The apocalyptic howls lingered well after Thursday night’s ghastly outcome. Another loss morphed into another referendum on the program, more darts and arrows aimed at Jeff Hafley, who went from the recent author of a five-game win streak to a candidate for the unemployment line, at least to a chunk of irritated Boston College fans.
The surface level of Pitt 24, BC 16 was enough to drive BC loyalists to the Pepto Bismol. A defense that allowed more than 400 total yards (after 600 five days earlier to Virginia Tech) to a two-win Pitt team on its fourth quarterback of the season. An offense whose quarterback has an accuracy disorder that’s not improving. And the reflexive backlash aimed at the coach, designated with the responsibility of acquiring and developing talent.
Yes, it’s true that talent procurement and enhancement is on Hafley. But he’s going to need the help of everybody, right down to the fans reading this. We’re all in this together. Sounds bizarre? Sure. Except that the old rules of college athletics are becoming obsolete, replaced by a new reality: a talent-rich transfer portal fueled by Name-Image-Likeness opportunities.
Certainly, Boston College has some appeal that’s still tethered to academics, location and improving facilities. But BC, as is the case with every other program now, will succeed (or fail) based on how quickly its hierarchy and fans adopt and adjust to the transfer portal and the wind beneath its wings, otherwise known as NIL.
Loosely translated: The deeper funded the NIL initiative, the more appealing the school looks in the portal. This is why it is imperative that BC looks beyond football’s struggles as a Jeff Hafley Production. The path to salvation is the responsibility of all who sport maroon and gold, including all of you reading this.
“This is why a coaching change will not matter,” BC fan David A. Frankel wrote on X. “We need to have a modern strategy for how BC can excel in the new world of college athletics while maintaining our university academic standards and integrity. The head coach and athletic director do not set this strategy. It comes from the Board of Trustees and the president.”
Frankel couldn’t possibly be more correct. Hafley can’t simply dip his toes into the portal. He must do a cannonball into the deep end. To accomplish that, Hafley needs “Friends of the Heights,” BC’s NIL initiative, to become multi-layered and well funded. Anyone reading this is capable of contributing something.
This is why anybody with an affinity for BC sports should visit the Friends of the Heights website (friendsoftheheights.com) to learn more. Memberships begin as low as $25 per month, but they will accept any dollar amount as a one-time donation. Here’s general manager (and BC grad) Tom Devitt:
“There are tax deductible contributions, commercial contributions (asking for teams or players to sponsor your company), many ways to give, and many levels of membership,” Devitt said. “We are grateful to accept all amounts of funding. This is not pay for play. Non-profit rules are very strict. For example, when a student-athlete partners with a charity, they have to do the work first and then earn compensation after that.”
It is noble, of course, to think that BC can recruit and develop enough high school/prep school talent to compete. It can to a point. But we also know BC often gets kids for whom football is part of the day, not a life’s vocation.
Put it this way: Part of me loved hearing the anecdote during the Syracuse game about Vinny DePalma, the middle linebacker, whose goal, per ESPN, is to “read 15 books a year.” Just know that there are opposing coaches who’d rather recruit kids who want to commit 15 felonies per year. I’m not saying that’s who or what BC wants. But if BC is going to recruit well-rounded high school kids, it needs to find a balance in the portal with grown men who are cable ready.
Example: Here are the words of UConn coach Jim Mora, frustrated with his 1-9 program at the moment:
“We’re gonna turn this program around and we’re gonna do it with portal kids,” Mora told reporters earlier this week. “I want to win, and I want to win now. So we’re gonna attack the portal and we’re gonna attack junior college and we’re gonna bring players in here that have done it at a higher level, that can go on the field and produce.”
BC must adopt a similar outlook. But do members of the university hierarchy understand that? Are mechanisms in place to allow that to happen? Are there enough fans and alumni who grasp the concepts of the portal and NIL and are willing to contribute?
Because let me suggest that if you are tired of nights like Thursday, but you aren’t giving to “Friends of the Heights,” then cue the line from Billy Joel: “Go and cry in your coffee, but don’t come bitchin’ to me.”
Mike DiMauro, a columnist in Connecticut, is a contributor to Eagles Daily and a member of BC’s class of 1990. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or @bcgenius