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DiMauro: BC’s football salvation: We’re all in this together

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The apocalyptic howls lingered well after Thursday night’s ghastly outcome. Another loss morphed into another referendum on the program, more darts and arrows aimed at Jeff Hafley, who went from the recent author of a five-game win streak to a candidate for the unemployment line, at least to a chunk of irritated Boston College fans.

The surface level of Pitt 24, BC 16 was enough to drive BC loyalists to the Pepto Bismol. A defense that allowed more than 400 total yards (after 600 five days earlier to Virginia Tech) to a two-win Pitt team on its fourth quarterback of the season. An offense whose quarterback has an accuracy disorder that’s not improving. And the reflexive backlash aimed at the coach, designated with the responsibility of acquiring and developing talent.

Yes, it’s true that talent procurement and enhancement is on Hafley. But he’s going to need the help of everybody, right down to the fans reading this. We’re all in this together. Sounds bizarre? Sure. Except that the old rules of college athletics are becoming obsolete, replaced by a new reality: a talent-rich transfer portal fueled by Name-Image-Likeness opportunities.

Certainly, Boston College has some appeal that’s still tethered to academics, location and improving facilities. But BC, as is the case with every other program now, will succeed (or fail) based on how quickly its hierarchy and fans adopt and adjust to the transfer portal and the wind beneath its wings, otherwise known as NIL.

Loosely translated: The deeper funded the NIL initiative, the more appealing the school looks in the portal. This is why it is imperative that BC looks beyond football’s struggles as a Jeff Hafley Production. The path to salvation is the responsibility of all who sport maroon and gold, including all of you reading this.

“This is why a coaching change will not matter,” BC fan David A. Frankel wrote on X. “We need to have a modern strategy for how BC can excel in the new world of college athletics while maintaining our university academic standards and integrity. The head coach and athletic director do not set this strategy. It comes from the Board of Trustees and the president.”

Frankel couldn’t possibly be more correct. Hafley can’t simply dip his toes into the portal. He must do a cannonball into the deep end. To accomplish that, Hafley needs “Friends of the Heights,” BC’s NIL initiative, to become multi-layered and well funded. Anyone reading this is capable of contributing something.

This is why anybody with an affinity for BC sports should visit the Friends of the Heights website (friendsoftheheights.com) to learn more. Memberships begin as low as $25 per month, but they will accept any dollar amount as a one-time donation. Here’s general manager (and BC grad) Tom Devitt:

“There are tax deductible contributions, commercial contributions (asking for teams or players to sponsor your company), many ways to give, and many levels of membership,” Devitt said. “We are grateful to accept all amounts of funding. This is not pay for play. Non-profit rules are very strict. For example, when a student-athlete partners with a charity, they have to do the work first and then earn compensation after that.”

It is noble, of course, to think that BC can recruit and develop enough high school/prep school talent to compete. It can to a point. But we also know BC often gets kids for whom football is part of the day, not a life’s vocation.

Put it this way: Part of me loved hearing the anecdote during the Syracuse game about Vinny DePalma, the middle linebacker, whose goal, per ESPN, is to “read 15 books a year.” Just know that there are opposing coaches who’d rather recruit kids who want to commit 15 felonies per year. I’m not saying that’s who or what BC wants. But if BC is going to recruit well-rounded high school kids, it needs to find a balance in the portal with grown men who are cable ready.

Example: Here are the words of UConn coach Jim Mora, frustrated with his 1-9 program at the moment:

“We’re gonna turn this program around and we’re gonna do it with portal kids,” Mora told reporters earlier this week. “I want to win, and I want to win now. So we’re gonna attack the portal and we’re gonna attack junior college and we’re gonna bring players in here that have done it at a higher level, that can go on the field and produce.”

BC must adopt a similar outlook. But do members of the university hierarchy understand that? Are mechanisms in place to allow that to happen? Are there enough fans and alumni who grasp the concepts of the portal and NIL and are willing to contribute?

Because let me suggest that if you are tired of nights like Thursday, but you aren’t giving to “Friends of the Heights,” then cue the line from Billy Joel: “Go and cry in your coffee, but don’t come bitchin’ to me.”

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Basketball

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

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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 m.dimauro@theday.com or @BCgenius 

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Football

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

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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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Football

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

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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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