You can now read 10 articles a month for free. Read as much as you want anywhere and anytime for just 99¢.

From the archives | 1997

Lamenting the loss of BU football

Happy, now, Mr. Chancellor?

You finally got it done. It took you 25 years, but you got even with football. You weren’t big enough to take on Darrell Royal at Texas, but you finally got what you wanted at Boston University. You’re now on an equal footing with the Sorbonne. Perhaps you can ring up the folks in Paris for a Saturday afternoon chess match next year.

Continue reading below

Jon Westling is supposed to be the president of the school. Isn’t that right, Mr. Chancellor? In this case a title means nothing. You, John Silber, still rule, and it was your Killer Kowalski-like hold that brought an end to 91 years of BU football. But unlike one of The Killer’s hapless foes, the BU kids you have callously abandoned never capitulated. These ``little boys,’’ as you so condescendingly referred to them, made an eloquent statement in the wind and rain yesterday afternoon.

They brought an end to BU football -- at home, anyway -- in complete and utter glory, stomping the University of Massachusetts by a 33-8 score for their first win of the season. It was, Mr. Chancellor, one of those performances that dignifies all athletic competition. What these kids did for themselves, their coaches, their families, their friends, all former BU football players and loyal BU followers everywhere was elevate sport into something noble and decent. It is what organized sport is ultimately all about. Too bad you weren’t there to see it. You might -- and I know how incomprehensible it is for you to even imagine this -- have learned something.

``I don’t know whether to laugh or cry, or what,’’ said quarterback Dan Hanafin, who made his six completions good for 148 yards and one touchdown. ``I’m excited we won a game in this situation, but at the same time there is that cloud hanging over us and it’s tough to enjoy a great win like this when you know there won’t be any more great wins.’’

You see, Mr. Chancellor, your BU kids expunged most of the bad stuff from their system last week down in Storrs, Conn. They wore the much-discussed generic white uniforms and they played an atrocious game. You were probably smirking. But yesterday UMass was confronted with a group that might very possibly have been the most emotional team in America.

Yesterday, your team wore their standard red and white home uniforms. What they did not do was play their standard 1997 game. They played sound, intelligent, impassioned football. It was a beautiful thing. It might not have been a Shakespearean sonnet or a Grecian urn, but it was a beautiful thing nevertheless.

``We talked all week about going out with pride and class,’’ said cocaptain Travis Raitt. ``We played this game for 91 years at BU, and this was going to be our final game at Nickerson Field. This is the way we wanted to go out.’’

What irks everyone, Mr. Chancellor, is the way things were done. BU football loses money. Lots and lots of money. No one denies that. Some people won’t look at the situation rationally, but most people understand the difficult business aspect of playing I-AA football. But, Mr. Chancellor, you always seem to forget that you’re dealing with people.

``BU had a right to do what it did,’’ agrees Bob Rock, whose freshman son, Steve, is a starting cornerback. ``If there is no student and alumni support, it should be the school’s prerogative to drop the sport. But I came up here today [from Fort Lauderdale] because of the cowardly way the situation was handled. The manner in which they did this was classless.’’

Someone lied to coach Tom Masella when he took this job, Mr. Chancellor. Someone lied to the players. And what sense does it make to make an announcement of this nature before the season is over? What purpose does that serve?

And why is it necessary to eliminate football entirely? ``I would like to propose that we join the Colonial League,’’ says Tom Flanders, an SAE fraternity brother of Harry Agganis who has been faithfully attending BU football games for more than 45 years. ``If scholarships are the problem, then let’s do it. Drop down. But let’s not dump football.’’

He doesn’t get it, does he, Mr. Chancellor? He’s just one of those Great Unwashed, one of those pathetic people who think there is merit in sport. He thinks that football has enhanced autumn Saturdays at his alma mater. He kind of figures that if it’s not too undignified for MIT, Tufts, Williams, Amherst, and Stanford to play football, then it should be all right for Boston University, a k a Oxford West.

Don’t lie to me, Mr. Chancellor. How you would have loved to make BU into a University of Chicago, with no big-time sports whatsoever. Too bad that damnable Jack Parker kept winning all those hockey games. You could have gone after his program, too.

But you got the one you really wanted, didn’t you? You took care of Football, The Big Magilla, the one with the archetypical dumb jocks you so despised back when you couldn’t get your way in Austin, Texas.

Too bad you will never live long enough to know the type of exhilaration your team felt yesterday. There is all kind of joy in this world, but there is one peculiar to athletics. These BU kids now know what it feels like to have everything they hold dear taken away, to then band together for a week of us-against-the-world practice and finally to play a game like yesterday’s, a game that was strictly art for art’s sake. They feel good about themselves today in a way arrogant intellectual snobs such as yourself will never experience.

So in that regard, anyway, Mr. Chancellor, I know I speak for the Boston University football players when I say, ``Thanks.’’ You may have given them the best day of their young lives.

Loading comments...

You have reached the limit of 10 free articles in a month

Stay informed with unlimited access to Boston’s trusted news source.

  • High-quality journalism from the region’s largest newsroom
  • Convenient access across all of your devices
  • Today’s Headlines daily newsletter
  • Subscriber-only access to exclusive offers, events, contests, eBooks, and more
  • Less than 25¢ a week