July 20, 2005
CHESTNUT HILL - June 30 was a party day at Boston College.
"We feel we have secured our future for the next 50 to 60 years, and it really gives us a chance to become a national athletic institution," BC athletic director Gene DeFilippo said at a luncheon hailing the Eagles' entry into the ACC, a move that officially took place at midnight that night. "It's been a long road at times, and at times we didn't think it would ever happen. But, at last, it's come."
ACC commissioner John Swofford and members of his staff attended the luncheon, which took place in the new Yawkey Center. BC's new football facility includes locker and meeting rooms, as well as a soon-to-open Hall of Fame. The building's completion and modern facilities are seen as a key to the school's success in the new league.
"I am absolutely thrilled that we are joining the ACC as the 12th member, making it a conference that truly stretches down the Atlantic seaboard," DeFilippo said. "It's been a bumpy road and a roller-coaster ride, but we are joining the best academic and athletic conference in the nation."
Said Swofford: "This truly is a historic point in the 53-year history of the ACC. It's a marriage that works. It strengthens both of us enormously."
The afternoon gathering was just the start of the fun, as the school wasn't about to let this very important day pass quietly.
That night, BC, which recently entered a marketing partnership with the Boston Red Sox, had a party at Fenway Park, with guests posing for a group picture in front of the Green Monster and the giant message board flashing ACC notes throughout the evening. Fenway, of course, could be the site of the ACC baseball tournament as early as 2007.
"It would be a great opportunity for the players," Swofford said. "Fenway is one of the special venues in all of sports."
The Eagles officially flew into their new world the next day. They will host Florida State on Sept. 17 in their first all-ACC matchup on the gridiron.
"We're lucky," football coach Tom O'Brien said. "We play Florida State first, and they don't change a whole lot, or haven't in the last couple of years. They have to figure us out, too. Football is football. ... It's just a matter of playing personnel."
In other summer news, the Eagles had to re-shoot the cover of their 2005 media guide right around the time they left the Big East for the ACC. Why? All-American defensive end and cover boy Mathias Kiwanuka had lost his familiar dreadlocks as he prepared for his final year at the Heights. Kiwanuka could have left the picture the way it was, but he decided to re-shoot and sport his new short-haired look.
Kiwanuka is projected very high in the first round of next year's NFL draft, and he also is seen as a favorite to set a new ACC record for sacks in a season. Florida State's Peter Boulware holds the record, with 19 in 1996. Kiwanuka led the Big East in sacks in both 2003 and 2004, notching 11.5 in both seasons. He picked up five more as a redshirt freshman, second-best on the 2002 team.
On the advice of O'Brien and with all signs pointing to him not going in the first round of the 2005 NFL draft, Kiwanuka has used the offseason to get bigger and stronger. Most preseason prognosticators have tabbed him as one of the best players in the country entering this, his fifth season at Boston College.
Elsewhere, DeFilippo continued to downplay any geographic problems caused by BC leaving the Big East for the ACC.
"People are always concerned about travel and we are, too," DeFilippo told EagleAction.com, "but had we remained in the Big East we would have had a lot of travel as well. Whether we stayed or whether we left, the Big East has changed forever.
"South Florida, Louisville, Cincinnati, Marquette and DePaul had entered the league. Now, when you add a trip to Notre Dame with your Olympic sports, and then you go to South Florida, Louisville, Cincinnati, Marquette and DePaul, you've got six trips that are not very easy to make."
At the ACC welcome luncheon, DeFilippo said, "There will be more travel by airplane than there ever has been." BC reached Providence and UConn by bus and often did the same to New York and New Jersey. There will be none of that in the new league.
On the basketball side, Craig Smith was one of 13 players - he and Duke's Shelden Williams were the only choices from the ACC - invited to the July 28-Aug. 4 World University Games trials in Colorado Springs.
Smith could be joined there by teammate Jared Dudley, if Dudley fails in his July 21-23 bid to land a spot on the 2005 USA Basketball U21 World Championship Team. Dudley is charged up about the move to the ACC.
"It's definitely going to be a dream come true," Dudley said. "I remember when I was growing up (in southern California), I wanted to go to North Carolina. I have family down there, and I'm a big Michael Jordan fan. To go back now and really be against them is going to be a dream come true."
While Dudley loved UNC, he couldn't say the same about Duke, which will visit BC on Feb. 1. The Eagles are at Carolina this season, on Jan. 25.
"I never liked Duke growing up," Dudley said. "So to be able to play them and hopefully beat them ... all those times when I wanted other teams to beat them, now it's in my hands."
Akida McLain, arrested in his native Penn Hill, Pa., for passing two counterfeit $20 bills, pled guilty to two counts of disorderly conduct and is expected to be with the Eagles during the upcoming season.
Used sparingly as a freshman, McLain may even be in the starting lineup for 2005-06. He had been penciled in as the team's sixth man, but the loss of center Sean Williams (suspended from school for at least the fall semester after being arrested for marijuana and alcohol possession on campus) means McLain is at least as likely to take the team's fifth starting spot as anyone else on the roster.