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DiMauro: A ‘collective’ grin for BC’s sports renaissance



Ah, the torments of the Boston College sports fan in recent years: Impromptu intervals of hope, ultimately punctuated with a knee to the kidneys, kick to the groin and a rake of the face. Never again, you vow. Until the next interval.

But in the spirit of accepting finite disappointments without losing infinite hope, here comes 2024 … and more than a glimmer of a Dylan-like renaissance for BC sports: Times, they are a-changin.’

In the last month, BC teams have beaten SMU, Notre Dame, St. John’s and Providence across four different sports. Fans of an SEC school are bellyaching on social media because they believe BC “outbid” them in the transfer portal for a football player. BC football’s transfer portal ranking is 25th nationally. Hockey may be the best team in the country. Men’s basketball has given itself its best chance at the postseason in years. Women’s lacrosse is a perennial championship contender. Baseball is coming off an NCAA Tournament berth.

It is more than coincidence – remember that Einstein said “coincidence is God’s way of remaining anonymous” – that as BC’s Name-Image-Likeness collective “Friends Of the Heights” evolves, so does BC’s burgeoning success. Can we draw a direct line connecting the two? Perhaps. But here’s what we know for sure: Use a Sharpie for whatever line you draw. “Friends of the Heights” is a-comin.’

“There are a number of attractive facets to BC,” Tom Devitt, the BC grad who runs the NIL collective, said on New Year’s Day, just before settling in to watch the college football semifinals. “The student-athletes know there’s a collective here now and the ability to negotiate a tremendous opportunity.”

Part of Devitt’s job has been to educate the masses on BC’s collective, which began with alums Joe Popolo, Scott Mutryn, Brian Tusa and Sam Raia. Name-Image-Likeness rules often come off as arcane and ideologically distasteful, even to ardent college sports fans. Potential donors don’t always understand where the money’s going. 

The NIL idea on the surface is a simple construct: College athletes are permitted to be compensated in various ways, among them jersey sales, advertising, or video game character usage. And while national narratives suggest this is becoming de facto free agency, Devitt is clear this is not “pay for play” at BC. The players are given the opportunity to earn their NIL benefits, through which they are also able to make positive impacts in greater Boston communities.

There is also a for-profit side, allowing athletes to partner with companies to be spokespersons for restaurants and other such businesses. 

“BC is committed to two things; empowering the student-athletes and doing it the right way,” Devitt said. “A large part of both consists of a 501c3 element of the organization. What that means is by rule, we must partner with other not for profit organizations – like the YMCA, Boys and Girls Clubs and organizations that assist the homeless and poor.

“We are able to give student athletes the ability to earn NIL benefits through charitable endeavors. I think it’s an unbelievable concept that the community is being impacted in such a positive way.”

Fast forward to December, where social media, which had been using BC football coach Jeff Hafley as a dartboard, quickly began referring to him as “Portal Jeff.” Suddenly, BC had portal commitments from running backs from Central Florida (Jordan McDonald) and Kansas State (Treshaun Ward); a tight end from North Carolina (Kamari Morales); receivers from Vanderbilt (Jayden McGowan) and Texas Tech (Jerand Bradley); and two defensive backs from Ohio State (Cameron Martinez and Ryan Turner). McGowan has originally committed to South Carolina, but flipped to BC, leaving Gamecock Nation apoplectic.

Here is what we know: None of that happens if “Friends of the Heights” isn’t gaining traction.

“Coaches can’t make NIL offers, although that appears to sometimes happen elsewhere,” Devitt said. “What coaches can say is that, yes, we have a growing collective and compare the player to someone already on the roster. ‘Here is Player X, this is his or her general deal and we view you as comparable.’”

Devitt said Hafley spent much of December on the road, executing a specific and layered portal strategy with assistants dotted throughout the country. 

“Coach Hafley deserves a ton of credit for being able to maneuver the way he did throughout December,” Devitt said, citing some selling points. 

“Look at BC right now,” he said. “There is an opportunity to play in the Red Bandana game. To follow in the footsteps of Zay Flowers, A.J. Dillon and Chris Lindstrom. To run behind a great offensive line and to get an elite education and student experience. If we have all those things and present significant NIL opportunities when the athletes arrive, that’s a very attractive package.”

