SYRACUSE, N.Y. — The Carrier Dome was quiet, but Boston College’s locker room was booming and the only place quiet enough for Joe Rahon to make a phone call was in the hallway.
Barely 15 minutes had passed since Boston College shattered No. 1 Syracuse’s perfect season, and when Rahon picked up his phone, it seemed like everyone in his contact list was trying to get in touch with him.
“You come back and your phone has 50-60 text messages on it,” Rahon said. “That’s just one of those things where everyone wanted to say congratulations and that they were proud of us. Something we’ll never forget.”
The locker room door was shut, but the Eagles were howling so loud you could hear them at either end of the corridor.
So Rahon sneaked away and found a spot with just enough silence. He wanted to make sure he called his dad.
“I just wanted to share the moment with him,” Rahon said. “We got to talk a little bit about the game and that was nice. He said he was proud of me and everything. It was really cool.”
When Rahon scrolled through his Twitter timeline, he realized there was something buzzing back on campus at Chestnut Hill.
A group of fans was trying to assemble a welcoming committee for the Eagles.
“Before we got on the charter flight back, there were like tweets and social media stuff going around where people were trying to get students to show up there. It was pretty cool.
“They waited for us at Conte. We probably got there around 12:30 or 12:40. And there were probably about 50-60 students waiting for us. So that was a pretty cool experience.”
The Eagles hadn’t come home to that type of reception since the last time they beat an undefeated top-ranked team — the 2009 North Carolina Tar Heels.
The players and fans went to the team’s practice gym to keep the celebration going.
“It was great for our guys,” said BC coach Steve Donahue. “We’ve been through a lot this year and for them to experience success and have the fans that excited. And it was good for our students. There’s a lot of fans that we see at a lot of our games. It’s been a rough year for them as well.”
A few weeks ago, Donahue told his team to look at the schedule. They had Notre Dame, Virginia, Duke, and Syracuse all lined up. Rather than look at it as an Atlantic Coast Conference gauntlet, Donahue wanted his team to view it another way.
“Coach Donahue told us about three or four games ago that this could be the most special month of our BC careers,” Ryan Anderson said.
The win over the Orange gave BC its third victory over a the top team in school history.
“He might be a prophet right now,” Anderson said.
Donahue wasn’t concerned with what the win added to his résumé, but what it meant to a team that was trying to put a 6-19 start behind them.
“I love that the kids can say that,” Donahue said. “They can go forever or go back 20 years from now, they can remember beating an undefeated Syracuse team at the Dome, that they were a part of it. That’s what’s great. I’ve coached 30 years. I’ve got a lot of stupid memories and stuff. I want these guys to have the best four-year college experience they can, and that last night will be one they’ll never forget.”
When Donahue checked his phone, the most important messages weren’t from colleagues or friends.
“We got a lot of recruits that texted us,” Donahue said. “They’re the most important ones you want.”
Even in tough times, a win over the top team in the country on national television serves as its own sales pitch.
“You get the full effect of it for the kids that you’re recruiting,” Donahue said. “You show them what your vision is. Then they get to see some tangible results. That’s the most important thing.”
Typically, Donahue doesn’t push his players as hard the day after a game. But he thought the best way to avoid a hangover from an intoxicating win was to work.
“I said to the players when we got into practice, ‘If you want to win on Saturday [at Miami], this next hour and a half you can’t get back,’ ” Donahue said. “If you don’t prepare right now, mentally and physically, then we don’t have a shot Saturday.”
“I’m trying to use that win as a springboard,” Donahue said. “I think this is a chance for us to really make something special out of what’s been a rough season. I think we’re playing good basketball now and I’m excited about the next opportunity.”Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.