Boston College opts out of bowl game, citing ‘emotional, mental and physical grind’ of 2020

·4 min read

Boston College has decided to opt out of a bowl game in 2020, with the team and administrators choosing to return home for the holidays instead. Boston College athletic director Dr. Patrick Kraft informed Yahoo Sports of the decision on Thursday, which marks the first program to publicly announce it does not want to play in a bowl game.

BC finished 6-5 in head coach Jeff Hafley’s first season and were likely to play in either the Gasparilla Bowl or the Military Bowl, according to bowl projections. But after consulting with the team’s leadership council, BC officials decided to pass in part because of the “emotional, mental and physical grind” of playing the 2020 football season in a pandemic.

“It’s a road game, basically,” Kraft told Yahoo Sports of a bowl game. “The players would have to be away from their families for the holidays and it’s uncertain if families could come to the game. It’s different than the true bowl game experience.

“We wanted to make sure what was the best decision for us and the health and well-being of our student-athletes and make a decision that would really reward the athletes.”

Boston College is the first to declare its intentions out loud, and the question looms whether this creates a domino effect around the sport. The combination of needing to stay on campus for Christmas, not being able to experience the bowl city because of COVID-19 restrictions and the exhaustion from the isolation of playing during a pandemic make it likely that similar decisions will follow for teams outside the highest tier of bowl games. There’s also uncertainty what a bowl city could look like as the virus continues to surge around the country.

Boston College head coach Jeff Hafley exits a team huddle during a win over Georgia Tech on Oct. 24. (Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)
Boston College head coach Jeff Hafley exits a team huddle during a win over Georgia Tech on Oct. 24. (Barry Chin/The Boston Globe via Getty Images)

The University of Virginia has hinted at a similar decision, as it already decided not to play a game on Dec. 19. Players have spoken openly in the media about their preference to go home for the holidays rather than stay on campus and play in a bowl game.

At Boston College, the school ended its season with a loss at Virginia on Saturday and gave its players a few days off. Hafley met with the team’s leadership council on Wednesday. Those team leaders gathered the opinions of players and assistant coaches engaged with the position groups to get a feel for the team.

What emerged was a distinct preference to end the season and go home for the holidays.

“A huge piece to this is for the players to take a deep breath and process everything and slow down for a second to enjoy their family and loved ones,” Kraft said. “They haven’t been able to get a hug from mom or dad or grandma and grandpa in months. That’s real.”

In a recent interview with Yahoo Sports, BC center Alec Lindstrom gave a window into the realities of playing this season during the pandemic. “It’s been really hard for us,” Lindstrom said. “It’s really starting to take a mental toll. Guys can’t go home like they usually can.”

Kraft said that the decision should not diminish what’s been accomplished in Hafley’s first season. BC completely transformed its offense to a pass-first group, as star transfer Phil Jurkovec led the country’s No. 22 passing offense. Last season, BC was No. 113. BC’s team defense improved from No. 125 in the country to No. 71. BC beat Louisville, Pitt and Duke, but made the most headlines by pushing No. 1 Clemson on the road on Halloween before falling 34-28.

BC has used the momentum of its strong season on the field to put together the No. 33 recruiting class in 2021 and the No. 6 class for 2022.

“What we did this season should be applauded, and we are very excited about the future,” Kraft said. “This is not a negative thing. I don’t want what we accomplished to go away. We’re doing what’s right for us.”

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