Something interesting I noticed while perusing last week's college football TV schedule: a decided lack of games between FBS and FCS schools. In fact, there were only two such games this past weekend:
Army @ Yale
Eastern Illinois @ Ohio
One of those two games, Army @ Yale, was sort of a gimmick game, scheduled to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Yale Bowl. Since the Bulldogs don't give out football scholarships, Yale's AD had to jump through several hoops with the NCAA to even get an Army victory to even count towards the Black Knights' bowl eligibility (though he succeeded in doing that). In the end, all that was for naught as Yale shocked Army 49-43 in overtime, giving the Elis their first ever win over an FBS opponent since dropping down to the lower division in 1982.
The reason I bring this up is in light of BC's poorly attended home games against FCS Maine and Colorado State over the past two weekends. Just 28,676 attended BC's home game against the Black Bears, the lowest home attendance for a game in five seasons (25,165 for a home game against Kent State), and just one week after the program's huge upset over ninth-ranked USC.
This past weekend was only marginally better, with a Parents' Weekend-aided 33,632 showing up for Boston College's last minute loss to Colorado State. That figure was up, however, over BC's other two non-USC games this year -- 30,083 for Pittsburgh and 28,676 for Maine.
A popular suggestion to reverse BC's declining per-game attendance trend is to move the FCS game back to Parents' Weekend as it was for the 2006 (Maine), 2007 (Massachusetts) and 2008 (Rhode Island) seasons. I'm not sure even that would work at this point.
Here are the Parents' Weekend home games over the last few years (since 2005 and the introduction of the 12th regular season game):
The way I interpret the above is:
-- Notre Dame = 44,500
-- Uninteresting non-conference opponents over Parents' Weekend while BC football is winning = 40,000+
-- Quality ACC opponents while BC football is losing = 40,000
-- Uninteresting opponents while BC football is coming off a down year = 33,000-38,000
-- Rhode Island / impossibly bad FCS opponent = 32,000
I'm just not sure moving the FCS game back to Parents' Weekend is going to help matters much, if at all. Until the program starts winning with more regularity (think: mid-2000s), I don't think parents are gonna show up to games against Richmond, Holy Cross or [insert CAA fodder here]. It also doesn't appear like FCS conferences are willing to play non-conference games this late into the season, having their own eight-game conference schedules to start and one less weekend than the FBS to complete the same 12-game regular season schedule (since the FCS playoffs start on Thanksgiving weekend).
One suggestion to avoid poorly attended, late-arriving and early-leaving Parents' Weekend home crowds: schedule BC's annual Friday night home ACC game over Parents' Weekend.
As part of the ACC's new television deal with ESPN, Boston College and Syracuse both agreed to host one Friday night ACC home game each season. Over the first two years in the new deal, BC has hosted Wake Forest (32,465) and Pittsburgh (30,083) in week 2 -- the weekend after Labor Day -- to some poor results.
Filling Alumni for a Friday night home game is tricky enough as it is. Even worse is that it's pretty unlikely that BC ever hosts Clemson, Florida State or Virginia Tech on a Friday night (BC and Syracuse volunteered to host one Friday night home game each season in part because high school football isn't as big in the Northeast as it is in the Mid-Atlantic and South). BC won't see Syracuse on a Friday night either, since the Orange have their own Friday night home game obligation to satisfy and BC and Syracuse will meet in the regular season finale going forward (the ACC is obligated to have a third Friday game on Black Friday each season).
Basically, a quality Friday night opponent from the ACC will be near-impossible to come by. For Boston College, it'll likely boil down to either N.C. State or Wake Forest in odd-numbered years, and Louisville or [rando ACC Coastal Division opponent but probably not Miami] in even-numbered years.
Boston College gets to put in one scheduling request each year with the conference. In years when the program doesn't schedule a non-conference home game over Parents' Weekend, as they did in 2009, 2011, 2012 and 2013, BC requests a home game from the league office. At that point, it's a crapshoot as far as the quality of the Parents' Weekend opponent. Most years you'll get Wake Forest, but every so often a home date with Florida State or Clemson.
Why not make that one request having BC's Friday night ACC game on the 4th or 5th weekend of the season to coincide with Parents' Weekend? Avoid the late-arriving, hands-glued-to-seats, early-to-leave crowd that the Parents' Weekend home crowd has devolved into and make the football game THE event that kicks off Parents' Weekend on Friday night.
There are plenty of other activities that compete for both students and parents time over Parents' Weekend; particularly on Saturday. That the ACC's television partners determine start times for games less than two weeks before the game (and sometimes as late as six days before kickoff) only complicates Parents' Weekend Saturday scheduling further. BC could instead lock in a Friday night 7 p.m. start time for Parents' Weekend before the start of the season if they request the home game on the 5th weekend of the season.
The other thing is did you see last week's Friday night college football schedule? Fresno State at New Mexico and Middle Tennessee at Old Dominion? Woof. Seems like a pretty good opportunity for the ACC to own Friday night and put a reasonably compelling matchup on the air (even if it's only BC-Wake Forest or BC-Pitt).
This is the point where you bring up the Friday night Pops on the Heights concert and quickly dismiss this idea out of hand. And yes, I have absolutely no idea what the Boston Pops schedule looks like and whether this is feasible. However, I'm willing to bet that if the orchestra is accommodating enough to make a Friday night performance at BC work, that they could shift to Saturday night going forward.
That BC only drew 33 and change for the Parents' Weekend game against Colorado State speaks to the program's larger attendance problems. But it seems as though the program could use its one scheduling request to significantly boost the home crowd for the fifth weekend of the season.