It started with the opening football game on Labor Day weekend, when the Mods were alive by the time campus opened for tailgating, and the crowd was electric even for a matchup against Colgate.
It continued into September 25’s matchup against Missouri, when Alumni Stadium rocked from beginning to end.
Say what you want about the field-storming at the end of the game, it was an organic culmination of energy and enthusiasm that boomed through the stadium all game long, through Mr. Brightside and Sweet Caroline and through the noise brought after touchdowns and big defensive stops.
The noise continued through the first half of the NC State game, before understandably the enthusiasm died out as the game got out of hand.
Great student attendance at football is not really a surprise - the student section has been packed for years for just about every game, despite some perceptions to the contrary, and even the “GOLD” young alumni section is usually full. But this year has been different - in the seats sooner, there longer, and louder.
But my jaw really hit the floor at the response to the first men’s hockey home game against Northeastern, when there was quite possibly the largest student turnout I’ve ever seen at a home hockey game — and definitely, without question, the most for a game not against BU.
It was bedlam inside Conte when BC scored late to put the Huskies away:
The steal and the snipe from @pegiles19 pic.twitter.com/b5dWcr9i5k— BC Hockey (@BCHockey) October 16, 2021
The scenes here - people pounding on the glass, going nuts all around the stadium - were not necessarily uncommon from ~2010-2014, but it hasn’t looked or sounded like that at a home BC hockey game in a long time.
Even with two home games (and a loss) the following week, the students still brought it against Denver last Saturday night:
First Helly Celly of the year @drew_helleson21 pic.twitter.com/KxOHBS564p— BC Hockey (@BCHockey) October 24, 2021
I figured the hunger for a BC football home game would be there after the COVID year - after all, it’s such an instrumental part of the BC experience. But I wasn’t sure what to expect for hockey season. Attendance and atmosphere had been diminishing in recent years, and I sort of figured the COVID pause could do one of two things to attendance at various events: some events would be missed so much that attendance would be back with a vengeance; others would be out of sight, out of mind, and people wouldn’t come back. I was worried whether hockey would fall into the first category or the second.
But it’s clear that the students were hungry for the return of BC sports and ready to bring the atmosphere to the next level.
Even Ice Jam had a great crowd!
The Return of 2021 ✅— Boston College Eagles (@BCEagles) October 27, 2021
The only half-court half-ice event in the country, and wow was it fun!
Good luck to @BCHockey, @BC_WHockey, @BCMBB & @bc_wbb this season. We’ve all got your back #ForBoston pic.twitter.com/L8q5F3NdTY
Obviously the teams are going to have to keep winning (or in the case of football, get back to winning). Enthusiasm can only be sustained for so long, and there’s no doubt that the offseason buzz around the BC football program had as much to do with the raucous atmosphere in early days as the COVID pause.
But for now, it’s been great - benefitting the teams, making the experience more fun, and probably looking fantastic to recruits too.
And it should be noted that Boston College has successfully hosted these packed and raucous events while keeping COVID-19 under control on campus, with a cumulative positivity rate of 0.30% and a positivity rate last week of 0.05%. There were naysayers on either side - some criticizing BC for its vaccine requirements and predicting they would drive fans away, and others suggesting that even though BC has a comprehensive and thoughtful vaccine and testing policy, that the school was wrong to resume something resembling normal life on campus, including the kinds of social experiences that are a huge part of college life. The critics were wrong - the fall of 2021 has been a success on campus from a student experience standpoint, and it’s great to see.
As old-fart alums we’re grateful to the students for creating such a fantastic atmosphere at games so far this fall. Keep it up!