The dominance of professional sports in Boston – combined with rising costs, poor attendance and changing on-campus demographics – claimed the lives of two once-popular collegiate football programs.
By a vote by the Board of Trustees on October 25, 1997, Boston University chose to remove football from its athletic programs during its 91st season.
The force behind the drive to throw football away was BU Chancellor John Silber, a grumpy, unpopular driver who ran a failed campaign for Governor in 1990 and was the subject of a 60-minute talk by Mike Wallace.
BU Athletic Director Gary Strickler had little to fight back with, and Silber got his way in all BU cases. No athletic director wants an euthanized football show on his or her resume, but Stickler had no choice but to execute Silber’s dictations.
When it came to John Silber, it didn’t matter what you thought, said former Carp Sports Information Director Ed Carpenter.
There was definitely the feeling “why are we dropping football?” But Silber said he wouldn’t give it money and it was a financial attack and that’s what happened. ‘
The BU program had a budget of $ 3 million and was in deficit, which made eliminating football a business decision that did not involve Title IX.
The vote took place after losing 28-7 to Crosstown rival Northeastern with 2,025 fans at Nickerson Field, where the National Leagues Boston Braves once lived. BU’s only win in 1997 was a 33-8 beating by UMass in the season finale.
I was in competitions that year and one of my duties was to announce the attendance and I tended to blow it up and add a few thousand, Carpenter said.
During the game they called from below and said “this is the turnout and this is what you are going to announce and not one more person”. That was when I knew something was going on.
Northeastern Athletics Director Peter Roby experienced a greater setback when the football program was canceled at the end of the 2009 season. The NU Board of Trustees, with the support of Robys, voted to eliminate football after a 72-year term.
The program’s annual budget of $ 4 million was not enough to be competitive in CAA, while the need to upgrade Parsons Field, an off-campus facility in a leafy Brookline neighborhood, was not worth the investment. Parsons Field has since been converted into a state-of-the-art baseball facility.
I recognize that this was certainly a decision that was not popular. Roby told the New York Times after the vote. I respect that and I respect the emotions that are playing.
I just hope that people will respect the way we did it to be as respectful and appropriate as possible, even if they disagree with the decision, they will appreciate the process and the reasoning.
We have tried not only to make decisions about gains and losses. If you look at the landscape and conference we are in and where people are committed to long-term success. You have to ask yourself ‘are you willing to match that investment level?’
BU and Northeastern are best known for their men’s and women’s hockey and basketball programs, which have enjoyed regional and national success since the elimination of campus football.
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