Annie Maroon (COM ’13) graduated from BU in May and currently writes for WEEI. She was the Spring 2011 Sports Editor for The Daily Free Press.
Early in my freshman year at Boston University, I was dispatched to cover a home field hockey game as a new writer for The Daily Free Press. Of course, BU’s “home” field hockey games weren’t played at Nickerson Field, or anywhere on this side of the Charles River, but rather at Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Jack Barry Field, worlds away from my Warren Towers-centric universe.
Walking seemed easier than taking the Green Line to the Red Line, so that’s what I did, even though it started pouring as soon as I left my dorm and kept up through most of the game. I had an umbrella, but it didn’t do me much good on the Massachusetts Avenue Bridge with the rain blowing sideways. I sat on the cold metal bleachers (there may have been a press box, but I was, again, a freshman, and had no idea I should have even been looking for one) and scribbled notes as fast as I could while trying to shield my notebook from the rain. After the game — a 7-0 BU win over Sacred Heart — I sat in an MIT Dunkin’ Donuts, drinking hot chocolate until I had recovered enough to make the trek home.
Over Labor Day Weekend, BU’s field hockey team inaugurated New Balance Field with a pair of wins over Ohio University and the University of Delaware. They now have a true home field, not a borrowed one, for the first time since the 2000 season. Head coach Sally Starr has noted that the new field should help the program attract recruits, strengthening an already competitive team: The Terriers finished 12-6 last year but were barred from the America East playoffs due to BU’s shift to the Patriot League. New Balance will also make it easier for interested students to check out a game, with the team playing in their West Campus backyard rather than miles away in Cambridge.
On a personal level, I’m glad for the new Free Press writers that they won’t have to make the voyages we did to MIT and later Harvard for home games (although they might have to hear me tell some old-lady “in my day, we walked sixteen miles, uphill both ways in pouring rain to cover field hockey” stories). But the importance of New Balance Field goes beyond that. It’s just one of a number of significant changes in BU Athletics this year, even more than a new year usually brings.
The newly established men’s lacrosse team will play at Nickerson, not at New Balance, but the new field will allow them to have the practice time they need while still giving club and intramural sports their space. I never lived in StuVi2 or any of the West Campus dorms myself, but several friends who did often watched ultimate Frisbee or intramural soccer games from their windows with the presence of some competition or another a constant. With the addition of New Balance, both the men’s and women’s rugby teams also will be able to practice on campus, which hasn’t been the case in recent years. Those are club teams, not varsity. But the 33 club teams and endless intramural squads at BU make it clear that sports culture here isn’t just about the varsity hockey teams, and New Balance will only continue to expand that world.
But oh, right, hockey. I suppose I would be remiss not to mention, in a column focused on change, the fact that BU will have a new men’s hockey coach for the first time in 40 years. Jack Parker’s last year at BU was also my last, but that doesn’t mean I won’t be watching with great interest to see what David Quinn can do with a program that’s fallen short of its traditional standard periodically over the last four years. (The fact that BU won a national championship in 2009, went to the NCAA tournament in 2012 and is still considered by some to be in decline only highlights the expectations Quinn will inherit.)
I covered the men’s hockey team for the last two years for the FreeP, and based on that experience, I’d say the best change Quinn can offer BU this year will be a relatively uneventful season. By that, I don’t mean a .500 season in which BU doesn’t have to make any of those taxing trips to the NCAA regionals. The 2011-12 season saw two players arrested and a university task force assembled to investigate the program. While the issues stayed mostly on the ice in 2012-13, a young but talented BU team nonetheless missed the NCAA tournament after a midseason slump. The ideal debut for Quinn, then, would avoid anything that might be called a “black eye for the program,” whether that’s a set of unacceptable off-ice incidents or a costly loss to a weak Harvard team in the Beanpot consolation game (something that’s happened twice in the last three years).
To me, blaming a coach entirely for his team’s problems or crediting him for the bulk of its success is usually ridiculous. It removes accountability from the people who are the most responsible for how a team fares: the players. But with a coaching change of this magnitude, it’ll be hard not to attribute at least some of BU’s 2013-14 approach to Quinn. Although he was an assistant under Parker until 2009, this stretch of Commonwealth Avenue has changed significantly since he last worked here, both inside and outside Agganis Arena. Now, Quinn’s task is proving he can provide a steady hand in the midst of a shifting BU landscape.