NEW YORK — A Fordham University football player collapsed during pregame warmups and died Saturday, with his parents in the stands and his sister preparing to sing the national anthem.
Bill Tierney, 20, a starting defensive back from Lyndhurst, N.J., was taken to St. Barnabas Hospital, where he was pronounced dead less than an hour after collapsing at Coffey Field in the Bronx.
"He was a great, great kid," said Fordham Athletic Director Frank McLaughlin. "This is unbelievable. The campus is devastated."
Tierney, a junior, "was just running and he dropped. There was never a pulse," McLaughlin said.
A crowd of 3,000--including Tierney's parents, Raymond and Kathleen, and his sister, Ryann--was in the stands for the homecoming game against Lafayette College when Tierney fell. He collapsed shortly before Ryann, 15, was to sing the national anthem.
Fordham immediately postponed the game.
The Fordham players were jogging from midfield to the end zone immediately before the game's scheduled start, said Brian Byrne, Fordham's vice president for administration.
"Our trainer, Vincent Porricelli, was out immediately to attend to him," Byrne said.
He said the city Emergency Medical Service also arrived quickly and took Tierney to the hospital, where doctors were unable to revive him.
Byrne said the cause of death was expected to be determined by an autopsy. Tierney had "a very mild case of asthma and no problems in the three years he was on the team," Byrne said.
Tierney, a standout at Bergen Catholic High in Oradell, N.J., had played in each of Fordham's five losing games this season.
Fordham's president, the Rev. Joseph A. O'Hare, several hours later said a memorial Mass at the school's church, which was jammed with more than 700 students, faculty and fans.
"This was homecoming day, and Billy certainly has a real homecoming," the Catholic priest said of the student-athlete.
In his sophomore season at Fordham, Tierney played in all 11 games on special teams and in the secondary, making eight tackles.