Full disclosure: Boston College man here who was born, bred, lives and writes sports columns in Connecticut. Interesting existence for a guy whose vocation and rooting interest run crossing patterns almost daily.
I’ve always thought UConn and Boston College should play each other in everything. Sports thrive amid rivalries awash in geographic proximity and bad blood. Plenty of that here. BC looks upon UConn as a band of yahoos who act like new money. UConn folks hold BC responsible for blocking their potential path to the Atlantic Coast Conference. It even came with a lawsuit championed by U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, who was the state of Connecticut’s Attorney General at the time.
But after experiencing the cosmic yawn that Saturday’s football game generated at Alumni Stadium, maybe the UConn-BC football thing is a waste of time after all.
This is supposed to be a “rivalry.” It generated zero buzz in Connecticut all week. State media outlets hyperventilated over Big East Media Day, which was last week in New York City, giving a good 80 percent of UConn media coverage to basketball. Rick Pitino’s name appeared in state newspapers nearly as often as Jim Mora’s. The football game was a postscript.
Some of that is understandable, given UConn basketball’s size 19 EEE footprint. The men are the defending national champions. The women headline the entire sport. The football team was 1-6 at the time. But here is all you need to know about whether UConn football moves the needle in Connecticut: Fans and media choose basketball the week of the “rivalry” football game against the hated school 80 miles north.
BC, meanwhile, drew its second-smallest home crowd of the season to Alumni Stadium, a shade under 37,000. Consider that the Eagles drew in excess of 40,000 for Holy Cross. Even some BC students, whose overall support for football and hockey have been exceptional this fall, left the football game at halftime. It hadn’t happened all season.
I’m not even sure BC coach Jeff Hafley considers this a “rivalry.”
“We kept UConn in the game. It’s as easy as that,” Hafley said to the media. “We made the game way closer than it should have been. Ultimately, we won the game, which is what we should do when we play UConn. I say that with no disrespect, but when we play them, that’s the expectation.”
Some UConn fans didn’t like that, viewing it as dismissive. And while the sounds of arrogance humbled merit a chuckle, I doubt Hafley would have been as candid if he viewed UConn as a rival. Put it this way: Jim Harbaugh may hate Ohio State, but I doubt he’d ever wave off the program’s bonafides.
And so if the people in Connecticut don’t care, the students leave early and the game is mostly a lose/lose proposition for BC anyway, tell me: What is the point of playing this any longer?
If BC beats UConn, it’s “only UConn.” If BC loses to UConn, the odor lingers. It’s just not worth it. Happily, there are no football games scheduled for the immediate future.
This doesn’t suggest that BC and UConn shouldn’t play in other sports. Example: the two baseball programs carry the flag proudly for the cold northeast in April. They should play in many other sports, too, if for no other reason than it’s good competition and a short bus ride.
But football? I used to think that the schools should play each other at the end of the regular season, the way many rivals do. If they can play for the Apple Cup and the Paul Bunyan Axe in other outposts, they can play for the Big Cast Iron Chowder Pot here in New England. Ah, but alas, nobody in New England really cares.
Currently, BC is 13-1-2 against its “rival” to the south. The Eagles got some revenge for the ignominy of 2022. Call it a great parting gift. Now no more UConn in football. Nobody appears to care.
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 and @bcgenius