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Boston College 30, UMass 7: A View From The Stands

Despite trying really hard, the Kraft handcuffs were painfully obvious.

Look at all the Superfans at a Revolution game!
Look at all the Superfans at a Revolution game!
New Guy Productions

When UMass decided to transition to the football bowl subdivision, they needed to make changes to their football infrastructure.  McGuirk Stadium was undersized by NCAA minimums, necessitating the need for renovations.  In its place, the Minutemen commuted home games to Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, the home of the NFL's New England Patriots.

While derided by most of us on the basis of attendance, ticket sales skyrocketed for the Minutemen's game this weekend against Boston College.  And as Brad Bates and company get ready for their home opener against Pittsburgh on Friday night, it'll be interesting to how the improvements impact game atmosphere.

Marketing 101 states to look for inspiration anywhere it can be found.  That means there are lessons we can learn about what Boston College either does and is trying to do by looking at what UMass is able to do.  And there are several kudos requiring recognition for both sides heading into Friday:

-Major props to UMass for what they're able to do with the video boards at Gillette.  The Minutemen very clearly are given free reign over introductory montages and commercial promotions.  Their intro video board very clearly pointed the finger at Mark Whipple as being the returning hero, and it really played up the UMass championship heritage from the 1-AA era.  I was very impressed by their theme.

-If BC is going to update and replace its sound system, I hope they at least examined how Gillette works.  I understand that it is an NFL stadium, but nothing is more annoying than a soft or static system.  God knows my speaker for years at BC didn't work, and I remember old Foxboro Stadium having that giant speaker on the top of the Diamondvision tron thing that always broke down.  One thing I can't take away from UMass at Gillette is their sound system, and their public address announcer, John Dolan, is very good.  John's filled in for New England Patriots games, and he's very good with the right amount of excitement for the right scenario, even if that 3rd and 1 came when UMass was losing 30-7.

-From Day One, the marketing scheme of UMass set this up as a "Battle For The Bay State."  While that's great, it also set the stage for the game to feel like a neutral site.  UMass needed to sell tickets to this game, and they did.  But they did it at the cost of making their home field advantage, whatever it might've been, go down the toilet.  I know plenty of UMass fans who cared about the attendance figure (and plenty who didn't), and those people have to be nuts.  Sure you sold 30,000 seats, but your fan base was totally outnumbered.

-Big time fist bump for Boston College in selling tickets.  The Putnam Club was packed thanks to the Gridiron Club, and we were totally segregated from the UMass people.  The parking area was totally BC (except for one tailgate), and our walk in was pleasantly golden.  Having a stadium with that much parking naturally allows for the segregation, but it would've been crappy if we had to tailgate with UMass fans.  Getting up to the seat and getting in was fantastic.  I can't say enough for the way that BC took care of its own with its ticket allotment.

-An even bigger fist bump for the Boston College student body.  You guys were phenomenal.  When I got to my seat, the first thing that stook out was the mass of gold in the end zone by the lighthouse of Gillette.  The buses ensured the students were in on time, and the Superfans were loud as hell until the game became a blowout.  I know the freshman class did great to turn out, and it was just awesome.  Please do the same on Friday against Pitt.  Your team appreciates it, and the rest of us loved seeing it.

-As good as BC's students were, I don't get what UMass did with their students.  The UMass student body got t-shirts all in maroon, and they led the team out of the locker room.  This was great in theory, but I think every student in Amherst got to run out of the tunnel before the team.  That meant the fight song was over, the coin toss was almost over, and UMass's team was stuck in the tunnel.  All I saw was this weird stream of maroon-clad kids running across the sideline.  And they were exiting the sideline where BC was coming out from.  It just made no sense.

-I'll say this about the deal with Gillette - it's a UMass home game, but the Kraft family has major, major, MAJOR handcuffs on what they can do.  Example #1 - the banners on the sidelines.  UMass banners dotted the sidelines until they ran out of space in the end zone, which is where the red fell off and left us looking at the New England Revolution logos.  The noticeable folds weren't a very good look either.

-There was also no paint on the field with a UMass logo.  The new turf at McGuirk will look great with the UMass logos, but there was nothing on the Gillette turf.  Compare with other schools in NFL stadia.  Pitt has a deal with the Pittsburgh Steelers that one end zone will say the city in gold letters with white slashes in the other until the Panthers are done for the year.  It appears slightly generic, but at least it looks like a Pitt Panther home game (I like the old school slashes).  Tulane usually gets some branding at the Superdome (although the Green Wave are back on campus with a new stadium now).  Same for Dolphins Stadium and the Miami Hurricanes.  Temple received substantial branding during Eagles season, but they've had this abomination, too.  UMass received nothing except for a couple of logos on the side of the field the last couple of years, and they had NOTHING on Saturday.  For all the occasional problems with Alumni Stadium and its tailgate policy and accessibility, it's 150% ours.

-UMass might've had the video boards, but they had zero control over the music.  It actually punctuated how great having the microphone in with the band is at BC.  I couldn't hear the UMass band at all; I know Gillette Stadium acoustics stink, but that's no excuse.  This subtracted a key element of a college game, and instead I heard Crazy Train 11,000 times.  It was the most generic rock music played at a college football game I've ever heard.  And I know there are tried and true songs to play to juice up a crowd, but there are elements of the college game that were decidedly absent.

-I love the Minutemen during Patriots games when they're in full force behind both end zones, celebrating with players during touchdowns and firing the muskets.  I think this is probably the only element of a Patriots game translating very well to UMass football.  But they only had three in the corner of the end zone nowhere near the UMass fans.  Given the cavernous feeling of the NFL stadium, what is normally a staccato blast of smoke becomes a little puff of meh.  Again, this is an example of what I believe to be permission by the Krafts with heavy stipulations and handcuffs.  Go the whole way with that, and you've got something unique to college football.  Massachusetts muskets are like cannons in the south - celebrate it (I LOVE the Texas cannon).  For the record, this logically would have no place at a Boston College game.

-I can't wait to see the new video boards this week in Chestnut Hill.