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Ranked: Boston College’s Best Breakout Seasons

Boston College v Virginia Tech Photo by Eakin Howard/Getty Images

With the sudden resurgence of Birdball and their unexpected historic year, we at BC Interruption asked ourselves: which Boston College sports seasons stick out as coming out of absolutely nowhere?

We ranked the top-5 teams that had disappointing seasons one year, then exploded for an incredible run in a matter of just 12 months (or less). Sound off in the comments about your fondest memories of these teams and let us know if we missed any.

5. Football 1986

Eagles Shawn Halloran Photo by George Gojkovich/Getty Images

In 1985, Boston College found itself in a hole it hadn’t experienced in nearly a decade. Despite plenty of success in the early 80s that saw the BC win as many as 10 games led by Heisman winner Doug Flutie, the Eagles fell back down to Earth in 1985 when they won just 4 games and fielded one of the worst offenses in college football. They got blown out by Miami, Army, and Syracuse while QB Shawn Halloran threw almost twice as many INTs than TDs.

But in 1986, head coach Jack Bicknell figured it out again for what would be BC’s last great season of the 1980s. Shawn Halloran became a much better QB his senior year, leading all of college football in completions. Troy Stradford went for 1,100+ rushing yards and 400+ receiving yards, while BC great Kelvin Martin led the team with 500+ receiving yards himself. Bill Romanowski and Steve Williams also led a defense that rebounded well from their rough season and held most of their opponents to 20 points or less.

The team started out a rough 1-3 before rattling off 8 straight wins that culminated in a Hall of Fame Bowl victory over #17 Georgia. BC finished the season ranked #19 with a bowl win over a formidable SEC opponent and important rivalry wins over Holy Cross, Syracuse, Army, Temple, West Virginia, and Maryland. This wasn’t exactly an “out of nowhere” situation, as a bunch of these players had been very successful just a few years earlier, but it is one of the biggest single-season turnarounds in BC football history.

4. Women’s Basketball 2002

Boston College v Maryland

Cathy Inglese was no doubt one of the best coaches for Boston College in its sports history. She took over a young program that had never been to an NCAA tournament and brought them there 7 times in an 8 year stretch.

That one year she didn’t make the postseason was 2001. The Eagles went below .500 and Inglese’s team dropped below anywhere it had been in the past 5 seasons, finishing 7th in the Big East.

But she rallied the troops for the next season and the team climbed as high as it ever had. BC made itself all the way to the Big East championship game before losing to perennial power UConn, they entered the NCAA tournament as a 5-seed (bounced in the first round), and they finished the season ranked #21 in the country. The team was led by a deep roster that featured 5 players who were scoring 9+ points per game: Amber Jacobs, Clare Droesch, Brianne Stepherson, Nicole Conway, and Becky Gottstein. Gottstein was lost early in the season to injury after making the all-Big East 2nd team in 2001, so this team may have climbed to even further heights if not for bad luck.

The turnaround from ‘01 to ‘02 is the best the WBB program has ever seen and it set up the rest of the 2000s for plenty of success. Inglese remains the only coach in program history to take WBB to the NCAA tournament.

3. Baseball 2023

Boston College v Virginia Tech Photo by Eakin Howard/Getty Images

Boston College baseball is on absolute fire this year seemingly out of nowhere. They had a terrible season in 2022, going 19-34 overall with a terrible 5-25 record in the ACC. Their pitching was some of the worst in the nation and they were constantly getting blown out by opponents left and right. Many across the BC sports internet were calling for the firing of head coach Mike Gambino and were disappointed when new AD Blake James didn’t make a change when he arrived on the Heights.

Then in 2023, Birdball got off to a good start. And... it kept... going. They won their first series. They won 8 in a row. They beat #2 Tennessee and extended their winning streak that eventually ended at 10. Fluky, right? This can’t be sustained.

Then they won their series against #10 Virginia Tech. Then won a series against #21 Florida State. Then ANOTHER series against #24 NC State. The Eagles were not slowing down. Boston College got off to the hottest start in program history, 21 wins and 6 losses, while launching up the national rankings to #9, the highest ever in program history. Led by the superb hitting of Nick Wang, Joey Vetrano, and others, BC Baseball was flying higher than they ever had before.

The Eagles cooled off a bit in the second half of the season, but they still managed to land a 6-seed in the ACC Tournament, their highest seed ever. That conference tournament is now underway at the time of this writing and BC has a real shot to advance to the semifinals and build up some momentum to potentially host a regional in the NCAA tournament. No matter how it ends, it’s been an incredible run that came completely out of left field.

2. Women’s Lacrosse 2017

2017 NCAA Division I Women’s Lacrosse Championship Photo by G Fiume/Maryland Terrapins/Getty Images

When head coach Acacia Walker-Weinstein took control of the Boston College program in 2013, the Eagles had only ever been to one NCAA tournament (2011) since the program’s founding back in 1992. Now in all 10 seasons under AWW, BC has made it to at least the first round.

But the real turning point for Boston College WLax came in 2017. They had been making the NCAA tournament consistently, but were usually getting bounced in the first or second round and only had made the quarterfinals once, losing in 2014. The flip switched in 2017. BC won its most games in program history (17) and bulldozed its way through the tournament, winning by at least 6 goals in each of their first three rounds to reach the first Final Four in program history.

The Eagles defeated Navy in the semifinals but finally fell to Maryland in the NCAA championship game, 16-13. That team was led by a two-headed monster in Sam Apuzzo and Kate Weeks, who each had 75+ goals to their name and 100+ points. The NCAA doesn’t have a thorough record of stat leaders in that season online, but in 2023 those numbers would have put them at 2nd and 4th in total points nationally. Just an incredibly skilled group of players that put BC women’s lacrosse on the map and began their streak of success that continues to this day.

1. Men’s Basketball 2001

Al Skinner and Troy Bell Return to BC Photo by Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

The year is 2000. Boston College men’s basketball hasn’t made an NCAA tournament in the three seasons since Al Skinner took over. They hit a low point in 1999, winning only 6 games total, and improved to just 11-19 this year. Freshman Troy Bell is playing out of his mind and junior Xavier Singletary is doing well, but they have no help and the offense is one of the worst in the country. Things are looking bleak for the future of this program.

So what does BCMBB do in 2001? They simply go out and win the Big East.

Led by Bell, who is now the Big East player of the year and averaging 20+ points per game, BC opens the season on an 11-game win streak and don’t win a game by fewer than 9 points until January. They defeat #7 Syracuse in February and ride all the way to a 23-4 regular season record, finishing 1st in the Big East. They march into Madison Square Garden and win 3 games by 14, 27, and 22 points to win the conference tourney in convincing fashion. Eventually the Eagles would fall to USC in the second round of the NCAA tournament and finish at #7 in the national AP poll.

Bell was obviously the highlight of that team, but great performances from Xavier Singletary, Kenny Harley, and sixth-man Ryan Sidney all buoyed the Eagles to one of their best seasons in program history that was largely injury-free. That year set up Skinner and company for a period of sustained success from 2001 to 2009, in which BC made the NCAA tournament in 7 of 9 seasons, winning the Big East regular season title again in 2005 as well.