered for $89.99.
There are also four framed collectibles of the hardwood that include vintage photographs.
The “Classic” edition, selling for $159.99, features then-and-now photos of the gym; the “McLaughlin Court” edition ($159.99) includes photos of the Frank McLaughlin Family Court and pictures of the former Fordham star (1965 to 1969), who later served as the university’s athletic director (1985 to 2012); the “A-10 Championship” edition ($159.99) with two pictures of women’s head coach Stephanie Gaitley and her 2014 championship squad, which won the Atlantic 10 championship that year and gave the women’s program its second NCAA Tournament berth; and the “Digger” edition ($179.99) with photographs of head coach Richard “Digger” Phelps, captain Charlie Yelverton and the Rams’ 1971 squad.
Rose Hill Gymnasium is loaded with history.
Fordham University, situated in the northern borough of The Bronx, opened the doors to the gym on Jan. 16, 1925, according to The Fordham Ram newspaper and the university’s athletics website. The Rams defeated Boston College 46-16 in the gym’s inaugural game, and one of the referees for that contest was New York Giants baseball star Frank Frisch. The “Fordham Flash” starred in baseball and football and remains the university’s most notable athletic alumnus.
Actor Alan Alda graduated from Fordham in 1956 as an English major.
The original arena had a seating capacity of 2,100 and was eventually increased to 3,200 after seats were installed behind the backboards. According to the university, it was not unusual for standing-room-only crowds of more than 6,000 to squeeze into the gym. It got its nickname, “The Prairie,” because of its massive amount of floor space when it first opened.
The gym, with its Gothic façade, has housed the Rams except during World War II when it served as a barracks for U.S. Army soldiers.
In addition to Frisch, the gym has seen some great athletes — it was the site for the final high school game of Lew Alcindor (now known as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) when he starred at Power Memorial Academy in 1965. It also was the home for the 1971 Fordham squad that went 26-3 and reached the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16. The women’s team rolled to an Atlantic 10 Conference during the 2014 season, as Gaitley’s squad upset top-seeded Dayton in the tournament final. Twenty years earlier, Fordham’s women won the Patriot League championship to earn its first berth in the NCAA Tournament.
“It’s one of the unique college basketball experiences in the world,” then-Fordham men’s coach Tom Pecora told Yahoo Sports in 2014. “It reeks of tradition. It’s a cool venue, it’s a beautiful building architecturally, you can feel the energy and the heat. It’s a reflection of New York, a bunch of small communities coming together to form this monstrous city. Our little gym is just like a small neighborhood, we’re an important part of this big city.”
It’s the gym where Ed Conlin pulled down a school-record 36 rebounds against Colgate during a 74-56 victory against Colgate on Feb. 3, 1953. Conlin’s jersey, along with that of women’s basketball star Anne Gregory, is retired and hanging from the rafters of the old gym.
“I think it’s one of neatest places I’ve coached in,” Butler coach Brad Stevens told Yahoo Sports. “It is right up my alley. I was reminded of the movie ‘Hoosiers’ when I walked in.”
Each year, the gym hosts the annual Catholic High School Athletic Association state basketball tournament. The 1988 final between Tolentine and Archbishop Molloy was called the best high school game of the 1980s, according to Newsday.
“When you walk in, it’s almost like a time-warp,” Pecora said. “If you threw everybody in old-school uniforms, it could be 1970 and that’s a cool thing, I think.”
You can view and purchase all the pieces of the historic Rose Hill Gymnasium court on the CollectibleXchange.com website.