In the world of college football, a single game has the potential to carry the pride of a university for an entire year. In the annual Iron Bowl, yelling “Roll Tide” or “War Eagle” divides Auburn-Bama extremists, creating headlines of crazed fans poisoning endangered oak trees or naming their sons Bo, Bear, Saban, Hollywood Joe, or Ha-Ha Clinton Dix (OK; maybe not that last one, but you get the picture). Rivalries are why we love sports today. They transcend football into something more than just a game, adding sub-plots and drama that make an episode of Breaking Bad seem boring. Even the Holy War between BC and Notre Dame builds a wall of animosity more visible than Manti Te’o’s late girlfriend (still too soon?).
People seldom forget that a rivalry between BC and the Fighting Irish still exists—even though they might not want to. BC hasn’t won a game against the Irish since 2009. But what if I told you that long ago, in a long-forgotten college football landscape, there existed not only a Holy War, but also an entire Crusade? Well, starting in 2018, an old foe returns in grand fashion when the Holy Cross Crusaders visit Chestnut Hill to rekindle a rivalry last played in 1986.
“Holy Cross?” one might ask. Boston College students might remember it best as the school they turned down for the brighter pastures of Boston- the “other” Jesuit school of Massachusetts perched on the high hills of Worcester (pronounced Wooster NOT Worchester). Although the Eagles own a lopsided 47-32-3 record against Holy Cross, their 82 game history oozes with headlines.
In the early 1920s, the annual game drew crowds throughout New England, occasionally holding the game at Fenway Park to provide proper accommodations. As both football programs grew larger, so did the stakes to play on the national stage, prompting the Crusaders and Eagles to trade heavy blows. In arguably the most famous game between the two schools, Holy Cross defeated top-ranked BC 55-12 during the 1942 season. The stunning upset not only ruined BC’s undefeated season, but their quest for a national championship as well.
In 1949, the Eagles found solace in a 76-0 massacre of the Crusaders. This set the tone for not only the next few years, but decades. At one point, BC managed to only lose two games against Holy Cross from 1967 to 1986. As BC enjoyed an athletic renaissance during the Flutie years of the 1980s, Holy Cross football took a different direction, cutting all football scholarships after joining the Colonial (Patriot) League in 1986—the last year the two teams played.
BC remained a bowl-eligible school, joining the Big East conference and later the ACC. While the Eagles enjoyed bowl games year-after-year in the FBS, Holy Cross turned into an afterthought in New England football lure. The idea of the two Jesuit schools meeting again seemed ludicrous—until now.
But why should we on the Crowned Hilltop care about a lowly FCS team’s desire to compete with the big boys? Let’s face it, Holy Cross hasn’t seemed relevant since their 1946 loss in the Orange Bowl. However, as BC SuperFans, we must embrace our old rivals with open arms—even if our own parents are too old to remember a competitive match between the two teams.
The Eagle-Crusader game will awaken an entire New England fan-base from the sports hub of Boston to the backwoods of Maine. Passionate alumni will pack Alumni stadium to relive the nostalgia and mystique of a forgotten era for both schools. Both programs need such attention and support if they ever hope to return to their rightful spots amongst the elite programs of the country.
So, for the sake of BC, Holy Cross, or any other Jesuit institution (even you Georgetown), viva la Jesuit Bowl, for 2018 and beyond!
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