To Replace Bates, BC Must Find Perfect Fit in New AD

With his contract due to expire at the end of the academic year, Director of Athletics Brad Bates announced on Monday that he would step down in June. Sources confirmed to The Heights that Bates, who will join Collegiate Sports Associates (CSA) as a vice president in charge of the agency’s consulting division, would have not had his contract renewed. As AD, Bates developed strong relationships with many student-athletes. Bates maintained Boston College’s commitment to excellence in the classroom—athletics ranked fifth nationally in graduation rate in 2015-16. He also began fundraising for several major construction projects, such as the Brighton Athletics Complex, an indoor practice facility for football, and a replacement for the Flynn Recreation Complex. During the early part of his tenure, Bates served as an effective and charismatic face of BC Athletics that promised a bright future. Despite the program’s later failures, these strong beginnings must be remembered as part of his career in Chestnut Hill.

But in his later years, Bates’ public face dissipated with the on-the-field talent. His messy handling of the departure of swimming head coach Tom Groden, and the uncertain future of the swim and dive program represented the lack of transparency that marked the latter part of his tenure. Bates is also responsible for the hiring of both football head coach Steve Addazio and men’s basketball head coach Jim Christian. Bates also served as AD during the abysmal 2015-16 season for football and men’s basketball, in which the Eagles failed to win an ACC game in 26 games combined. The two programs were the first to achieve the feat for a Power Five school since Georgia in 1943-44. Though the on-field performance of the programs is not something directly in his control, Bates will likely be most remembered for this season.

In selecting a new Director of Athletics, University President Rev. William P. Leahy, S.J. and the board of trustees must choose wisely. At a time in which BC Athletics’ public perception is at an all-time low, the next AD will likely be the most crucial hire in the program’s history. The first step must be in selecting the right search firm. For Bates’ hiring, the University relied solely on Leo Sullivan, former vice president for human resources, who is now a senior adviser to Leahy. Because that didn’t work out well, the administration must seek an outside service. Parker Executive Search, Korn Ferry, Witt/Kieffer, and DHR International are a couple of notable outside sources that the University should consider using to help conduct this search. And under no circumstances should BC use CSA now that Bates works there.

The next AD must be ready for Leahy’s heavy involvement in athletics. It was Leahy who spearheaded BC’s move from the Big East to the ACC, and he has remained heavily involved in all hiring processes and inner workings of the department. The AD must be comfortable with the uniform-high academic standards to which incoming student-athletes are subject at BC.

Without question, any AD candidates must be prepared to run a Power Five program that has seen its two most important programs put up a composite losing record over the last five years. Despite BC’s success in men’s hockey and several non-profit sports—women’s hockey, baseball, men’s soccer, to name a few—during Bates’ tenure, it is the dual failing of football and men’s basketball that brought down the reputation of the department. The next AD must have ample experience working directly with football and men’s basketball, and must surround themselves with people who have similar experience. In turn, the moves Bates’ successor makes must lead to a dramatic increase in on-field production for those two programs, whether they stick with Addazio and Christian or turn to an outside hire. With attendance decreasing drastically under Bates, the new AD must work immediately to buck the trend and win back the faith of the fans.

Moreover, she or he must be prepared to take charge of a program that hosts the most varsity sports in the ACC. Unlike the swimming situation, in which Groden suggested Bates had planned to discontinue the program, the next AD must not allow BC’s coaches to live in fear of the safety of their teams. Bates’ successor must make a definitive, upfront decision one way or the other on any potential ones on the chopping block.

Most importantly, the new AD must be the face of the program, both through the media and in a fundraising capacity. They must promote BC openly in local and national outlets, as well as remain accessible to The Heights. And the new AD must prepare to continue efforts in building facilities that are up to the ACC’s standards in quality. In their current state, BC’s athletic facilities are among the worst in the nation. Up-to-par facilities would include, but are not limited to, a 3M diving board in the Plex’s replacement, locker rooms and indoor batting cages for the Brighton Athletic Complex, ample weight room space in the indoor practice facility, and widespread updates to Conte Forum. If the AD does not believe BC can match the standards of its contemporaries—or worse, cannot raise the funds to do so—then he or she must find a way out of the Power Five and put the program in a conference in which they feel it can best compete.

Though his tenure was marred with many losses, Bates’ efforts in facilities set a framework for his successor to have a legacy. But efforts will not be sufficient for the next AD. Whoever takes the big office in Conte come fall 2017 cannot fail, because for the sake of its future, BC Athletics cannot afford for that to happen.

Featured Image by Julia Hopkins / Heights Editor

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  • James Gruber

    Leaving the ACC/Power 5 is not an option that should be on the table. BC lifted itself from the brink of bankruptcy in the 1970’s to today’s top 30 national institution in no small part due to athletics. Our counterparts at Stanford, Northwestern, Notre Dame and Villanova are continuing to grow their application base and improve alumni satisfaction/donations by investing in their sports programs, while BC has lately done the bare minimum and seen corresponding results on and off the field.
    BC must fully commit itself to success by continuing to invest in facilities upgrades, boosting coaching salaries to improve the attractiveness of the BC job to potential coaches, improving the fan experience at BC sporting events, and reaching out to current and past players for input about what could be done to improve athletics. BC has had a history of success in the past in the marquee sports of football and men’s basketball, and it can get there again as long as its leadership is committed to such a goal.

  • Daniel Jamieson

    I agree with James. If Leahy hires someone with any consideration that BC is unable to “match the standards of its contemporaries” than he is demonstrating a sincere lack on confidence in the university’s capabilities relative to peers. I can assure you BC’s alumni base believes fishing is an option, and cutting bait is not.

    As an aside, I recognize the 3M diving board is very symbolic to the Swim and Dive team with implications on BC’s ability to host meets, but putting that $10k investment on par with a 9-figure renovation of Alumni/Conte dilutes the message.