Earlier in the week, Brian detailed a conversation about Brigham Young football's four-game series with the UMass Minutemen involving athletic director Tom Holmoe. As part of the conversation, Holmoe said the following:
"That game is interesting in that started by the Patriots calling me, and saying, 'Hey, how'd you like to play a neutral game with ... and we started to look at teams in the region of the Northeast that would be what you would call 'anchor teams.' Use your imagination. We could never really pin down one of those anchor teams.
So the next thing they came back and said, 'Well, hey. UMass can play there, and when they went independent, decided to go independent. Part of it was it was good thing for us, but the four games came down to the fact that we need games. People just don't understand ... it's not easy to get 13. So when we can get four in one chunk, that's good. And to be able to go back there and play in a nice stadium and part of it -- a small part -- was helping a little brother independent.
I know what it was like when we went independent. We needed help, and so we're giving them a little help. Maybe they're just starting -- they're a younger Division I-A team -- but part of it was, we'll reach out to them."
As part of his piece, Brian did an excellent job breaking down some of the potential thought processes leading up to BYU's contract with the Minutemen. The most interesting points, summarized neatly, include that the New England Patriots approached the Cougars; the Cougars couldn't nail down a regional "anchor" team; they settled on UMass because they're a "little brother independent" program that could use help getting to the 12 or 13 game limit as an independent.
The most pressing question facing the lot of us is how deeply Boston College is/was involved or possibly consulted for a neutral site game. It's no secret that Brad Bates favors an eighth "home game" in Massachusetts. Following the success of the UMass game in terms of BC ticket sales, Bates has a "road game" at Fenway Park lined up against Notre Dame as part of the Shamrock Series. While it's obvious to take that deal to ensure a BC-ND game in Boston, it's also clear that playing closer to home is something Bates favors, rightfully so.
But Boston College doesn't need to play at Gillette. I think if you go back 30 years, there's a good chunk of BC fans who remember seeing Doug Flutie move out of Alumni Stadium and move to Foxboro Stadium to play teams like Alabama or Penn State. Boston College has a history playing in the NFL stadium. But that was 30 years ago, and the landscape around college football is substantially different. There's more availability for video, more television-ready stadiums, more incentive to stay than there is to leave. An eighth game in Massachusetts is an absolute "nice to have," not a "must have."
Alumni Stadium currently seats 44,500 fans. Gillette Stadium's lower bowl seats around 50,000. While the tailgating atmosphere is much more accessible, playing at Gillette makes virtually no sense for Boston College. They would have to forfeit part of the cut for tickets for around the same amount of people. Even if it "does right by the consumer" to give them "something special," there's never a reason for a school to take games off campus unless it's considered a road game. If BC can get 30K-35K people on campus, with tailgate fees where they are, they take all of the pie. That is arguably worth substantially more than cutting the Krafts in on anything that would happen at Gillette.
UMass is playing at Gillette Stadium because they had virtually no other option while renovating McGuirk Stadium on campus. The Krafts gave them a pretty cushy deal, one where the Minutemen aren't on the hook for game-day operations. Gillette Stadium receives $5 off every ticket sold (average price: $16.67). If gate receipts total $300K, money off ticket sales goes to cover gameday operations. It's a low-end protection deal that essentially says ticket sales pay rent, and Gillette covers the rest. BC would never agree to that type of deal, especially since their ticket at home is also sold for substantially more money than the Gillette UMass games.
That Gillette would go after another team is indicative that they want to stay in the college football game but don't trust the UMass earning power anymore. Either Boston College was considered a no-go, or the Eagles outright said they wouldn't entertain "hosting" a game at the home of the Patriots (which they shouldn't do). Brigham Young was approached with a contract to be a road team, especially since there's no need for the university to come east and pull a Shamrock Series-style home game out of their derriere. That they landed on UMass is indicative that the Minutemen were a last resort, but it's something to fall back on. So for BYU, they still get what they want, which is a game in New England. For UMass, they have to deal with the image issue of being the team that BYU said, "Well, if we want it bad enough, we'll throw you a bone."
All of this said, regardless of what happens, I'm glad Boston College isn't in this conversation. I don't begrudge BYU for wanting to come east and play a team; I think it's a great thing when teams from the west and east want to play each other, and I would more than welcome a series with the Cougars. But I think BC has more pressing issues than to worry about anything happening at Gillette Stadium. They need to fix their issues at home, focus on Boston College's Alumni Stadium experience, and go from there.