On the surface, my experience with Boston College athletics is limited, especially considering that I’ve yet to complete my first year on the Heights. However, because my mom and dad each had a brother that attended Boston College, as well as two cousins for my mom and one for my dad, I’ve been around Eagles athletics for my entire life.
March 21, 2008, TD Garden
I went to a BC hockey game against UNH in the Hockey East Semifinals. The Eagles won 5-4, with Benn Ferriero scoring the GWG in the 100th Minute. I will never forget that game, one of my first hockey games, which was an instant classic that will forever be engraved in my memory.
September 13, 2014, Alumni Stadium
When I was a junior in high school, I went with my uncle to “officially” visit Boston College for the first time. Of course, the main event would be happening at 8 PM, when the Eagles would face off with #9 USC. After sneaking into the student section and enjoying the upset, I was able to storm the field. After that day, I knew that Boston College was where I wanted to go to college.
Needless to say, athletics was a huge part of the reason I chose to go to BC. Almost a year into my college career, I’ve been extremely disappointed with the state of Eagles athletics. One of the things that I was extremely excited about for college was the ability to go to all of the sporting events and cheer to the best of my ability for BC. I found that many of my fellow students did not share that same enthusiasm for our school.
During football season, I attended games against:
Of those seven games, only one was ultimately decided by less than two touchdows, with blowout wins against UMass, Wagner, Buffalo, and UConn, blowout losses to Clemson and Louisville, and one close game, a 28-20 loss in the rain to Syracuse.
Students never got to the games early, and were rarely there on time. By my estimation, the student section was at its fullest about midway through the first quarter, with the exception of the Clemson game, where there was a buzz about campus in excitement for the game. If there was any type of weather, that severely limited the students that would show up to Alumni to cheer on their team.
When the games were blowouts, students left because they did not care to see the end of the game, even when BC was winning. Why? In my opinion, it is because the team is not good. There’s no point. A 32 point win against Wagner is just not that intriguing, knowing that we still cannot compete against the better teams, consistently getting blown out. If we were a nationally ranked team, I think the students would have more interest in going to the games, making a ton of noise, and ultimately being one of the student sections that plays a major role in the outcome of the game.
Realistically, in order for the students to get more invested, it begins with putting a product on the field behind which the students can get. However, there are things that the athletic department can do in order to help fill the stands.
- Giveaways: Giveaways such as t-shirts would provide incentives for students to at least show up to games and, as an added bonus, would give the whole student section a united look.
- Chant Schedule: A detailed schedule of chants provided to every student attending the game, documenting what the students should be chanting, when they should be chanting it, and for how long they should be chanting it. Again, it would unify the student section and make the whole crowd seem more engaged and organized.
- Schedule: While writing this, I would like to acknowledge that I know nothing about contractual obligation regarding the TV schedule of the ACC. But I do know that the games are not scheduled well. With the exception of the Friday night Clemson game, every single 2016 home football game was between a noon and a 1 PM kickoff. That’s not the best for fans. A 3:30 or 7:00 start would help for tailgating, excitement, and filling Alumni.
There are a lot of schools around the country that are able to fill the stadium and create a raucous environment for football games.
For basketball, Conte is almost always empty. There is no excitement for the entire program on campus, for students, faculty, and alumni.
20 minutes to tip and this is what the inside of Conte Forum looks like: pic.twitter.com/7eJph2PtzV— Donna Ditota (@DonnaDitota1) February 11, 2015
The reason, like football, for a lack of excitement is simply a lack of winning. It is hard to get behind a consistently losing program for every game. For a team that followed up an 0-18 ACC performance with a 2-16 ACC performance, that logic is valid. However, I think that the BC community needs to be cautiously optimistic and patient with the men’s basketball program.
BC in the ACC this year lost by:
13 at Wake Forest
11 at Duke
23 at Syracuse
17 at home against Virginia
8 at home against UNC
1 at Miami
6 at VT
5 at home against Wake
23 at home against Louisville
11 at home against Pitt
9 at Georgia Tech
8 at home against Notre Dame
32 at Florida State
16 at home against VT
16 at Notre Dame
14 at Clemson.
