Maybe it was not to be unexpected, but there is no doubt it stung for Boston College when Milton Academy running back/outside linebacker Kalel Mullings made his verbal commitment to Michigan this past week.
A quick look at the 247sports.com list of top recruits in Massachusetts for the class of 2020 will tell you all you need to know about the frustration the Eagles have over landing elite local prospects.
Yes, that's three of the top five players in the state — according to that site, which is crucial to keep in mind — headed off to play for the Wolverines, should nothing change between now and the two Signing Days.
This led to Joe Sullivan, the recruiting coordinator at The Heights, firing off this tweet, which can only be construed as a statement that the Eagles won't go down without a fight for area standouts going forward. It was the type of message BC fans wanted to hear.
Many BC fans on Twitter and elsewhere have been bemoaning the fact that BC can't secure every local prospect it wants. For a number of reasons, that isn't happening, and likely will take a lot more to change, but let's first get into why Michigan is having so much success here.
For one, Michigan defensive coordinator Don Brown, who is a native of Massachusetts, simply has tremendous pull. He knows the landscape, is a dogged recruiter on the trail, and players simply like him and want to play for him. When a coach has that much cache, it's hard to compete against.
Also, the entire Michigan staff is putting in the work and resources to recruit this area as much as possible. At the University of Rhode Island satellite camp a few weeks ago, the Wolverines brought a massive contingent of coaches, including head man Jim Harbaugh. When that type of commitment is shown, it is rewarded, plain and simple.
Finally, and this is something a lot of BC fans do not want to accept, but programs like Michigan, Penn State, Notre Dame or Ohio State will always have the leg up on the Eagles until a few things change. Those teams play in huge stadiums with sold-out crowds every weekend, providing a true experience on game day that BC barely approaches maybe once or twice a year, at best. Kids want to experience that every week, and right now, BC does not provide that.
The lack of media coverage in the area does not help. BC football lags way behind pro sports in this market. Saturdays in the months the Eagles play are either days to watch the Red Sox, Celtics, or Bruins, or just the day before a Patriots game. All of that contributes to an uphill battle for BC to grab the truly elite local prospects, because that isn't the case in Ann Arbor, State College, South Bend, or Columbus.
But BC is not losing out on any of these players for lack of trying. The Eagles put in plenty of effort on Mullings, and the Boston native made plenty of trips to Chestnut Hill over the years. Sometimes, it just still isn't enough. That's the game.
Still, the upgrades the Eagles have made to their facilities have paid dividends elsewhere. Even with the loss of players like Mullings and St. John's of Shrewsbury wide receiver Jay Brunelle, who committed to Notre Dame last week, BC is putting together one of its best classes in recent memory.
Also, let's not forget that regardless of where these players are ranked on various websites, BC still does a good job with the Massachusetts kids who come to play for the Eagles. After all, Shepherd Hill's Chris Lindstrom was just drafted in the first round of the NFL draft. If that is not a sign of what the Eagles can do with local talent, we don't know what is.
None of that makes it easier when a player of Mullings' or Brunelle's caliber goes out of state. Mullings could easily have acted as a big-time heir apparent to current superstar back AJ Dillon or become a difference-maker at outside linebacker, and Brunelle is truly special and has had one of the best offseasons of any local recruit.
But there is virtually nothing the Eagles can do about any of that now. Sullivan, coach Steve Addazio and the rest of the BC staff can only concentrate on those who want to come to Chestnut Hill, and there really is no choice in the matter otherwise.
We don't know whether or not UMass truly wants to join the American Athletic Conference, but there was a palpable excitement when UConn announced it was leaving to go to the Big East.
An argument can be made for either staying as an independent or trying to join the AAC, and either one right now may be irrelevant, as a recent report stated that the conference might not add anyone at all.
Still, it is worth thinking about what a world with UMass in that conference would look like. Of course, there would not be a ton of geographic rivalries there outside of Temple. Also, would this be a strictly football move, or would the AAC want UMass in every sport? Would that even be something UMass would want? Finally, financially, would any of this make sense?
These are all questions the UMass administration would need to take into account, but one does have to look at it from the perspective of this: is surviving as an independent sustainable for the football program? When you answer that question, it makes it a lot easier to determine how eager the program should be in pursuing the vacancy in the AAC.
Again, this could all be for naught. The AAC might not add anyone, and this discussion could go nowhere. Still, it will likely come up again and again with whatever next opportunity arises to join a conference, and we will be right back where we started.