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An Open Letter To The New AD - Do The Right Thing

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You have the power.

US News and World Report

Dear Sir or Madam:

Welcome to Boston College.

I’m sure at this point you have, more than likely, been inundated with requests, proposals and advice on how to “fix” the Athletic Department at Boston College and are ready to close your inbox from such inquiries. While I wish it were otherwise, I regret to inform you that I am here to do the same, though, in a more targeted capacity.

You see, before you arrived in Chestnut Hill, your predecessor, Brad Bates, announced that, after years of anticipation, the university was finally moving forward with its “Ten Year Plan,” which includes building a new student recreation center and a much needed indoor practice facility for the football program. However, those plans hinge upon first moving the current baseball and softball fields across Commonwealth Avenue, to BC’s Brighton Campus, before any work can be done to improve the football facilities. With that being the case, initial mock-ups and plans were released last summer detailing the new baseball “stadium.” I use quotations to indicate to you that the plans, as they stand now, are woefully inadequate, not only from a competitiveness standpoint, but from a practicality standpoint, as well. Allow me to elaborate. Here is the current plan for BC Baseball’s Brighton Stadium:

Google Images

Before we dive into how this proposed stadium limits BC’s capacity to attract high-caliber talent in the ultra-competitive ACC, let’s first talk about why this proposal falls short on the practicality front:

First, it is necessary that there be a locker room/clubhouse facility on Brighton Campus for the baseball team. The lack of one within the new stadium complex would indicate the team would need to change in their current locker room in Conte Forum (which itself is pathetic) and either walk across the street or find a ride over to the stadium on a daily basis for practice or games. This is totally impractical. Not only does that chip away at the already limited number of hours the NCAA allows for practice and competition during the week, but it would also lead to class scheduling difficulty for the student-athletes who would possibly be barred from taking required classes based on the times they were offered. For those who would say this is a non-issue, and would point to the athletic teams that practice on Newton Campus as proof that it can be managed, I would first say that those programs also need their own locker room facilities on Newton to help alleviate the strain of the process they already feel. I would then ask those individuals if they had ever conversed with any member of those teams to find out how time-consuming and obtrusive the daily process of getting over to Newton for practice or a game, really is. Ask them if they’ve ever had to skip class, skip a meal, or put off turning in an assignment because they needed to run to Conte Forum to change and hop on a van to Newton. My guess is those folks have not had those conversations, and do not know the actual toll it takes on the student athletes every day. The lack of a locker room or clubhouse on Brighton Campus is unacceptable, as it is on Newton Campus.

Second, the areas of the stadium complex that will be used year-round, such as the bullpen mounds and batting cages, need to be indoors. One of the biggest upgrades contained in the new stadium plan is the addition of synthetic field turf to replace the natural grass now found on Shea Field. The logic behind this change is simple: New England is cold and snow is possible from October until April, so, having field turf would help the team get on the field earlier in the season than natural grass would allow. If that is the case, my question then becomes: if the powers-that-be realize that weather is an issue, why leave such important tools to a baseball team, like the mounds and batting cages, open to the elements, rendering them useless for months at a time? As an athletic administrator, you know the NCAA limits practice time severely during a sport’s offseason. This means that the baseball program, legally, cannot be on the field together as a team from November until they return to campus in January. During that time, however, members of the team are allowed to hit the cages in small groups, and pitchers can work on bullpen mounds. However, if both are underneath six inches of snow during that period, how can we expect them to practice at all? An indoor hitting/pitching facility is necessary and completely feasible on Brighton Campus and could even be combined with the aforementioned locker room/clubhouse to save space.

Third, there needs to be a training/weight room facility on Brighton Campus for use by the baseball and softball teams. The small “Support Building,” to my knowledge, will be used for equipment storage and will not house any training resources. While I am unsure of the insurance policy or liability this poses, I find it concerning that, God forbid, if a player is injured during practice or game, they would have to be bussed back over to Conte Forum for treatment, which, depending on the traffic around campus, could take anywhere from five to twenty minutes. It seems dangerous and impractical. Again, a training room/weight room could be easily added to the stadium facility on Brighton Campus, and could be used by both the baseball and softball teams.

