Going back to Frank Leahy’s tenure, BC coaches are 6-6 in their first games. Our last three head coaches are 0-3. Not a good omen for Saturday. I’ve already looked at first years, but I thought I would take a deeper dive on the first games for the modern era (the DI split) BC coaches.
Coach: Joe Yukica
First Game: September 28, 1968 at Navy
Result: BC 49, Navy 15
Thoughts: While this game took place before the DI split, since Yukica’s reign carried into the modern era, I counted his first. Although Navy was competitive in the 1960s, ’68 was a down year for them (2-8) making this win important but less impressive. BC ended the year 6-3. This was Yukica’s first win en route to becoming the school’s all-time winningest coach. As you'll be reminded over and over during the NC State week, TOB broke Yukica’s win total last fall.
Coach: Ed Chlebek
First Game: September 16, 1978
Result: BC 7, Air Force 18
Thoughts: This was the first game of a disastrous and winless first season for Chlebek. Air Force wasn’t good in 1978 (3-8) but they had a coach who knew what he was doing (Bill Parcells). Inheriting a steady program and going winless was an ominous sign for Chlebek. Other odd losses in 1978 included getting shutout by UMass, a one-point loss to Holy Cross and flying all the way to Japan to play and lose to Temple.
Coach: Jack Bicknell
First Game: September 19, 1981
Result: BC 13, Texas A&M 12
Thoughts: This was a pretty big upset as Texas A&M was a bowl team and not much was expected of BC. Bicknell would follow this win with four straight losses. The second half of the season would get a little better when injuries forced Bicknell to use a freshman QB named Flutie. BC would finish the year 5-6.
Coach: Tom Coughlin
First Game: August 31, 1991 at Rutgers
Result: BC 13, Rutgers 20
Thoughts: While losing to Rutgers in the 1990s should have been embarrassing, this loss was to one of the Scarlett Knights’ better teams (6-5). Coughlin only won four games his first year, but his teams were competitive throughout and could have won two or three more if a few things broke his way.
Coach: Dan Henning
First Game: September 3, 1994 at Michigan
Result: BC 26, Michigan 34
Thoughts: This was my first game as a BC student and I watched it in Conte. Yes, Conte. They put it up on the scoreboard. I cannot remember the exact reason why we had to watch there (it was either not shown in Boston or it was on ESPN when the campus still didn’t have cable). BC scored early on a flea-flicker, but we couldn’t keep up with a very talented Michigan team. BC finished the season an underachieving 7-4-1. A few thrilling moments, yet ultimately coming up short would be sign of things to come in the Henning era.
Coach: Tom O’Brien
First Game: September 6, 1997 at Temple
Result: BC 21, Temple 28
Thoughts: I’ve written about this loss in the past. While expectations for TOB were low, losing like this was depressing. Temple had a few good players but were not a good team and would finish 3-8. BC would finish 4-7. After the loss, I never would have expected that TOB would become the program’s winningest coach.
Jags position probably most closely resembles Henning (taking over a winner and facing a BCS conference team). But the big differences between 1994 and now is that BC will be at home and has more talent than Wake. Let’s hope he has a different outcome than Henning.
Keep in mind that first games are important from a momentum standpoint, but not a great indicator of anything. (And I’ll be telling myself that over and over if we lose Saturday.)