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Let's Get To Know: The Boston College Eagles

Pitt will rekindle an old rivalry against the BC Eagles in future seasons. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Pitt will rekindle an old rivalry against the BC Eagles in future seasons. (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
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Whether it's 2012 or 2013, at some point Pitt is going to begin playing ACC teams. So let's get to know our future conference rivals, starting with a certain former Big East team up in Chestnut Hill, the Boston College Eagles. I reached out to the guys over at BC Interruption, SB Nation's excellent Boston College blog, for some information about BC athletics. Much thanks to Brian over there for partaking in this Q & A.

Cardiac Hill: Let's talk football. You guys had a nice run of making bowl games the past decade before this past season. What happened and should we expect BC back in a bowl next season? Also, explain what it feels like to lose to Duke in football.

This season was the perfect confluence of players kicked off the team, coaches kicked off the team, a rash of injuries, close calls (see below), poor coaching, a stalled offense and a difficult schedule. The result was BC’s worst effort in more than a decade – 4 up, 8 down.

BC should return a very experienced and (hopefully) more healthy team in 2012, including 19 starters (9 on offense, 9 on defense and 1 specialist). We’ve also seemingly made some upgrades on the coaching staff, particularly at the offensive coordinator and offensive line coach positions. That said, the schedule is pretty difficult – just six home games, road games at Florida State, Georgia Tech, N.C. State and Northwestern and home dates against Clemson, Virginia Tech, Notre Dame and Miami. If BC is bowling next season, I think it’ll be just barely. This coming season feels like a 6-6 or 7-5 type season.

It wasn’t just losing to Duke football. It was losing to Duke at home on a chip-shot GW field goal that clanked off the uprights after BC’s offense went 3-and-out the entire half until the final drive of the game. Certainly one of the low points of an otherwise miserable season.

Cardiac Hill: The Eagles' basketball team made the NCAA Tournament three years ago, but haven't been back since. This season is particularly bad. You guys weren't nearly this bad when you were in the Big East. What gives?

The AD decided to blow up Boston College basketball and start again when he fired Al Skinner two years ago. Our new coach Steve Donahue, of Cornell Sweet 16 fame, took a senior-laden roster in his first year and brought BC within a win of the NCAA Tournament in 2011.

This year, Donahue lost nearly all of his offensive production, including the top five scorers – four seniors and junior guard Reggie Jackson (to the NBA Draft). He also lost all of Al Skinner’s final recruiting class. The end result is Donahue starting four freshmen and junior transfer Matt Humphrey (from Oregon). With five new faces in the starting lineup, this year is the definition of a rebuilding year.

Overall, BC basketball has more or less held their own in the ACC. Three NCAA Tournament appearances and an appearance in last year’s NIT. In our first year in the league, we came within a bucket of knocking off Duke and winning the ACC Tournament. But the long-term prospects of BC hoops are less promising. Donahue has a big rebuilding job ahead of him but there is some hope this group of freshmen can have much greater success as they mature and continue to work together as a team.

Cardiac Hill: So I see the school is big on hockey and you're actually pretty good. It clearly seems bigger in Chestnut Hill than men's basketball. Tell us about BC hockey.

Boston College hockey is one of the premier college hockey teams in the country and arguably the best program over the last decade. BC has won three National Championships in the last 11 years – 2001, 2008 and 2010 – and made six Frozen Four appearances (hockey’s Final Four) over that span. Six conference tournament championships and five outright regular season titles, too.

BC hockey has enjoyed an unprecedented amount of success in the last decade, and that’s all thanks to head coach Jerry York. York (BC ’67) returned to his alma mater in 1994 after winning a National Championship at Bowling Green … yes, that Bowling Green … in 1984. BC consistently brings in some of the best talent in the nation. We don’t rebuild, we reload.

Our archrivals are the cross-town Boston University Terriers, who have gotten the better of BC this year. The two teams square off once more this coming Monday in the Beanpot Championship, an annual Boston-area tournament between BC, BU, Harvard and Northeastern.

Hopefully there’s another tournament run in this year’s Eagles squad.

Cardiac Hill: Boston College and UConn really don't get along ... it's okay, we don't like Jim Calhoun, either. If Notre Dame finally gives in and joins the ACC, would you want the Huskies as well?

