By Dave Glenn and Staff
June 21, 2005
CHESTNUT HILL - The official slogan, backed by a union with the people who market the Boston Red Sox, reads, "There's A New League In Town." There was a party planned - at Fenway Park, of all places - for June 30, celebrating Boston College's move to the ACC, with a media get-together earlier in the day.
Three conference calls were set up for the media in June - all with BC athletic director Gene DeFilippo, two with ACC commissioner John Swofford. A harbor cruise is planned for mid-September, to welcome the Florida State people to town for the Eagles' league opener against the Seminoles.
The new football facility is up and running, while renovations go on throughout the old building. DeFilippo said: "We're spending a lot of money on this place."
People are talking about Boston College and its long-awaited arrival (officially July 1) in the ACC - yes, even in this pro sports town. Outsiders already are saying the Eagles will do well in their new home, in both football and basketball, during the upcoming season.
"These are exciting times around here," DeFilippo said. "This is going to be great for Boston College in so many areas. We can't wait to move into the future."
That future will start unofficially on Sept. 17, the date of FSU's visit for a gridiron matchup. The following week, the Eagles will go to Clemson for their first all-ACC road game. The basketball opener is set for Dec. 11, at Maryland in the Fox Sunday night game. N.C. State is slated to be the first ACC home game for the Eagles, on Jan. 11.
In short, it's happening.
Because it's happening, it's probably a good time to give folks who don't know a lot about BC a primer on the Eagles. Let's call it 10 Things You Might Not Know About Boston College. There likely are more than 10, but that's the limit for now, with the hope that this little primer will be of some assistance as ACC fans gradually get to know the New Kids on the Block better on their own.
BC is not in Boston.
Well, it is, sort of. Technically, it's in Chestnut Hill, Mass. But when people are in Chestnut Hill, they think they're in Newton. Visiting writers come to town and don't know what to use as a dateline. (Many just use Boston.) Fact is, BC actually is in Chestnut Hill, Newton and Brighton, all located only a few miles from Boston itself. And - now read this part carefully - Conte Forum (called Kelley Rink for hockey) is in Newton and Alumni Stadium in Brighton, and the two are connected.
Confused? No problem. It gets better.
The Boston transit system, which still has outdoor cable car-type trains, goes right out to the games, so if y'all wanna come up, you can stay right in town and take the train to the game. Important reminder to file away for future reference: In this case, taking the train in the Boston area is not a luxury utilized in order to experience the ambiance of the city. It's a necessity, because parking at BC football games is an absolute nightmare. Got it?
Because of a long history of dealing with the neighbors, this is not your typical "show up seven hours before a game and eat hot dogs" event. Tailgating exists, but only for about two hours before a game. (Most BC fans love being fashionably late.) There are some who think you have to be willed a parking space. The bottom line: It's probably a different kind of experience than those to which most ACC fans are accustomed.
You know how rabid fans show up a couple of hours before games and make their presence felt in the stadium or arena even before the players come out to warm up? That doesn't happen at BC. Oh sure, students will show up early for the Feb. 1 basketball visit by Duke, but it's not a nightly thing.
Football coach Tom O'Brien is constantly asking the football fans to show up early and make noise from the start, but - and this is where the traffic and transportation problems tend to factor in - the opening drive of a football game usually is run in front of a half-empty stadium.
Everyone in Boston has an opinion about BC.
Boston is a pro sports town. Everyone knows that. But while BC isn't one of those college situations where tickets are impossible to get, opinions on the Eagles abound. In fact, it seems as if half the people in Boston love BC and the other half can't stand anything that has to do with the Eagles.
There are a variety of reasons for the latter, but the biggest one has to be the 67 colleges in the Boston area. People with Boston University ties have to hate BC. Northeastern? The same. Harvard? Sure, but, of course, in a more sophisticated way. The smaller schools - heck, even the larger ones - view BC as elitist types (think Virginia) and generate venom when anything BC is being talked about. When a Boston College athlete gets in trouble, these people laugh like crazy.
