June 29, 2006
CHESTNUT HILL -- Boston College athletic director Gene DeFilippo is excited about a new ACC bowl plan he says will be unveiled at the league's media event in Jacksonville in late July.
DeFilippo didn't reveal specific details of the new setup, which he says has been talked about "since January," after the Eagles were sent packing to Boise, Idaho, to play in the MPC Computers Bowl despite sharing the league's Atlantic Division crown with Florida State. But he did hint that it would be more of a settled structure that would slot ACC teams into specific bowls by virtue of where they finish in the league standings.
"I think (BC) people will be very happy when they see what the new bowl structure is all about," DeFilippo said recently. "It will be more friendly to those teams that are perceived not to travel as well as some of the other teams."
As a team in the Northeast, with fans looking to get out of the cold, BC has dealt with all kinds of travel problems during its school record-setting run of seven straight bowl games. (The Eagles have won the last six.) DeFilippo said his program deals with a "double-edged sword," kind of a what-comes-first, chicken-or-egg thing. In other words, if you keep sending the football team to tough locations, how do you expect large numbers of fans to pack up and make a trip of it?
Boise is a tough sell to anyone, especially during the holiday season.
"They say you don't travel, so they send you to a mid-major type bowl, so you don't travel," DeFilippo said. "But send us to the Gator Bowl or the Peach Bowl, and then see what we do."
He made it clear that this new plan is not aimed solely at a program in the Northeast such as BC. It's targeted at all ACC schools that have bad or mediocre reputations for travel.
"You can't just say it's the Northeast," he said. "They say Miami doesn't travel well, so the same thing can happen to them. This will be more fair for a school whose fans are perceived not to travel quite as well as others. It'll be very interesting."
With BC having just completed its first year in the ACC, the AD said he's thrilled with the way things have gone overall.
Saying he "never felt any pressure" for success in the first year, because a move like this shouldn't be judged for as many as 15-20 years, he acknowledged that he makes his living in Boston. That means a 4-7 season by the football team and an NIT bid for a basketball team that reached the Sweet 16 would have had people screaming that BC should have stayed in the Big East.
"That definitely would have happened on a lot of fronts," DeFilippo said. "From that standpoint, I am certainly glad we came in with a lot of good teams."
As far as judging the move, he said, "You can't judge a move like this in one year or five years or even 10 years. But 20 years down the road, I really believe this will be one of the best moves in Boston College athletics history."
Asked if anything surprised him in the first year in the new league, DeFilippo said, "I was surprised at how quickly we melded in with the ACC teams. They really did welcome us with open arms. The transition was a lot easier than I thought it might be."
He said the passion of the ACC fans was something that brought him back to his SEC days at Kentucky.
"Going to Clemson for football and to Maryland for football, going to some of those places was really like the Southeastern Conference," he said. "In basketball, wherever you go, there was a tremendous, tremendous advantage for the home team."
The Eagles are struggling and expect to struggle in some of the non-revenue sports. They recently lost baseball coach Peter Hughes to conference rival Virginia Tech. (Hughes was replaced by assistant Mikio Aoki.) But the success of both basketball teams and the football team made it a great opening year.
Recently, in an interview with the Boston Globe, DeFilippo said, "We had a heck of a year. I knew that we'd be able to compete in this conference, and I think we've proved to all the naysayers out there that we can and will be competitive in this conference.
"At one time or another, we had nine different sports teams ranked in the Top 25 in the national polls, so that's a terrific, terrific accomplishment, and I want to credit all our coaches and student-athletes."
As far as the other sports, DeFilippo told the Globe, "We are going to struggle in spring sports. Men's and women's golf struggled. Men's baseball and women's softball struggled. Men's soccer, to me, was a one-year thing. We had a lot of injuries. We lost our best player, and we lost our best defender for long periods of time.
"But we know we are disadvantaged with our spring sports. We're disadvantaged by weather. Even though we have the bubble (over the football stadium, creating an indoor facility), it is very, very difficult to compete, particularly early in the spring when those other teams have been outside."
He added that planned facilities, including a new baseball field, "will certainly help us close the gap."
VARIOUS OFFSEASON NEWS, NOTES
Speaking of the football team, rising junior linebacker Brian Toal was one of 11 ACC players named to the 2006 Chuck Bednarik Award watch list for the outstanding defensive player in the nation.
Toal, who missed the last three games of the 2005 season with a shoulder injury and was held out of spring drills, has 130 tackles -- 69 solo, 11.5 for loss -- after two years on the BC defense. Last year, he also made his much-anticipated debut as the team's short-yardage back on offense, scoring a team-high six touchdowns (including a one-yard game-winner in overtime at Clemson) on 23 carries.
Toal, considered as big a signing as the football program has ever had (BC beat out Miami and home-state Rutgers for the New Jersey product), recently was named second-team All-ACC by The Sporting News in its preseason projection.
Forward Evan Neisler, who appeared in just eight games for the basketball team as a freshman, has transferred to Drexel, where he will sit out next season before becoming eligible in 2007-08. Neisler, who unanimously was considered a "reach" for BC by recruiting analysts when he signed, played just 24 minutes for the Eagles last season and wasn't projected to play much more in the near future.
The BC baseball team had four players taken in the recent Major League Baseball draft. Junior lefty Matt Meyer went to Cleveland in the 15th round, senior catcher Shawn McGill was taken by Philadelphia in the 23rd round, junior pitcher/outfielder Ryan Reynoso was tabbed by Atlanta in the 26th round, and junior pitcher Kevin Boggan went to San Francisco in the 43rd round.