Kristen Morse / Gavel Media

Boston College Belongs in the ACC

Just over 2,000 people in Conte Forum rose to their feet and applauded on Nov. 10, as Boston College men's basketball dribbled out the clock for a win, something that hadn’t happened since December of 2015. The few fans spread amongst the nearly 6,000 empty seats were elated, more than an ACC crowd should be when beating the University of Maryland Eastern Shore. This was because the Eagles lost their season opener on a Friday night just days earlier to Nicholls State, a team that went 11-23 in the small Southland Conference the season before. That same Friday night, the BC football team was playing a nationally televised game in Tallahassee against Florida State. The Eagles came out on the big stage with high hopes, but proceeded to lose 45-7 to the 'Noles. The two games resulted in what may have been the single most embarrassing night in the history of BC athletics.

 

Needless to say, after a well-documented winless year in the ACC, this night drew even more attention toward BC’s struggles. The difference between these loses and the litany of others was that this time there was a call for action. The News & Observer, a North Carolina based paper in the Research Triangle area, published a piece titled ACC needs to do something about Boston College. Author Luke DeCock laments BC’s tenure in the ACC, citing its single conference championship in any sport, its revenue sport losing streaks, and its huge losses on big stages. DeCock does recognize that BC baseball has vastly improved with its tournament run last year, but he remains steadfast that the only benefit of the Eagles remaining in the conference is easy wins and providing academic counterbalance to less studious new entrants such as Louisville.

DeCock insists that for the past ten years, BC has been “completely overwhelmed” in revenue sports, and either needs to be removed from the conference by its peers, or placed under strict requirements that, if not met, would lead to removal.

While some of the narrative regarding Boston College’s struggles in this piece are true, they do not paint the entire picture, and many details regarding BC’s performance and its relative place within the conference are left out.

Since the article was published, Boston College football has won two consecutive games to improve its record to .500. The most recent win was a close road victory against Wake Forest, the Eagles’ second road win of the season. Ironically, the first win was against NC State, a team that plays in the market covered by The News & Observer.

The win against Wake Forest made the Eagles bowl eligible, giving them the opportunity to compete in the Quick Lane Bowl. But that achievement doesn't make the season as a huge success; with the schedule that Brad Bates and Steve Adazzio cooked up, any less than 6-6 would have been complete disaster. However, if DeCock and The News & Observer think that BC needs to be removed from the conference, they might want to look take a closer look at the other teams in the league.

The Eagles finished the football season 2-6 in the ACC and 6-6 overall. Their record leaves them tied with Syracuse, and ahead of Duke and UVA, who both finished 1-7 in the conference. If DeCock is really looking for a program that's dragging down ACC football, he should focus on what’s happening in Charlottesville.

UVA finished the season at a miserable 2-10, including a 13-10 loss to a terrible UConn team that BC beat 30-0. But that wasn’t the Cavaliers’ only non-Power Five loss. They dropped their season opener to Richmond, at home.

Now everyone has down years, and BC of all schools knows that. Except that isn’t what’s happening at UVA. The Cavaliers have had losing seasons eight out of the past 10 years—including another 2-10 year in which they went winless in the ACC.

In that same 10-year time frame, BC has had just three losing seasons, two conference championship appearances, a Heisman finalist, and trips to six bowl games. The Eagles might be in a stretch of a down season or two, but UVA has had a down decade. Boston College’s transition to the ACC has largely been a success on the gridiron, and it would be sensationalist and near-sighted to think otherwise.

Boston College has struggled in the ACC, without question. Entering the best basketball conference in the nation has not been easy for the Eagles, but again, they are not the alone. Last year, Virginia Tech broke a three-year streak of dwelling in the basement of the ACC basketball standings.

Basketball is always going to be tough for the Eagles when there isn’t a great deal of local talent to recruit in the area, but Jim Christian is doing things that may be unnoticed at a glance. In the first year of having what is truly his team Christian’s recruiting is creative and deserving of optimism. He found a steal in Jerome Robinson (one of the top scorers in the league) from North Carolina, signed Ty Graves away from other offers including UVA, and has shown the ability to find talent overseas in both Nik Popovic and Ervin Meznieks. On top of the creativity, Christian landed AJ Turner last year, the first Rivals150 recruit to commit to BC since 2007.

BC basketball may struggle in a league that could potentially have 12 NCAA tournament teams, but there is reason for hope that it returns to the Big East Champion program that joined this league. After all, if the conference can wait for the Hokies to come in last for three years in a row, calling for a removal of BC after one seems unfair.

Boston College is also strong in the non-revenue sports the ACC traditionally values. BC women’s lacrosse is a perennial powerhouse, making NCAA tournament appearances five of the last six years. Men’s soccer has eight NCAA tournament appearance in the past 12 years. The only non-revenue sport The News & Observer article mentions is baseball, but they diminish the job Coach Mike Gambino has done building the program by insulting the field they play on—the same field that the university just announced it plans to replace as part of a $200 million plan to revamp athletic facilities.

BC non-revenue sports, and the university's commitment to improving them, is not only competitive within the conference but within the nation. BC is far more than an academic “counterweight” to schools like Louisville and Florida State who struggle in the classroom. BC athletics are routinely ranked among the top FBS schools for student-athlete Graduation Success Rate. Their score of 95 ranked behind only Notre Dame, Stanford, Northwestern, and Duke.

Clearly, Boston College belongs in the ACC. With signs of optimism in basketball and a rich history in football, it would be short-sighted to try to remove a university from its conference based on 18 months of football and basketball, while ignoring tremendous success in numerous other sports. Superfans should get comfortable, because BC will remain in the ACC for a long time.

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Carter Montgomery