Solid piece of reporting from The Heights' Austin Tedesco, who delves into what I believe should be a hot-button topic for athletics next season and going forward. So expect more of this throughout the year:
Boston College's revenue sports -- football and men's basketball -- will host the fewest number of home games in 20 seasons in 2013-14. Football will have six home games, while men's basketball will host just 13 games next season.
Throw in men's hockey, and the big three will host just 32 home games during the 2013-14 season. That's down more than five from the department's 20 year average and more than six from the average between 2000-2012.
As Austin did, let's break this down by sport:
Most of us are familiar with why the football team has just six home games this season. When the ACC made the decision to stick with an eight game conference schedule instead of adding a ninth conference game, new athletic director Brad Bates was left with few options to fill the hole in the schedule. Bates explained how the Eagles road trip to Las Cruces came about:
"Let me tell you about how that came about. Literally two weeks before I came here and got the job, the ACC went from nine conference games to eight conference games. So that was one of three options and the best option of all of them was New Mexico State. We got a home-and-home out of it, but your point is well taken. We would never ever do that under other circumstances. And let me add also, we are going to get back to seven home games."
Unfortunately, while accepting a game at New Mexico State may have been the best option at the time, several other programs had a scheduling slot open up following that decision. After it was announced that Middle Tennessee State and Florida Atlantic would join Conference USA a year earlier than anticipated, the Sun Belt was left with a seven-game football schedule. All eight programs left in the Sun Belt needed to pick up an extra non-conference game in order to play a complete, 12-game schedule in 2013.
There's also the distinct possibility that the New Mexico State return trip never happens, which I suppose wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. New Mexico State currently has five non-conference games scheduled in 2015, but the move to the Sun Belt will necessitate canceling one of those existing obligations.
Men's basketball is a bit of a different animal. To be fair, some of the games were beyond Donahue's control. With the conference's move to an 18-game schedule, nine of those games are going to be played away from Conte Forum. The Eagles are back on the road in the ACC/Big Ten Challenge (vs. Purdue) and are the wrong end of home-and-homes with Auburn, Providence and USC. Other contests will be played on neutral courts -- 2K Sports Classic at MSG, VCU at the Barclays Center and UMass in the "Good For New England" College Basketball Tip-Off.
Some of this is luck of the draw. Other games seem to be a bit more in Donahue's control. Given that Harvard has won each of the last FIVE matchups with BC, Donahue thought it only fair to give the Crimson a game on their home court. Was this really the year to stand on ceremony and play at Harvard, given you are on the wrong end of a home-and-home with three major conference programs?
What the program and fans are left with is just a four game non-conference home schedule -- Division II Philadelphia U., Sacred Heart, Toledo and a fourth opponent, with two of those games part of the 2K Sports Classic Regional Round. While I'm in favor of giving the team some early-season exposure and a chance to make some noise in some of these road/neutral games, and the schedule should skew more towards Conte Forum in 2014-15, I have an uneasy feeling about having so few home games this year.
1) This is a bad road / neutral team. This team was 3-7 on the road overall, 2-7 in ACC play and 1-4 in neutral site contests. The previous season, BC went 0-10 on the road, 0-8 in conference and 1-3 on a neutral floor. Over the last two years with this roster of talent, BC is 3-17 on the road, 2-15 in conference and 1-7 in neutral site contests. Even with an infusion of talent and the program (hopefully) shaking off its early-season swoon from the past two seasons, this doesn't inspire a whole lot of confidence that the Eagles can get it done in road/neutral contests in 2013-14.
It sort of feels as it BC scheduled its way out of the postseason (the NCAA Tournament specifically).
2) Men's basketball attendance is already miserable. Will constraining the supply of home games this year give the Eagles a boost to its already conference-worst home attendance average? I have my doubts. I would have preferred to see at least one major conference program hit the Heights in non-conference play to get more fans out to the early-season games and build momentum towards conference play. As it stands, few are going to sit through early-season contests against Philadelphia, Sacred Heart and Toledo; leaving the program to rely on conference play to boost attendance numbers.
3) What good are revenue sports if they don't generate revenue for the department? I question what value there is to getting men's basketball season tickets this year with so few games and with a non-conference schedule filled with uninteresting opponents. A good part of the financial health of the department relies on football and men's basketball ticket sales. With so few contests in 2013-14 and with both revenue sports coming off largely forgettable seasons, will sales suffer even more with fewer games? This just seems like a lost opportunity for revenue that helps fund the entire department.
Of the big three, men's hockey having so few home games this season was largely out of the department's hands. With Hockey East expanding to include Notre Dame in 2013-14, the league dropped the conference schedule from 27 games (3 x 9 opponents) to just 20 (2 x 10 opponents). The number of conference games will increase by two the following season with the addition of Connecticut. York typically likes to send the boys on the road to get the program battle tested for the February-March stretch run anyway and far be it for me to question that strategy.
Still, next year's men's hockey schedule isn't without its issues. BC gave up a home game with Notre Dame -- the first Hockey East contest between the two Catholic rivals -- to Frozen Fenway, and the other home game vs. the Irish is on Friday, February 28, the Friday immediately preceding BC's Spring Break.
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