By Chris Boucher
Jan. 28, 2004 Nickname: Eagles
Colors: Maroon and Gold
President: Father William P. Leahy, S.J.
Athletic Director: Gene DeFilippo
Past Conference Affiliations: East Coast Athletic Conference, Big East founding member 1979
The recent media reports on Boston College's ACC membership, coupled with an NCAA-rebuffed petition, might have cost conference commissioner John Swofford a couple of handfuls of hair. To paraphrase Tom Petty, it seems the waiting will be the hardest part of BC's joining the ACC.
When the Big East announced that BC would not be granted an annulment from its marriage to that conference until 2005, Swofford said he expected it. But that announcement - coupled with the NCAA's rejection of the ACC's petition to hold a football championship game in 2004 with only 11 teams - threw a monkey wrench into the already-grinding gears of the conference realignment mechanism. Now there will be no ACC title game in 2004, and BC will be staying under the thumb of Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese for another year.
But when they do get their conference stripes, the Eagles will provide the ACC with another quality institution dedicated to graduating its athletes. Just like Duke, you might say, but with a better football team. Oh, and they'll also be the key that unlocks the sacred cash cow of college athletics: a football conference championship game. Too bad BC won't arrive with Miami and Virginia Tech.
Jesuit, Academic Traditions Alive in Chestnut Hill
Despite what Spinal Tap's manager thinks, Boston is very much a college town. With 16 area universities offering doctoral programs and 20 junior colleges, it's no wonder that Beantown (along with Raleigh-Durham-Chapel Hill) frequently is ranked among the "most educated" cities in the nation.
BC's main campus sits on 116 acres in Chestnut Hill, a six-mile trolley ride from downtown Boston. Founded in 1863, BC is one of the oldest Jesuit Catholic universities in the United States. U.S. News & World Report ranks Boston College 40th in its quality rating of national universities.
In keeping with its roots, BC houses the largest Jesuit community in the world; 105 Jesuit Catholics live on campus. More than half of them are involved in the university's faculty and administration, while others are pursuing degrees. Boston College's mission is to maintain and strengthen the Jesuit Catholic ideal, especially when it comes to intellectual, personal, ethical and religious pursuits.
It is obvious the student-athletes at BC take the "student" part of that title seriously: The university had last year's sixth-best Division I student-athlete graduation rate, and its football team boasts one of the highest graduation rates of any Division I-A program in the country.
Whenever BC joins the ACC (count on 2005), this much is sure: The school will bring with it a tradition of turning out some of the most well-rounded student-athletes in the nation, all the while maintaining its competitive integrity on the fields and courts. What conference doesn't need another school like that?
BC Football: More Than Flutie's Fling
To be honest, it is difficult not to think about Boston College football without thinking about Doug Flutie. While Flutie's Heisman-winning 1984 season - in which he hurled a last-minute Hail Mary TD to Gerard Phelan and sent mighty Miami to defeat - was a defining moment, it isn't the only important event in BC football history. The program even has a national title in its distant past, and there are high hopes for the near future thanks to a very bright coach.
In the 1939-40 season, Boston College was coached by the legendary Frank Leahy, who led the team to an 11-0 season, capped by a 19-13 win over Tennessee in the Sugar Bowl. That year's national championship was split by BC, Stanford and Minnesota. (And you thought two national champs was one too many.) After the season, Leahy left for Notre Dame, where he racked up five more national titles in two stints with the Irish.
Today, Boston College football is surfing its biggest wave of success since Flutie left campus and began his still-continuing pro odyssey. Coach Tom O'Brien, formerly the offensive coordinator under George Welsh at Virginia, has guided the Eagles to five consecutive bowl appearances, a feat unmatched by any other Eagles coach. BC was 8-5 in 2003, a campaign that started with a narrow home loss to Wake Forest and ended with a New Year's Eve rout of Colorado State in the San Francisco Bowl, the program's fourth bowl win in a row. In the four months between those contests, BC also managed victories over Penn State, Notre Dame and Virginia Tech.
In seven seasons, O'Brien has compiled a 48-36 record, and he has had a running back amass at least 1,000 yards in each of the last six years. Last year (and in 2002) it was senior Derrick Knight, who compiled more than 1,700 yards and scored 11 TDs en route to All-Big East honors. Joining Knight on the conference-best team were offensive linemen Augie Hoffman and Chris Snee, defensive linemen Mathias Kiwanuka and Douglas Goodwin, and cornerback Will Blackmon.
Kevin Armstrong, sports editor of The Heights, BC's campus newspaper, thinks the move to the ACC will further BC's reputation as a football up-and-comer.
"Football should be competitive from the start and will be able to challenge most teams, aside from Miami and Florida State, right away," Armstrong said. "Recruiting will be key, as BC will provide an outlet for Northeast kids, especially the high school hotbed of New Jersey, to travel south for exposure and competition while remaining close to home."
