If you were among the hardy crew that showed up on Friday night to watch Boston College take on Duke at Alumni Stadium, a look in to the lower endzone corner revealed something pretty remarkable: an entirely full student section. And I don’t mean mostly full, I mean packed and overflowing to the gills.
Literally every current undergrad ticket holder deserves like ten years of free season tickets after they graduate, @BCEagles. Their support has been amazing despite having nothing good to reward them. pic.twitter.com/d8Fm4Oy1Gg— BC Interruption (@bcinterruption) November 4, 2022
To be clear, this was on a beautiful Friday night one week after perhaps the most calamitous loss in program history, for a 2-6 team with its QB and pretty much entire offensive line injured, against Duke -a good team, but not exactly a marquee name in football.
It wasn’t the first time I’ve found myself pleasantly surprised by both the turnout and the atmosphere BC students have brought to Alumni Stadium and Conte Forum since the resumption of in-person attendance at games after the COVID season.
Last year’s men’s hockey home opener had the most raucous environment at Conte since the glory days of Johnny Gaudreau. Even this season, coming off last year’s struggles, the student section was pretty much packed even to the upper deck for the opener against Quinnipiac.
I wasn’t at the home football game against Louisville but I was watching on TV and the energy was pulsating out through the broadcast as students brought the energy en route to seeing their team pull off a surprising win after a pair of back to back blowout losses.
This has very notably not always been the case at BC, especially when the teams have struggled. I can’t speak to how things were before around 2003 or so, when I started seriously following as a high schooler, but I know that there was always angst in that era about BC’s very good, top 25 teams in football and men’s hoops regularly playing in front of half-full student sections. I remember attending games against Army and Bowling Green in the magical year of 2007, with Matt Ryan on the field, and the student section maybe getting 2/3rds full.
And once the teams struggled? Forget it. We obviously know about how men’s basketball games have been a ghost town for a decade; even men’s hockey crowds plummeted precipitously from 2017-2019 after just a few substandard seasons.
But the current strong attendance, particularly for football (we’ll see how the energy carries over in to MBB) has been remarkable, because the current crop of students has probably had the absolute least to cheer about across the three major ticketed sports of potentially any generation of BC students certainly in my lifetime.
When looking at football, men’s basketball and men’s hockey, a senior this year has seen, at best... a Hockey East regular season title, one NCAA hockey tournament game played at 25% capacity which BC lost, and some moral victories for football against top 25 teams in the COVID year with no fans.
Due to mother nature/COVID in addition to this year’s struggles, current students haven’t even gotten to see BC football play in a low-level bowl game. And of course there’s been zero postseason for men’s basketball during this entire time (the last batch of students who were at least on campus for the 2018 NIT graduated in the spring of 2021).
And despite all of this, the student turnout and support has been outstanding.
I’m not entirely sure why it’s been so much better now than any time in my memory as a BC fan (aside from times when the teams were playing well).
Obviously the likeliest explanation is that the loss of a year’s worth of home games due to COVID has led to pent up demand and students wanting to take advantage of these experiences they missed out on.
An additional potential explanation is that unlike grads of, say, ‘06-’11 that got used to seeing BC be competitive at a reasonably high level in football and basketball, then maybe lost interest as the team dipped far below those standards... current students, sadly, have basically no memory of BC being a top 25 team in either sport, so this is basically what they’ve come to know. It seems like to some extent the fans have embraced the ‘sicko’ mentality of understanding that they’re coming out to support teams that have struggled mightily and are just embracing that as part of their identity.
(Another explanation we tossed around as a joke from our seats at Alumni: it has been commonly said that as BC improved its reputation academically, the student body that came in was less interested in sports, leading to the worse atmosphere at home games... maybe things have gone entirely around in the opposite direction now, where the student body has improved academically so much that they’re just all giant nerds with nothing better to do on a Friday night than go to the BC-Duke game. Couldn’t be me, of course.)
The students deserve a lot of credit for continuing to fill Alumni even in spite of this having been a particularly bleak stretch for Eagles sports.
Between losing out on an entire year of home games due to COVID, and their continued showing up, there’s a strong case to be made that BC athletics should offer current students a free year or two of season tickets to the sport of their choice after graduation. It would be great to see the fans who keep turning out remain committed to the program after they graduate - Alumni and Conte certainly could use the extra butts in seats and the energy these students would bring as young alumni.
It would be a nice thank you to the students for the ongoing support and hopefully a way of keeping attendance up at these games during what will hopefully be a brighter tomorrow for our teams.