Thursday, February 24, 2011

This Grinds My Gears

Just one administrative matter before I begin a rant about last night's epic meltdown:

HAPPY BIRTHDAY ALEX!!!! Great writer, excellent friend, and outstanding former room-mate.

Okay, now let's talk about last night's debacle. Make the jump if you want but be warned that I am not in a particularly optimistic mood this morning.

Have you ever seen an NCAA program with as many big-time let-downs as BC? How many times in big situations do the Eagles (in football and basketball) come out flat, uninspired, and seemingly apathetic to the matter at hand? If you start to think about it, almost every heartbreaking moment in BC sports is the result of the team coming out flat and finally waking up in the second half, too late to do anything about the scoreboard. Similarly, almost every great moment in BC sports results from the team sleepwalking  through the majority of the game, only to wake up in the final moments to play for a spirited finish (ahem, Va. Tech).

Maybe this is just a by-product of great sports moments in general, in that we generally get most excited about come-from-behind victories because they are so, well, unexpected. It just seems to me that BC comes out flat more often than any other major sports team I follow (and I follow the Cowboys so that does say something).

It's honestly amazing how this trend affects both the basketball and football programs. I used to think that it was a product of BC hiring uninspiring coaches who failed to properly whip up the troops with a rousing pregame speech, but I would think that Donahue would be the perfect man to change that. Could it be a by-product of lukewarm fan support? I know I would have felt let-down last night running out of the tunnel as a BC basketball player only to see a smattering of fans lining the first row of the student section.

And please. Let's not start the classic "Does success breed fanatical fandom or does fanatical fandom breed success" argument right now. It's a dumb argument because they both feed on each other and at the end of the day BC sports have had enough success across the board that we should have more consistent fans than what we have right now.

I don't get it. I don't understand it. But this is what it is to be a BC fan at this point. Is this really what it felt like to be a Sox fan (or worse Cubs fan) for 80-something years? Have we really come to the point where we should start making dark jokes about never seeing an ACC Championship in either football or basketball?

In fact, since I've come on campus five years ago, BC sports have almost created too many heartbreaking moments to count. Never fear though, because we will have a series on the top 20 heartbreaking moments in BC sports (of the past five years) this summer. Summer is going to be a relatively slow time for us (no football, basketball, baseball, or hockey to write about) so my fellow writers and I are looking to fill in some of the gaps with BC related series, similar to how ESPN runs the 30 for 30 series on slow news days. We really want reader input on this so please let us know what you think of the following list and shout out any suggestions you have:

Top 20 Heartbreaking Moments in the Past Five Years
Football Recruits Profiled and Ranked
Basketball Recruits Profiled and Ranked
Top 15 Ways to Improve the Athletic Department

Have a great day.


  1. How about a "where are they now?" for BC athletes. It's easy to lose track of guys like Craig Smith.

  2. What do you say to this - "Top 10 ways to improve fan support"?

    And give me a break. BC's sports history cannot be compared to the Chicago Cubs. "Top disappointing moments" - maybe. But we cannot complain about "heartbreak moments" in the same way Cubs fans can, Cleveland fans do, or Sox fans did (pre-2004). Aside from hockey our big time sports history really only dates back to the Flutie years, and we've had some great moments in the 30 meager years or so since then.

  3. A33Jim and Max:

    Love both ideas and we'll try to work them in this summer. There's definitely plenty of time. I would submit that BC sports in general produce more heartbreaking moments than the Cubs. Maybe out total level of futility hasn't reached the level of Chicago yet (hey we won in 1940!) but overall the nature of NCAA football is that each game has the potential to break an entire season. Chicago really hasn't produced that many teams in the past five years or so that really had heartbreaking moments. I just think it's more difficult in baseball where there are 162 games in a season instead of 12.

  4. This is not a series suggestion, but as a huge basketball fan who would love to see a prime time NCAA hoops team in town.. is it ever posssible?
    Just seems that due to academic standards and school size BC can't get over the hump and get to the next level. I'm starting to think they're always going to be the bubble team I've seen my whole life. I don't want to be negative b/c I'd be thrilled to see it happen but is there anyone out there that can paint a picture of that happening? Blogger or Follower. Thanks

  5. Boston, I think your concerns are pretty warranted. It would be pretty tough to have a consistently great team on the Heights a la Duke or UNC. However, I think BC certainly can put together a string of great seasons near the top of the rankings. Schools like Stanford, Vanderbilt, and Gonzaga have all had prolonged periods of basketball excellence at one point or another, and if they can do it, so can BC. Not to mention the fact that the nature of the NCAA Tournament allows for a crazy run like Butler went on last year.

    Obviously, it's a tough task, and requires a complex mix of recruiting, coaching, development, and a whole lot of luck, but if the right coach and the right players are playing in the right system, a school can have a great team regardless of academic standards or size.

  6. Not to argue but.... recruiting, coaching, development, and luck are very generic. What will make me believe Donahue or De Philipo (pardon the spelling) I'm not wired in like you guys but what has Donahue done since his admittedly recent arrival? and is someone going to take a branding iron to DePhilipo so he takes it off cruise control which is extremely frustrating. I know you can't tell the future but is anyone seeing a glimmer of hope?

  7. In my previous comment I wasn't referring specifically to Donahue or GDF, just to the fact that it is in fact possible to build championship-caliber teams (or close to it) in academic, smaller schools.

