As I watched back-to-back home runs punctuate a nine-run outburst in the ninth inning for University of Miami on Saturday afternoon, I couldn’t help but think that I was also seeing Boston College baseball’s postseason hopes vanish before my eyes.
The loss pushed the team’s record to 6-17 with six games to play. The Eagles will likely need at least four wins against their last two conference opponents, Wake Forest and Notre Dame, to have a shot at qualifying for the ACC Tournament. I don’t like those odds.
So as I witnessed the third Miami hitter of the inning trot around the bases, I was reminded of the recent playoff struggles at BC. Lacrosse was eliminated from the ACC Tournament on Friday, men’s hockey missed its first NCAA Tournament since 2009, and both basketball teams lost in the first round of their respective conference tournaments. All of a sudden, as my sophomore year neared its close, I was confronted with a question that I never thought I’d have to ask. Has the 2016-17 season been worse than the infamous 2015-16 season?
How, you might ask, could anything be worse than 2015-16? After all, BC became the first major conference school since World War II to go winless in conference in both men’s basketball and football. A combined 0-26—that has literally never happened before. To make matters worse, the Eagles suffered embarrassing losses to lowly Wake Forest: first, in football, a 3-0 defeat that featured more broken headsets than points scored; then, an awful effort that saw them fall behind, 37-4, and ultimately lose to the Demon Deacons, 74-48.
It was frustrating to watch. But fans could find solace in the Cinderella runs by soccer and baseball, as well as the Frozen Four berths by men’s and women’s hockey. Zeiko Lewis and Simon Enstrom led BC past No. 2 Georgetown and within one game of the team’s first-ever College Cup appearance. Birdball, too, nearly danced its way to the College World Series, falling in a heartbreaker to Miami after advancing out of a tough regional bracket. Thatcher Demko carried his squad to Tampa, capturing a Beanpot title against rival BU along the way. Alex Carpenter captained her crew to one of the best seasons in collegiate women’s hockey history, a Warriors-esque 40-1 record, with the lone loss coming in the National Championship.
Yes, some of us were still berated with bad BC jokes from friends and family, none perhaps worse than ESPN’s “Lost-on College” graphic. But it felt fitting that a University with 31 varsity sports—the most in the ACC—you could find at least one to rally behind. And that’s why last year, against all odds, was better for BC sports than this year.
The marginal improvement of men’s basketball and football doesn’t compensate for the excitement provided by the smaller programs in 2015-16—especially when students can’t even see the development. On the gridiron, head coach Steve Addazio won two ACC games, but both came on the road. The Eagles did pull off a thrilling 36-30 win against Maryland in the Quick Lane Bowl, but once again, they excelled away from home.
Men’s basketball, too, seemed to torture students with the timing of the team’s success. BC was blessed by the arrival of Ky Bowman, who guided the young lineup to a pair of early conference victories against Syracuse and NC State. But both wins came in early January over Winter Break without students on campus.
In fact, you have to go all the way back to Jan. 29, 2014, to find the last time either team won a home ACC matchup with students in school. That was courtesy of Steve Donahue & Co. against Virginia Tech. Football won three home games in 2014, but one was over Thanksgiving Break and the other two were against nonconference opponents. Men’s basketball won back-to-back ACC home games in 2015, but both occurred over Spring Break.
To emphasize: Students haven’t witnessed a conference win at home when school is in session in over three years. I can’t imagine there’s a longer such streak, or curse, in the country. It’s a drought that extends to three (!) classes—current freshmen, sophomores, and juniors—at BC.
Briefly, if only for a moment, BC hockey, baseball, and men’s soccer provided a refuge for fans while the University’s high-budget sports were trapped in the gutter. It didn’t register at the time, but we were lucky to experience the 2015-16 athletic year. It may seem ridiculous to sound grateful for a season which featured, collectively, one of the worst major-conference performances in history, but I am.
The fact is, I have given up on a miraculous turnaround for men’s basketball and football before I leave the Heights (and The Heights). Based on their home ACC drought and declining attendance numbers, I sense others have lost faith, as well. Seeing is believing. And without hockey, baseball, and men’s soccer to restore that faith, this year has felt flatter than usual.
Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor