An announced attendance of 37,406 took in last year's BC @ Syracuse game at the Dome (capacity = 49,262), which, to be honest, seemed a bit generous. Maybe half (?) of those 37k fans were still in their seats for the Orange's final, game-winning drive to clinch bowl eligibility at BC's expense. Place looked like a ghost town at the end of the game for the Orange's defining moment of the 2013 season: an 8-yard Terrell-Hunt-to-Josh-Parris touchdown pass that gave Syracuse a 34-31 victory.
That's not to cast attendance stones specifically at Syracuse, because I fully expect BC to struggle to put butts in seats this weekend as well. A Syracuse team with nothing to play for, a BC team having already punched its dancing ticket and the possibility of inclement weather will all contribute to a poor return at the gate this weekend. On top of all that, many students are home for the holidays and BC's sizable season ticket holder base from the Tri-state area will also be home with family.
The other day Bill alluded to the fact that another private school playing FBS football, Notre Dame, gets this right: ending the regular season in either the Bay Area or Los Angeles and eschewing a home game over Thanksgiving weekend. For better or worse, that's no longer an option for BC and Syracuse. The two private schools are locked in in much the same way that Duke and Wake Forest are as part of the ACC's permanent rivalry weekend (four ACC-SEC matchups plus five intra-ACC matchups, BC-Syracuse, Wake-Duke, N.C. State-North Carolina, Pitt-Miami and Virginia Tech-Virginia).
I suspect both schools will struggle to generate much interest in this game moving forward as BC and Syracuse feel one another out in an attempt to rekindle their #OrangeEagle rivalry. Last season, bowl eligibility was on the line for Syracuse...BC's Andre Williams was making a late Heisman Trophy push...yet the game was met with a collective yawn at the gate. It almost feels like if a division title or a College Football Playoff berth isn't on the line, casual fans, students and alumni aren't going to make a point of coming back to campus early for this game (as they did for Boston College vs. Maryland 2008 for a game that amounted to a de facto ACC Atlantic Division title game).
As a general rule, I dislike the idea of playing college football games in sterile, cavernous NFL stadia. College football is meant to be played on campus. If the idea of playing BC-SU at MetLife doesn't sit well, Red Bull Arena or Yankee Stadium. The actual stadium is less important to the conversation. It's more about taking this BC-Syracuse game and bringing it to the fans, students and families home for the holiday weekend.
So why not hold the annual Boston College vs. Syracuse game in NJ/NY?
Current season ticket holders would understandably freak out. I get that. But why not hold at least one of these upcoming BC-SU games at MetLife in an attempt to grab Tri-State area students, alum and families? I'll reserve judgment after I see this weekend's crowd and check the box score. But right now, I'd say it's worth a shot to see how much interest a game like that generates vis a vis a home game in the Carrier Dome or at Alumni Stadium.
Interestingly, Syracuse's existing relationship with MetLife Stadium has soured a bit. The school will fulfill its initial contract with MetLife Stadium for four games through 2016, but now has no plans to play again at the stadium beyond that. But I know Syracuse AD DOC Gross is all about that #brand and the impact playing outside New York City has on recruiting and the student-athlete experience. Would SU be willing to share a slice of that #brand pie with BC for the greater good of the conference and in an attempt to prop up the ACC's newest-old rivalry?
I think it's at least worth a closer look. Even if it's a once-every-three-years thing with games at the Carrier Dome and Alumni Stadium in between. I do think that seven home games a year is the minimum requirement for both BC and Syracuse season-ticket holders, particularly given both program's commitment to hosting at least one Friday night home game a year (which has proven to be a bit of a drain on per-game attendance). But a neutral site game in the Meadowlands could be held in a year where both schools manage to play all four non-conference games at home, giving both BC and SU seven true home games in that particular year.
If marketed properly, a game in the Meadowlands could become as successful, if not moreso than a home game in either Syracuse or Chestnut Hill. It would allow the ACC to showcase its two northernmost programs in America's biggest media market in front of a number of students, alumni and fans of both schools home for the Thanksgiving holiday, as well as plant a media market tightly contested between the Big Ten and the ACC. I'm sure Jim Delany and Rutgers would be thrilled with the idea.
What say you? Willing to take every third BC-SU game and move it closer to many students, alumni and fans home for the holidays, or nah?