The rumors started floating around the Boston College campus last summer. And they never really went away, although the sounds of silence at The Heights has grown louder when the future of BC President Father William Leahy is discussed, with retirement prominently mentioned.
By almost every measure, Father Leahy has done an outstanding job during his 20-year reign at BC. Overall he has done a great job fund raising, he has been the driving force in Boston College moving from the Big East to the Atlantic Coast Conference, which financially has been a hugely successful move for the Eagles. He has increased the academic profile of the school.
But athletically--at least for the past seven years--the Eagles have tumbled into an abyss. And while Father Leahy's overall involvement in athletics is minimal, his influence in who gets hired and fired has been and remains enormous.
And now, as BC faces another change in management and perhaps direction with a search for a new athletic director underway, Father Leahy's influence presents a major road block to success.
Several sources familiar with BC contend that as long as Father Leahy remains in charge, the pool of qualified candidates for the athletic director's job will be shallow.
BC, of course, will emphatically deny this. But in the fast lane of big time college athletics, perception is often reality and the perception about BC right now is that it is at the bottom or near the bottom of all Power 5 conference schools. It is not a good job.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]
Said one long time BC insider, ""the two operative phrases in the BC athletic department when requests for change or improvements are discussed are: "No and "We cant' do it''.
The athletic department is clogged with too many people, some of them having far too much power in terms of their overall ability.
The frustrating part for many BC followers is that the school has the funds to make changes. Football coach Steve Addazio is being paid more than $2.6 million a season, which is in the upper tier of ACC coaching salaries.
A multi million dollar facility improvement package has been approved, but it is filled with miscalculations and mistakes and, in many ways, is misdirected.
What is missing, is a driving force to make things better. The mediocrity of the past several years in the primary revenue producing sports, men's basketball and football has been well documented.
But as long as the ACC provides steady revenue averaging almost $25 million a year, and as long as the academic standards in the athletic departments remain high, there seems to be no overwhelming frustration with a football team and a basketball and a football program going winless in ACC competition as the Eagles did two years ago.
There is no sense of urgency about empty stands, a shrinkage in donor contributions. Media coverage in both the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald has diminished considerably.
Mostly, there is--outside of a small inner circle at The Heights--a sense of indifference.
When Brad Bates was hired to replace Gene DeFilippo five years ago, he came in with new ideas. But it didn't take long for the system to devour Bates' enthusiasm, including a spirit-breaking move three years ago when Father Leahy over ruled a Bates decision to allow men's basketball coach Steve Donahue one more season to turn the program around.
What has been increasingly clear over the past few years is that there is no one working at BC who has power or influence and perhaps the skill to do what must be done: tear down the system and do things differently.
One of the major things which must be done at BC is too cut down on the number of varsity sports. The ACC average is 24. Five ACC schools are under 20. BC has 31, which is ridiculous.
For all of the criticism that DeFilippo has received from his critics, he was the one person who told Father Leahy that some of his actions wouldn't work. And make no mistake, in the turbulent era when BC was changing from the Big East to the ACC, DeFilippo took much of the criticism for decisions he did not necessarily believe were in the best interest of BC.
So how does BC fix this?
Forget the AD job for now.
The first move must be at the top. Father Leahy must move on to retirement or an emeritus role at BC. Rumor has it a search for a new president has been ongoing, but the best move might be to stay within the family. Keep an eye on Father Jack Butler, who is a rising star at BC and has moved into the inner circle in terms of athletic decisions. Father Butler currently holds the title of Vice President for the Division of University Mission and Ministry.
If that happens, anything and everything becomes possible. It will still take a lot of work and a lot of house cleaning. It will also take a change in the process of the way things are done.
Having a combination of Father Butler as President and Boo Corrigan (Army) would work.
But if there is no movement at the top, BC could remain mired in mediocrity.[/membership]