This week, Brad Bates posted a reflective look back on the Boston College website, touching on highlights of his views on the past year. He touched upon some interesting points, the highs and lows of the year, on and off the fields of battle. And, as always, we, too, take a look back as we prepare for the summer that will be in the Boston College Eagle fan society we all call home.
Among the highlights from Bates' post was a mention that the school met its 70% goal of getting graduating senior athletes accepted into graduate programs. This is a sharp increase from the 62% the school had in 2013, and it's closer to the 80% goal they want next year. It's a reminder that while we discuss athletics, academics are still paramount (unlike what Massachusetts' high school's governing body apparently stresses), and it's a great example to set. The NCAA touts its motto that almost every athlete will "go pro in something other than sports," so this is something that's fantastic for the student side that seems to get lost in the high-profile business of college athletics.
Bates also mentioned the upcoming year, already turning our heads towards football season. We've been talking about football season here since really the end of hockey season (with some touches of baseball in there), but the first game is fast approaching. It's less than three months to UMass, and the crunch is on with Signing Day in the background to get the athletes worked out and ready.
From a business perspective, it was interesting to see Bates mention the "four home game" idea, that BC will play four games in Massachusetts before October. Clearly, the UMass game is something that BC is taking seriously as a chance to blow out its would-be opponent from in-state, and it's a chance to showcase and build upon the good momentum created by last season. The only downside from my end is that because the game follows the home team's TV contract, ESPN chose to put the MACtion on ESPN3 instead of regional television. That said, I would be shocked if a local regional provider didn't pick up on the coverage somehow (I'm looking at you, NESN).
Touching upon ticket sales, Bates also mentioned that USC is tracking towards a sell-out. Season ticket holders recently received an offer that they could purchase additional tickets to the game, so it's clear BC wants this game sold out sooner rather than later. I think there's a slight panic that the game could be less than a sell-out, something they probably wouldn't want to admit, but from a business end, they have to make sure they get the 44,000-plus people before the UMass game. It's one of those things that, like a Notre Dame game, they need to dress up BC nice before a nationally televised game. Don't be shocked if more things come out throughout the summer by way of marketing - such promos as suggesting fans get to their seats for fireworks or a special pyro intro and encouraging them to wear a particular color.
In terms of communication, Bates promoted the idea that he'll be in more contact with his constituents. In his first year on the job, I felt he was a visible presence at football, shaking hands and making it feel like the fans were his top priority. Certainly, the marketing team's been tinkering with football promotions to get fans to BC early. But as the year wore on, and as is the case in any man on the job, we were able to poke holes in the way he made contact, starting with the basketball team's coaching search (for better or for worst there) or his lack of visibility throughout the spring. Bates is now resurfacing at the end of the year, so I'm wondering if the front-loaded work in fixing the problems of football and basketball didn't take too much out of the year down the stretch. It'll be interesting to see if he can spread the love and contact out over a full year after it felt like, to me at least, he lost a little bit of his steam (and, therefore, his luster) as the year bore on.
The last thing Bates really talked about was the Reunion Weekend and the general overview. He spoke to alumni and reminded us of all the good things that happened. But he failed, in a big way, to mention that there is a lot left to clean up at BC. He didn't once touch upon the coaching search and the challenges facing BC in the ACC for basketball, and he didn't talk at all about the other programs like the soccer team or the baseball program. He talked about making conference tournaments and winning Beanpots, but ultimately the goals for the teams shouldn't be to just make a conference tournament. It's not enough to just compete anymore. We can't become complacent with that. What Brad Bates has to recognize is that, while we're content to go to bowl games and conference tournaments now, there needs to be a charted growth.
Is BC miles ahead of where it was at this time in 2013? Absolutely. The hockey team returned to the Frozen Four, and the football team returned to a bowl game. But there is tons of work left to do. Men's soccer was sub-.500 when it used to be a national contender, and even though graduate Alejandro Bedoya is heading to Brazil with the US men's national team, BC's lost its last four postseason games dating back to their College Cup loss to Rutgers a couple of years ago.
Baseball is on the verge of becoming a program that's a real mess that hasn't won anything in five years, and both basketball programs combined to win five games less than the men's ice hockey regular season, even if the men did beat #1 Syracuse. In one year, BC has come a long way, but there's a long road left to accomplish.
If you'd like to relive anything from the past year, post your favorite memory in the comments. Or let us know how you think Brad Bates should improve as the summer progresses. But make sure to play nice, everyone!