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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

BC looks to avoid winless ACC year in football, basketball

Kyle Hightower Associated Press

BOSTON – Boston College is on the verge of doing something no major school has done in 40 years – lose every single conference football and basketball game in a season.

Heading into Saturday’s regular-season Atlantic Coast Conference finale against Clemson, the Eagles are flirting with a 0-18 conference finish.

Combined with an 0-8 finish in ACC football play in 2015, BC could become the first ACC program to go winless in league play in both sports during the same school year.

Not since former Southwest Conference member TCU went a combined 0-24 during the 1976-77 season has a school from a major Division I conference done it. The last member of one of the current Power 5 leagues to achieve the dubious double was Georgia in 1943-44.

It would also be the latest blow for an athletic department that has undergone myriad change in both sports. The football team is on its third football coach since Tom O’Brien left in 2006. Basketball is on its second coach since parting with Al Skinner in 2010.

Basketball coach Jim Christian didn’t know things would be this bad in the ACC. But he had an inkling considering his roster of nine freshman and graduate transfer Eli Carter.

“If you come up short and give it your best effort, it’s all you can do,” Christian said. “It’s not any worse than anything else. It’s just what it is.”

A winless ACC season in basketball alone would put BC in rare company. Only five other teams have done it. The last was Maryland in 1986-87, when it went 0-14.

“At Boston College, it’s slow. And it’s slow because we are developmental,” football coach Steve Addazio said. “We bring in players we have to develop. … That’s the M.O. here. You’re not bringing in a five-star, you’re bringing guys you can develop. They fit the culture.

“That’s where (Christian) is right now. He’s got a depleted roster. He’s got to re-recruit the roster, and he’s been hit with some injuries. That combination is never good whether you’re a basketball team or a football team.”

What has been particularly hard for the basketball team is how close it’s come to an ACC victory.

Of the 17 ACC losses, three have been by five or fewer points. That includes a three-point loss to then-No. 9 North Carolina Feb. 9 in a game they led for nearly 36 minutes.

In that game, Tar Heels coach Roy Williams missed most of the second half after collapsing from a vertigo attack. But he was so impressed by the Eagles’ effort that despite his weary state he made it a point after the game to shake hands with Christian.

The most crushing loss, though, came Wednesday when the Eagles led at North Carolina State with 1.1 seconds remaining. They lost on a layup at the buzzer.

Injuries have also had an impact.

BC’s frontcourt took a blow when 6-10 forward Johncarlos Reyes was lost in early December with a foot injury. Point guard Jerome Robinson started Wednesday against N.C. State, but missed the previous nine games with a broken right wrist. Forward A.J. Turner was sidelined recently with a high ankle sprain.

All of which helped account for the Eagles averaging just 61.4 points a game this season – 339th out of 346 Division I schools.

The losing has particularly taken a toll on the basketball fan base. Alum Kenneth Kolpan has been a season-ticket holder since graduating from law school in 1972.

“We’re not going to be the No. 1 attraction in a city of many professional teams. But I’ve been there when we were ranked (in the top five) and when (Conte Arena) is rocking and it’s full,” Kolpan said. “So we all know that success breeds interest. The focus has to be on a team that builds success. But at this point I’m not optimistic because of the recruiting challenges.”

Christian said despite the rough season, he feels he has the confidence of school officials.

“You have to realistically know it’s gonna take time,” Christian said. “It’s a rebuilding process and this is all part of the process. It’s not easy to go through, but I knew when I took the job it was gonna be a very difficult process. … But at the same time I’ve never doubted or waivered that it’s gonna get done. Never once.”