IT WAS LATE November 1984 and Boston College has just made history.

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The performance is iconic. Doug Fluty has one last chance to beat the reigning champion Miami in the old Orange Bowl. He steps back – the clock resets – and fires a Hail Mary towards the end zone. Hurricanes defenders didn’t think he had a hand, and the pass flies over their heads, landing in the hands of Eagles receiver Gerard Phelan for a touchdown. This moment instantly becomes part of the history of American football.

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Hours later, when the British Columbian plane lands at Logan International Airport, hundreds of Eagles fans are already waiting. At least for a while, Boston became a college football city.

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“The excitement was real,” Fluti recently told Sportzshala. “People cared. It was a real event when we were on the same level with professional athletes in this city.”

That was almost four decades ago, and while British Columbia has had its success since then, the Eagles or any other program along the Northeast’s I-95 corridor rarely manages to crack the sporting zeitgeist. This region—New England, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, Maryland, and Washington, DC—is home to about one-fifth of the nation’s population, but the huge potential audience rarely translates into financial, recruiting, or marketing activities. – success on the field for the 12 FBS schools that call the Northeast home.

It is impossible to tell the story of college football without the Northeast. During their peak in the 1970s, Northeastern schools regularly appeared at the top of the polls, averaging at least one team in the top 10 every week of the decade. But those numbers have steadily declined since then, and in the last 13 years, only Penn State has made it into the top 10.

Syracuse was a national force in the 1950s and 1960s, and between 1987 and 2001, the Oranges finished the season in the top 25 nine times. It has only happened once since then.

Pittsburgh won the 1976 national championship and finished in the top 10 in six of the seven seasons from 1976 to 1982. He has not spent a week in the top 10 since 2009, despite last year’s ACC title.

From 1973 to 1985, Maryland won eight or more games 11 times. He hasn’t won more than seven times in a season in the last decade.

As a group, the 12 teams representing the northeastern states as well as nearby West Virginia have a .466 winning percentage during the playoff era (0.427 in conference games and .404 in Power 5 vs. Power 5), representing three of the four national teams that won’t play in future conferences (the other being Notre Dame) have never applied for the playoffs and account for 20% of zero-to-one FBS seasons in the past 20 years. Now the new rules are changing the name, image and likeness, and the transfer portal threatens to make the job of creating a winner in college football’s least successful region even more of a challenge.

“There are unique challenges,” said former Buffalo Coach Lance Leipold. “We had to be good assessors and find the right fit, but also take on players that took time to develop. There are things that make it difficult in today’s world of portals.”

Despite the trends, new coaches at UConn, UMass and Temple are keen to reassure fans of a brighter future. At Rutgers College of Maryland and Boston, recent staff members believe they are also laying the groundwork for successful programs. Pitt had just won the ACC championship and was in his second 10-win season since 1981.

However, the question remains: can any team in the northeast outside of Pennsylvania not just win, but win consistently enough to attract fans in big cities and recruits from all over the country?

“Everyone can have a special year,” said one of the administrators at the Northeast School. “Does this happen on a regular basis? I’m not sure it is. It’s getting harder and the game of American football is changing.”

Fluti recalls leafing through a newspaper in 2008. Once again, Boston College was among the best programs in the country. The Eagles had another stellar QB in Matt Ryan and won their first eight games of the season. They were heading to Virginia Tech for Thursday night’s showdown, finishing second in the nation.

It was a game that would have hit the front pages in Fluty’s day.

“I couldn’t even find an article about the game in the newspaper,” Fluti said.


THERE WAS A MOMENT, more than 30 years ago, when Joe Paterno was trying to cement Northeast’s place in the college football pecking order. Providence Friars coach Dave Gavitt did it in basketball in 1979 when the Big East formed, but in football, most of the region’s top teams – Pennsylvania, Syracuse, Pitt and British Columbia – were still independent. . Paterno saw an opportunity to form an alliance by building on regional rivalries and playing big games in viewing meetings in the northeast.

However, problems immediately arose. Syracuse, Pitt and British Columbia were already members of the Big East in other sports, and they didn’t want to commit themselves to a startup. Penn State has also been eyeing greener pastures, thanks to proposals from the ACC and the G-10. But Paterno did not want to be an administrator and remained a coach. In the end, the idea died out.

