Boston College's football team has a problem, and it isn't just that they are 1-5 and 0-3 in conference play. Sure, winning is important (or at least it should be), but there is a bigger problem facing the team and program that must be addressed.
Winning is important, at least it should be for all programs. The same goes for losing, except the other way around (as in, most teams usually don't aim to go 0-12 instead of 12-0, you know?). But sometimes, wins and loses aren't everything.
Take the Boston College football team, for example. Of course head coach Frank Spaziani and the Eagles want to win every game they play, but their talent level and gameplan is holding them back from that.
Yet beyond the winning and losing, Boston College faces a dilemma that could ultimately spell the end of their ACC tenure, their major sports teams and athletics in general. That dilemma? Not to many people care about them.
Time for a story (don't worry, it's short). I was at a bar in Boston on Saturday afternoon (I won't say which because I'm a nice guy) to get some food and watch the Boston College-Clemson game on TV before I had to cover the Bruins' game at TD Garden. I came in and sat down, only to notice that the BC game wasn't on any of their many TVs.
No worries, I though, I'll just ask them to turn it onto the game. When the waitress came over to my table, I politely asked if she would turn the one TV facing me on to the BC game, which was on NESN. Her response? "I'm not sure if that channel is coming in today." It took them about 20 to 25 minutes for them to finally turn on NESN, at which point the Eagles were losing 17-0 early in the second quarter.
There were a couple of problems with this, but I'll only focus on one for the most part. First, of course you get "that channel." It's NESN, and you're a bar in Boston. If you don't, then there's not even really a point in having a bar.
But more importantly, the fact that the game wasn't on a TV in a bar in Boston on gameday is embarrassing, a slap in the face really, for Boston College. You know what was on their TVs instead of the BC-Clemson game? NASCAR and reruns of Friends, with a few out-of-market college football games mixed in.
Think about that. The only college that plays Division I football from Boston, that carries the name 'Boston' right in its name, carried less interest than reruns of Friends and a seemingly endless NASCAR race. What a disgrace.
It only goes to show that most people in the city of Boston - one of the greatest sports cities in the country - just do not care about Boston College football, or BC sports in general. To me, this is very sad, but it's not without blame.
How did this happen? For one, the product on the field is to blame. Boston College is now 1-5 on the season and 0-3 in conference play. They have been outscored 154-117this season, and it's only that close because of their lone win against FCS UMass. Take that out of the equation, and BC has been outscored 137-72. Ouch.
The Eagles' plight this season, and for the past few seasons, can big fixed by the school making a change in the coaching staff and possible atop the athletic department. While some good things have been accomplished by the coaches and athletic director, it just seems like it's time for a change, because this clearly isn't working, is it?
Another problem that Boston College faces is the amount of competition they face athletically in the city of Boston. In the last ten years, Boston's professional sports teams have won seven championships (and if you count BC and BU's hockey titles, 9. And if you count that lacrosse title, 10!). There simply isn't enough pie to go around for everyone, plain and simple. Boston is a pro sports town, and that's not going to change anytime soon.
But the fact that Boston isn't a college town by nature is not one that should make BC give up. There are ways to generate interest in BC's athletic programs, specifically football, that can be made without much struggle.
First, the play on the field just isn't cutting it, obviously. Even I, a huge fan of everything Boston College, struggle to watch these games most of the time. A change in the coaching staff would go a long way towards putting BC on the map.
Next, the school simply needs to schedule more local teams. And no, Maine does not count as a "local" team. For the BC football team, this means playing UMass (which moves to FBS next year) every single season, as well as playing schools with football teams in the states immediately surrounding Massachusetts. If the school schedule schools like UConn, UNH, UVM, Harvard, URI and so on, they would have a better chance of getting people locally to see their product, as many people have ties to these schools.
Of course, with the fact that the school has to play its allotted ACC games, you can't schedule local opponents every time. But really, what good does playing Weber State, Kent State or other teams of that caliber do for you? The Eagles should open their seasons with at least two or three games with local flavor, while still managing to keep a competitive schedule.
Right now, the school is most likely relying on the draw of other ACC opponents (like Florida State) to draw a crowd. The problem is, the Eagles have a very week home schedule this year (in terms of the caliber of opponents) and their one big attraction - Florida State - isn't doing too well. Relying on others to put people in your own seats just isn't cutting it right now.
In basketball, the Eagles are doing a much better job of that. Steve Donahue and the athletic offices have scheduled a very healthy amount of local teams to face this season, including UNH, Holy Cross, Harvard, UMass, Providence and so on. With games like that, it's more likely that the school will grab a bigger share of the attendance due to the local ties. BC hockey does a good job of this as well, mostly because their conference, Hockey East, is full of New England schools.
Any way you look at it, the status quso just isn't working for BC football, and the fix isn't that complicated. Either put a product out there that people want to see or schedule more local opponents. If they opt not to do either, then don't expect fans to keep showing up. It just isn't a good business model.