When the COVID-19 pandemic put the world on pause for a year, it felt to me that enthusiasm for Boston College athletics reached an all-time low. Combine that with lukewarm performances in some of the major sports last year and you end up with a student body that stays for an hour and then dips after mumbling its way through “For Boston.” Let’s not pretend like this is an issue caused by students alone. I mean sure, a lot of us don’t know the fight song, but is that our fault? Or is the school’s for not trying to teach it to anyone, beyond a one-time crash course at the start of freshman year? There are administrative actions that could be made to re-energize the University’s population.
Boston University, another college whose athletic event attendance was impacted by COVID-19, introduced a policy where anyone who attends eight home hockey games gets a free hockey jersey. This sort of practice would encourage BC students to show up to games even when our record isn’t stellar.
One of the most visible issues for BC Athletics is fans leaving games early. In our season opener against Rutgers, even though the game could’ve gone either way up until the final minute, it seemed like only half of the student section was there when the clock ran out. Last year, Florida State beat BC 26–3 midway through the third quarter, so droves of students left the stadium to attend to some other obligation that everyone apparently had at three o’clock on a Saturday. But soon after, the defense cracked the code and shut down FSU while the offense turned on and scored three touchdowns to get the game within three points. Even though BC still lost the game, it was nonetheless an exciting finish that most people chose not to witness.
But who would want to stand for three and a half hours in the sun or rain or cold, especially when everything starts to get repetitive and BC starts to lose? After the eighth or so “Go, BC! Put some points on the board!” it starts to become more of a chore. So what’s the solution? I think BC should start giving away little collectibles at the end of games, like game cards, posters, or small merch items. This would make watching the entirety of the uncomfortably close Maine football game feel worth it.
For sports that aren’t football, most people don’t show up to the games to begin with. A few times last year, BC set up a merchandise prize wheel in front of Mac to encourage people to attend hockey and basketball games. If these were set up at games instead, perhaps more people would go and watch the game rather than just take a free hat. Another move in the right direction last year was the special sickos shirt giveaway at a basketball game. The issues, however, were that there were only 200 shirts, most people who got the shirts didn’t stay to watch the game, and it only happened once—against the University at Albany and during finals week. If BC did this type of thing more often, with more shirts, and found some system to get people to stay at the game (giving them out during halftime or something similar) then attendance might rise for exciting and unexciting games alike.
Perhaps most tragic is the shockingly small percent of the student body that has attended a women’s athletic game. The issue here is threefold: the games are often at a less-than-optimal time, some students hold the view that women’s sports are inherently less exciting to watch than men’s sports, and the school does a poor job of incentivizing people to attend games. Last year, BC hosted No. 5 ranked NC State in women’s basketball and an impressive crowd attended the game, because attending the game was the only way to secure tickets to the men’s basketball game against Duke. If the school more widely adopted this practice, attendance for important women’s sports games would likely rise even more. For example, BC could give out free Beanpot tickets to people who go to an important women’s hockey game.
BC recently introduced a system (conveniently hidden behind a menu on the BC Athletics app), where you can get points that can be redeemed for BC merch by attending home games and keeping up to date with the Eagles. By arriving early and by attending the whole game bonus points are earned. This would be a great move in the right direction—if only the app worked, made any sense, and people knew that this was a thing. A simple step toward improving this idea would be to promote each game on social media and tell people how many points they can earn and how. A more complicated step would be to completely rework the BC Athletics app. In my experience, it is not user friendly and doesn’t display up-to-date scoring information.
There’s also an issue with the way the rewards are priced. If you show up to a game half an hour early and stay the entire time, you earn either 300, 400, or 500 points (less popular games earn you more points). This means if you were to attend every remaining home football, volleyball, men’s and women’s hockey, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s soccer, field hockey, and fall softball game you would only earn about 38,000 points, which is a long way off from the 75,000 points needed to win a game-worn football jersey. This is too much to expect from any fan, not only because it involves attending almost 100 home games while also managing to keep up with one’s grades, but also because several of these games happen over break and a handful overlap. A cost rework is necessary, as this system will not encourage anyone to attend home games if the rewards are impossible to achieve.
Although BC sports culture would improve greatly with some changes made by the school, there are ways students can make some big differences. For some students, the justification for their absence is that the team won’t perform well and the audience won’t be lively. This is a harmful, self-fulfilling prophecy: the more people with this mindset the fewer people attend, which leads to less active crowds, which diminishes BC’s home-field advantage and makes the team look worse. For others, the decision to not attend games is out of a general disinterest toward either the game or the sport entirely. In each case, the issue can be addressed if those who attend games begin to change the minds of those who don’t.
When it comes to sporting events, what you put in is what you get out. We can’t just expect everything to magically improve around us. The only way we’ll start to see change is if more people start going to more games, staying for the whole game, and being enthusiastic members of the crowd.