“I still think that if someone could create the right football league with the right concepts, it could be done,” said former Big East Commissioner Mike Trangese. “If Dave Gavitt was in football, there would be an Eastern Conference right now and the whole world would change.”

Instead, a year after Paterno proposed the idea, Penn State was in the Big Ten, and the Big East started sponsoring football but never fully embraced it.

It was a turning point. In the 30 years before Penn State joined the Big Ten, Northeastern schools won 55% of their games.

Over the past 29 years, they have won only 47%. The loss led to a new regrouping, and the Northeast plunged into a seemingly endless pursuit of dollars.

During a reorganization in the early 2010s, the Big Ten and the ACC, in an effort to expand their geographic footprint to help fund television networks, sought to add teams to the New York and Washington, D.C. markets. More cable TV subscribers meant more revenue, even if most of those TVs weren’t tuned to college football.

Rutgers, Syracuse, Pitt, West Virginia, and Louisville left, the Big East was reorganized into a basketball league, and the remnants of football joined the newly formed American Athletic Conference.

Lost in all this movement is history and rivalry, games that mattered in a place where college football has always been competitive among the pros.

Sportzshala tracks the ratings share – the percentage of households that tune in to a given show – across 56 markets. In college football network broadcasts in 2021, Boston was ranked 54th. New York ranked 53rd. DC was 43rd. The only Northeast market to make the top 20 was Pittsburgh (19th).

Backyard Brawl between Pitt and West Virginia – once an iconic sporting event – will be played this year for the first time since 2011. This is just one of the many Northeast rivalries that have died out in the race for big money.

“We live and work in an area where there is a lot of action,” said Rutgers coach Greg Schiano. “We fight professional athletes for entertainment money. When your game becomes an event, it fills up with ticket holders, celebrities, and everyone else. If you are an event, everyone will be there. If you don’t win, it gets hard.”

The impact of the reorganization on the pitch didn’t work out well for the Northeast either.

From 2006 to 2013, Rutgers was a legitimate contender with a score of 64-39 – better than Michigan, Florida and Miami in this stretch. He entered the Big Ten in 2014 and has since compiled a 29-66 record.

Maryland 37-55 since joining the Big Ten.

Syracuse is 43-66 since touching down with the ACC in 2013.

West Virginia, which has finished in the top 25 in six of the last seven seasons in the Big East, has only finished the year twice since then and is ranked 44-45 in the Big 12 game.

“If you look at how things have changed since the breakup of the Big East, I don’t know if this was a beneficial move for Northeast football for anyone other than the financial aspect,” said one advertising director from the former Big East school. said. “In terms of competition, I don’t think anyone has been super successful. The loss of rivalry in the northeast didn’t help matters.”


LEIPOLD ALWAYS KNEW the question came.

From 2015 to 2020, he was Buffalo’s head coach and orchestrated the best football era in the school’s history. However, ever since his first call-up call, the same question has always come up: what about the weather? Is there a lot of snow in Buffalo?

Leipold had his share of pranksters. He noted that the pre-season camp in August was much better than in Florida. Most of the games were played indoors. And doesn’t playing in cold weather provide better preparation if you’re picked by, say, the Buffalo Bills?

“You say Buffalo, people immediately think it’s cold,” said Leipold, now the Kansas head coach. “So you always talk around it.”

Yes, winters in Syracuse, Boston, and Buffalo are cold, but that’s just the beginning of the hardships involved in creating a winner in the Northeast.

While the I-95 corridor is densely populated, it is unlikely to be a hotbed of high school football due to a variety of factors, from cold winters that affect the off-season to an increased focus on school and high school calendars with classes that continue until June. .

“Western New York was just starting to do things that they did 20 years ago in California,” Leipold said of the high school ranks.

The numbers illustrate the problem. Home to more than 65 million people, the Northeast has trained 171 four- and five-star recruits since 2014, with the vast majority coming from Maryland and Washington, DC. Meanwhile, Florida (with a population of about 23 million) produced 464 top-notch recruits.

“It’s about something that’s rooted in…