So once again Boston College is at a crossroads in its athletic future. With the expected announcement on Monday that athletic director Brad Bates was leaving, the Eagles will have a change in athletic leadership which could include also football and men's basketball within the next 12 months. And, don't be stunned if there is a change at the Presidential level as well.
Let's start with the job of athletic director.
Normally, any Power 5 conference AD opening would be regarded as a prime time opportunity. Here's the first reality check for the folks at The Heights: The consensus opinion in college athletics is that NONE of the other 73 Power 5 conference athletic directors will apply.
Think about that for a minute.
Right now BC is not a destination point. Oh, there will be candidates and if BC does it right, there will be quality people who step forward, people with the credentials to make things better at BC.
BC has subpar facilities, a small fan base and an administration which has not had a history of support without lots of restrictions. Add the academic standards in an area of the country where support for college athletics is fragile and you have a tough sell.
Before ANY changes occur, the BC administration, starting with President Father William Leahy, must make some concessions.
Not in academic standards. There are examples all over the country at places like Stanford, Notre Dame, Virginia, Duke where you can still succeed athletically with tough academic standards.
The BC administration must concede that it doesn't know what it doesn't know.
For too many years, BC has carried an arrogance which hasn't been justified by the results. The standard line from frustrated supporters and coaches was that BC wants to be Harvard from Monday through Friday, but Alabama on Saturday. Their way is the right way, no matter what the results might suggest.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]
Hiring a new athletic director offers an opportunity for new direction. But the process of doing that remains murky at best. It must change.
BC says it will hire a search firm--which is more than likely a smoke screen created to give the allusion that a national search will take place. It will sort through a list of candidates and make its decision later this spring.
Or at least that is the way BC did it in the past.
In reality, BC should have a short list of candidates. Names such as Army athletic director Boo Corrigan and VCU athletic director Ed McLaughlin were vetted five years ago. Both could succeed, but the Eagles CAN NOT make this an elimination show.
Pick your front runner, talk to him or her and make a decision. Only if it doesn't work out, do you go to the No.2 person on the list.
Once a person is chosen, BC needs to let the new athletic director do a major reconstruction project. BC now has 31 varsity sports. That is way too MANY sports. Between 18 and 20 varsity sports would be enough. In terms of opportunity for the students, downgrade the dropped sports to the club or intramural level and spend the money saved on improving football and basketball.
Whether BC likes it or not, big time college athletics in the Atlantic Coast Conference has become an arms race.
BC is finally scheduled to break ground on an indoor football facility this spring. That will be a major break through.
Similar upgrades need to be made in basketball. That, combined with success on the field, can bring a higher grade of athletes to BC. It can make things better, create interest, which is now minimal at best.
The argument being used in some quarters is that BC can not compete in the ACC with its academic standards. Nonsense. Previous coaches such as Tom O'Brien--who would not be a bad choice as the new athletic director--and Al Skinner have proven they can win under the same restrictions.
Whether football coach Steve Addazio and men's basketball coach Jim Christian can succeed has yet to be determined.
All of this obviously requires money and BC HAS the money. As a member of the ACC it receives approximately $25 million each year, money generated by the conference's television contract. The new ACC television network which will begin in 2019 is expected to increase that total.
But to make it work, you have to have the right people. Whether BC can make the right decision is still questionable.
The timing of the announcement on Bates' departure--he is scheduled to leave BC in June--is interesting.
Why now? Why not wait until the spring, when the academic year comes to an end.
Could BC actually have a person in place by the end of March, which would allow a decision on Christian's future sooner rather than later?
Is it possible that BC could already have a new AD in place, ready to introduce?
Maybe Someone like McLaughlin, who is as familiar with the culture at BC as any one and clearly would take the job if it was offered.
Don't discount it, but don't bank on it either. This is still BC, where inertia rules on any major changes and where the process is still the process.
But no matter how it is done, BC needs to fix a system which is clearly broken and needs to be fixed.[/membership]