Column: Another Kind Of Recruiting In Jeopardy
Published: Thursday, April 19, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
I showed a recently accepted student and fellow Texan around campus last Saturday. After discussing our beautiful campus and academics for a little bit, the conversation then switched to athletics. She talked about how it was going to be an adjustment for her if she came here since, “There isn’t really a football team at Boston College. Instead of that, it’s just hockey, right?”
After chuckling for a second, I informed her that there is, in fact, a football team at BC and that it actually used to be pretty good. It relieved her fears some, but later that day I began to worry. If prospective students choosing between BC and other universities don’t even know that BC has a football program, especially those students coming from below the Mason-Dixon Line, then we have a problem.
I love the hockey program here, but I was skeptical at first, just like most students not from around here would be. I did not think that anything would be able to top my love for football and basketball. By January, though, I had been completely converted into a full-fledged hockey fan—showing up to every game and following the team as closely as I could. It’s an easy thing to get wrapped up in, given the excitement generated throughout the student body, as well as that indefinable touch provided by coach Jerry York.
As great as the hockey program is, national name recognition through athletics, an admitted goal of the athletic department, can only be truly accomplished in football and maybe basketball. A National Championship in hockey registers in the Northeast, but it doesn’t register in the South and it doesn’t register out on the West Coast. Some high-schoolers in those other parts of the country that don’t follow or care about hockey may start paying less attention to BC if things don’t turn around soon. The continued decline of the football program over the past few years has begun to not only hurt the recruiting of high-quality athletes, but more importantly, it’s beginning to hurt the recruiting of high-quality students.
The Matt Ryan heyday of BC football definitely was not the reason I chose to come here, but it was a reason why I visited the campus in the first place. Only for a tiny minority of students will football play a decisive role in their college decision, but it will always be a factor for a good portion, especially those from the South (Just for clarification, I’m not actually from the South. I’m from Texas. There’s a big difference). We don’t want to start losing students to comparable academic institutions like Northwestern, Vanderbilt, or (God forbid) Duke because they have surpassed us in football. If football doesn’t define every day of the week for most southern students like it does in Friday Night Lights, it at least plays an important role in their Fridays and Saturdays. Obviously, a ton of factors work into anyone’s final college decision, but giving up that almost sacred connection to the turf and our tailgates would be an extremely difficult choice to make. I came here believing that I wouldn’t have to give it up. Some prospective students are starting to believe they would, and that’s scary. The same goes not just in the South but on the West Coast as well. Hockey does not dominate the conversation out there the same way that football does.
All of these issues bring up some sobering questions. If more and more students looking for a decent football team to cheer on during their college experience begin to look elsewhere, then whenever this program eventually turns things around will there be any students around to care? Or will the Heights be full of apathetic sports fans unable to get excited about going to Alumni on Saturday afternoons? How many prospective students will we lose because of football, and how many students won’t even hear about BC that would have if we had more nationally televised games like we did five years ago? Honestly, it’s the only reason a kid from Austin like me made the trek up here.
The academics, the campus, the people, and the city of Boston ultimately made me choose BC over my other options last year, but I probably wouldn’t have even had BC on my list if it weren’t for Matt Ryan and Jeff Jagodzinksi. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m worried more people outside of the Northeast won’t have BC on their list either if we keep having losing seasons on the field.