When the COVID-19 pandemic put the world on hold for a year, I felt the enthusiasm for Boston College athletics hit an all-time low. Combine that with lukewarm performances in some major sports last year and you end up with a student body that stays for an hour and then dives in after muttering “To Boston.” Let’s not pretend that this is a problem caused only by students. I mean, sure, a lot of us don’t know the fight song, but is it our fault? Or is it the school for not trying to teach it to anyone, other than a one-time crash course at the beginning of the first year? There are administrative actions that could be carried out to revitalize the population of the University.
Boston University, another university whose attendance at sporting events has been impacted by COVID-19, introduced a policy that anyone attending eight home hockey games get a free hockey jersey. This type of practice would encourage BC students to attend games even when our record is not stellar.
One of the most visible problems for BC Athletics is fans leaving games early. In our first game of the season against Rutgers, although the game could have gone either way until the last minute, it seemed like only half the student section was there when time ran out. Last year, Florida State beat BC 26–3 midway through the third quarter, so crowds of students left the stadium to attend to some other obligation they all apparently had at three in the morning on a Saturday. But soon after, the defense cracked the code and shut down FSU while the offense fired up and scored three touchdowns to bring the game closer to three points. Although BC still lost the game, it was an exciting ending that most people chose not to witness.
But who would want to be on their feet for three and a half hours in the sun, rain or cold, especially when everything starts to get repetitive and BC starts to lose? After the eighth or so “Come on, BC! Put some dots on the board!” it becomes more of a chore. So what is the solution? I think BC should start giving away small collectibles in the final such as game cards, posters, or small merchandise items. This would make the entirety of Maine’s uncomfortably close-knit football game worth watching.
For sports other than soccer, most people don’t show up for games to begin with. A few times last year, BC set up a merchandise prize wheel in front of Mac to encourage people to attend hockey and basketball games. If these were installed in games, maybe more people would go see the game instead of just grabbing a free hat. Another move in the right direction last year was the special Sickos t-shirt raffle in a basketball game. However, the problems were that there were only 200 jerseys, most of the people who received them didn’t stay to watch the game and it only happened once: against the University at Albany and during finals week. If BC did this kind of thing more often, with more jerseys, and found some system to get people to stay in the game (handing them out during halftime or something similar), then attendance could increase for both exciting games as for the non-exciting ones.
Perhaps most tragic is the surprisingly small percentage of the student body that has attended a women’s athletic game. The problem here is threefold: games are often held at less than optimal times, some students feel that women’s sports are inherently less exciting to watch than men’s sports, and the school does a poor job of incentivizing people to attend the games. . Last year, BC hosted the state of North Carolina at #5 in women’s basketball and an impressive crowd attended the game, because attending the game was the only way to secure tickets to the men’s basketball game against Duke. If the school were to more widely adopt this practice, attendance at major women’s sports games would likely increase even more. For example, BC could give free Beanpot tickets to people who attend a major women’s hockey game.
BC recently introduced a system (conveniently hidden behind a menu in the BC Athletics app), where you can earn points that can be redeemed for BC merch by attending home games and keeping up with the Eagles. By arriving early and attending the entire game, bonus points are earned. This would be a huge move in the right direction, if only the app worked, made some sense, and people knew this is a thing. A simple step to improve this idea would be to promote each game on social media and tell people how many points they can earn and how. A more involved step would be to completely rework the BC Athletics app. In my experience, it’s not user-friendly and doesn’t display up-to-date score information.
There is also an issue with how rewards are priced. If you show up to a game half an hour early and stay the whole time, you earn 300, 400 or 500 points (less popular games give you more points). This means that if you were to attend all the remaining fall football, volleyball, men’s and women’s hockey, men’s and women’s basketball, men’s and women’s soccer, field hockey, and softball games, you would only earn about 38,000 points, which is very far. of the 75,000 points needed to win a worn soccer jersey. This is too much to expect from any fan, not only because it involves attending nearly 100 home games while also managing to keep up with the ratings, but also because several of these games occur during the break and a handful overlap. Costs need to be reworked as this system will not encourage anyone to attend games at home if the rewards are impossible to achieve.
Although BC’s sports culture would be much improved with some changes made by the school, there are ways students can make a big difference. For some students, the justification for their absence is that the equipment will not work well and the audience will not be animated. This is a self-fulfilling, damaging prophecy: the more people with this mindset, the fewer people attend, leading to less active crowds, diminishing BC’s home-field advantage, and making the team look worse. For others, the decision not to attend games is due to a general disinterest in the game or sport altogether. In each case, the problem can be addressed if those who attend the games begin to change the minds of those who do not attend.
When it comes to sporting events, what you put in is what you get. We can’t just expect everything to magically get better around us. The only way we’ll start to see change is if more people start going to more games, stick around for the entire game, and are enthusiastic members of the crowd.