Opinion: Boston College Is Boston’s College

The Boston Globe’s Dan Shaughnessy wrote a column last year that really irked me.

I remember sitting down at a high top in Mac and pulling up his rant on the Globe’s website. Boston College was firing former head coach Frank Spaziani, and, according to Shaughnessy, no one in the city of Boston cared that it was happening.

I thought to myself: Is BC really that irrelevant to the Hub? Matt Ryan led the Eagles to national prominence a little over five years ago, basketball upsets national powerhouses seasonally, and Olympic sports have combined for a total of 11 NCAA titles.

BC hockey consistently adds to the university's championship tradition. Photo courtesy of Gavel Media.

BC hockey consistently adds to the university's championship tradition. Photo courtesy of Gavel Media

How could the city’s sole Division I school, a member of one of the country’s most competitive conferences, be so overlooked at a time of important positional change?

The Texas job will likely open up at the end of the 2013 season, and all of Tuscaloosa tremors at the rumor of Nick Saban packing his bags and hitting the ole’ dusty trail for Mack Brown’s job.

After a 2-10 season, Spaziani’s exit was the right move and a change was needed. The Boston media didn’t blow off coverage of the situation.

That being said, it’s crazy how different things are in other parts of the country. If we were in Columbus or Tuscaloosa, the departure would be headline news for a week. The local media would have swarmed on premonitions or gossip in the months leading up to the eventual firing, collecting rumors like sorority girls on a quad.

But this is Boston, and what Shaughnessy drove home in his column last November was that Bostonians really don’t care.

I guess his column irked me most because he was right, at least to an extent.

I don’t think his rhetoric portrayed BC in an appropriate light, but he went on to compare BC to “a scrawny birch tree toppling in a forest of mighty oaks.”

The more I thought about, the more I realized that, at least to citygoers and townies, BC sports are of little importance when compared to the city’s “big four.”

When BC announced Spaziani’s firing, it was a feint murmur to Bostonians. The Patriots were 9-2 and 1st in the AFC East at the time, the Celtics were launching into mid-season form, and John Farrell was recently named the manager of the Red Sox.

You can’t blame a city’s beloved professional sports teams for detracting from the news of a tanking football program’s coach getting canned. You  can’t blame BC for being situated in a city entangled in a pro sports love affair, either. It helps when your program is the core of your city’s sports scene (see: Tuscaloosa, Al., Columbus, Oh. and State College, Pa.).

I remember scrolling down the article, half-enraged at Shaughnessy’s parsing of BC’s inadequacies, half-confused that BC was brought to his attention in the first place.

Then, he likened BC football to the New England Revolution. He lost me after that.

“Being the coach at BC is like being the coach of the Revolution,” he wrote. “You are followed by a niche of diehard fans, but ignored by mainstream fans and media.”

Some people reject BC football, but that doesn’t mean BC doesn’t have a mainstream following. Although they may not be from the city itself, BC’s alumni network and a host of people in the Greater Boston area flock to Alumni Stadium on fall Saturdays. Consistency in attendance is a mark of a program’s long-term stability, and BC has that thanks to years of tradition and success on the D-I level.

Superfans packing the student section in BC football's 48-27 rout of Army. Photo courtesy of Gavel Media.

Superfans packed the student section during BC football's 48-27 rout of Army. Photo courtesy of Gavel Media

As the seasons change, the population of Boston fluctuates by about 250,000 people, and they are all college students. This city is a magnet in higher education, and BC is the only Division I school in the area that can boast a similar background. If there’s one college you go to for competitive, Division I athletics in the area, it’s BC.

As we sit a day away from a potential Red Sox World Series clinch, it’s hard to fathom that anything coming from the BC sports world could possibly overshadow what happens at Fenway in the next few days. But BC’s audience still has an impact. The thousands of alumni and fans that support BC in the Greater Boston area are only a small portion of the reach that this university’s athletics program has—from New Jersey to California, you’ll always run into an avid BC alum. The attraction of a D-I program doesn’t fade, even if the city overlooks you.

If there was a spectrum of attention to sports teams in Boston, BC would fit at the lower end, but no other university would come close.

BC may be “a scrawny birch tree toppling in a forest of mighty oaks,” but find a college sports program in this town that isn’t shrubbery when compared to Boston professional sports. You’d be hard-pressed.

Follow @BCGavelSports on Twitter for the latest updates on Boston College athletics.

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