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Things have taken a sinister turn at Boston College, where despite raking in huge yearly sums simply by being in a big-time league, the entire university, starting with its president, is suffering from ACCedia – the dark night of the soul in the Atlantic Coast Conference.

Unlike its sister affliction, acedia, which refers to a “gradual indifference to the faith,” ACCedia involves a gradual indifference to being a fan. The money’s still coming in, the games are still being staged, but no one cares, and almost no one shows up in the stands.

Allow UD to draw from her years of experience writing about university football and basketball in order to suggest some reasons for this strange turn of events.

The big glaring reason is this one: You’re either willing to give your full soul over to football, or you are not. You’re either fully committed to your completion percentage, or you are not. You’re either willing to spend most of your school’s money on athletics, admit academically unqualified players, and wrest all control over sports decisions from the school’s president, or you are not. Boston College languishes in a limbo of less than thorough football fervency.

To be sure, BC is doing some things right: It has appointed as the highest-paid person at a Catholic college a man whose every other word, on national television, is fuck. “[The football coach’s] profane sideline behavior [was] most damaging [during] a nationally televised loss to Notre Dame at Fenway Park, first when a camera focused on Addazio shouting the F-word, then when he received an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty for berating the officials.” You want a Christian role model at the very top, a signal lesson in how to behave if you want to earn the lord’s rewards, and Steve Addazio fits the bill.

And you want to schedule hard-hitting games.

In one of BC’s most embarrassing episodes last season, the Eagles defeated a stunningly inferior team from Howard University, 76-0, the game shortened by 10 minutes because of the mismatch.

That’s the kind of gladiatorial combat that puts butts in seats. Another way Addazio is earning his money.

But utter spiritual alignment with football does not end here. “God does not want you for a fair-weather friend,” as Marilla says to Anne at Green Gables farm, and the Boston College community has not yet learned this lesson. Being a fan is not merely about cheering on wins; it is about cheering on losses as well. If you cannot maintain enthusiastic faith in a team that loses most of its games, you are demonstrating a fundamental incapacity to perceive the divinity of sport.

The solution must begin in the soul – the collective soul of Boston College. UD suspects, for instance, an insufficiency of gridiron liturgy during public worship at BC. At every possible point during the mass and other sacred occasions, football (and basketball, if there’s time) should be invoked. BC has much to learn from Notre Dame here. And from Florida State.

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6 Responses to ““Yet unlike his predecessor, the Rev. J. Donald Monan, who was widely credited with leading the school out of its financial crisis by enthusiastically promoting both academics and athletics, [Boston College’s current president] is seen by many alumni as less exuberant about building elite sports programs than advancing the school’s academic excellence.””

  1. Van L. Hayhow Says:

    The life of the mind in New England these days.

  2. charlie Says:

    Contrast BC with another jebbie uni, my alma mater, University of San Francisco, which had one of the greatest college football teams during the 1951 season. They would have had a chance at a national title if they played the Orange Bowl in Florida. The kicker was that they couldn’t bring their African American teammates, not with Jim Crow and delicate southern sensibilities. As the tale goes, when told of the restrictions, the team rose in unison and shouted “Fuck no!”, I guess anticipating Coach Addazio’s diction preferences. But without the bowl game’s revenue and marketing, USF was forced to drop football, due to the fact that pumping more money into the sport would have compromised academics.

    Somehow, USF survived and was capable of delivering a decent education at an affordable price. Not quite true anymore, at least not the affordable part of the equation, but you can’t have everything, I guess….

  3. Mr Punch Says:

    What’s really striking here is that BC is among the few universities that have quite clearly benefited, even academically, from athletic success over recent decades. At the same time it has experienced constant tension over the extent of its commitment to athletics, always holding back some. The illusion at work is that it can be like Notre Dame – which however got where it is by doing things in a different order (no, not that kind) by a path no longer open.

  4. Derek Says:

    USF had a good team and obviously did a great thing in confronting the demands for Jim Crow, but they finished the season ranked #14 in both the AP and Coaches poll and they never rose higher than #13 during the season. Quite good, but never in the national championship picture. And of course in that era national champions were determined before the bowl games. The final polls of the 1951 season took place in early January.

  5. dmf Says:

    http://ww2.kqed.org/news/2016/03/14/uc-berkeley-assistant-coach-fired-for-violating-sexual-harassment-policy

  6. Derek Says:

    Sorry, the polls took place in early December. That was so common that occasionally teams would lose their bowl games after being declared national champions.

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