All this said, the Eagles do have a strong fan base in the area, and that always makes for an interesting divide.
BC has the longest active bowl winning streak in the country.
That's right, the Eagles have been to a school-record six straight bowl games, and they've won the last five, which is the best streak in the country.
For those who think there's only one meaningful bowl game every year - the one that's played for the alleged national championship - this might not seem like much. But BC got waxed at what was then the Insight.com Bowl on the final day of the last century. The staff didn't prepare the kids the right way, and O'Brien and his crew have done better jobs since.
Most recently, the Eagles won the Aloha, Music City (over No. 16 Georgia), Motor City, San Francisco and Continental Tire (over future ACC foe North Carolina) bowls, while scoring just under 35 points a game.
The BC men's basketball program is 115-44 over the past five years.
That's right. It started with a 27-5 run in 2000-01. Coach Al Skinner went 32-56 during his first three seasons, after taking over a program in shambles when the Jim O'Brien mess (a battle with the school's admissions director) blew things to shreds.
The Eagles since have finished 27-5, 20-12, 19-12, 24-11 and 25-5, and they made the postseason (four NCAA visits in the last five years, plus the NIT in 2002-03) each year. As with football, that is the winningest five-year run in school history.
The Eagles, who won their first 20 games last year (the first Big East team ever to do that) before slumping through a 5-5 finish, set another school record by rising as high as No. 3 in the country. They will enter their first basketball season in the ACC hit hard by offseason losses and potential losses (see accompanying article), but they still have forwards Craig Smith and Jared Dudley, two of the best players in their new league, plus a coach who knows how to win.
Not all BC athletes gamble on the games they're playing in or get arrested in and around campus.
OK, so there was a basketball gambling scandal. (Remember Rick Kuhn?) But that was over a quarter-century ago. There was a football gambling scandal, too, but that was 10 years ago. Even in the Big East, the taunts of gambling stopped before the Eagles left, ultimately giving way to the ACC-related taunts of the final season.
The last gambling problem, back in 1995, led to the undoing of football coach Dan Henning (still working and respected in the NFL but not cut out for the college game and dealing with kids) and athletic director Chet Gladchuk (now at Navy). Enter DeFilippo and O'Brien, a military type who returned discipline and then turned the grid program around.
As far as arrests, the Eagles have suffered a couple in basketball since the end of last season. There was, of course, the infamous Mary Ann's episode of a few years back, and other players getting into trouble since. But, heck, this stuff goes on everywhere. Kids tend to be kids, right? That's what the FSU fans have been saying, anyway.
6. People in the Big East didn't like BC.
That verse has been repeated often over the last few years, but most of it popped up while the ACC mess was going on. Sure, there were people in the Big East who didn't like the charter-member Eagles and saw BC as an elitist institution. But that had to be OK with the Eagles, who often did play by different rules than the other members of the league.
When former BC basketball star Scoonie Penn (who later wound up at Ohio State with O'Brien) was having academic woes one year, he was NCAA-eligible but BC-ineligible. (Again, think Virginia.) Yes, the Eagles play by different (they would argue noble) rules sometimes, and that definitely can rub people the wrong way.
When the school was left behind in the original ACC expansion plan, BC was faced with the possibility of staying in a league that would be adding schools with whom it has little in common. (See Louisville and Cincinnati, the ivory tower equivalent of pond scum.) While the ACC certainly has its win-at-all-cost programs, there also are at least five institutions - Georgia Tech, North Carolina, Duke, Virginia and Wake Forest - with whom BC feels very comfortable from an academic standpoint.
Sure, some didn't like the Eagles while they called the Big East home. And the schools left behind - all of whom would have departed if they'd had the chance - hated them for the way they left. Some charged that BC officials misled their old pals while looking at the future, even though BC's eyes still were clearly on the ACC. The spurned league didn't treat its last departing member very well during the lame-duck year, even though some of the Eagles' claims may have resulted from predictable paranoia.
