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What Would It Mean If Brad Bates Left?

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Brad Bates's name is being floated for the Michigan AD job. How would it impact Boston College if he left? A look at what would be on a new AD's plate.

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While opinions of current athletic director Brad Bates's job performance vary, almost everyone agrees that he has done at least a pretty good job, and has been an incredible breath of fresh air and a welcome departure from the Gene DeFilippo era. I put myself in the column of someone who is a fan of Brad Bates and thinks that his continued leadership at BC would be very welcome. But as we know, opportunity sometimes comes a-knocking. Bates may get the opportunity to go home to the University of Michigan. If he does, how would that impact BC?

First of all, the fact that his name is being floated for the Michigan AD job is a pretty strong vote of confidence for the job he's done at BC and Miami of Ohio. While Michigan obviously hamstrings itself by generally restricting its searches to Michigan alums, his name would not be on anyone's list if people didn't think he could do the job. So, a Bates departure would signify the loss of a well-respected leader at BC.

But how much work is left undone for Bates? Let's take a look at the big decisions Bates has faced, and what he may face in the future.

Football

In reality, some might say Brad Bates's primary mission as BC athletic director was accomplished when a new regime was installed for football. Job #1 for Bates was to fire Frank Spaziani and find a solid replacement who could rebuild the football program. All post-loss freakout aside, it appears that the mission was accomplished successfully. Addazio might not be Jim Harbaugh, but it would be tough to argue he wasn't a strong choice. Knowing now what you knew then, would you really still want Diaco over Addazio, for instance?

On the one hand, Bates's successful hiring process for football--which, much like the basketball search, willingly bucked demands of certain interest groups and the media in favor of doing things his own way--means that should Addazio leave BC in the next few years, it may negatively impact BC to not have Bates at the helm. On the other hand, I don't really think Addazio is on his way out, unless Florida comes calling, which I don't see happening. So it looks like if Bates left this year, he'd be leaving football in a steady situation.

Basketball

The jury is out on this one. Bates took over when there was still some optimism surrounding Steve Donahue, and hope that his team would jel and become a contender. It just didn't happen. There are some serious misgivings about the way the process of firing Steve Donahue and hiring his replacement went down, but at the end of the day nobody will remember that process if the end result is Jim Christian turning BC back into an NCAA tournament contender in the next few years. Signs on the recruiting trail are already promising.

I'm not sure Bates's departure would impact the basketball situation much. Unless Christian is a total dumpster fire from day one, he's going to get a good, solid 3 years or so to put his stamp on the program. And if Christian is a disaster, it would probably turn the heat up on Bates's own seat, since that was his guy and his process. A new AD at BC would come in to a similar situation that Bates did on basketball: a wait-and-see situation. Jim Christian wasn't exactly the hottest commodity on the coaching market, so I don't think BC loses out by not having Bates at the helm next time there's a search.

Hockey

Whoever is athletic director at BC in about 4 years or so will have to handle the unenviable task of replacing Jerry York. This should be an easy decision for whoever is in charge--ask Greg Brown if he wants the job, or maybe call up Mike Cavanaugh if he's doing a good job at UConn. This should be easy. The one thing that I'm worried about with Bates is that he has a pre-existing relationship with Rico Blasi, a moderately successful coach at Miami. Hopefully a new AD would have no substantial college hockey connections and would increase the likelihood from 99% to 100% that York just picks his own successor.

One thing that Bates has done well on the hockey front is, quite simply, acknowledging the sport exists and appreciating what it brings to the table at BC, unlike Gene DeFilippo, who seemed to view BC's most successful and historic varsity sport as something he'd rather not even learn the rules of (four quarters, anyone?). It doesn't really matter, because BC was winning before and after Bates, but I feel like Bates has been more attentive to hockey fans' experience.

Baseball

This is the great unresolved coaching issue that the next AD would have to deal with. Of course, as has been discussed here over and over again, the issues involving baseball go well beyond who to hire as a coach. That said, Bates has done very little on this front. He has not stoked any #TeamLacrosse rumors, nor has he made substantial progress toward fully investing in baseball; things are pretty much as they were. Poaching URI's head coach to be Gambino's top assistant could be a strong move that stabilizes the current program, but it undoubtedly needs more investment to compete.

Other sports

Bates hasn't really had to make any major decisions on the non-revenue sports. Women's basketball could be a situation after this year if Erik Johnson's teams don't take a step forward. Women's hockey is on autopilot as Katie King-Crowley can probably have the job as long as she wants. Women's soccer, field hockey and lacrosse all seem to be doing really well. Men's soccer is an interesting situation in that Ed Kelly has been a long time, winning coach at BC, but the Eagles seem to have fallen off precipitously in the last few years. A change could be worth discussing going forward.

We don't know what Bates's approach or success rate would be with an Olympic sports hire because it hasn't happened. Jury's out.

Game day experience, tailgating, etc.

Look, anyone who thought a new AD was going to wave a magic wand and instantly improve all of the issues surrounding the game day experience (parking, tailgating, etc.) at BC games was always going to be sorely disappointed. BC has two horrendous NIMBY situations to deal with on each side of it and those require a lot of careful work.

Bates has done a very nice job of engaging fans, making their voices feel heard, and making some minor changes to the gameday experience that have made it more enjoyable. These are all changes that should easily outlive the current administration.

In terms of more sweeping changes that are within BC's control regarding pricing, Bates hasn't rocked the boat on DBS, expensive, restricted use of the campus's parking spots, etc. They've decided to continue charging what they've been charging and go the Groupon/season ticket holder giveaway route. I think there must be someone out there with better ideas on that front.

Facilities

This is closely intertwined with the point above about NIMBYism and the difficult process of getting projects over the finish line, something no AD could really change. But there are plans in the works to build new baseball and softball facilities and a new rec plex, which is a good start. Nothing new on an indoor practice facility for football. In terms of what's the hold up on the plans that do exist...NIMBYism is part of it, as BC needs to get their plans in place first for new dorms and whatnot, but I've also heard that BC hasn't reached all of its fundraising goals to fund all the projects in the current plan. Whether that's true or not, ¯\_(ツ)_/¯. If it's a fundraising issue, fundraising is a big part of an AD's job.

Bottom Line

Brad Bates has done a lot of good things at BC and I would be sad to see him go. But most of his biggest jobs are already done: primarily, stabilizing football and putting a breath of fresh air into Conte Forum by being a friendlier, more engaged face of BC athletics. Most of the other stuff that's been done under Bates's tenure could easily be continued and built upon by another AD, as long as the school makes a good choice. Based on the last AD search, which turned up Bates, I am reasonably confident a replacement could do a good job.