Boston College head football coach Jeff Hafley and Athletics Director Pat Kraft announced on Thursday that BC football has opted out of participating in a bowl game this season. According to a release from Senior Associate Athletics Director Jason Baum, the team reached the decision as a result of discussions among student-athletes.
Both Kraft and Hafley echoed their support of the players’ decision at a Zoom media conference on Thursday afternoon.
“You know my job as the head coach and the leader of the team is to have a good pulse for this football team,” Hafley said at the press conference. “I just felt like the mental strain and the physical strain was wearing on them, and, you know, mental health is something that’s very important to me.”
Another factor in the decision, Hafley said, was the volatility of the team’s chance to play a bowl game. Even if BC had opted in and had been selected to play a bowl game, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, there was no guarantee that the game would have gone forward. As a result, Hafley said, it was better for the Eagles to focus on finishing finals and have the chance to go home and be with their families for the holidays.
BC finished the season 6-5 overall and 5-5 in the ACC, the most ACC wins for the program since going 5-3 in conference play in 2009. Hafley said that the record doesn’t reflect the “incredible” success of the season, though, and that the players deserve a break from the mental and physical strain.
“The biggest reward we could give the team was to be able to go and let them finish finals and go spend time with their families, see their moms or dads, their brothers, their sisters, and grandparents and enjoy the holidays with their families,” Hafley said. “They’ve earned it.”
Redshirt senior linebacker Max Richardson, a member of the team’s leadership council, announced the decision to his teammates.
“When Max told the team that they’re going home to see their families, it was like an uproar of excitement, and it was kind of emotional for me, because at that moment, I knew that 100 percent it’s the right decision,” Hafley said.
Hafley repeatedly cited the many sacrifices that his players have made all season, including not seeing their families since June, forgoing “normal” aspects of college life, and limiting contact with friends.
Being one of the only teams in the country to play 11 games as they were scheduled, the Eagles’ dedication to the team is deserving of acknowledgement, offensive lineman Alec Lindstrom said during the press conference.
“Not a lot of teams have done that. … It just makes you appreciate our teammates, what they did for us, and sacrificing and not being a normal college kid,” Lindstrom said. “And that’s like that for every year, but this year especially, so we can play our games, the seniors can play all their games and have every opportunity to appreciate every opportunity.”
Since arriving back to campus in June, BC football has recorded just two positive COVID-19 tests, one in mid-June and another after Thanksgiving, according to a release from Baum prior to BC’s game against Virginia.
Even though the Eagles had success in preventing the spread of COVID-19 within the program, receiving tests up to three times every week put a serious mental strain on both coaches and players, Hafley said.
“We tested yesterday, and we’re not playing this weekend, but I must have texted our doctor probably five times: ‘Are the players’ results in?’ … I just feel so obligated to their parents and our families to take care of these kids,” Hafley said. “That wears on you. I’m tired … and just imagine how tired these kids are, who are 18, 19, 20 and their whole life isn’t football.”
Even without a bowl game, Richardson said, the team’s record doesn’t reflect the successes they had in areas off the field.
“I think what we’ve done a great job of this season is valuing the journey, and valuing every moment we’ve had along the way, so when it came time today for us to wrap it up together, I think we appreciated how far we’ve come,” Richardson said. “Everybody was content with how they handled themselves through this difficult year.”
Featured Graphic by Olivia Charbonneau and Éamon Laughlin / Heights Editors