They are a trio of outcasts in a fraternity which very much has a a very defined pecking order. If you mention Boston College, the University of Massachusetts and the University of Connecticut to most college football fans, you would get a puzzled look, with a “Is this a trick question?” response.
The unvarnished truth of the matter is simple. In the matters of college football, BC, UMass and UConn–the only 3 FBS schools in New England–are role players at best in college football.
During the past five seasons, BC leads the way with a 26-37 record, while UConn has been a dismal 19-42 and UMass has been even worse at 10-50.
BC, as part of a Power 5 conference in the ACC, has the highest profile, but the Eagles, now in their fifth season under Steve Addazio, have been a bottom feeder in the conference for almost a decade.
BC hasn’t been to a major college football bowl since Doug Flutie led the Eagles into the Cotton Bowl 33 years ago. They came within a win of reaching the Fiesta Bowl in 2004 and the Orange Bowl twice (2007, 2008).
UConn actually made it to the Fiesta Bowl in 2010, which was a milestone event for a school which had only begun competing at the 1-A level in 2000. UConn coach Randy Edsall parlayed that success by moving to the University of Maryland.
The Huskies haven’t come close to competing for any title since then. Two coaches later, Edsall is back this season, taking over a program that he says is much worse than the one he left.
And then there is UMass, striving for an identity, a home and validation as an FBS program that now must exist as an independent after a mis-guided stay in the Mid-American Conference. Coach Mark Whipple’s team is striving to get good enough to merit consideration as a member in another conference–even as a member of the MAC in an all sports relationship, as opposed to the football only membership which didn’t work out.
What seems obvious here is that none of the programs is strong enough to succeed without a booster shot. What is also clear is that the three New England schools for a variety of reasons–fan support, interest, W’s-Ls, need EACH OTHER, The three schools, less than 3 hours apart from each other, need to develop rivalries in all sports, but particularly football and basketball, with each other on a YEARLY basis.
Without the foundation of success and other than BC, a Power 5 conference league, the best way for each school to establish roots in football programs that need to develop is to establish book end games against each other. Having two non-conference games against each other at the start and conclusion of each season is the best way to generate interest in programs which ALL need help in developing a core base of fan support.
UConn faces BC at Fenway Park in November (a UConn home) game this season and there are games between the three schools scheduled in the future. But this needs to become part of the landscape for New England college football.
It is encouraging that new BC athletic director has reached out UMass athletic director Ryan Bamford and the two men will talk later this summer, presumably to work out future games.
Although football is a key element in this scenario, the three schools should make college basketball another point for linkage.
Just how soon that can happen on a regular basis in both sports will be the first major step for all three schools to re-establish their foot holds in New England college athletics.
Now all they have to do is find a winning formula.