In late December, the Eagles didn’t merely defeat No. 17 SMU in the Fenway Bowl, but looked good doing so. Devitt said the result of the game alone encouraged 30 more donors to contribute to “Friends of the Heights,” capping a successful month.

“The timing of the game was spectacular for us,” Devitt said. “It coincided with our end of the year giving campaign. Our founding members (Raia, Mutryn, Popolo, Tusa) and Mr. John Fish (Chairman and CEO of Suffolk Construction, former chair and current member of BC’s Board of Trustees and the man for whom Fish Field House is named) would match any donation dollar for dollar. We had a terrific night after BC beat SMU and a terrific morning after. Our athletes are very grateful.”

BC fans should be grateful for “Friends of the Heights” as well. Boston College has been a player this offseason.

“Let’s face it,” Devitt said. “BC has a number of great things going for it and knowing we have a growing collective certainly helps.”

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DiMauro: All in all, a solid year for BC sports



If you are reading this, chances are your primary means of remaining connected to Boston College runs through athletics.

Oh, and we’ve been tortured souls, too, especially in recent years. We are idealists and fatalists, demanding yet forgiving, loyal and resilient, even if sometimes it feels as though we make the long trek up the cliff to Lovers Leap … only to get shoved.

All of which makes the sports year of 2023-24 a time to celebrate. Boston College did itself proud, no small occurrence given that in this unsteady (perverse?) time of expansion and realignment, schools like BC must always look their Sunday best, with no overt warts or love handles.

Women’s lacrosse, BC’s working definition of pride and joy, capped the sports season with the national championship Memorial Day weekend in Cary, NC. It was the program’s second natty in four years, a three-hour infomercial for the entire institution and more proof that, yes, it can be done at BC with the right coach.

Acacia Walker-Weinstein – you’ll note that only the letter “W” separates her from “Einstein” – not only hung a banner, but helped BC earn a distinction few other athletic programs in the country could trumpet. How many other schools made national championship games (both televised by ESPN) in two different sports fewer than two months apart?

Think about that one: Men’s hockey, during an otherwise memorable season, fell short in the national championship game. But the Sons of Greg Brown did the school proud all season. Not a bad accomplishment to see “BC in the national finals” on the ESPN scroll in mid-April (hockey) and late May (lacrosse). It’s hard to buy that kind of advertising, particularly when and if realignment and expansion happen again.

Football won a bowl game over a ranked team at Fenway Park, returns a dynamo in Thomas Castellanos and then made the splash of a cannonball, hiring Bill O’Brien as head coach. Three other women’s sports showed promise as well: field hockey (11-7, made the ACC Tournament); softball (30-24, made the ACC Tournament) and volleyball, which continues to improve steadily under coach Jason Kennedy, finished 19-13 and made the ACC Tournament.

Otherwise, baseball gets a pass as new coach Todd Interdonato assimilates to the ACC and establishes his culture; the soccer programs (3-9-5 and 3-9-6) were lousy; and I remain concerned about men’s and women’s basketball. Put it this way: Sure feels as though better players are leaving than are entering.

Off the field, “Friends Of The Heights,” BC’s Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) collective, grew massively, keeping BC competitive in a cutthroat environment. Friends Of The Heights also homered into the upper deck, hiring veteran athletic administrator Jim Paquette as its new Chief Development Officer. Paquette will advise the Board on overall development strategies, using his 16 years as an administrator at BC that specialized in fundraising.

BC’s overall cachet also made a splash on social media when Forbes Magazine named it one of the country’s “New Ivies.”

Based on its researchForbes, the century-old national business magazine, reported that American companies are souring on hiring Ivy League graduates, instead preferring high achievers from 20 other prominent universities – “Private and Public New Ivies.”

BC joins private school “New Ivies” Carnegie Mellon, Emory, Georgetown, Johns Hopkins, Northwestern, Rice, Notre Dame, Southern California and Vanderbilt. Ah, to be judged by the company one keeps.

One school year hasn’t produced this much for BC in years. And it’s significant. The idea now is to build, not regress.

