Boston Sports Forum Commentary
Del N. Jones
College football has reason for excitement with its latest evolution.
Thereís a new Bowl Championship Series system that now relies on humans instead of computers. There is a polished national championship trophy ready for the taking, and a significant conference realignment that will rewrite the history of a game that greatly depends on the pageantry of old rivalries.
All stand to make NCAA football a better product for its keepers. That is of course, if youíre not Boston College in 2004.
The maroon and gold helmets at The Heights will receive several bitter looks in the Big East this season. When the Eagles decided to desert the cool lunch table to go sit with the new cute girl in school, they made more enemies than friends around these parts.
Boston College will follow Miami and Virginia Tech to the new super-sized Atlantic Coast Conference starting next season. The Hurricanes and Hokies got to join in 2004 after paying a $1 million withdraw fee and waiting the allotted 12 months to join.
BC, however, wasnít officially invited until last October, so it wonít finalize the Big East divorce until July of 2005.
The scorned conference actually tried to make the awkward stay longer and more expensive for BC before a superior court ruling ended that vindictive assault earlier this month. After the jolt of the Miami and Virginia Tech defections, the remaining Big East schools agreed to increase the exit penalties from $1 million to $5 million and from 12 months to 27 months, hoping to deter others from doing the same in the future.
BC was in agreement with these new amendments to the conference constitution, but declined to vote on the changes when the time came.
Then the Eagles joined the ACC six days later, but won the court case because the Big East tried to enforce rules that were not properly amended without BCís vote.
"Drat! Double drat!" was the general reaction of Big East commissioner Mike Tranghese and the boys. They thought BC, one of the original members, was a secured ally during such uncertain times.
They thought wrong.
By joining the ACC the Eagles will become the 12th-team, making it a superconference like the Big 12 and the Southeastern Conference. Financially, the ACC will be able to play an annual title game that generates the SEC about $12 million per year. This higher profile will likely command a bigger television deal when the current one expires, also giving the conference a better chance of putting a second team in the BCS, which brings $13 million to each program that earns a bid.
Eagles athletic director Gene DeFilippo knows that he wonít be Mr. Popular in road press boxes this season, but he believes that BC did what was best for the future of the program.
"To be candid with you, I went through some real real rocky times last year at Syracuse and at Rutgers, and at some other places, and I understood that," DeFilippo said of his new outcast status. "When you make a decision youíre not going to be popular in all sectors."
The political backlash was also delivered to the team on the field in 2003 and should continue this season. Syracuse fans threw fake money down from the bleachers behind the Eagles sideline at the Carrier Dome last October and there were even light murmurs that BC didnít get the benefit of any close calls from Big East referees.
"I donít think anybody was really enthused with us," head coach Tom OíBrien acknowledged.
BC has handled things gracefully. The Eagles now look at the chance to leave the Big East with a conference title and a BCS bid in the final act of this collegiate drama. With power programs in Miami and Virginia Tech already gone to the ACC, BC was voted second in the preseason poll behind West Virginia.
"With all the things that have happened it would be special to win it," defensive end Mathias Kiwanuka said of the BCS bowl possibility. "We are pretty much the hated team in the Big East."
"It would be the greatest if we could take it and run," senior defensive tackle Tim Bulman added with a mischievous smile.
Not bad motivation going into a college football season with the freshness of new ideas and movement. The Eagles donít join that new frontier until 2005.
Right now they will have to take care of old business.
Commentaries by Del N. Jones are posted regularly on Mondays. His weekend columns can also be read in the Saturday/Sunday edition of The Patriot Ledger or at patriotledger.com.