Thursday, October 6, 2011

Where We Could (and Should) Be

Going into this weekend's game against Clemson, it's a bit difficult for me to get excited about this game, which is unfortunate because in past years, this game has often been one of my favorites.  I will admit that I have a soft spot for Clemson, while at BC I was on the rowing team and each spring break we would do spring training in Clemson.  In 2009, I was fortunate enough to go see a game in Death Valley and there is no place quite like it.  In past years much has been on the line in this game and more than once the outcome has decided who would win the Atlantic Division.  However, this year we sit at 1-4 as Clemson is steam rolling teams that in the preseason seemed unbeatable.  I'm almost looking forward to the weekend being over so that I can go back to rooting for Clemson again.

But one thing caught my eye today when I was reading the previews of this game.  Currently, Clemson is ranked #8 in both polls and this reminded me of something.  The last time BC played a #8 team, it was October 17th against Virginia Tech and we were ranked #2.  Yes, the Miracle in Blacksburg was played against a #8 team.  And this got me thinking some more and so I dug a little deeper.  In 2007, the October 7 polls had Boston College ranked #4.  That's right, four years ago, this weekend, we were the #4 team in the country, a spot currently held by Wisconsin.  It angers me that this is how far Boston College has fallen in such a short period of time when we could just as easily be in the same position this year as we were four years ago.

In 2007 and 2008 Boston College had a tremendous amount of potential.  Many have pointed out that we were brought to that threshold of breaking through as an elite program in the ACC and in the country.  We were rising to prominence on the national stage until the Jags Firing Debacle stopped us cold in our tracks.  Where could we be had things played out differently?  One need only look as far as Boise State and Oregon.

Nevermind whether Gene D. should have hired Chip Kelly or not, but four years ago Mike Bellotti, then the head coach of the Oregon Ducks, brought them to the #2 ranking in the country just two weeks after we vacated it ourselves.  The difference is that Oregon continued its upward trend.  After Bellotti resigned, Chip Kelly came into place and last year, while BC was floundering in the ACC, Kelly led the Ducks to the national championships game.  This year the Ducks are ranked #9, with a sole loss coming to #1 LSU.  Four years removed from when both programs held the #2 ranking in the same year, Oregon is still moving upward and keeps itself in the national title talk.  BC, by comparison, has languished behind, falling in the ACC and in the esteem of the college football world.  The unfortunate thing is, BC could just as easily be a high powered team the way Oregon is today.  What holds us back now, and has been holding us back these last three years, is a short sighted Athletic Director and and inept coaching staff.

The second program I look at when thinking of where BC could be today, if not for past missteps, is Boise State.  In 2005, BC played Boise State in the MPC Computers Bowl.  Although the record books officially show BC as the home team, the bowl game was played on the Blue Turf in Boise.  In that game, BC beat Boise State 27- 21.  Since that time the Broncos have gone, that's right, undefeated on the blue turf and since that game has lost just five total games in six years.  Six years ago, BC beat a team that since then has had two undefeated seasons, two one loss seasons, and year in and year out is considered the BCS buster from a non-AQ conference to make it to the national title game. Six years ago BC was talented enough to beat Boise State on their home field, something no team has done since, and yet today, people would scoff at the idea of BC even playing Boise State.

I have heard the argument that BC can't compete with the high powered teams because we have to recruit excellent athletes who are also excellent students.  Our ability to compete against high powered teams from large state schools is restricted due to our academic standards.  In the most recent US News & World Report rankings of national universities, Stanford University was ranked #5 in the nation which is actually worse than their #4 finish in the BCS rankings at the end of last year.  Stanford is an elite academic institution, on par with the Ivy Leagues, and yet they are able to reconcile recruiting gifted athletes and gifted students.  Again, just another example of the potential that Boston College could have that it just has not yet realized.

It is frustrating as a fan to look at the success of programs such as Oregon, Boise State, and Stanford and know full well that Boston College could just as easily be in the same position.  Just four years ago Boston College was knocking on the door of being an elite team each season just as Oregon and Boise State were at the same time.  The argument that academic standards are restricting the football success of BC is quickly dispelled by looking at the success of Stanford.  What is restricting BC is shortsightedness and inability.  Four years ago this week, Boston College was ranked #4 in both polls.  This week, we aren't even ranked #40.  BC can achieve success, it is something that we have done before.  If the Athletic Department does not allow our team to be governed by shortsightedness and ineptitude, then it won't be long until we are back competing for championships.

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