Publish date:


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.

COLOR ILLUSTRATION: EVANGELOS VIGLIS [Drawing of man bulldozing a football field]