When Jim O’Brien left for Ohio State, he scorched the earth on his way out by accusing his alma mater of racism in their admissions. Boston’s bad reputation regarding race relations and BC’s fairly homogenous student body haven’t helped recruiting either. Fortunately you’ll never hear Al Skinner or Tom O’Brien complain about it. It is a credit to both of them. And they have both developed separate but equally effective recruiting strategies. Skinner finds the unwanted or overlooked guys with chips on their shoulders. TOB preaches the education, chance to play big-time football and the structure and discipline he brought with him from the Marines. TOB’s pitch is very popular with parents.
Now in TOB’s ninth year, an interesting phenomenon has occurred with the football team -- we have a disproportionately large percentage of first generation or non-American black players. At least six of the current 32 blacks on scholarship fall into the first generation or non-U.S. born categories (there could be more. I can only go off past articles and player bios). I don’t think BC goes out of its way to recruit these unique athletes. I have never spoken to a player or coach about this subject. My assumption is that BC’s pitch is just better received by the first generation and non-U.S born kids.
Now I am as white as they come. I am also sort of an amateur anthropologist who has been known to chat up a cabbie or two. Talk to any cab driver on the East Coast who is from the Caribbean or Africa and you’ll get a crash course in divide between American blacks and immigrant blacks. I won’t rehash the generalizations. But there is an immigrant’s resolve that is very relatable. (My lucky ass wouldn’t be here if 100 years ago some folks from Ireland said enough of this, we are headed to America.) Immigrants tend to have a sense of community, respect for education and work, and desire a certain mix of status, assimilation yet keeping their culture. So when a school like BC comes calling, with its high graduation rate, gothic New England architecture, and Marine coach, I am sure it has a lot of appeal to the mom and dad who came to the U.S. just for opportunities like this.
And then there is the social aspect of it. Recruiting is first and foremost about playing time. But after that a recruit is excited by the facilities, the atmosphere, the coaching staff and if he is comfortable with his potential teammates and school. The immigrants and children of immigrants are used to being a little different, so I am guessing that coming to a preppy city campus is not as intimidating as it might be for others. Also, seeing success stories like Kiwi must provide a certain comfort level. Who knows? As I said this is all speculation on my part. When I was at BC, the Henning teams were very clicky…especially along racial lines. One of the trademark of TOB’s teams is that they have a real all for one attitude. I can only speculate as to why, but I credit TOB, the staff and the school for the players that take the field. Having diversity even among the blacks can only help unity and understanding.
The school was started in part to educate Irish immigrants. 150 years later, immigrants are still a vital part of the school. Ever to excel.
Current First Generation or Non-U.S. blacks on BC’s roster:
Larry Anam (born in Nigeria)
Kevin Challenger (born in Canada)
Gosder Cherilus (born in Haiti)
Mathias Kiwanuka (first generation of Ugandan parents)
Survival Ross (born in Liberia)
Taylor Sele (born in Liberia)