The final impracticality of the proposed stadium comes from the lack of seating displayed. Originally, years ago, the plans for the baseball stadium called for upward of 3,000 seats. The number was then cut to 2,000; then 1,500. And, now, we’re left looking at a capacity of 1,000. Though that number may seem large, bear in mind that the stands currently adjacent to the BC dugout at Shea Field can hold roughly 600 individuals. That should give any observer a decent understanding of just how small a total of 1,000 seats really is. Aside from the insulting nature of the 1,000-seat figure and all the other shortcomings of the current proposal, these hindrances also ensure the Eagles will never be able to host an NCAA Regional on campus, no matter their ranking or record, as the NCAA requires certain stadium amenities and capacities to be able to host, all of which BC would lack under the current proposal. While opponents of the baseball facility will say that these modifications are just not in the budget, I can tell you honestly, as someone who is currently employed at an architecture and design firm with a “Sports and Entertainment” division, the funds that could be allocated to the baseball stadium from the administration are enough to cover the completion of these changes.

Now, to demonstrate the impact on overall competitiveness the new stadium would have, I want to play a game with you that I am borrowing from ESPN’s resident “Bracketologist” Joe Lunardi, called the “Blind Resume.” What I’ll do is put up two “resumes,” without a team name on them, and have you guess, based on the information given, which program is better supported by its athletic administration. Sound fair? Ok here we go:

TEAM “A”: In the last three years…

· 106 Total Wins

· 1 NCAA Tournament Berth

· 0 Super Regional Berths

· 0 First Round Draft Picks

· 0 Coach of the Year Awards

And…

TEAM “B”: In the last three years…

· 84 Total Wins

· 1 NCAA Tournament Berth

· 1 Super Regional Berth

· 2 First Round Draft Picks

· 1 Coach of the Year Award

So, which team has more backing from its athletic administration? Clearly Team “B,” right? They must have the resources and facilities to attract top-line players in every recruiting class, as demonstrated by the two first-rounders in the last three seasons, the Super Regional berth, and close to 30 wins per year. Not to mention the administration must invest a lot in the program’s coaches as the Head Coach has won Coach of the Year in the past three seasons, and must be a hot commodity that other schools are looking to lure away.

Actually, no. Team “B” is Boston College, a program that has been wholly neglected and underfunded by its administration for years. Team “A” is the University of North Carolina, which, nationally, is one of the most financially supported programs year-in and year-out. The only noticeable difference between the two programs is the win total, which averages out to 7.3 more wins per year for UNC, in the last three seasons. However, that statistic is misleading and can have any number of explanations, ranging from the fact that UNC plays nearly 15 games at home to open each season while Boston College is on the road until mid-March, to the quality of midweek competition faced by each team, to the fact that, as evidenced in recent NCAA findings, the academic rigor in Chapel Hill cannot hold a candle to that of Chestnut Hill (under which BC baseball players have thrived, putting six student-athletes on the 2016 ACC Academic Honor Roll alone), and the Tar Heel players have more “free time” not spent in class.

For reference, here is where UNC plays its home games: Boshamer Stadium. The stadium sits on a piece of land on the UNC campus no bigger than the proposed site on Brighton (which is roughly 14 acres). It has a capacity of 5,000 and houses a locker room, players’ lounge, weight room, training room, indoor batting cages and pitching mounds, coaches’ offices, a state of the art press box and media box, and the UNC Baseball Museum:

Google Images
Google Images

And here is where BC plays:

Google Images

It is clear, BC has done more with less, but, put yourself in the shoes of a potential recruit. Yes, Boston College has enjoyed more success than UNC recently and has gone further in the postseason, but take one trip to Shea Field and compare it to your visit to Boshamer Stadium, and you quickly realize which administration has more of a vested interest in your success. It is easy to see.

Despite having what have been called “the worst facilities in division one” and the least administrative support in the ACC, Boston College has overachieved. Think about what could be the result if the program was funded or supported even half of what it should be. I will not sit here and pontificate about all the National Championships that would be won, and the scores of All-Americans that would call the new stadium home because, honestly, a new facility doesn’t guarantee that success. However, one thing that is guaranteed is a continuation of the status quo, a complete lack of funding and support from the Athletic Department and ambivalence on the part of Fr. Leahy and Board of Trustees, will equal a program devoid of success and, more than likely, an eternal existence at the bottom of the conference, because, even though BC has persevered in the last five years, the model it is currently operating under is not sustainable.

In closing, I am not expecting you and your staff to greenlight the construction of the Taj Mahal on Brighton Campus. I am not saying that UNC’s Boshamer Stadium needs to be transplanted across Comm. Ave. I am simply advocating that you use the financial resources available to you to create a facility that not only meets all of the baseball program’s needs, but will also make it nationally competitive for years to come. In short, I am asking you to do the right thing.

Sincerely,

Andrew Lawrence ‘11