It has been a long grind for the Boston College Eagles, whose six-month odyssey into football in the world of COVID-19 has come to an end. On Thursday, Boston College football announced that the players had elected to not participate in a bowl this season.
The long journey began at the end of June, and after over 9,000 COVID-19 tests, eleven games, practices it has concluded. Coaches and players alike have sacrificed for months, avoiding family and friends for the greater good of the team. And while there was only one positive case the entire season, an accomplishment in itself, it has come at a cost. Players are only human and they missed their families who they haven't seen or been closer than six feet in the past six months.
"A lot of these young men haven’t hugged their loved ones since June," Hafley explained.
“Spending time with guys, being around them, I just felt like the mental strain and physical strain was wearing on them and mental health is very important to me,” he continued. “Since June 28 our guys went above and beyond and it took more out of them than anybody has any idea and they are worn out.”
The decision came down to the players, specifically the leadership council. They voted that they would rather spend the holidays with their family than at a bowl. AD Patrick Kraft and Hafley completely supported their decision. It was up to senior linebacker Max Richardson to deliver the news.
“When [Richardson] told the team that they’re going home to see their families, it was an uproar,” Hafley said. “At that moment I knew 100% it was the right decision.”
Now the players will be able to go home to their families to spend the holidays with them. This is the reward they decided on after skipping Thanksgiving with their families or any sort of social life on campus. For these players the last six months have been nothing but non-stop football, mixed in with a little Call of Duty. But little else. School, practice, meals, training, mix and repeat. Day after day, week after week.
The sacrifices these players and coaches made resulted in becoming the exemplar program in collegiate sports during the COVID-19 pandemic. There was no shutdown of the program, no missed games, and in fact there were no players infected at all during the season.
“What we did with COVID was bigger in my opinion than any game we could have win,” said Jeff Hafley,. “I wish we could play every Saturday. But I don’t have to sit in a dorm room by myself.”
But this reprieve will be short lived. The Eagles start this process all over again when they start winter practices in January. Players and coaches will get a few weeks off before they have to continue sacrificing. But for now, they get to go home, and can feel satisfied that they successfully did what no other team in college football did. And no one can ever take that away from them.