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Make or Break

Updated: Aug 20

Eagles Athletics Approach Crucial Season Ahead.

Mike DiMauro

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If you are reading this, there’s a good chance you are passionate about athletics at Boston College. I’ve often wondered how many of us “sickos” there really are. My guess: Not as many as the loyalists would like, but not as few as the infidels think. And so if your blood is typically maroon but with hints of gold, you should know we’re on the doorstep of perhaps the most important year, at least athletically, in BC history. There are several reasons, not the least of which is tied to impatience. It’s time. BC needs to start winning in football and men’s basketball. Period. An alarming duration of mediocrity - and less - has left BC with its lowest athletic approval rating in its history. Alumni Stadium and Conte Forum are rarely full. BC registers barely a whisper to national media and gets less attention locally than ever. It is not acceptable, particularly at an institution where “Ever To Excel” is all but a psalm. Nobody with an affinity for BC wants the school to be a sports factory. That’s not the mission and this isn’t Clemson. But BC needs to be a whole lot better than what we’ve experienced since Gene DeFilippo inexplicably jettisoned Tom O’Brien, Al Skinner and Cathy Inglese. Remember: From 1980-2010, BC produced a Heisman Trophy winner, won the Cotton Bowl (when it was a major New Year’s Day game), was ranked in the top 10 in football three times, won a dozen bowl games, beat Notre Dame nine times (including six straight at one point) won two division titles and played for the ACC football championship twice, made the Sweet 16 six times, the Elite Eight twice and won the Big East Tournament twice. In that span, across the beloved Dustbowl walked, in no particular order, Doug Flutie, John Bagley, Michael Adams, Mike Ruth, Tony Thurman, Dana Barros, Bill Curley, Howard Eisley, Danya Abrams, Troy Bell, Jared Dudley, Craig Smith, Sean Williams, Reggie Jackson, Jerome Robinson, Matt Ryan, Luke Kuechly, Mark Herzlich, Bill Romanowski, Glenn Foley, Mathias Kiwanuka, A.J. Dillon, Matt Milano, Zach Allen and dozens of future NFL offensive linemen. As previously stated: No factory, this. But an athletic program that has produced the aforementioned list - and many others unintentionally omitted - ought to be better than this. Reason No. 2: Maybe BC’s estimable academic mission precludes it from bearing national cachet athletically. But the treacherous game of musical chairs within the avaricious world of conference realignment leaves BC now at its most vulnerable. I’m not sure BC would have a seat at the table if the purveyors of greed who run college sports eventually form some super cartel of 50-ish football/basketball programs that hoard all the money. But I believe there’s hope, centered around an improvement in the facilities and the emergence of some Olympic sports, most notably women’s lacrosse, a recent national champion. The football facilities, new basketball facility and new baseball/softball complex at least make BC competitive - finally - with its ACC brethren. Now the wins must follow to make the overall athletic resume sexier than it is now. Remember the following: 1) Expansion and realignment don’t appear to be done; 2) People are watching; and 3) recency bias is a real thing. So is recent success. BC needs to start moving the metaphorical needle. Reason No. 3: There is exciting news around “Friends of the Heights,” BC’s Name/Image/Likeness initiative. Tom Devitt (BC Class of 94) has been named its full-time director, meaning it is somebody’s job now to keep BC competitive in what has evolved - or devolved - into a cesspool. Devitt, who once coached Wentworth to an NCAA Men’s Basketball Division III Tournament berth and who was on Hartford’s staff when the Hawks went to the dance two years ago, is a good man with an extensive network. He loves his alma mater and is a grand slam hire. Of note: BC fans should be forever grateful to founding donors (Joe Popolo, Brian Tusa, Sam Raia, and Scott Mutryn) for forming “Friends of the Heights,” as well as Tim McLaughlin, who has been the de facto director for the past few months, while handling multiple properties through Blueprint Sports, his employer. “Friends of the Heights” is gaining major momentum, hiring Blueprint, a national company devoted to NIL initiatives, to give it structure. But in the spirit of “everybody loves a winner,” BC needs to start winning to encourage fans and alumni to start giving. Might success in football and men’s basketball lead to a “Flutie Effect” for “Friends of the Heights?” We can quibble with whether we approve of the NIL concept. But it’s not going away. It exists to entice high school kids and prospective transfers and retain existing athletes (as “Friends of the Heights” did with Zay Flowers). It’s refreshing to see this taken seriously. Now all BC must do is start winning. Now.


Mike DiMauro, a columnist in Connecticut, is a contributor to Eagles Daily and BC Class of 1990. He may be reached at @bcgenius

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