Personal feelings aside, I don’t think UConn is the obvious choice for the 16th program. If you are adding Notre Dame, I think you want to pair the Irish with a program with some significant college football value. ND balked at playing at the Rent when they were working out a non-conference series with the Huskies, so I don’t think they would be in favor of adding UConn with Notre Dame.

I could see Notre Dame and the northern tier of the ACC – BC, Syracuse and Pittsburgh – being more in favor of adding Rutgers to the conference as a 16th program over UConn. The exposure generated from playing in NJ is far greater than the reach UConn, particularly UConn football, a decade removed from I-AA status, has in New York.

Other reaches would include West Virginia, if they grow tired of the whole Big 12 experiment, or Louisville. And who knows what the college athletics conference looks like in a few years. A program like Penn State could make a move if the Big Ten ever destabilizes, however improbable that scenario might seem present day.

Cardiac Hill: When Pitt fans head up to Boston College, give us a few places we definitely have to grab a bite to eat.

Eagles’ Deli is in Cleveland Circle and is home to the Godzilla Burger Challenge. There are a bunch of other decent places to eat in Cleveland Circle, including BoLoCo (burritos), Roggie’s, CitySide and Presto’s and Pino’s Pizza, which have a local rivalry of sorts.

If you are feeling adventurous and want to venture out further beyond campus, Anna’s Taqueria on Beacon Street is a solid option.

Cardiac Hill: What are some other things we should know about Boston College? Is there a particularly good non-revenue sport or a tradition that BC is well known for? You get the idea.

Other than hockey, both the Boston College men’s and women’s soccer programs have excelled in the ACC under the leadership of long-time coach Ed Kelly and Alison Foley. The women made the College Cup two years ago and the men made a run in this year’s ACC Tournament, reaching the finals before bowing out to eventual National Champion North Carolina. BC soccer has enjoyed a lot of success in the conference switch, especially when you consider the competition in the ultra-competitive ACC.

Boston College sailing has won a bunch of National Championships over the past few years, so there’s that, too.

No big traditions other than the BC Superfan shirt, an obnoxious yellow tee that students wear in the student sections at football, basketball and hockey games.

Cardiac Hill: Do you feel that Pitt and Syracuse will ultimately be good additions for the ACC? In your opinion, does the ACC ever go to 16 members?

Gonna be honest. At first, I was thrilled with the additions of Pitt and Syracuse. This gave BC a long-standing hoops and football rival – Syracuse – and another northern partner in Pittsburgh that will help bridge the geographic gap between Chestnut Hill and College Park.

Now, with reports of marginal financial gains from the adds, I’m not so sure. Obviously the Syracuse and Pittsburgh adds will help strengthen the ACC’s basketball product, but I think the jury is still out on football. Syracuse still doesn’t seem to have it all together and Pitt has seemingly underachieved relative to expectations and resources in a watered down Big East (no offense).

All of this gets the rumor mill going – FSU and Clemson to Big 12! Virginia Tech and N.C. State to SEC! – but I’m not sure I believe any of those rumors. The ACC is much more stable than fans seem to give the conference credit for. Sure, ACC football is one of the worst AQ conferences but for basketball, Olympic sports and academics, the ACC is still one of the premier conferences in the country.

As for whether the ACC will ever go to 16, I’m not sold. The ACC isn’t expanding further without Notre Dame. But Notre Dame doesn’t have an incentive to join the ACC unless:

a) the Irish feel that their independent status will make football scheduling difficult going forward (think they can manage even with both the Pac-12 and ACC moving to a nine-game conference model and Navy moving to the Big East)

b) the Big East implodes and Notre Dame can’t find safe harbor in another conference for their Olympic sports (the Big 12 seems like they would be willing to bring on the Irish, making the Big East’s mistake)

c) the college football postseason structure changes significantly and an independent Notre Dame doesn’t have a seat at the table in, say, a 4-team playoff (highly unlikely)

The ACC has stated in no uncertain terms that they will not give Notre Dame a home for its Olympic sports without football. In other words, we are an all-in destination. Further, a 16-team model just seems unworkable. There’s a reason the one 16-team conference didn’t last too long. I’m not sure the ACC wants to forge that path without company in the form of a Pac-16 or 16-team SEC.

Thanks again to Brian for this and we're looking forward to meeting up with BC in the upcoming seasons.

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