BC needs to follow the ""If it's broke, fix it'' plan

Mark Blaudschun

If it ain't broke, don't fix it--Bert Lance, Director of the Office of Management and Budget in Jimmy Carter's 1977 administration.

Boston College athletics--at least the revenue producing sports of football and men's basketball--is broke.

The football team, coming off a 3-9 season, in which it was 0-8 in the Altantic Coast Conference, is 3-4 this season, but 0-4 in the ACC.

The men's basketball team, which begins the 2016-17 season next month, is coming off a 7-25 season in which it was 0-18 in the ACC.

It would be bad enough if it was simply a matter of Ws and Ls. BC has fallen into the level below mediocre, which is irrelevance.

Crowds are down, so is funding. No one cares. In BC's latest setback on Saturday, a 28-20 loss to Syracuse, the Homecoming Day attendance was announced at 34, 647. It looked like half of that total.

BC athletics needs more than fixing. It needs reconstruction.

Here's my guess on how to do it, starting at the top.[membership level="0"] The rest of this article is available to subscribers only - to become a subscriber click here.[/membership] [membership]

PRESIDENT---Father William Leahy has been at BC for 20 years. He has done a marvelous overall job in increasing BC's profile and fund raising. Athletically, the results are more muted. BC made the right financial decision in joining the ACC. For awhile, with the right coaches, the Eagles could compete. Now they have become ACC bottom feeders.

The buzz around The Heights is that Leahy will announce his retirement, perhaps as soon as a Board of Trustees meeting next month, or in the next few months.

Leahy's replacement will be an important hire. The search reportedly is on, but a new President needs to be more connected with the athletic department. One name BC might consider is Boston College Vice President for the Division of University Mission and Ministry, Father Jack Butler. Fr. Butler has been at BC since 2002, when he was a campus minister, and is well regarded throughout the university community.

ATHLETIC DIRECTOR--Brad Bates' contract runs out next summer. Barring a major turnaround, it will not be renewed, although one of stories floating around was that Father Leahy would let his successor make the decision on Bates' future.

Bates has become a tough sell for any Power 5 conference job. Explaining the failures of the BC football and basketball program is difficult, as is the decisions on Bates' choices of football and basketball coaches.

There will be plenty of candidates to replace Bates, if and when he leaves, but the "when'' becomes an issue if a decision on the fate of football coach Steve Addazio is being discussed.

Bates has become a shadow figure at BC athletic events. His "absence'' during the ceremonies retiring the uniform of former BC All American linebacker Luke Kuechly was noticed and embarrassing. Bates's reason for not being on the field at halftime on Saturday for the presentation was that it was "Kuechly's ''moment.''

Please. It was an major event for the school as well as Kuechly. Bates may indeed be a lame duck AD, but he is still being paid by BC, he is an administrator, which means administrating a ceremony in which a BC athlete's number was retired. Bates' future is an ongoing story.

COACHES-Steve Addazio is in his fourth season as the football coach. BC bears the mark of his coaches, his players, his leadership. BC does not look like it is getting better. He will survive the season, but BC has five games left and is more likely to go 3-9 again or 4-8 than 6-6. He has two more years remaining on his contract, at slightly more than $2 million per season, but BC can afford to pay him off.

Whether he survives or not may be more a matter of timing than anything else. If BC had stability at President and AD, Addazio almost certainly would be dismissed unless the Eagles finish with a flourish of wins. But if a new President and a new athletic director are part of the picture, the timing of who does the firing and hiring becomes an issue.

There is a scenario where Addazio will be around for a fifth season, even if the Eagles fail to finish at .500 or above simply because BC will wait until any changes are made in the administration . But that seems unlikely.

THE FAN BASE--It is shrinking steadily, with season ticket sales reportedly dipping below 10,000 in football. Former BC athletic director Gene DeFilippo made a major miscalculation when he began the policy of donor based seat costs like most other Power 5 football schools. Simply put, fans are charged additional fees in addition to the cost of a ticket for the right to simply buy a season ticket as well as a high price for on campus (scarce) parking. Prime parking just outside of Alumni Stadium can cost as much as $10,000 per spot.

That policy might work in more football-frenetic schools, but not at BC. It was and IS a mistake.

BC fans have the funds, but as one long time season ticket holder said, the product BC has put out over the past few years is not worth the cost. "It's like asking me pay $35 for a steak that is not edible,'' said the fan. ""Why should I pay it?""

THE FACILITIES---Near the bottom of the ACC, which combined with tough academic standards, a lack of a solid fan base and below par coaching in a league which has gotten tougher and bigger in both football and basketball, makes solving this a perplexing and frustrating problem. Add an administration that is disjointed in terms of it's athletic mission and you have a formula for failure.

THE SOLUTION--Major reconstruction. Bring in a new President, athletic director and football, and perhaps basketball, coach, all working and communicating with a common goal, spend enough money to improve facilities.

The key will be the hiring the right coaches. When former football coach Tom O'Brien and former basketball coach Al Skinner were at BC, the Eagles were competing for titles in both the Big East and the ACC, with the same lack of facilities and restrictions, which exist today. So it can be done.

But the ACC is tougher than it was 10 years ago, BC is further behind than it ever has been and the athletic department is more dysfunctional than it has been in the past 10 years. And the question has to be asked: Are the right coaches and the right athletic director in place?

What BC needs to do most is change the culture in a place where the system clearly no longer works.[/membership]


Mark Blaudschun