As of this writing, Duke, UNC, UVA, Louisville, Virginia Tech, Florida State, Syracuse, Notre Dame, and Miami are firmly in the field of 68, with Syracuse amongst the “Last Four Byes,” Wake Forest amongst the “Last Four in,” and Georgia Tech amongst the “First Four Out” in Joe Lunardi’s ESPN bracketology.
BC beat Syracuse, nearly beat UNC at home, played Duke tough in Cameron Indoor Stadium, should have beaten Miami, had a 10 point lead at the half against ND, should have beaten Wake at home, and should have beaten VT on the road. That’s encouraging. Really encouraging. So is only losing 6 games in the ACC by more than 15 points. Last year, that number was 10.
Jim Christian has done his best to refill the program with talent, and he’s done so with Turner, Robinson, and Bowman all recruited in the last two years. Along with the aforementioned players, Jordan Chatman has two years of eligibility remaining after this year. This team lost a lot more games than they won this year, but they competed in just about every game they played. While I am not satisfied with the current state of the program, I am satisfied with the progress made from 2015-2016 to 2016-2017. Let’s give Christian a chance to continue putting talented players on the roster. A backcourt of Bowman and Robinson allows the Eagles to compete for real starting next year. Since Steve Donahue’s departure after the 2013-2014 season, Jim Christian has had to shred the roster of its depleted talent and replace it with his own talent. The only player left from Donahue’s tenure is Garland Owens who will be graduating this spring.
I cannot stress this enough. Give Christian a few more years to surround the young nucleus of Bowman, Chatman, Robinson, and Turner with more talent. Wins will come. They will not come if we get rid of any recruiting momentum (Christian) that we have had over the past few years.
However, as like football, there are steps the athletic department can take to fill the seats in Conte more effectively going forward.
- Giveaways: See Football
- Chant Schedule: See Football
- Renovate Conte to make it more conducive to watching basketball: Let’s be honest, Conte is a hockey arena. It is meant to hold the men’s and women’s hockey teams, not the men’s and women’s basketball teams. The student section behind the baskets is not ideal for students especially. There is too much space between student sections. Like hockey, the student section is small and broken up, leading to broken chants and a lack of continuity.
The goal would be for the student section to be able to compete with that of schools like Duke and Carolina and have the students go crazy.
For both of these sports, it is crucial that BC fills the AD role correctly. As Riley Overend of The Heights, points out here, there are many choices. Upon reading his article, I really like Ed McLaughlin from VCU, a BC grad who has done a great job of continuing men’s basketball success despite the loss of Shaka Smart. Of course, the problem with McLaughlin is that VCU has a club football team, so he has no experience managing a D1 football program. Perhaps BC would be better off with a candidate with Power 5 experience.
Ideally, the future AD would
- Be a BC grad or former employee: it’s important for the next AD to understand the culture on the Heights and have a fan-like incentive to improve athletics.
- Understand, but not overstate, the importance of academics: we want to continue our stellar academic reputation, but follow the lead of programs like Notre Dame, Stanford, and Duke.
- Focus on generating excitement on campus: Get both alumni and current students excited about sports. Hire good coaches, recruit elite athletes, and WIN GAMES.
- Be energized, young, and recognized on campus: be connected with the student body, understanding that getting people to fill the stands helps raise revenue and win games, and that starts with a great AD, head coaches, and star players.
Boston College AD Brad Bates to step down https://t.co/gvSll2HaUk— AP Top 25 (@AP_Top25) February 22, 2017
If BC makes a good hire at AD, there is no reason why the Eagles cannot be great again in the next few years. If AJ Dillon allows Addazio and his staff to recruit at a high level over the next few years, the football team could be on the rise. If the new AD gives Christian a couple more years to deliver on the promise that the young Eagles showed this year, they could be extremely competitive over the next few years and win games consistently in the ACC and on a national level. Eventually, this hire should lead to the football and men’s basketball getting back to top-25 levels every year.
As stated, one of the main goals of the new AD should be to fill the student section as often as possible. In order to do that, the revenue sports (football and men’s basketball) must be winning programs.