Sports, Football, Column

To Properly Honor Crowther, BC Should Schedule Red Bandana Game Closer to 9/11

On Monday, it was announced that Boston College football’s final home game of the season, a Nov. 9 contest against Florida State, has been scheduled to kick off at 12 p.m. In and of itself, that’s not a problem. Some fans and students might hate waking up early to tailgate, but that’s an issue that fanbases all across the country will face, and you know that those who are really invested in the gameday experience will certainly still find a way to fire up the grills and crack open a beer with plenty of time before kickoff. 

This particular noon start time, though, feels wrong for a different reason: It’s also the sixth-annual Red Bandana Game, an event created to remember Welles Crowther and his heroics on Sept. 11, 2001. For the first time in its existence, the game won’t have a nighttime kickoff. And the early start time brings into sharp reality a gripe that I, other Heights editors, and many BC fans, have with the event—it simply has to be scheduled better.  

Full disclosure: A Heights column was written about this last year. Oh, and the year before that. But still, it bears repeating because, if anything, the date of this game has gotten worse with each passing year.

By now, everyone associated with BC knows the story of Crowther, who graduated from BC in 1999 before moving to New York and saving as many as 18 people in the South Tower of the World Trade Center during the Sept. 11 attacks. It’s a story of inspiring heroism—one that certainly deserves the recognition that the Red Bandana Game has brought. 

Recognizing the actual story of Crowther’s bravery and paying tribute to him—but also to all the other first responders who risked their lives to help save people during Sept. 11—has felt less important than attempting to ensure that the game is against a marquee opponent and in primetime in recent years.

It wasn’t always like this. In both 2014 and 2015, the game was held within a week of Sept. 11. Ironically, though, part of the reason that the game may no longer be held in mid-September is those 2014 and 2015 contests themselves. When the game debuted in 2014, BC played host to then-No. 9 USC and pulled off what remains the biggest upset of the Steve Addazio era, beating the Trojans, 37-31, behind 191 yards rushing from Tyler Murphy. In 2015, the Eagles lost, 14-0, to another ninth-ranked team in FSU but competed admirably and trailed just 7-0 in the fourth quarter and held NFL star Dalvin Cook to just 54 yards rushing. 

Both of those games were successes, and since then the game has been pushed further and further back to take place when some of the biggest ACC opponents come to town. This year, the game is on Nov. 9, nearly a full two months after Sept. 11. In 2016, the game was scheduled for Oct. 7, against a Clemson team that eventually went on to beat Alabama in the National Championship. In 2017? Oct. 27. And in 2018, the contest was scheduled for Oct. 26 against Miami. 

There’s no denying that those games have produced special moments. In 2017, the Eagles beat a reeling FSU team, 35-3, for their first ACC home win in three years. And last season, BC dominated a Miami team that was on the fringe of the Top 25. 

The point of the Red Bandana game, however, isn’t to manufacture an atmosphere that is capable of producing those special moments. It’s to honor the legacy of a former student who embodies selflessness and heroism in the best way possible. Special moments on the football field should be of secondary concern to giving Welles Crowther the respect he is due. 

And that means moving the game away from October and November, and scheduling it back where it belongs: As close to Sept. 11 as possible. That way, the event would feel more significant than it does now, and it would certainly ring more true to what the game is supposed to honor, which is Crowther and his legacy. 

I get it. BC’s opponents in September have historically been of lesser quality (that could be fixed with some better non-conference scheduling, but that’s a column for another time), and scheduling the game later in the year potentially increases viewership. But like I’ve already said, viewing audience and marketing shouldn’t get in the way of what the Red Bandana game is truly supposed to celebrate. 

What’s more, this year, any attempt to get the game in a prime TV spot backfired. Instead, the Eagles will be playing at noon, a time which causes the already usually late-arriving crowd in Alumni Stadium to be more tardy than usual, and a subdued atmosphere to be less energetic. And that’s no way to properly honor Welles. 

The final nail in the coffin? BC had quite literally the perfect opportunity to schedule the game in primetime just two days after Sept. 11, with a 7:30 p.m. Friday night kickoff against Kansas. Yes, the Jayhawks aren’t exactly a college football powerhouse, and certainly don’t have the national profile of the Seminoles, but the game was still at night in front of a roughly 75 percent full stadium, and Kansas was clearly more than a match for the Eagles. The Jayhawks did end up winning, 48-24, after all. 

The uniqueness of the Red Bandana Game, what it symbolizes, and the significance of the event, not just to BC but on a national level should arguably make it one of the best traditions in college football. And if the game was as close as possible to the anniversary of Sept. 11 each year, that would do it justice.

In the end, the best traditions don’t hinge on the size of the moment—they make the moment. Virginia Tech doesn’t only play “Enter Sandman” when welcoming a nationally ranked opponent. A large part of what makes it so special is that it has been done at every home game for the last 19 years. 

Likewise, if the Eagles were to move the Red Bandana Game to the second week of September every year, the contest would take on its own special meaning that has been lost year by year as the game has been shifted to different weeks. That annual event would be able to truly capture what Welles Crowther and his bandana mean to the BC community. That, rather than a sleepy noon start in front of a half-full Alumni Stadium, would be the perfect way to honor and celebrate the man in the red bandana.

Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Senior Staff

November 3, 2019