Column: Why Losing Is OK In Hoops, But Not Football
Published: Sunday, November 6, 2011
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 19:01
Finally, after eight months of anticipation, Boston College has unveiled its men's basketball team. The Eagles, featuring 12 new faces on their 16-man roster, squeaked by Division II American International, 70-66, in a mistake-filled game Saturday in Conte Forum. They committed 21 turnovers, nearly allowing a decent team from a lower division to pull off the upset on their home court.
This is clearly a rebuilding year.
And that's OK. Steve Donahue is taking the program in an entirely different direction from Al Skinner. The only player on the team who was there when Donahue took over a year-and-a-half ago is Peter Rehnquist. With so much roster turnover, growing pains are inevitable.
It's clear, though, that Donahue is building toward something. Nine of the 11 players in his rotation are freshmen or sophomores. His first full class is loaded with potential. For the first time in years, BC will have a legit 7-footer in the post in Dennis Clifford. The combination of his skill for his size and his high basketball IQ will make him a major threat in the post. Classmate Patrick Heckmann is an aggressive wing who can get to the hoop whenever he wants thanks to his great handle. The team's talented freshman class is going to be fantastic in a year or two.
What's not fantastic is what's happening to the football program. The Eagles embarrassed themselves on national television against Florida State, losing 38-7 Thursday at Alumni Stadium. BC's five most lopsided losses since joining the ACC have all happened under Frank Spaziani's watch, including this 31-point home beatdown. Over the past three years, the Eagles have lost by 17-plus points 10 times. They were blown out by such a large margin just three times in their first four years in the ACC. They are now 2-7 and won't go bowling for the first time since 1998.
This is also clearly a rebuilding year. It's uncertain what direction Spaziani is taking the program, however. The coaching staff has shown minimal ability to tailor its game plan to the opponent. Case in point: The Eagles ran the ball 39 times and passed 20 times against Florida State's No. 4 rush defense. Chase Rettig was pretty accurate, completing 11 of his 18 passes. He just didn't drop back enough to make an impact.
The question remains whether the staff has even identified the best quarterback on the team. In limited action, Josh Bordner rushed for 45 yards in the zone-read system Chris Crane ran so efficiently under Jeff Jagodzinski and Steve Logan. Perhaps BC would be more effective implementing such a simplified rushing attack. That might help the Eagles make up some of the points they're spotting opponents. They've been outscored 222-121 by FBS competition this year – a margin of 12 points a game.
The problem with the football team is not that the Eagles are losing. If that were the case, Donahue's seat would be getting just as hot as Spaziani's in preparation for what will likely be the worst basketball season at the Heights in over a decade.
The issue, instead, is the charisma of the coach. Teams adopt the personality of their leader. Donahue is energetic, dynamic, and innovative. Those attributes are evident on the basketball team. The Eagles play an exciting game at a frantic pace, launching 3-pointers and diving for loose balls. They'll undoubtedly make mistakes, but it will be fun watching them grow collectively.
The football team, by comparison, reflects Spaziani's defeatist mentality. The Eagles play not to lose, or at least to minimize the final deficit. Consider their final drive of the game, with 10:16 left in the fourth quarter. Down 31 points, they ran 13 plays for 37 yards, wasting 7:01 before punting from the FSU 43. Those 13 plays broke down as 11 runs and two passes. Needing to maximize time to mount any sort of a comeback, the Eagles threw in the towel. They had nothing to lose by going for it on fourth down in FSU territory, yet they punted to the Seminoles and basically begged for mercy.
With that kind of coaching, get used to losing in the foreseeable future.