The 2015-2016 sports calendar should be cause for celebration at Boston College. The men's soccer team advanced to the Elite Eight and were within a 1-0 loss to the #6 team in the nation from advancing to the Final Four in Kansas City. The men's ice hockey team is the top seed in the Hockey East playoffs, and the women's team is one game away from earning a second trophy in their chase for perfection. The baseball team is experiencing a renaissance, winning their first eight games.
But no matter what happens in those sports, there will be no joy in Mudville whenever this year is referenced. Throughout college sports and into the history books, 2015-2016 will be known, forever, as the year when history was made for all the wrong reasons. The Eagles became the first ACC team to lose every conference game in football and men's basketball, the first power conference team to do so in a power conference since World War II.
The record is old enough that people can't agree on when the last time it happened. The last team to go winless in football and basketball in a "power conference" is considered Georgia, who went winless in both sports in 1943-1944 during the height of World War II. At the time, a car cost $1,200, a gallon of gasoline was $0.21, a gallon of milk was $0.62, and a postage stamp was $0.03. Minimum wage was $0.30 per hour, and the average annual salary was $2,600.
But Texas Christian has a claim to the throne as well. The Horned Frogs went 0-24 in 1976-1977 as members of the Southwest Conference. The SWC, at one time a power football conference, has been defunct for 20 years.
In basketball terms, this is the first winless team since Maryland in 1986-1987, the year after Len Bias left for the NBA and tragically died of a cocaine overdose the night after the NBA Draft.
This is a dubious distinction, one made more famous (or infamous) by the fact that we live in a social media era. Back when BC Interruption was hammered out on a typewriter in smoky press rooms in 1943 (Great-great Blog Granddad's choice was Lucky Strike), there was no Twitter, no Facebook, no message boards on articles and posts that this could live on. There was no ESPN tweet ready to go right as the buzzer sounded because, well, there was no ESPN. For that reason, something that maybe could've happened under the radar is now a full-blown trending topic throughout the nation.
That's the reality of the situation. But the reality is also this - these players deserved better. Throughout football and basketball season, they had to deal with that same social media crush, the same analysis of their skills and of their decision-making. They had to deal with the constant frustration of the fans - all while dealing with what I can only assume was also frustration for themselves.
For what it's worth, despite losing every conference game in football and basketball, these players never quit. In football, when the offense ran into its issues, we never saw them give up on the field. They might've been overmatched physically by a bigger, stronger opponent, but you never saw them quit. They always battled to the final whistle, even as they went from four quarterbacks down to two and five running backs down to one.
I'll remember the losses, but I'll remember John Fadule lowering his head and taking on anyone and everyone willing to hit him. He wound up injured with a concussion because he had no regard for his body when running along the sidelines.
I'll remember a defense that put in yeoman's work, week after week, until everything started catching up with them. They never ran out of steam, which is saying something because that was A LOT of steam they had to give.
In basketball, I'll forever have the image of Dennis Clifford battling back from multiple knee surgeries to finish his career strong. I'll be honest - heading into this year, I was prone, like everyone else, to make comments. But Clifford down the stretch played the best basketball of his career, and his performance against North Carolina was one of the finest basketball games I've seen a BC big man play in years. He went into another zone, and his hard work, his grit paid off.
I'll have the image of Steve Perpiglia, a walk-on senior, receiving a scholarship for the spring semester during the winter, and I'll have the image of early on in the Clemson game when the bench was ready to explode for him if he just could've hit that three-pointer.
The fact is that Boston College, for a number of reasons, lost 26 ACC games in football and basketball without a win. There was a skill chasm at times, a maturity/experience chasm at times, and a coaching chasm at times. When you lose, it's a combination of things. When you're winless in your league, it's a perfect storm. But if nothing else, these coaches and players brought everything they had every night. It just so happened that everything they had still wasn't enough.
So as the arguments and discussion points come, that's normal. There needs to be an open discussion about what to do next. But before you reach for the keyboard and mouse to voice your thoughts, look back on the season and see that these players played hard enough to deserve a win. They just didn't get one. So while the BC season is something that'll pop up in that ESPN chip implanted in our brains in 30 years, don't lose sight of the fact that the players gave everything they had and ultimately didn't get what they deserved.