By Emilie Laliberte
The first head coach in NFL history to win five Super Bowl championship rings made an appearance at Bryant University’s own Bulldog Stadium on February 25th, 2017. This visit comes just less than three weeks after Bill Belichick, coach of the New England Patriots, led his team to the greatest Super Bowl comeback victory of all time on February 5th, 2017. Belichick and his girlfriend, Linda Holliday, were attending the Bryant University Women’s Lacrosse team’s home opener against The College of the Holy Cross. He was there to support his daughter, Amanda Belichick, who seems to be following in her father’s footsteps as the head coach of the women’s lacrosse team at Holy Cross.
This is not the first time the New England Patriots have been associated with Bryant University. The organization is very familiar with the school and the campus. Flashback to 1976, a time when Gillette Stadium, home of the New England Patriots, did not exist, and Bryant University was still Bryant College. It was in that year the New England Patriots began hosting their annual summer training camp here at Bryant College.
The New England Patriots continued to have their summer camp at Bryant College for twenty six years, all the way up until 2002. It was here, in the small town of Smithfield, R.I., that the New England Patriots laid down the groundwork for three future teams that would make a Super Bowl appearance (1985, 1996, and 2001). The year 2001 marked the first time that the New England Patriot’s franchise won the Super Bowl. That championship team was built right here on campus. Adam Vinatieri, Tedy Bruschi, and even Tom Brady practiced on the exact same football field that our very own Bryant Bulldogs practice and play on today. It is safe to say that the New England Patriots have quite the history with us here at Bryant, and after twenty six years, it was hard to see them go.
Gillette Stadium, located in Foxboro, M.A., opened up in 2002, and became the home of the New England Patriots. With state of the art facilities, such as weight rooms, training rooms, and advanced technological equipment, Gillette Stadium proved to be superior over the football field surrounded by woods at Bryant College. In an interview with Providence Business News back in 2003, Bryant University President Ronald Machtley was asked about the departure of the New England Patriots from Bryant College. President Machtley stated, “We have always enjoyed the excitement that the Patriots have brought to campus during the summer, and we, at Bryant will always be among the team’s most enthusiastic fans. We wish them well. In the future, if the Patriots were to determine that Bryant is a preferable option, we leave the door open to that possibility.”
Although seeing the Patriots leave Bryant was bittersweet, the move did pay off for them in the long run. Since leaving Bryant, the franchise has won four more Super Bowl Championships and has become the only team in NFL history to win three Super Bowl titles in a four year span. Despite the fact that the Patriots have moved on to bigger and better things, President Machtley was correct in saying that we here at Bryant will always enthusiastically cheer for our New England Patriots.
Seeing Bill Belichick at Bryant University brought back a sense of nostalgia. Belichick became head coach of the New England Patriots back in 2000, the time before Gillette Stadium and the time when the Patriots still hosted their summer camp at Bryant College. He returned to watch his daughter coach her team at the same school where he originally coached his team. It seems fitting that Belichick would return to where it all began just weeks after becoming the NFL coach with the most Super Bowl Championship rings of all time. Bryant can most likely expect more visits from Belichick, and each time, will welcome him home with open arms.