If O'Brien is able to parlay ACC membership into recruiting clout in the Northeast, Armstrong's prediction could come true. Since O'Brien took over, the Eagles have had four players selected in the first round of the NFL draft: Damien Woody (New England), Chris Hovan (Minnesota), William Green (Cleveland) and Marc Colombo (Chicago). Other BC gridders on NFL rosters include Flutie (San Diego), Mike Cloud (New England), Matt Hasselbeck (Seattle), Tim Hasselbeck (Washington) and Tom Nalen (Denver).
Take Comfort Pack Fans; BC Hoops History Contains Painful UNC Memory
Ironically, the biggest men's basketball win in Boston College's history also is one of the biggest upsets in the history of one ACC school.
In 1993-94, BC entered the NCAA Tournament as the ninth seed in the East under coach Jim O'Brien, who has since departed for Ohio State. After upending Washington State in the first round, the Eagles took on top-ranked North Carolina. The Tar Heels seemed to have everything going their way that year. They were the defending NCAA champs, and they had added talented freshmen Jeff McInnis, Jerry Stackhouse and Rasheed Wallace to a loaded roster that included Eric Montross, Derrick Phelps and Donald Williams.
With local legend Bill Curley and current NBA player Howard Eisley on the floor, BC shocked No. 1 UNC 75-72. The Eagles then beat Indiana in the Sweet 16 and soared into the Elite Eight before falling to Florida. In ACC country, the 1993-94 UNC team still is regarded (mostly by bitter fans) as one of the most underachieving tournament teams ever.
The 1993-94 season was the zenith for the basketball Eagles on the national horizon, but there have been other high points since then under coach Al Skinner, who has been BC's man on the bench since the start of the 1997 season.
Skinner's greatest accomplishment to date at BC is the 2000-01 campaign, when he won 25 games with a lightly regarded squad that wound up as the Big East champs and lasted into the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Sophomore guard Troy Bell led the team with 20-plus points per game and was named conference co-player of the year.
The Eagles were grounded in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in 2002 and fell off last season, posting a 19-12 mark and bowing out of the NIT against Temple in the first round. Bell, a backcourt constant for four years, graduated last year and is now cashing NBA paychecks and playing in Memphis.
The loss of Bell, coupled with the departure of Ryan Sidney for personal reasons, left a void on the offensive end for BC heading into this season. The backcourt tandem averaged 37.6 points per game last year, and their departures marked 2003-04 as the beginning of a new era in BC hoops.
Some day, this year's BC squad might be dubbed part of the Craig Smith era. As a freshman last year, the 6-7 forward averaged more than 19 points per game and broke Bell's record for freshman scoring. Smith was listed as a preseason Wooden Award candidate in the fall and, even with teams focusing their defensive efforts on him, started his sophomore campaign scoring at an 18-point clip.
Heading into a high-profile matchup with top-10 Pittsburgh on Wednesday, BC's record stood at 13-5 and 2-3 in the Big East. The Eagles' two ACC opponents this season were Clemson, which beat BC 72-62 on Dec. 30, and N.C. State, which fell to the Eagles 66-65 in overtime on Jan. 20. In both games, the home team won.
The move to the ACC should help Skinner further his recruiting clout at a time when he is beginning to get quality players from west of the Mississippi. Bell came to Beantown from Minnesota, Smith is from Los Angeles and freshman Jared Dudley, who recently notched 19 points against Villanova, is a San Diego product. The geography of teams in the ACC could open a lot of recruiting doors for BC.
"Skinner has displayed the ability to recruit nationally, and if he wants to with this move (to the ACC), he can tap into the southern high schools now as another option," said Armstrong.
The Heights sports editor said he also thinks Skinner can target blue-chip players in the Northeast who yearn for ACC competition but would rather stay closer to home to attend college.
"For years, I've watched New York City and other Northeast players, from Stephon Marbury and Kenny Anderson to Ed Cota and Julius Hodge, go down South for the competition and exposure against the best players," Armstrong said. "Now, they can get that competition and exposure and still live and play up in the Northeast."
As for BC's other sports, we likely won't catch a glimpse of its powerful hockey team - unless ACC schools start breaking ground for rinks. That's too bad for the hockey fans in ACC country, because BC is very strong and has taken two national crowns in that sport.
The women's basketball team, off to a 13-4 start this season, should be able to handle ACC competition quite well, considering it has to knuckle up against UConn and Notre Dame every year in the Big East. The Eagles have been to the Big Dance each of the last two seasons, and they were ranked No. 20 in the most recent AP poll.
Armstrong said he is confident in the women's hoopsters but less optimistic about sports that traditionally are played in warmer weather.
"Baseball will be the biggest challenge," he said. "Facing teams that have the better weather situations in the full-year cycle seem to be a challenge for a Northeast team."
Of course, the Eagles' baseball team - and most of their other athletic squads - will have to accept the obstacles inherent to ACC membership. And now everyone will have to wait an extra 12 months to see them take on the challenge.
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