Friday, October 12, 2012

Perspective from an older BC fan

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.

And yet…

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.

And won.

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!


Deacon Drake said...


BCMike said...


Long live Bobby-T!

notfadeaway said...

I think it's a bit different these days given TV coverage and recruiting. A bad season in the 70's probably went largely unnoticed a year or two later. The sport was entirely different and so were the players. Now it's a business and a big one at that. Every loss is broadcast every week 24/7 and it impacts the programs reputation, recruiting and success for years. Turnover at the coaching level is a problem. Incompetence at the coaching level is a problem. Can this be turned around? Yes, but in a world where what have you done for me lately is all that matters, it will take a longer time. Much respect to the article, and agreed, things are never as bad as they seem. Thanks for being a long time and supportive fan.

mod34b said...

Hope springs eternal, and BC will bounce back. In fact, just last week the first steps in the bounce-back began.

BUT -- In my decades of viewing BC football, there has never been a loser like Spaz at the helm. He is uniquely pathetic in the annals of BC football. Some of the coaches were bad, but no one was like this guy.

Spaz is the ultimate hope killing machine.

If people have lost hope, it is a temporary loss of hope. I don't think anyone thinks/THOUGHT BC will be bad forever. BC has too much character, too much to offer to be bad for much longer. alums and students recognize that. People have just been impatient for change.. but change is here now... and hope is returning...

As for the present season, we are watching the worst BC defense in history. Repeat: The WORST BC DEFENSE EVER. This is a second big reason for fan depression.

BC 2012 is a team that cannot compete defensively in its own league. Presently BC is ranked #121 out of 124 FBS teams for total defense. After tomorrow, they will likely sink to #124 out of 124 teams.

As for the 1978 team, sure they went 0-11, but they played some close games (4 games lost by 6 or fewer points) and have more heart than you suggest.

Lenny Sienko said...

With all due respect, 1978 was even worse than described. Don't forget, after a winless regular season, BC traveled to Tokyo to lose to Temple 28-24 in the second Mirage Bowl. (Named for Mitsubishi's subcompact car sold here as a Dodge Colt. I actually bought one).

The game was televised and we were treated to a sold-out stadium, with a huge crowd arbitrarily assigned to cheer for one side or the other, cheering in unison and banging on drums.

A month or so before, the Red Sox had been beaten by Bucky Dent's home run in the AL playoff.

Those were not the days.

Veteranscribe said...

Football trivia buffs will also recall that the first game of that disastrous 1978 season, an 18-7 loss to Air Force, was also the start of the distinguished head coaching career of Duane Charles "Bill" Parcells.

Unknown said...

Sure, Spaz just has to be the worst ever! Gotta be! Well, ya shoulda been there around 1965 when the legendary Jim Miller (AKA: The Pear) responded, for the record, to a reporter's question about his ineptitude by offering, "Ya can't make chicken salad outta chickin shit!". Now those were the days!

Big Jack Krack said...

Kevin - you cracked me up - thank you.

BC had some exciting games early in his tenure, but the guy was monotonous.

I remember when I was a freshman - there was a rally in the hockey arena before a football game. HC Miller was so boring in his pep talk that I kept yelling "We love you, Coach" just to mock him from the crowd.

Seemed funny at the time.

Big Jack Krack said...

1965 season 6 and 4

09-18-1965 at BC 18 Buffalo 6

09-25-1965 at BC 28 Villanova 0

10-02-1965 BC 0 at Army 10

10-09-1965 at BC 0 Penn St. 17

10-23-1965 at BC 38 Richmond 7

10-30-1965 at BC 41 Virginia Military Institution 12

11-05-1965 BC 6 at Miami (FL) 27

11-13-1965 at BC 30 William & Mary 17

11-20-1965 BC 13 at Syracuse 21

11-27-1965 BC 35 at Holy Cross 0

Unknown said...

It could be worse. I remember the Army game when I was a freshman, which we lost 49-7 or something like that.

Goberry said...

Who is Bill Bates?

Big Ern said...

How many of those 1978 games were on national tv?