In part III of our series on improving the athletic department, I would like to take a closer look at the field placement around BC. Where athletic fields are placed on campus is sometimes critical to the attendance, and overall success, of an athletic program (see: Villanova's disaster). In BC's case, the 10 year plan is far enough along that it's pretty much too late to change anything at this point, but I would like to take a closer look at the proposed placement of the baseball and soccer fields and suggest a swap in placement.
In the upcoming construction of the 10-year plan, the BC athletic department will be moving the current baseball stadium to the Brighton Campus. As I understand the drawings, the baseball field will be placed at the extreme corner of the Brighton Campus, bordering Lake Street. Baseball is being moved off the main campus to make room for larger and improved buildings on lower, including a new plex and dorms. The current thinking of the university and the athletic department seems to be that students living on the Brighton Campus will be equally as likely to attend the baseball games as the current students in Walsh and Edmonds. Furthermore, if a student is going to travel from upper to Shea for a baseball game, the extra walk down Lake Street is not likely to be an extra deterrent. All of this should theoretically mean that attendance for baseball games will remain about the same.
Of all the teams in the athletic department, I honestly feel that the New England location of BC will permanently cap the success of the baseball team. Most of the best baseball recruits will not want to live in the Northeast, where they cannot practice their sport outdoors for four or five months a year. I understand that the team played in the College World Series four times, and as recently as 1967, which gives it one of the best winning traditions of the major sports on campus, but I really doubt that returning to that level of success will be possible in an era where southern schools have so thoroughly dominated the sport. Since Minnesota took the title in 1964, Oregon State is the only other "northern school" to take the title, winning it all in 2006 and 2007. Although the same argument could be made regarding football, the relative unpopularity of baseball on campus (Clemson had, conservatively, five times the number of fans we did last year at Shea) compounds this problem.
Meanwhile, the men's and women's soccer teams have been enjoying a fairly prolonged period of success. The men's team won the ACC in 2007, and last year the women's team advanced to the final four in the national tournament. Both teams are under appreciated, and currently reside in the far corner of the Newton campus, meaning that aside from die-hard soccer fans, only one-half of one-fourth of the student body can easily access the teams. Nothing breeds good attendance like winning (ask Al Skinner...), and so I wonder if the BC athletic department ever considered putting the new baseball facility on Newton while calling the soccer teams up to the big leagues on the Brighton Campus.
This will likely result in an even more difficult recruiting environment for the baseball team, but is it worth giving up on baseball if it means giving soccer a chance to draw real numbers at BC? If the soccer teams continue their success, there is no doubt in my mind that they will draw more fans on the Brighton campus than the baseball team would.
What do you guys think?