It wasn't pleasant, but times change. Feelings change. Anger subsides. BC will play Big East schools again in the future, and most of this will be forgotten. Eventually.
BC football players tend to be better in the pros than in college.
Because of the aforementioned academic standards, BC does not accept junior college transfers. (There are exceptions but they're very rare, such as 22-year-old Mormon missionary Paul Peterson, a quarterback who sent a tape to the school and wound up being the team's MVP last season.) The Eagles didn't accept Prop 48s or partial qualifiers back when those terms were in vogue, either, and they usually can't even get involved with top recruits who have shaky academic credentials.
Therefore, the best BC players tend to be surprises. They also tend to be a bit smarter than the average recruits, because they usually have to be just to get into school. So, when a quarterback such as Matt Hasselbeck, an average guy on a 4-7 team in O'Brien's first season, goes on to make millions of dollars in the NFL, it doesn't come as much of a shock.
Doug Flutie no longer plays at BC.
He just got his second job with the nearby New England Patriots of the NFL, but Flutie will be connected with his old school forever.
It's been more than two decades since he threw The Pass in the Orange Bowl, but it remains the greatest moment in the modern history of the school's athletic department, and Flutie still is regarded by many in the area as a god-like figure.
Show up at a basketball game - after the NFL season is over, of course - and chances are you'll see Flutie sitting in with the band, on drums. The Eagles have sent quarterbacks to the pros since then (e.g., Glenn Foley, the Hasselbeck brothers), but there's never been anyone quite like Flutie.
The ACC already is paying recruiting dividends for BC.
It's quickly becoming a familiar theme. A recruit agrees to play for Boston College and says, "I wanted to play in the ACC."
Last year, when New Jersey linebacker Brian Toal was deciding between BC and Miami, he wound up following his brother (former fullback Greg) to BC, and he said the ACC was a deciding factor. Offensive lineman Pat Sheil, on his way to Chestnut Hill, came out of Virginia and noted the ACC as a reason he signed with the Eagles.
Again because of the academic standards, the Eagles aren't going to fly into Florida and steal the typical Sunshine State prep star from Miami, Florida State or Florida. But there are always kids down there who want to play against those schools, and for them going to BC now may mean a chance to play against Miami and FSU in the ACC.
The experts said BC didn't unveil a killer football recruiting class this year, breaking a successful run. But O'Brien is a big believer in not knowing what you have until it shows up and performs and thus pushes the wait-and-see attitude for those experts.
Seeing Virginia Tech and Miami again on the football field may not be the best news for Boston College.
When the unranked Eagles upset No. 12 Virginia Tech in the final game of the 2003 regular season, it marked O'Brien's first victory over either of the Big East's then-elite.
In fact, BC hasn't beaten Miami on the football field since that fabled Flutie pass. The Eagles won't get that chance this season, with Miami not on the team's first ACC schedule. But the shot at Virginia Tech apparently will be an annual thing, as the Hokies are travel partners for BC on the gridiron.
Getting back to Miami, some of the losses were blowouts (45-10, 52-6, 38-6, etc.), but a couple under O'Brien were downright painful. In 1997, when BC was playing lots of walk-ons in the coach's first season, the Eagles lost in double overtime. In 2001, when the Hurricanes were ranked No. 1 upon their invasion of Chestnut Hill, the Eagles were on their way to a potential winning score when a strange bounce led to an interception and a TD return.
Basketball is a different story, and both Miami and Virginia Tech will be travel partners for the Eagles on the hardcourt. Skinner has had success against the Hurricanes and the Hokies, although both opponents appear to be on the rise under the leadership of talented new coaches.
There you go - your BC primer. Now y'all can come on up and see a game. Just remember: Don't drive to the football games. You can thank us later.
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