Boston University played football for 91 years before some astute administrators discovered two very disturbing facts about the game:
1) It costs money.
2) Women don't play it.
Armed with such damaging revelations, high-ranking school officials suggested last month that the board of trustees eliminate the sport. A vote was taken. The plug was pulled on the football program, and part of a university died. On Oct. 25, immediately following a 28-7 loss to Northeastern in BU's homecoming game, the Terriers' players and their parents were told that football was dead. The 1997 season would be the last for the Division I-AA BU, which was 12-1 just four years ago. "Basically they looked at the bottom line and made a coldhearted business decision," said Terriers strong safety and co-captain Randy Smith. "College football isn't supposed to be just another coldhearted business."
While it has enjoyed considerable success over the years, the Boston University football program couldn't escape the crosshairs of chancellor John Silber, an arrogant little despot who can't handle the fact that Howard Stern is BU's most accomplished alumnus. When Silber arrived at the school in 1970, he wanted to eliminate the football program. Last month, as the Terriers struggled (they are 2-18 in the last two seasons), he finally succeeded. "University of Paris, University of Oxford, University of Cambridge have gotten along remarkably well and never had football," Silber was quoted as saying in the The Daily Free Press, BU's student paper.
As a reason for the decision, Silber cited poor attendance at Nickerson Field and said some of the money spent on football (this season the program, with a budget of $3 million, will run a $2.9 million deficit) would be reallocated to women's athletics and eight "high-priority" sports, including crew, field hockey and soccer. On the day the news broke of football's demise, the attendance at the BU-Northeastern game at Nickerson was 2,025. Six days later, on the same field, the Terriers women's soccer team drew 28 people for a game against Delaware.
"Silber doesn't think football and academics can coexist, but he just doesn't understand," says sophomore fullback Mike Germino. "Football teaches you things you don't learn in class. It teaches you drive, determination, teamwork. You learn not to quit. Obviously that's something Silber and all the trustees wouldn't understand."
A lot of the Terriers' players will transfer (under NCAA rules they won't be forced to sit out a year), and BU announced that it will honor the scholarships of those who choose to stay and finish their degrees there. While it seemed to be the least the school can do, Silber considered it a magnanimous gesture. Now, he said to The Daily Free Press, a player "never has to play football again, doesn't have to risk injury, doesn't have to spend his time in practice" and still could keep his scholarship. It might come as a surprise to Silber that some students actually want to play football. "He thinks football is just a bunch of thugs who beat each other up every fall," said Germino, standing in the locker room after last Saturday's game against UMass. "I wish he would have come in here. I wish he could have understood what it's all about."
On Nov. 1, for a game at Connecticut, the Terriers protested BU's decision by discarding their usual game shirts in favor of generic white jerseys provided by unhappy alumni. Some players taped an X over the BU logo on their pants and called themselves University X. They lost the game 45-7 but won the support of the BU community.
Last Saturday, in their final home game, the Terriers went back to their red jerseys and blew out UMass 33-8 in a driving rainstorm for their first win of the season. More than 3,000 people showed up to say goodbye, and many were still around at the end—cold, soaked to the bone and unwilling to give-up on 91 years of football without a fight. As the game ended, they poured onto the field, surrounded the players and serenaded them with one last, loving chant: "Silber sucks! Silber sucks!" The players laughed and cheered, and some even joined in.
Hey, chancellor, check it out: You can take football away from your school, but that still don't make it Oxford. Bababooey.