The ads for Boston College basketball games arrive on my computer screen regularly. I bought tickets a couple of years ago for a BC game or two and surrendered my email address, and so I guess I am on the list. I am afraid it is not a very active list.
Every game -- except the home dates against Duke and North Carolina -- has been advertised at a bargain price, a discount. BC basketball seems to be stacked these days on the same shelf as day-old bread, last year's best sellers and that miracle slicer/dicer that usually sells for $10,000, but if you order today you can have not one, but two slicer/dicers for the ridiculous price of $14.95.
This is the ad this week for the home season finale:
This Saturday: March 9
BC vs. GT
In honor of Joe Rahon's game-winning 3-pointer get $3 off tickets for Saturday's game against Georgia Tech. To get $7 tickets (Regularly $10). Use promo code RAHON3.
This has been a young BC team, still rebuilding under second-year coach Steve Donahue, taking some lumps on the way to a 14-16 record, but it has put together some terrific efforts in the home stretch. There was a one-point loss at Conte Forum to Duke, 62-61. There were wins over Maryland (69-58) and Virginia (53-52) that both came one game after Maryland and Virginia had beaten Duke. There was hustle, spunk, promise. There also were good seats available in all price ranges.
The $10 seats were five bucks against Maryland, "a half-price ticket special for February break." The price was six bucks against Virginia, "in honor of Eddie Odio's six blocked shots against Maryland." Broad open areas could be seen in the background of both games, pretty much the same background for all of the games this season except North Carolina and Duke.
The reason for this lack of interest can be debated at different levels by different people -- Boston is not a college basketball town, fans will only support a winner, weather considerations, etc. -- but the reason for my own lack of interest is simple: I don't care about the teams on the BC schedule. I suspect that is the case, too, with a lot of other potential customers.
Seven and a half years have passed since the Eagles shook free of the Big East and joined the Atlantic Coast Conference. That should have been more than enough time to switch hats, change focus and settle into the new situation, but somehow it hasn't. The ACC teams, fabled institutions and quote-unquote programs that they are, still seem to come to Chestnut Hill from the far side of the moon.
Who in Boston cares about Virginia Tech? About Clemson? About Florida State or Wake Forest or N.C. State? Even Duke and North Carolina, attractive as they are for their basketball history, diminish when they arrive to play football or baseball or anything else. Who cares? The essence of the best rivalries is familiarity, immediacy, a neighborhood fight for bragging rights. BC and its fans are neighbors to none of these ACC people.
When the school was in the Big East, Providence came to town and the University of Connecticut came to town and Syracuse and St. John's and Rutgers and Villanova and other schools from the Northeast followed. These schools not only brought fans with them, they already had fans in the area, graduates who had moved to Boston to work. There were local arguments, bets made, lies told. Everybody knew somebody who had attended these different institutions, be it friend or uncle or the person you saw across the breakfast table every morning.
Founded in 1979, the Big East gave this section of the country what other sections already had: structure for its top-level athletics. The basketball tournament became a showpiece at Madison Square Garden in New York. The best. The other sports found a common platform for competition, would-be football powers playing would-be football powers, cold-weather baseball teams playing cold-weather baseball teams. Everybody bounced into everybody else, local history was made, fun was had.
It all worked for a long time.
And then suddenly it didn't.
The Big East expanded first, adding schools like Miami and Virginia Tech and West Virginia and Rutgers, stretching the basketball conference to include football. This also stretched and weakened the rivalries. What part of the Northeast was Miami, Fla.? Morgantown, W. Va.? Then Miami and Virginia Tech jumped to the ACC. Then Boston College jumped. Then the Big East expanded some more with Cincinnati and DePaul, Louisville, Marquette, the University of South Florida. Then Syracuse and Pittsburgh decided they wanted to switch to the ACC. Then Maryland switched from the ACC to the Big Ten. Then Louisville …
This has been a national problem, of course, a national sense of confusion. Realignment has taken place in conferences across the country, geography and tradition disregarded in search of five more television dollars, folding cash, for the athletic department budgets, but I don't care about the rest of the country. I care about my little part.
The Big East, as we have known it, officially died in this past week, the name surrendered to a newly formed basketball conference of Catholic schools. The surviving schools from the old Big East -- put a gun to my head and I couldn't name them - apparently are shopping for a new name and are considering the "America 12 Conference."
It is all a mess.
It all stinks.
In addition to those Boston College emails, I also receive email ads from the University of Connecticut because I am a UConn graduate. The latest ad trumpeted the newly-released 2013 football schedule, "The Best Home Schedule. Ever." The listed home opponents are Towson, Maryland, Michigan, South Florida, Louisville, Rutgers and Memphis. I suppose this is the … Best Home Schedule. Ever … but it leaves this alumni observer flat. Take away Michigan, which is an interesting visitor from the Big Ten, and Rutgers, a familiar East Coast state school, and I don't care about any of those teams.
I'd much rather see UConn play Boston College.