Boston College’s football players announced Thursday they are voluntarily opting out of bowl game consideration.
The Eagles, who finished with a 6-5 overall record, good enough for bowl eligibility, are the first Power Five team in the country to announce they are choosing to not compete in the postseason.
Speaking to reporters about the decision, first-year coach Jeff Hafley said the stress of trying to keep his players on his team safe wore on him over the course of the year.
“I’m tired. And just imagine how tired these kids are who are 18, 19, 20. And their whole life isn’t football,” he said. “Mine is right now. It’s my family and football. That’s what I do. But these kids have a lot of other things going on that they put off. So it’s been hard.”
Usually, coaches crave the extra weeks of practice that bowl games afford their teams. But as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to rage across the country and uncertainty lingers over whether any bowl game the team accepted would even happen, the prospect of continuing to keep players away from their families became increasingly difficult.
“Honestly, I really struggled with if we practiced three weeks, they miss Christmas with their family, and then we get a call that the bowl’s canceled. I have an issue with that,” said Athletic Director Pat Kraft. “Listen, I love our athletes. But you have to understand, when we had fans at Clemson, at Virginia Tech, we kept the barrier between athlete and parent or guardian or loved one like 6 to 8 feet. That’s the closest some of these young men have been to family. It’s bigger than a game right now.”
The players have been on campus since late June and have had only one positive COVID-19 test among them throughout the season. But it came at the cost of essentially being forced to quarantine among themselves and avoid time with outsiders.
When linebacker Max Richardson made the announcement to his teammates that they would be able to go home and see their families after all this time, Hafley said there was an uproar of excitement.
“And it was kind of emotional for me because at that moment I knew that 100 percent this is the right decision,” he said.
Offensive lineman Alec Lindstrom said it was mentally exhausting to go a whole season being away from family.
“Like usually in a normal year you can go out and hang out with your buddies and kind of escape from it all. But it’s just mentally exhausting for a player, emotionally,” he said. “And just gauging it throughout the year, you could tell guys missed their family. It’s a lot, especially [during] this time.”
Richardson has decided to stay on another year at BC as a graduate student. And while this wasn’t a final season that he or anyone else could have predicted, he told reporters each moment was precious.
“I think the closure is in how we handled the overall situation,” he said. “Because in June, we didn’t know whether we would be able to play one game or not. So playing 11, I think, is a bit of closure in itself.”