Full disclosure: There are many things I still don’t like. I’m told Father Leahy neither attended the Frozen Four nor the lacrosse Final Four. It is disrespectful to the players, coaches and alumni to have a leader who acts as if so much about what makes BC great is beneath him. And we still seem to have these spasms of tone deafness, such as patrolling the parking lots like stormtroopers the day of the spring football game.

But 2023-24 was an encouraging year for BC in many ways. Yes, we always want more. But we were getting less for a long time. Not this year. A tip of the cap to athletic director Blake James, his staff, the coaches and the kids.

We pause now to enjoy summer and await Labor Day night in Tallahassee. Here’s to 2024-25, hollering “Mr. Brightside” again with the kids from the crowded bleachers.

Mike DiMauro, a columnist in Connecticut, is a contributor to Eagles Daily and a member of BC’s Class of 1990. He may be reached at or @BCgenius 

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Boston College lineman Kyle Hergel selected 3rd overall in CFL draft



The former Eagles guard was not selected in last week’s NFL draft, but quickly heard his name yesterday in the 2024 CFL draft, going 3rd overall to the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

Hergel, who spent one year at Boston College after transferring from Texas State. The guard was a huge success in helping transform the offensive line play in 2023, gaining the best PFF pass block grade at Boston College (86.6) with no sacks allowed and two quarterback hits on 402 dropbacks. This was good enough to earn All-ACC honorable mention and a trip to the East-West shrine game.

Recently signing with the New Orleans Saints as an undrafted free agent following the 2024 NFL draft, Hergel will seemingly look to catch on in the NFL this summer before trekking north of the boarder to play for the Roughriders.

John Pupel gets Patriots rookie camp invite

The former safety will travel to nearby Foxboro, Ma as an invite to Patriots rookie camp. After beginning his college career at Dartmouth, Pupel joined the Eagles in 2022. Starting 11 games last year with 81 tackles, a pack break up and a forced fumble.

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Boston College’s Elijah Jones and Christian Mahogany drafted, others signed: Eagles Draft Weekend Recap



It was a rather successful weekend for Boston College in the NFL Draft, as both Elijah Jones and Christian Mahogany were taken while guard Kyle Hergel inked a UDFA deal. In addition, longtime and former BC notables Jaelen Gill and Josh DeBerry have received UDFA deals.

Jones – The first Eagle off the board this year, Jones went 90th overall in the third round to the Arizona Cardinals. He missed the final three games of the season for undisclosed reasons but had a big year that shot up his draft stock with a conference-best five interceptions while also defending 13 passes. As a member of the 2018 recruiting class, the corner tallied 60 games at BC and racked up a First-team All-ACC selection this past year.

Jones’ 86.9 defensive PFF grade was the sixth-best in the draft class out of corners and he was the 11th cornerback off the board for the Eagles.

Mahogany – Mahogany sat out of the bowl game and had some noticeable buzz surrounding his name entering the draft, but the guard fell to the sixth round to the Detroit Lions. Mahogany missed most of the 2022 season after an ACL injury but came back fully healthy for 2023, posting the 16th-best total PFF grade out of guards in the draft class.

Mahogany fell further than many, with many projections putting him as a Day 2 pick, but given he’s 24 and his scouting reports present some clear downside, it’s not all that shocking that he fell all the way to the sixth round.

Hergel – Hergel didn’t exactly have any buzz surrounding his name but he managed to grab a UDFA deal with the Saints. He was a four-year starter between North Dakota and Texas State before he was a fifth-year transfer to BC, and he put up a solid enough season to get signed.

DeBerry – DeBerry signed on with the Cowboys, as he transferred to Texas A&M for his fifth year after four seasons with the Eagles. He was a big loss for BC’s secondary, as he started seven games this year for the Aggies and grabbed two interceptions.

Gill – Gill put up huge numbers for Fresno State this past year after three seasons with BC. After an initial start to his career at Ohio State, he transferred to the Eagles ahead of the 2020 season and through three years he put up 1,092 yards. He put up basically half of that in just one year with the Bulldogs, tallying 516 yards on 49 catches and six touchdowns.

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