by Natalie Yuhas
Boston College football changed for the better this past season. After a disappointing combined total of six wins in the last two seasons, Boston College hired a new head coach, Steve Addazio, in December 2012. Addazio revamped the football program through his recruiting and use of social media. In just one season, Boston College football has turned into a winning team, ending with a 7-6 record, the opportunity to play in the AdvoCare V100 bowl, and a Heisman nomination for senior Andre Williams. Among all of these impressive improvements was Addazio’s addition of a new tradition for the football team on game day.
The entire football team dresses in coats and ties and attends Mass in Gasson Hall together before each football game. Mass is celebrated by Fr. Jack Butler, S.J., Vice President for University Mission and Ministry, and Fr. Tony Penna, Director of Campus Ministry. At the conclusion of the Mass, the bells of Gasson tower ring, and the band and cheerleaders meet the football team to escort them on their Eagle Walk through O’Neill Plaza, down the Million Dollar Stairs, and into the Yawkey Center.
This new tradition strengthens team ties and increases team solidarity. When asked if the team dynamic has changed as a result, Fr. Butler answered, “Whether unconsciously or consciously, the fact that they pray together and share that experience has to bring them together. God brings people together. Because they are BC students brings them together.”
Not only does this tradition bring a sense of unity to the team, it also reinforces the Jesuit Catholic tradition of Boston College during a time when many Catholic universities are shying away from their Catholic identity. Previously, Boston College’s way to respect tradition was to hold both a Mass and a non-denominational Christian service before games. Implementing the new tradition of having the entire team attend Mass together was something that Steve Addazio found important for the team. Fr. Butler, who serves as the chaplain of the football team, commented that Addazio implemented this tradition because, “We are a team. This is a Catholic School. The Word is the Word. To do it as a team is what it is all about. BC is a family.”
Fr. Butler also commented that there has not only been positive response from the Boston College community, but also a positive response from outside of Boston College. “It’s moving and powerful,” he said. “There are a number of people who comment how powerful it is to see them all together to be one and pray.” Boston College is rooted in tradition and a Catholic identity, and the new game day routine of Mass and walking together projects well past our own sphere who the Boston College community is and what we believe in.
The new game day tradition of pregame Mass and the Eagle Walk will continue into the next seasons as Addazio continues to rebuild Boston College football. “It’s been a real privilege to do it with them,” Fr. Butler concluded. “God was good to all of us.”