If you know me at all, you’d know that I’m a diehard BC sports fan. Before you say no you actually can’t tell from this blog, I would say that’s because I’m rational enough to know that no one cares. And admittedly after paying less attention to them this year than any other in recent memory, they are on the verge of making history and not the good kind.
After turning on the TV tonight just in time to see my beloved Eagles lose at the buzzer to NC State on an in-bounds layup (yes, that happened) they stand at a gaudy 0-17 in ACC play and 7-23 overall. Looking at their schedule or simply knowing how many conference games are played, you’d know they have one more game. The obvious significance being that they could very well go winless in ACC play, which is quite impressive.
But thankfully, it gets more exciting than that. After the football Eagles went 0-8 in the ACC, BC stands a very good chance to be the worst football/basketball school in a major conference in modern history. At least since the Civil War… excuse me… World War II era. Per the Boston Herald, the Georgia Bulldogs accomplished the feat by going o-fer in SEC play during the 1943-44 season, and now BC is trying to hold the torch high.
My only reaction at this point is just to shake my head. I want to feel bad, but it’s hard to when you see the level of play they’ve been putting on the field and court the last few years. Watching their skill position players in football is painful and dare I say gut-wrenching, and is the byproduct of a dead-last ranked group of recruits. It’ll only get worse as coaches now have no ground on which to recruit, other than playing time, which they’ve had to use for a while now.
Perusing the basketball schedule will highlight an overtime win over UNH (yay!) a 10-point win over Division II Bentley, and a 2-point home loss to newly Division I (and still D-2 in virtually everything) UMass Lowell. Maybe what’s even more staggering is that they competed in one of their losses to UNC, leading late and eventually losing by three.
The same could be said for football, as they only gave up 7 points on offense to FSU, and nearly beat Notre Dame amidst an awful game for both teams. A less pathetic story, as they competed and technically never got blown out. A 3-0 home loss to Wake Forest is still etched in my brain as the worst offensive showing and quite possibly the worst football game I’ve ever seen (I managed to watch through the end. The finish was actually riveting…BC lost by trying to spike the ball as time expired.) I wasn’t drunk that actually happened.
As someone who grew up during some of BC’s glory days in both football and basketball it’s even harder to fathom how truly terrible and void of any talent they are. In 2001, Al Skinner led the basketball team to a Big East title while Troy Bell was named Big East co-Player of the Year. Their last year in the Big East (2004-05) was a historic one, as the Eagles started 20-0 en route to a #3 ranking which was the highest ever. This was followed by going to the ACC final their first year in the conference and losing to Duke by two. This in a year where the Eagles lost both contests with Duke by a total of four points.
The decade saw seven NCAA tournament appearances, and a three-year run in which BC knocked off the defending national champion (2003-2005). A 2005 season where the Eagles compiled a school-record 28 victories en route to a Sweet Sixteen appearance and Craig Smith was a first-team All-American. What followed was a one-point loss to Villanova on a goaltending call (don’t ask).
Long story short, the Eagles basically always had winning seasons with Skinner at the helm. Fast forward to the end of the 2009-10 season and a 15-16 record and Skinner is fired one year after a 7-seed in the NCAA tournament. Steve Donahue took over and they basically sucked thereafter (one winning season). There’s a theme here I promise.
I grew up in an equally successful time period for the football team. Tom O’Brien offenses were about as fun as watching paint dry but at one point made 12 straight bowl appearances (he wasn’t there for all of them). O’Brien led the 2004 Eagles to a showdown with Syracuse for the Big East title at home (a loss) and a chance at the Orange Bowl in their last Big East season. After O’Brien left in 2006 Jeff Jagodzinski took over for perhaps the most successful seasons for BC football other than the Flutie years. The Eagles started out 7-0 behind a dark horse Heisman candidate at quarterback in Matt Ryan. BC ended the regular season at 10-2 with a road win over #8 Virginia Tech and peaked at #2 in the polls. After winning the Coastal division the Eagles lost to the Hokies in the ACC championship, marking the first of two years BC would lose to Virginia Tech in the same fashion.
Following the 2008 season and two consecutive ACC title game appearances Jagodzinski was fired for showing interest in an NFL opening. Enter the Frank Spaziani era in 2009 and the end of Boston College football as we know it.
Sure, there have been some highlights between the two sports since their respective coaches have been fired. A basketball win over then #1 Syracuse, a football win over then #9 USC. A few shining stars between the sports with Reggie Jackson averaging 19 ppg with the Pistons and a Heisman finalist and NFL Defensive Player of the Year in Andre Williams and Luke Kuechly. But they have been few and far between. BC paid a heavy price for showing losing wouldn’t be tolerated (basketball) or that interviewing wouldn’t be (football). Overreacting ultimately cost BC their sports program and catapulted it to a state I don’t see it ever recovering from.
BC was never going to compete with Clemson and FSU for football recruits, or with UNC and Duke for basketball recruits. Their talent lie in finding the hidden gems, the 2-3 star recruits (Matt Ryan, Jared Dudley, Craig Smith). The list goes on, but for years BC was able to make a mockery of the recruiting system by routinely beating teams stacked with superior talent. A three-year span of defeating Clemson on the gridiron comes to mind.
All of the wins and losses of that era, no matter how joyous or painful, are flooding back to me now. They were teams that mattered, teams that won with lesser athletes and real students in the classroom, ones that actually graduated. Those teams were a giant FU to the rest of the NCAA. They won against insurmountable odds. Those teams played in days where it wasn’t inconceivable to think that the basketball team could make a Final Four run. Or that the football team could play in a BCS bowl or even better, for a national championship.
Those years are now nothing more than fleeting memories as the losses pile up. Which begs the question, would we be in the same situation if both coaches weren’t fired? And unfortunately there’s an obvious answer, since you can’t go lower than zero.