I think it is time to appreciate Alumni Stadium for what it is: the surprising House of Horrors for visiting college football teams. It happened again Saturday night when USC players kept mentioning the stadium in their post-game comments. In this Oral History of the 2001 Miami Hurricanes, the greatest team in college football history admits that there is something flukey about playing at Alumni.
Davenport: It's cold, I don't know if it's the Boston chowder that we eat at the hotel, but we're always just sluggish when we come out.
Randy Shannon (defensive coordinator): It was just ... Boston. Even when I (coached) with Dennis Erickson, it was always the same. For some rhyme or reason, we couldn't figure it out.
Coker: What I really think it was, was perception. We didn't perceive Boston College as being a Florida State or Florida or Penn State or one of those types of schools. Right or wrong, that was the perception.
Curtis Johnson: You never stay near the stadium. The bus ride in, it looks like -- this isn't a knock on their stadium, because it's a great stadium -- but it doesn't appear what you would expect it to be as far as a major college football stadium. It's not like you're going into Florida State. You just don't see it as being, that kind of stadium.
All the key ingredients are there. Teams don't take us seriously. The setting and environment are different from other venues. The weather can be an issue too. Obviously the better BC is, the tougher the game at Alumni can be, but even when we are not as good, something about the Stadium can make a difference.
A few of my pet theories are the proximity of the stands to the benches. In other stadiums the team benches are sometimes 20 yards away and 12 feet down from the nearest seat. At Alumni, the benches are closer to five yards away and fans can lean over the railings and practically touch players. If a favored team is frustrated, I am sure the tension is ratcheted up with BC fans breathing down your neck.
Then there is impact Alumni's design has on the opponents. We know Alumni is closed on both ends with a low upperdeck. This can make the 44,500 seats feel much closer than they actually are. The all aluminum seating also creates louder than expected noise.
In the Miami article TOB champions the weather issue as well. Depending on the opponent and the time of year, New England weather can be a factor in any game at Alumni. Traditionally our September games can be surprisingly hot, our October games are often wet and November games are cold. Sure our players also have to deal with the elements, but when you're on the road and in a dogfight, bad weather doesn't raise spirits.
The USC players talked about the travel. Obviously that is another issue that varies by opponent, but being a long trip never hurts our cause as the home team.
To ever get a national homefield reputation like Blacksburg or Boise, we will need to rattle off some long home win streaks or upset a bunch of ranked teams. But until then, I am happy that our little stadium keeps surprising our opponents.