Forget about those RVs to South Bend—Boston College students planning a road trip to watch BC football take on Notre Dame in 2015 will need just a T pass. As Director of Athletics Brad Bates announced on Friday, BC will take on Notre Dame at Fenway Park on Nov. 21 at 7:30 p.m. as part of the Fighting Irish’s annual Shamrock Series. The game is BC and Notre Dame’s second anticipated meeting at Fenway Park, the first coming on the ice with Frozen Fenway this January. Then, in 2017, BC football will host the Irish at Alumni Stadium for the first time since 2012.
At first glance, these developments seem to present an exciting win-win scenario for BC. The Fenway Park football game will count as an away game for the Eagles, despite its proximity to Chestnut Hill, as Notre Dame is opting to relocate one of its home games to Boston. BC will barely have to travel—the Eagles are gaining a geographically close game against a rival in a venue that will attract a great deal of attention.
Right off the bat though, logistical worries about ticket availability and other undetermined factors can’t be ignored. BC fans will have an easier time commuting to the game than if it was held in Indiana, but how many tickets will be available for them? While it might appear like it at first, chances are this won’t feel like a home game for BC—Fenway has a capacity of a little over 37,000, and you can bet a lot of attendees will be rooting for the Irish.
Additionally, after a long season of ACC play, taking on Notre Dame late in the season is a risk. It’s impossible to say what shape either team will be in at that point. For this game to truly be worth it for BC, the Eagles will have to show up ready to compete—and playing on its former home field for the first time since 1956, BC will need to beat Notre Dame.
The Eagles and Irish have met 22 times in Holy War action, with the all-time standings resting at 13-9 in Notre Dame’s favor. BC won six games between 2001-2008, but the last four meetings between the schools have been an all-Notre Dame affair. In 2009, BC lost 20-16 at South Bend. The next season, Notre Dame trounced the Eagles 31-13 at Alumni Stadium. A low-scoring bout in South Bend ended with BC losing 14-16 in 2011, and in 2012, the Eagles failed to score a touchdown at home as ND quarterback Everett Golson dominated Alumni Stadium to beat the Eagles 21-6.
When BC meets ND at Fenway, the Eagles must win to make the game worth playing. A victory would dispel the “Holy War is just one-sided” talk, and would help legitimize BC in front of a national audience. Some may argue that simply playing well against Notre Dame would be enough, but the fact that BC played Clemson and FSU tough this year shows that the victors, not the losers who played well, are remembered.
A win in a game of this magnitude would reap huge attention, and as seen through Andre Williams’ Heisman campaign, media attention is rocket fuel for a football program fighting its way back into relevance. Just last week, according to nj.com, four-star running back recruit Jonathan Hilliman flipped his commitment from Rutgers to BC, mentioning Williams as “a pretty good selling point.” The potential exposure that comes with a late-November Fenway Park rivalry game broadcast on NBC is huge—but so is the pressure to make sure the spotlight is positive.
By 2015, head coach Steve Addazio should be in his third year at the helm of BC football, his recruits will permeate the program, and his style of coaching should be firmly entrenched. BC will likely be capable of holding a winning record leading into this game, and the matchup could give the Eagles the opportunity to make a powerful statement on a national stage. With a victory, BC could take huge strides forward in terms of boosting recruiting, increasing national recognition, and pleasing alumni and fans.
“Could” is the key word, though. Going into this game, the hype around the matchup is going to be huge. This game will be talked about for weeks and could be billed as the highlight of the season. Expectations will be high and the stakes will be higher for the Eagles, as getting embarrassed by Notre Dame yet again will further the one-way rivalry talk, damage BC’s claims of legitimacy, and give BC an unnecessary loss that needn’t have occurred late in the season.
The Fenway Park game presents BC with an opportunity. It’s a chance to make a case for BC football in the limelight. If the Eagles can seize this opportunity by winning, the football program will reap the benefits. If they lose, however, the cost of falling to Notre Dame under the spotlight will not have been worth the risk of taking on the Irish in the first place.