Boston College Suffering In Pro Market? A Word On BC Home Football Attendance

Boston College Eagles fans cheer on their team against the Weber State Wildcats on September 4 2010 at Alumni Stadium in Chestnut Hill Massachusetts. Boston College defeated Weber State 38-20. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

Quick: name me another Division I college athletics program more regularly derided for its humble existence and for making a conference switch from the Big East to the ACC which, by the way, occurred over SEVEN years ago. I'd say you'd be hard pressed to come up with another school that's not Boston College.

For whatever reason, it seems like every few months some random dude with a keyboard and a internet platform is bemoaning the fact that:

-- Boston College is even in the ACC
-- That BC is a financial drain on the conference
-- That the Eagles belong back in the Big East, or
-- That the Eagles' football attendance woes are somehow tied to leaving the Big East.

All without doing the slightest bit of actual research.

Well this time, it's one of our very own that is trying to rewrite history, wishing the Eagles back to the Big East all because the AD paired up with GroupOn to offer discounted tickets to the BC vs. Northwestern game.

This argument is downright baffling to me. Let's take these one at a time.

"The seating capacity at Alumni Stadium is 44,500 (since 1995 renovation) and BC averaged attendance well below 40,000 the last several seasons. When I was in Chestnut Hill during my college days, a BC ticket wasn't all that easy to get and Alumni Stadium was as loud and vibrant as ever before, selling out most games. We would wear our "BC Superfan" T shirts (I still have my original one from '99) proud and cheer until we lost our voices because we were winning, most of the time."

By loud and vibrant, you are of course referring to the 33,756 that showed up for the Eagles' home opener against Baylor in The Raj's freshman year, right? Or maybe it was the 33,574 that showed up for a mid-October Big East showdown with Pitt? The Eagles averaged just 39,993 over just five home games that season, despite going 8-3 during the regular season before getting pasted by Colorado in the Insight Bowl. 

Perhaps The Raj -- no relation to BCI's BCRaj, mind you -- is talking about his sophomore year (and my freshman year), where the Eagles drew 35,383 for the UConn game, 33,565 for Rutgers and 35,333 for the home finale against Temple? The only two home games to sell out Alumni Stadium in 2000? That would be Virginia Tech and Syracuse. And oh hey, look! One of those two programs is now a member of the Atlantic Coast Conference and the other is signed to a long-term football contract that goes to 2021. 

Moving on to your junior year, in which average home attendance finally broke the 40k mark. A strong year for the Eagles, relatively speaking, averaging 42,295 over six home games. Of course this average was bolstered by two sellouts against Notre Dame and Miami, both of which the Eagles continue to play to this day. The three home games most lightly attended that season? West Virginia (42,482), Pittsburgh (41,637) and Temple (38,724).

Finally, during your senior year, average home attendance dipped back down below 40k (39,688) and was hurt by games against UConn (40,006), Syracuse (36,221) and Rutgers (33,786). A schedule that had seven home games and the Eagles failed to sellout a single one, with the highest home attendance figure coming in the game against the Hokies (42,826). Again, ACC.

Overall, from 1999-2002, the Eagles averaged 40,090 over 24 home games and managed just four sellouts -- against Virginia Tech (2000), Syracuse (2000), Notre Dame (2001) and Miami (2001). All four of those programs are still on BC's future schedules and ZERO non-Syracuse old guard Big East programs sold out Alumni from 1999-2002. Those four BC sellouts mean that the Eagles sold out 17 percent of home games over the period. 

Loud and vibrant? Selling out most games? Hardly.

Next.

"Programs with much bigger stadiums and deeply rooted histories sell out their stadiums left and right, why shouldn't Boston College? Today, things have changed a bit and perhaps we can blame it on the move to the ACC in July, '05, but either way BC plays in a pro town and that will never change."

Really? By my math, only 13 of the top 30 FBS attendance team leaders sold out every home game last season. That means the other 107 FBS programs either didn't sell out every game or have such small stadiums that they didn't rank in the top 25 percent of Division I-A. Nothing like using outliers for your analysis.

Also a note on last year's Top 30 list. There are four ACC programs in the top 30 -- Clemson (17), Florida State (20), Virginia Tech (24) and North Carolina (30) -- and no programs from the Big East. 

And for the finale:

"I fully expect BC to leave the ACC and head back to the Big East in the coming years and that will certainly help because alumni don't care about playing schools like FSU or Wake Forest. They would rather play UCONN, Syracuse, Rutgers, etc. I believe one day BC will get it together and i'm hoping it starts with this upcoming season, which already looks grim with the injury bug at bay."

All you have to know about the claim that moving back to the Big East will help football attendance is here. Check the per-home game attendance averages for programs that made three or more appearances on the Heights from 1995-2010. Math is fun.

1. Notre Dame (6) -- 44,500
2. Miami (6) -- 43,682
3. Virginia Tech (8) -- 43,510
4. Navy (4) -- 42,845
5. Syracuse (5) -- 42,627
6. West Virginia (5) -- 41,648
7. Florida State (3) -- 41,531
8. Clemson (3) -- 41,167
9. Maryland (3) -- 41,115
10. N.C. State (3) -- 40,200
11. Connecticut (3) -- 39,983
12. Wake Forest (4) -- 39,845
13. Pittsburgh (5) -- 39,298
14. Temple (4) -- 39,254
15. Rutgers (5) -- 38,253

Four of the top five biggest Alumni Stadium draws of the last 16 seasons -- Notre Dame, Miami, Virginia Tech and Syracuse -- are still on the Eagles' future football schedules. Conversely, four of the bottom five programs are programs BC left behind in the Big East. Those four programs accounted for ZERO Alumni Stadium sellouts from 1999-2002 and were some of the most pooly attended games over that time period. Basically, the old guard Big East programs barely moved the needle when it comes to Boston College home football attendance.

Further, this doesn't even factor in the new Big East football programs like USF, Cincinnati, Louisville, which would be equally poor draws due to distance and general commuter school-ishness. TCU? Forget it. A school with less than 10,000 students playing 1,800 miles from campus? This has all the writings of an equally frightful attendance nightmare. 

Please just stop while you are behind. What sort of self-respecting BC alum would rather travel to Storrs, New Brunswick, Louisville, Cincinnati, Syracuse, Pittsburgh and Morgantown to watch college football over Miami, Tallahassee, Atlanta, Clemson, Blacksburg, Charlottesville, the North Carolina schools and College Park? Clearly you've never been to an Eagles football road game in Lane Stadium or Death Valley.

One thing I will agree with The Raj on is this:

"The only answer to the problem Boston College has is -GET BETTER and do it fast."

Winning will cure a lot of the Eagles' attendance woes. So too will bringing in interesting non-conference opponents that aren't extremely regional and uninteresting public schools. But winning by returning to a lesser football conference?

I've heard of plenty of quirky marketing gimmicks before, but decreasing the quality of your product by bringing weaker football programs to the Heights is a sure fire way to NOT improve BC home football attendance. Taking out a daily GroupOn special will be a hell of a lot more effective than replacing Virginia Tech, Miami, Florida State, Clemson and Georgia Tech with Pittsburgh, West Virginia, Syracuse, Rutgers and UConn.

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