As the season has fallen apart, I am disheartened by the notion put forth by some BC fans that "we'll never be good again." I would say it is more common in younger fans whose connection to BC football only goes back to the TOB days. As a student during the Henning era I know that BC can rebuild from anything. But even my perspective only captures one down time, so I thought I would call on the wisdom of an older BC fan. "Dr. Jack Ryan" is a message board poster, a BC grad and has been attending games at Alumni since the 1970s. When he perfectly shot down a whiner on the Eagle Outsider message boards earlier this week, I thought it was time for him to share his perspective with a different audience. Here is his take on our past, present and future. Pay attention all you kids in the yellow shirts.
As a somewhat older fan, nothing gets me angrier than these (mostly younger) fans who think that the sky is falling.
I have actually heard some fans claim that things “have never been worse”.
Never been worse?! Hello! McFly! (A reference probably lost on these Chicken Littles).
In 1978—a season I remember—Boston College was the worst college football team in America. The worst. We went 0-11 and lost to Army, Tulane, Villanova, Temple, UMASS and Holy Cross. So not only did BC lose that year, it lost bad. It didn’t just play three FCS teams (then in its first year of existence, called “1-AA” at the time) it lost to three FCS teams! And of those three teams they lost to, Villanova was soon to disband its entire program due to lack of fan support and on the field success.
Two years later, my Dad is dragging me to the Norwood-Natick game. Why? Because he heard that BC had an interest in the diminutive QB for Natick who was tearing up the Bay State league.
Four years after that Norwood-Natick game, BC had the Heisman trophy winner under center and was headed to the Cotton Bowl. Not only that, had they beaten either West Virginia (lost by 1) or Penn State (lost by 7) they would have played in a defacto National Title game against #1 BYU in the Holiday Bowl or Fiesta Bowl.
When Bill asked me to write about a long-term view of BC football, it made me think about a concept that I learned while studying for my MBA at the Carroll school.
If you were lucky enough to study at the Carroll school and lucky enough to study under Bob Taggard like I did, you are going to learn a little bit about something called “beta.” (Ok, technically you probably will learn about beta under any Finance professor, but saying that eliminates an opportunity for me to name-drop). A high-beta stock is one with very high volatility. The price of a high-beta stock fluctuates –hitting some high highs over time, but also some low lows. Many technology companies can be classified as having a high beta. On the other hand, a low-beta stock is one with very low volatility. The returns and price are fairly stable. Solid, but nothing spectacular. Think: utility company.
For the first 30 years of my life, Boston College was a high-beta stock. People whose memory of BC football starts with Tom O’Brien and who grew tired with his consistent above-average performance have to remember that for many of us the up-and-down performances of the 70s, 80s and 90s is how we best understand the program.
The important thing to remember is how resilient the BC program is even when things seem the lowest. And even more importantly, remember that at some level the fluctuation of the team seemed almost (stress almost) independent of the leadership. Ed Chelbek -- the coach who gave us that 0-11 season -- was actually retained and had the team finish 7-4 in 1980. Jack Bicknell, he of the 10-2 Cotton Bowl season, had a putrid 2-9 season in 1989. And at the very top? Bill Flynn. Athletic director from 1957 to 1990, which encompassed both the best and worst seasons in my living memory.
And one more point. It isn’t just Boston College that experiences these ups and downs. When I was in college, the University of Washington and the University of Colorado won shares of the National title in 1990 and 1991. By 2004, UW was 0-12 while this season the Buffs are 1-4 and not looking at many more “W”s in the schedule.
And so in closing, just remember that Boston College football has been around for a long time and has been resilient for a long time. Coaches, Athletic Directors and University Presidents come and go, but BC football remains.
So for all you young punks who are going to bitch and moan about either Frank Spaziani or Bill Bates or Fr. Leahy or the general state of Boston College athletics I have one thing to say to you:
Get off my lawn, you God-damn LeBron James-eque frontrunners!