A state governor leads push to revive the UConn-Boston College rivalry

Jeff Eisenberg
May 11, 2012

For the first time since Boston College left the Big East for the ACC in 2005, there appears to be a glimmer of hope that the Eagles can revive their dormant rivalry with fellow New England power UConn.

Connecticut Gov. Dannel P. Malloy, a Boston College alum, told the Associated Press on Thursday that he'd like to see the Huskies and Eagles begin playing one-another in football and basketball again. What's more, Malloy has gone so far as to express that sentiment to Boston College president William Leahy.

"The reality is that time has the ability to heal all wounds, and hopefully we move forward," Malloy told the Associated Press. "Economically, it makes great sense. The schools are 80 miles apart. Instead of a plane trip, it's a bus ride. We should be doing more of that, not less."

It may take an intervention from a powerful third party like Malloy to resuscitate relations between Boston College and UConn because plenty of bitterness exists on both sides.

Angered that the Eagles weren't upfront about their intentions to leave the Big East, UConn coach Jim Calhoun told the Hartford Courant in 2003 he would not renew the rivalry, a vow he has upheld since the two schools played their last Big East game in 2005. "We won't play BC after they leave here," Calhoun said at the time. "I have no desire to play Boston College. Not for the fact that they are leaving but how they did it. I will not play Boston College as long as I'm here."

Boston College athletic director Gene DeFilippo added to the burgeoning hostilities between the two schools last year when he admitted to the Boston Globe that he'd blocked UConn's attempted move to the ACC. "We didn't want them in," DeFilippo told the Globe. "It was a matter of turf. We wanted to be the New England team."

That the pettiness on both sides has created this rift between New England's two most prominent athletic programs is yet another example of conference realignment robbing fans of longtime rivalries. UConn had dominated the basketball series during Calhoun's tenure and Boston College had won 10 of the 12 football matchups, yet the proximity and pedigree of the two schools created plenty of interest.

What could help improve the relationship between Boston College and UConn now are the new faces at both schools. Calhoun and DeFilippo remain in their positions, but UConn has a new athletic director, Warde Manuel, who has a preexisting friendship with DeFilippo and an interest in playing the Eagles again.

If it seems far-fetched that a state governor could be capable of restoring this rivalry, consider the history of the Kentucky-Louisville series. After Kentucky and Louisville met in the Elite Eight in March 1983, state governor John Y. Brown pressured the presidents at both schools to agree to an annual game since the two in-state rivals went an unfathomable 61 years without facing one-another in the regular season.

Maybe something similar can happen to restore the UConn-Boston College series. And hopefully it won't take 61 years to make it happen.