Top Story, Football

With College GameDay in Town, Campus Embraces Once-in-a-Decade Experience

Yes, Boston College fans can stop pinching themselves—it really is happening. For the first time in nine years, BC will be hosting ESPN’s 10-time Emmy-winning program, College GameDay, on Saturday morning, opening up the festivities a whole 11 hours before kickoff against No. 2 Clemson.

Stokes Lawn, 9 a.m. It almost sounds too good to be true for SuperFans. Some of the other schools to have brought in the legendary trio of Kirk Herbstreit, Lee Corso, and Desmond Howard this year? Notre Dame, TCU, Texas, Michigan, LSU, Florida—and the list goes on.

Thanks to a 7-2 start to the season, extremely fortunate scheduling (things would be different if Alabama-LSU was this week), and maybe even a little Doug Flutie magic sprinkled on top, the school of just over 9,000 undergraduates is back in the national spotlight.

BC is the smallest school to receive GameDay since the team’s Cambridge neighbor, Harvard, hosted Yale back in 2014. Perhaps the lack of size is made up for in enthusiasm.

For the first time in years, the tight-knit Jesuit institution feels like a football school. Walk around the 338-acre campus, and it isn’t hard to find students and professors alike that have been acting like kids in a candy store ever since news of the event broke on Saturday.

Take, for example, the seniors currently living on campus. Just four years ago, they were on the wrong side of history. Back in 2015, both the football team and basketball team ended up winless in the Atlantic Coast Conference. It was a disaster. Yet, still before these now-upperclassmen are even able claim their degrees, football has been able to turn it all around.

“It’s the complete opposite,” explained Ryan Kilday, BC ’19. [My freshman year] it was like everyone was running around with their heads cut off. It was embarrassing more than anything especially when the basketball team didn’t win any games. I got so much crap from my friends back home, but now they’re trying to come up for this weekend.”

Yes, the buzz around campus is unprecedented among current students—most notably those living in the most memorable residential housing on campus: Among 100 Mod-living students The Heights surveyed on Monday night, 74 said hosting College GameDay would be the most exciting BC event that they would be able to celebrate over the course of their four-year stay in Chestnut Hill.

Think about that. For most students, it took a grueling three and a half years for dedication to BC Athletics to finally pay off, and they couldn’t be more excited.

BC had a Beanpot championship, multiple marathon Mondays, thousands of other on-campus events, and even last year’s men’s basketball upset win over then-No. 1 Duke. Nope. Saturday still takes the cake. BC football fans have known what it’s like to lose, and for that exact reason, this year’s success is that much more special for the school.

“The thing that I’ve finally been able to say this week is that I’ve forgiven BC football for everything they’ve put me through over the past four years I’ve been here,” said Kyle Reiter CSOM ’19. “This is just an exciting time, and I’m really looking forward to it.”

Most students I talked to were extremely quick to welcome me into their homes once I mentioned GameDay. Some were trying to find out just how early some fans would be arriving at Stokes to get a spot, while others were simply excited to talk BC football. One student even tried offering me a glass of wine for the occasion. Most interesting of all, though, was the passion expressed from some of the team’s biggest fans.

“I think it’s really special with it being pretty much our last home game because we’re all seniors, how we started off, well, not great our freshman year and now having hope,” said Katie Stepsis, CSOM ’19. “I feel like I have more of an incentive to be loyal. I feel like I get something back from them by going to the games.”

Director of Athletics Martin Jarmond even mentioned that BC seniors have reached out to him to express their pride in what he and the team have been able to accomplish this year. A major cog in the machine that has been BC football’s resurgence, Jarmond believes the opportunity to host Clemson under the lights on Saturday night is like no other.

“Without a doubt, this is the biggest event since I’ve been here,” Jarmond said. “A lot is riding on this game, more so than the 10-plus years before.”

It’s not just students, though. Some professors are joining in on the frenzy. It’s important to remember that some faculty on campus have been here much longer than any of the undergraduates have, and through thick and thin, haven’t wavered in their support of BC Athletics.

Philosophy professor Marina McCoy has been following the team since she started teaching 20 years ago and recently purchased season tickets. For McCoy, it’s the school’s identity—one that boasts the commitment to “men and women for others”—that makes Saturday so special.

“It’s really exciting to see that the ESPN and the rest of the nation gets to see what Boston College really is,” McCoy said. “Just like the rest of the student body, this is a football team composed of men who want to pursue worthy lives of service to other people.”

It’s true. By hosting GameDay, BC is granted the opportunity to showcase all of its best qualities—certainly boosting admissions opportunities along the way. In fact, during the program, BC’s beautiful Gasson tower is set to be in direct view of the main stage camera. One man with perhaps the best view of the show, however, is history professor Alan Rodgers, whose office overlooks all of Stokes Lawn.

Rodgers, too, has season tickets—his seats are adjacent to McCoy’s. Rodgers has been a fan of the team for over 40 years and is far and away one of the most devoted BC fans there is.

“I love it,” he said. “I love being able to be in the stands and jump up and down and scream,” Rodgers said. “For me, it’s the identity of being a part of a team that really is a college, too. This isn’t some football factory where kids take phone classes and all that. This is a place where kids can come in and succeed on the field and still come out having great success beyond in the real world. That’s what makes it exciting.”

When thinking of Saturday’s game, Rodgers goes back to 2014, when the team upset then-No. 9 USC. In a wave of excitement, Rodgers joined other students who were jumping over the railing and rushed the field to congratulate some of the student athletes who had been taking his classes at the time. Still, he believes a win on Saturday would be much bigger.

“Oh yeah,” Rodgers said. “The win of a lifetime. That would be something.”

Of course, the result of the game is still uncertain, and most pundits don’t give BC a chance. But one thing’s for sure: As students like Reiter and Stepsis join professors like McCoy and Rodgers in the stands to jump up and down and cheer on BC, the rest of America will be watching.

Featured Image by Ben Thomas / Heights Senior Staff

November 9, 2018