Did you know that the Notre Dame Fighting Irish are coming to Chestnut Hill to play the Boston College Eagles Saturday at 3:30 at Alumni Stadium?
Of course not.
Shake down the thunder and dropkick me Touchdown Jesus through the goalposts of life. Our region’s abject apathy about this game is the latest demonstration that we are the worst college sports town in America.
There’s no shame in this. Not in my book anyway. I love the fact that we have evolved into a pro sports-only town. The Four Horsemen of Boston sports — the Red Sox, Patriots, Celtics, and Bruins — provide more than enough fodder to fill these pages and fuel four all-sports local radio and television stations.
College football? It no longer exists in our region. Boston College brings the likes of Virginia Tech, Florida State, Wake Forest, and NOTRE DAME to town, and most of you reading this probably learned about the BC-ND game just now.
Scott Zolak and Marc Bertrand are cohosts of a popular midday sports show on 98.5 The Sports Hub (disclosure: I am a weekly guest; oh, and while we’re at it, John Henry owns the Globe and the Red Sox). Zo and the Beetle are forever locked in a ratings war with rival WEEI. I asked them if they plan to devote any precious programming to the big BC-Notre Dame game.
“I’ve been here over nine years,’’ said Zolak, who grew up in football-crazed Western Pennsylvania and starred at Maryland. “I like my job and I want to keep my job. So I’m going to talk about what people want to talk about. We live in a town where all four pro sports teams matter.’’
Hmmm. That sounds like a “no” regarding the Eagles and Irish.
Bertrand, a UMass alum/booster and a big-time college hoop fan, added, “On our show, I talk about the things people talk about, and people are not talking about this game.’’
Amen. Good old-fashioned college football talk would be a ratings-killer.
No offense to the hard-working scholar-athletes at Boston College, but can any of you local sports fans tell me the name of the BC quarterback? Or any other player?
I drove around campus Tuesday and there was a distinct lack of buzz about the big game. No signage about beating the Irish. No boola-boola. When I popped into Conte Forum late in the morning, I had to talk to four people before I could find anyone who could locate the sports information office.
This is no one’s fault, and it could be argued that BC is fortunate to be flying under the radar when it comes to big-time football and basketball. Two years ago, the Eagles made NCAA history by going an aggregate 0-26 in ACC play in football and basketball.
The Eagles made it to the Quick Lane Bowl last year, but only because they fattened up on UMass, Wagner, Buffalo, and UConn. BC’s 2017 “bowl” team lost games to Virginia Tech, Clemson, Louisvillle, and Florida State by an aggregate 202-24.
The Eagles are 1-1 as they prepare for Saturday’s Catholic Super Bowl with the 1-1 Irish. BC won its opener at Northern Illinois, but lost at home to Wake Forest, 34-10, last weekend.
Baby Boomer Boston sports fans remember when BC had a piece of the local sports pie. Our dads and moms talked of the days when the Eagles and Holy Cross could sell out Fenway Park for the annual Jesuit clash.
Frank Leahy took BC to the Cotton Bowl in 1940 and won the Sugar Bowl against Tennessee one year later. As recently as 1984-85, a Natick kid named Doug Flutie won a Heisman Trophy and beat the University of Houston in the Cotton Bowl. Tom Coughlin kept BC on the football map with great teams in the early 1990s.
Bringing mighty Notre Dame here in 1975 for the first time was a major sports event around here. In 1992, both teams were ranked in the top 10 in the country before Jerome Bettis ran all over the Eagles (54-7) in South Bend. When unheralded BC kicker David Gordon booted a 41-yard field goal to beat top-ranked Notre Dame at South Bend in November of 1993, it was Page One news and considered one of the top local sports moments of all time.
Today? No so much. I knew it was over for big-time college sports locally in 2007 when the football Eagles were ranked second in the country in late October and could hardly get their names mentioned on the radio or TV. Matty “Ice” Ryan was quarterback of that squad, but the Eagles could not get any attention because the Red Sox were winning the World Series, the Patriots were on their way to 18-0, and Kevin Garnett and Ray Allen had just teamed up with Paul Pierce to begin the Celtics’ quest for championship banner No. 17.
Notre Dame is coming to Boston Saturday.
Ghosts of Knute Rockne and the Gipper. The Sons of Rudy are the New York Yankees of college sports — the gold brand of NCAA gluttony. But while New England fans prepare for the baseball playoffs and watching Patriots-Saints on CBS, the Fighting Irish will pass through town here virtually unnoticed.
Only in Boston.Dan Shaughnessy can be reached at email@example.com