ESPN.com is taking a closer look this week at city schools, football programs that compete with an NFL franchise for your attention, money and loyalty. Here in the blogosphere we'll be looking at the ACC's urban programs, what they've got working in their favor, and what they've got going against them.
School: Boston College
Location: Chestnut Hill, Mass.
Bowl appearances: 21
NFL first-round picks: 15
Losing seasons: 21
10-win seasons: 4
Source: ESPN Stats & Info (Note: Numbers date back to 1936, the first year of the AP poll. NFL numbers date back to 1970.)
The skinny: Since joining the ACC, Boston College has been a consistent contender, but its success has been overshadowed by other teams in the league and its neighbors in nearby Boston. The Eagles played in back-to-back ACC championship games in 2007 and 2008, but have also had three different coaches in the past five seasons. Coach Frank Spaziani enters his third season as head coach, but after a decade as the Eagles’ defensive coordinator, he’s more than familiar with what it takes to make the program thrive in an urban environment.
The good: Boston College has built a reputation for recruiting blue-collar athletes who work hard and are talented enough to contend for conference championships. That’s best reflected in the Eagles’ defense, which has ranked 13th nationally over the past seven seasons, allowing 312.36 yards per game over a span of 91 games. Since joining the ACC for the 2005 season, Boston College has won 54 football games, the most in the six-year period in the ACC with the exception of Virginia Tech, which has won 63. There is also a football tradition to build upon, which includes the rivalry with Notre Dame and the famed career of Doug Flutie. Academically, BC is one of the nation’s best. Last year the university was ranked among the top 34 by US News & World Report, and the entire athletic department typically has one of the highest graduation rates in the FBS. It’s a diverse student body that has drawn students from all 50 states and more than 80 countries, but it’s also selective, as the university received about 30,000 applications for its 2,250-member class of 2014.
The bad: It’s no secret Boston College often gets overlooked in the bowl selection process because of a small alumni base that doesn’t travel well. Nine-win seasons have amounted to the MPC Computers Bowl and Continental Tire Bowl. The Eagles have trouble filling their own stadium, and averaged 38,369 fans last year. There is also a lack of media exposure in part because of the moderate success of the program and also because of the competing pro sports. With the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics and Bruins nearby, exposure is at a premium, and BC hasn’t won big enough to emerge from the shadows. The Eagles are more a guest of the Top 25 than a resident, and have no conference championships on their résumé. While the Eagles have recruited well enough to contend, they have one Heisman Trophy winner in program history and 10 consensus All-Americans. It’s not in a hotbed for recruiting like Florida State or Miami, and geographically, it was a better fit for the Big East.