Ostensibly, Boston College is searching for a new athletic director, but according to several sources familiar with the process now underway at BC, the overall plan is far greater than that, involving not only a change at the Presidential level, but a different overall philosophy of the way BC views athletics.
Officially, the process of finding a replacement for Brad Bates as the Eagles AD has begun, with the primary focus involving fund raising, facilities and an upgrade in the performance level of the prime revenue producing sports of men's basketball and football.
But the first task which will be given to a new athletic director and presumably a new President, will be to reconfigure the way BC approaches athletics at every level, with the first priority being in reducing the number of varsity sports at The Heights.
Right now, BC has 31 varsity sports, which is far above the Atlantic Coast Conference average of 24. BC also has 26 club sports, many of which are also available at the varsity level.
In an ideal world, with an unlimited budget and lots of space, that is a plan that most colleges would embrace, offering opportunities for the entire student body.
BC doesn't have the budget to handle that and it certainly doesn't have space on a compact campus with only limited areas for expansion.
Cutting sports at any level is a dangerous area for administrators and BC President Father William Leahy, who has guided BC to financial security over the past 20 years, does not want to have the reduction of sports as part of his legacy.
This is where it is complicated. The chatter of Father Leahy's retirement continues to be heard at The Heights, with the latest rumors being that Father Leahy will make a trip to Ireland in June and announce his retirement. That date also coincides with the end of the term of John Fish, the Chairmen of the BC Board of Trustees.
It would also be the end of the school year and allow a new President and a new athletic director to have a few months to settle into their new roles. The contract of outgoing BC athletic director Brad Bates also expires in June, so the timing of all these moves would seem to fit.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]
But this is Boston College, where very few things are what they appear to be. Considering the performance of the men's basketball team which has won a total of 2 ACC games in the past 2 seasons and the shaky efforts of the football team, it doesn't seem unreasonable to predict that within the next 12 months, BC could have a new President, a new athletic director, a new men's basketball coach and a new football coach.
That is a major upheaval for any school. Add reduction of sports, as well a major building project in campus athletic facilities and without proper leadership you have the potential for a chaotic situation.
If Father Leahy remains in charge, the chances of major changes would seem to diminish considerably.
That is why the moves that BC makes in the next few months are arguably the most important in the athletic history of the school.
If you can get past the emotional angst by dropping a sport such as baseball as a varsity sport and cutting the number of sports from 18 to 20, BC might be able to make improvements, including funding the remaining sports well enough to improve the athletic results.
Since many varsity sports, including baseball, are available at the club level, the overall opportunity for the BC student body would not be diminished greatly.
The point person in these moves is the athletic director. A new AD, working closely with a new President, with a new perspective on the value of athletics and an understanding that they need to make a greater commitment in facilities to bring BC to the level with other ACC schools, could change the direction of BC athletics.
But once again, the timing of making this all work is crucial. And any kind of change at BC has always battled the natural inertia of an administration which has been reluctant to make ANY major changes.
But as one long time BC booster said, when presented with the possibility that major changes in direction and philosophy could be coming at the Heights, "That would give a lot of people hope that things could and can get better. Right now, there are a lot of people who simply don't care any more and that's the worst situation you can have.''
For now, BC remains in a holding pattern with very little hard news or even speculation about what will happen or how quickly any moves would be made.
But there are more and more indicators that BC is at least considering changing the way it goes about its athletic business, a business which clearly is not working.[/membership]