    As far as Donahue goes, you're right to point out he's done nothing to really encourage BC basketball fans long term. On the other hand, he's dealing almost entirely with Al Skinner recruits. Only in two years, once Jackson, Paris, et al. have moved on, will we be able to start to evaluate Donahue's ability to coach well at the ACC level. Nonetheless, he did bring a Cornell team to the Sweet 16 last year, so he obviously has experience making the most out of teams with only so-so talent. I'm sure that's one of the reasons GDF brought him in.

    As far as Gene himself goes, he's way too entrenched to ever change his ways at this point. It's actually more evident in football than basketball - look at how poorly he handled the offensive coordinator replacement search (and, for that matter, the firing of Jags). I think a lot of people would like to see some fresh blood in the AD's chair, but unless BC undergoes a major scandal of some sort I'm guessing he's got the job for as long as he wants it.

  8. Not be nitpicky but Skinner's 04-05 and 05-06 teams werent really bubble teams. They were very good top 20 teams with a ton of talent. 3 of the guys on the 05-06 team are either now in the NBA or were playing in the NBA but cut due to stupidity (Williams) and another 3 are playing professionally in other countries (Marshall, Hinnant and Rice). The 05-06 team truly was great and probably was one of the best 10-15 teams in the country that year.

    Unfortunately after that season Al started to lose his talented assistants - Coen to Northeastern and Cooley to Fairfield at about the same time he decided that pickup was more important than his job.

  9. To add on to what Mike C. said; I also think that the 06-07 team was probably top 15 at full strength. As it was, that team nearly made the Sweet 16, putting up a great fight against 2-seed G-town before falling.

  10. I'd like to say first that I really appreciate the question. It is very fair to ask what about BC as an athletic and academic institution right now leads you to believe they may have future success beyond the bubble. After all, the questioner rightly states that (minus 2 or so years under skinner) the team has been little more than a bubble team for the last 20 - 30 years.

    I think the answer to the question lies as much in the realm of BC as an academic institution as it does an athletic institution. The questioner suggests that BC has very serious recruiting limitations due largely to tough academic standards as well as limitations due to school size and (i'd hasten to add) athletic budget and support. Ultimately these things have not changed much in the last few decades. BC does not have the best fan support nor the money or freedom in recruiting many other schools do. That said, it has managed to be at least a fairly solid bubble team throughout the last 20 or so years. None of this has changed.

    The point I would like to direct attention to is the development of BC as a national university. It wasn't long ago BC was a commuter school. Now BC is one of the best schools in the country. While it still faces the aforementioned limitations to athletic growth, the school can now offer its excellent academic reputation and national prominence as a university to bring in talented players and coaches. BC is one of the hottest schools in the country and its reputation is growing as much now as ever. Perhaps adding this to the formula that has achieved them moderate but impressive success up to this point, can move them past the bubble. I think the key to this line of thinking is the understanding that there is some lag time between a school's development in the rankings and the rate at which the athletics can keep up. Just my two cents.

  11. I agree with both mike's that there have been some very good BC teams over the years I would add the Craig Smith era and way back to the Bill Curley teams were very fun to watch. Now, maybe there's a problem with my idea of a bubble team, I look at it as a team that's always kind of floating in and out of success riding a periodic good player but never being considered a big time basketball program. Any of the southern ACC teams are not fair comparisons for obvious reasons but why can't BC be equal to a Georgetown it's a Catholic private school in a pro sports town? I think it can be done but what scares me is Nick is right Donahue was brought in b/c he has success with teams with so-so abilty. Doesn't sound like someone gunning for prime time? You guys should start blogging and putting some pressure on GDF if more people got on the bandwagon maybe he'd at least be a little uncomfortable. Keep up the great work guys!

  12. TheGuru, while I try to stay optimistic about BC's long-term chances, I just really don't think there's a very good chance we can achieve success as a "big time basketball" program, if only for one reason: history. It's a circular argument that isn't logical, but Georgetown is considered "big time" because it's had past success. And because it's had past success, it will attract more players leading to future success.

    I think a more plausible scenario is something akin to Gonzaga. They are now known nationally as a team to be reckoned with most years even though they are small and in eastern Washington, not exactly the most happening place. They targeted specific types of players, specific types of coaches, and were able to achieve decent success. While they aren't "big time" like Georgetown, they are now nationally known and have been at least solid for a while. Of course, they're in the WCC so face lesser competition than BC. Overall point is Georgetown is out of reach most likely, but Gonzaga is definitely possible as an ideal scenario.

    As far as GDF goes, he's sustained plenty of criticism from sources way more influential than us and nothing has happened, so I think we're out of luck there.

  13. Alex - Point taken. BC's rise in reputation has been a source of income and prestige, and that has lead to added incentives for good players, coaches, and administrators to make the move to Chestnut Hill. That being said, I don't necessarily agree with the limitations you say that puts on BC athletics. ND, Duke, Georgetown and others seem to have fine programs.
    Again, a lot of that is sport specific. Right now it is tough to be a top-10 or even top-20 contender in football unless you're a state school with a 50,000 enrollment. I see no reason, however, why BC couldn't build a strong basketball team which competes strongly and makes the tournament regularly. Reading this thread, I think I'm not alone in thinking along those lines.
    Of course this is all relative to the popularity of hockey. If hockey were a bigger sport nationwide, then BC wouldn't be asking questions about building a good athletic program. Hockey would be to BC what b-ball is to Duke right now. Alas...


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