The Martin Jarmond era is beginning soon and Boston College fans are excited about the change. Hiring a rising star with a high ceiling is exactly what is needed at this point in BC athletics history.
That said, I’d like to express my personal appreciation and gratitude to Brad Bates as he departs - even if everyone does agree the time was right to move on.
Bates has rightly faced criticism during his tenure, as many of BC’s marquee teams have continued to struggle. As I wrote in a post last year, I believe Bates inherited a far bigger mess than anyone appreciates. That said, it was his job to fix the problems, and they haven’t all been fixed; as such, everyone is moving on.
What everyone can and should agree on is that Brad Bates performed his job at BC with class, integrity, and respect for the fans and alumni of the school.
We all know what the failures were of the last 5 years - basketball is still a train wreck, Addazio’s extension was premature, and attendance at the two marquee sports continues to struggle.
That said, there were some successes, and a fair analysis of Bates’ tenure should weigh both the successes and the failures.
- The investment of $200 million in athletic facilities, including the much-needed football practice facility, baseball, and softball fields has the potential to be a game-changer for all three of those sports. Nobody who’s even remotely familiar with the process of permitting and approvals is surprised by the fact that it took years of wrangling to take this project from vision to reality, but ultimately Bates leaves with the project finally secure and under construction.
- BC’s continued strength in a number of less marquee sports may not be sexy water cooler fodder, but they’re very much a part of the AD’s mandate - and it would be hard not to say most of these programs are in better shape than they were in when Bates took over. Many of the great coaches of these programs were inherited, though Bates did hire Acacia Walker and Kelly Doton, who have done a tremendous job with women’s lacrosse and field hockey.
In 2015-16, BC shattered a school record with its performance in the Directors Cup, with tournament runs by men’s and women’s soccer, men’s and women’s hockey, baseball, women’s lacrosse, and field hockey.
- From the first day Bates set foot on campus, there were efforts made to try to improve relationships between the athletic program and fans (efforts that were, admittedly, hampered by the program’s struggles).
As a now long-ish time season ticket holder, I feel that the quality of customer service and responsiveness has improved. BC tried some new approaches to pricing and game-day entertainment; some worked out and others didn’t, but the effort was noticeable, though hamstrung by the continued difficulty of BC getting anything done given neighborhood constraints.
- Additionally, Bates himself was always quick to respond to fan emails in a thoughtful, friendly manner. His attitude - lacking arrogance or selfishness - was a breath of fresh air.
- Bates was well known around campus for being a great supporter of all of BC’s athletes, making his presence known at seemingly all 31 of BC’s varsity sports. His vocal support and appreciation for the hockey program stood in stark contrast to the previous administration, that liked to act like the school’s most successful sport didn’t exist.
- Bates also worked hard to foster positive relationships with the various BC booster organizations, and was a constant presence at events where large numbers of BC alumni or fans were present.
- While some of these decisions took some heat here, generally speaking BC has done a better job getting themselves involved in events that have some marketing appeal, such as the Fenway football games and the trip to Dublin. While those moves faced some criticism in hardcore circles, they were generally well-received by the broader base of alumni.
- Quietly, the football schedules in place for upcoming years are suddenly pretty good. The next two years get Power 5 programs back on the schedule. BC is slated to face three power 5 programs in '19, two in '20, and has P5's lined up for '21, '22 (x 2), '24, '25, '26 (x 2), '27 (x 2), '28, '29, and '30. The upcoming schedule includes representation from the B1G, the SEC, the PAC and the Big 12 - all the rest of the power 5 conferences, plus Notre Dame.
The non-power 5 scheduling has also been fine, mixing in some local schools as well as old Big East opponents like Temple and UConn. BC has also pulled off playing some “away” games that are close to home, giving fans an opportunity to go to 7-8 “home” games a year. These are scheduling wins.
The schedule in 2016 was godawful, but unless your scheduling standard is wildly unrealistic, the coming years look pretty good.
- Boston College Athletics has continued to excel at just about every measure of academic success, and has steered clear of scandal. I know that just about every mention of BC’s success in this regard is met by yawns on sites like these, but at the end of the day, this is central to the school’s identity, and will never not be part of the mandate of the school’s athletic director.
The bottom line:
Boston College athletics is still very much in a difficult spot as Martin Jarmond takes the helm, but just about every BC team other than basketball is in a better position now than it was five years ago - and that does include football. Additionally, facility upgrades are underway.
As AD of a Power 5 school, Bates’ mandate was to do more than just make things a little better, so the time was right for BC to make a change.
But I wanted to take time to offer my thanks to Bates, who bleeds maroon and gold and worked tirelessly every day on behalf of BC’s fans and student-athletes.