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COLUMN: Fans Heard At Bates’ Town Hall

Asst. Sports Editor

Published: Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Updated: Wednesday, January 23, 2013 22:01

 

It’s no secret that Boston College football has been going through a huge transition period. What started with the firing of Frank Spaziani and hiring of Steve Addazio has followed a careful process of growth, as most of the coaching staff has been overturned.

It’s been a big first year for athletic director Brad Bates. Through so many changes, it would be easy for the BC faithful to feel like the football program that was once so familiar is rolling along without them. Aware of this, Bates chose to reach out to season ticket holders and get their feedback at a Town Hall on Jan. 16. 

Game day experience was the main objective, and after Bates introduced a few initial questions (what BC is doing well, what it can do better, and what it can do to engage people), the fans in the room came up with some valid concerns about the experience for fans, students, athletes, and prospects alike. 

Responses varied from parking and traffic (one alumnus recommended that lots open earlier for night games to avoid work day and weekend traffic), to improving the scoreboards, promoting a more interactive fan environment with big pictures and replays. 

Another qualm was student involvement on game day. Yes, we have the band, the cheerleaders, and the pom-squad, but what about the rest of the student body?

“Students: that’s what distinguishes college from professional sports,” Bates said. “They make the atmosphere.” 

Alumni also said the improvements would help with future recruiting efforts. A game with out-of-date scoreboards and a docile student section, especially by the second half, doesn’t compare with the experience, both for fan and player, in stadiums with massive mega-trons that highlight every play, sold out crowds, and section after section of roaring students.

Empty seats keep BC from being a truly competitive, high caliber ACC program. Few things inspire more of a home field advantage than a crowd wearing the school colors, doing everything to make its noise a factor in the game. Alumni Stadium fails to produce this effect. Hundreds of open seats leave gaps, and the student section filters out at halftime.

This is not something that is easy for the athletic department to fix. It can open the parking lots and spend as much as it wants on jumbo screens for either end of the field, but ticket sales will take time. The simple solution, far easier said than done, is to win. Steps have been made with the move to Addazio, and if BC has any luck he will be a strong recruiter, but BC enters a conundrum here: The same things that attract fans—big screens, excited students, and a truly entertaining game—also attract prospects to other universities that do game day better than BC. 

These improvements will come down to the long and arduous process of time, but right now, ticket holders had a lot of good things to say about the game day experience as well. Fans have embraced the Eagle Walk, the honoring of past BC greats after the first quarter, and the family-friendly atmosphere at Alumni Stadium as elements that deserve to be preserved and expanded in the future.

Other attendees took lighter approaches, commending the food and the work of employees in concessions and ticket stands, but the most common sentiment was of thankfulness to Bates. Several people took the opportunity to thank him for holding such an open meeting and asking their opinion.

It’s steps like these that will ease the rebuilding of the BC football program. As long as there is still a faithful fan base that supports the program, further leaps can be taken using its feedback that will allow the athletic department to move forward and revamp the program. 

Bates left attendees with these encouraging words: “This thing is, as they say in the south, fixing to take off. There is enormous history and tradition here, and the trajectory is nothing but upward.”

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