In the spirit of giving, we figured this was a nice time to talk a bit more about Friends of the Heights, a group of BC alumni and fans that is connecting Eagle student-athletes with charitable organizations, capitalizing on the NIL (Name, Image, and Likeness) opportunities now available. Scott Mutryn (‘98) is a former BC quarterback and current WEEI radio host. We had a chance to speak with Scott about this exciting prospect for BC student-athletes and how everyone can help out.
So how did this all come together and get started?
I wish I could take credit for bringing it all together, but I was able to join in the seventh inning. Joe Popolo, Sam Raia, and Brian Tusa had already started an NIL program with the school and have been doing some work on their end. Through their donations and fundraising, they found out about a way to do this in a 501(c)(3), which aligns more with Boston College — giving back to the community, being a part of the community, and everything that comes with that — instead of just paying athletes.
I was introduced to them and gave my thoughts, my feelings, my passion about all of this. Once we closed loop on all of that, Friends of the Heights got started.
You’re a former BC quarterback, and now you’ve been calling games. Being so close with the program, what does this all mean to you personally?
For me, I refused to just put my head in the sand and think college athletics is going to go back to the way it was. NIL is here to stay. If you want to be competitive - this doesn’t mean competitive in winning national championships in multiple sports every year [but] if you want to be a competitive team where athletics matter, you need to be involved in this. The alumni need to know, and the supporters need to know what you’re doing for the athletes, how it’s being done, and how they can help.
I think the toughest part is education: what can and can’t be done. I honestly believe a lot of BC fans and supporters want to help and just don't know how to do it or have the time to research what is approved and what isn’t. Part of this movement is the education of it — on both sides — educating the athletes on what it means to come into some money. You and I both know from college if you come across money, it’s really easy to spend it. It’s [also] an education for the alums, and figuring out what services they can provide.
Another thing is it’s a great access to the athletes, and I think that’s something that really carries on the mission for BC in that your time at BC doesn't end the moment you get your piece of paper. It’s all you do afterwards. It’s that time period that is spent years after you leave BC and what you give back, whether that’s time or money to the school, but also the effort to make it better for the next generation. And I think that that’s really important for athletes. Too many of my teammates graduated from BC and had no idea what to do and where to look for jobs. And I think this is another avenue to help the athletes [to] meet the BC community, and see how vast it is and how helpful it can be once their playing careers are done.
I’m sure you wish this was all available to you back then.
Trust me, we’re still trying to get retroactive pay.
Now I know the organization needs to be independent of the school, but what’s the relationship with BC Athletics? Or can you talk about how, if at all, you’ve needed to work with the school?
Anyone that’s trying to form any of these contingents you have to work with the school to make sure it’s approved. There’s that fine line [in terms of] how the athletes can benefit but you can’t use any of the branding of the school. So they can’t be wearing their BC jerseys and they can’t be doing certain things where a corporate sponsorship is affected.
But BC can use the power of the school to help the athletes. They can give them guidance. Doug Fillis is working with Boston College on all their NIL deals for all of their athletes. [He] and his team do a good job vetting all of the opportunities...That’s a huge part of it. You have to go through the process of the school.
The biggest message from this is that this should not affect anyone’s donation to Boston College...This should be in addition to that. I think a lot of people would agree with that, and want that as well. Because this is something to go above and beyond.
Can you talk a bit more about what you know the university is doing to support NIL initiatives and how successful they’ve been?
It’s relative. Success is based on what? Based on what Texas A&M has done? Then no, but BC is very thoughtful and methodical in their process in how they go about it. They’re not going to be the first one to jump in. They want to figure out the environment, what makes sense and then what aligns with the school’s vision... BC wants to follow the guidelines and wants to educate the athletes. And that’s important, instead of just being first to market.
I know Charlotte North did an outstanding job while she was at BC. As soon as this all started, July 2021 maybe, she really benefited from that immediately.
Back to the fund - it’s geared toward charities, right? Who’s allowed to participate?
Yes exactly, this is for charitable donations that BC supports and that we support. It’s an opportunity for the athletes to give back and see some return.
Have you already started working with any student athletes to date?
We’re still in the process of generating funds for it. We’ve had some significant six-figure donations....It’s a timely process — not like we decided to do this in a week. It takes a lot. There are still going to be some growing pains as we go along. We haven’t worked with the athletes right now because we’re still in the aspect of generating funds.
But the other good thing, not too long ago it was announced coaches can get involved and let [student-athletes] know there are services for them. It’s a lot to ask of coaches now to be searching for NIL deals for their players because there’s enough on their plate…We had Earl Grant speak before the Duke game and he gave a real impassioned speech. He talked about [how] the NIL movement is not just about getting new athletes, but also about maintaining the ones you have, keeping them here so that they fulfill their four years at Boston College. I think that’s really important. It’s not just about getting them in the door, it’s keeping them. Because other people will come and they’ll want to poach them away. BC will develop players and get them to the point where they’re coveted by other teams and other teams will get to reap those benefits. I think if you talk to Coach Hafley [or] Coach Grant as an example, they will tell you that’s a huge part of why this needs to be done and why these funds need to be generated
You mentioned education as one, but looking forward five, ten years, what’s your idea of success for the fund?
It’s an ever changing process here. My idea of success is getting significant alumni contribution to this, and having a strong pipeline of recent BC grads and others supporting it. Having it work in perpetuity where we’re helping athletes across our 31 sports at Boston College that deserve a chance to stay and get their Boston College educations. That stay for four years, and not have to go because of financial promises that other schools can give them.
And then once their playing days are done, that they establish a great relationship with the alumni at Boston College, and get into the work community. I think athletes at a lot of other institutions, once they’re done, that’s it. BC has a ton to offer and a degree that can go coast to coast. It’s not just a regional degree. There are a lot of successful Boston College graduates across many different industries. We have the opportunity to give athletes access to those individuals and opportunities. That’s a chance to start a career, build a family, and move on and provide their families with the opportunity to get an education and to move forward as generations go forward.
I honestly think the biggest mission for this is not just the financial aspect. We talk about making a difference in people’s lives. This isn’t a newsflash, but a majority of the athletes at BC come from a totally different socio-economic background than many non-athletes. The opportunity to change their lives once they’re done playing is a mission we should embrace. This meaning that the only way you can change those environments is through education. BC gives the opportunity to get a top level education, and use that education to start a career. There is an opportunity to give these athletes a platform to have a successful career after they get the education — to fulfill those two missions is essential.
I think that follows the Boston College mission to a tee, and that to me would measure the success of all of this. To see these student athletes working, whether it’s on Wall Street, at law firms, tech companies, the energy space, entertainment, anything; that would define the success of this program. I think that’s the only way we really get the change that we need is to give these athletes a platform and an opportunity to succeed after their playing careers are over. But by doing that, you need to provide for them while they are here. [Give them] an opportunity to collect some money so they can support themselves and maybe even their families and not have to leave because they get a better opportunity. Boston College has a great story to tell, and if we are able to be successful in this, that story gets even better
How can alumni take part? The website mentioned the deductible element is still pending approval, but what’s the outlook here?
First thing is just to go to www.friendsoftheheights.org. Once you go on there, you can see the mission of what we’re trying to do here - how you can help, how you can contribute, where your money’s going, and what the deduction means. It’s very detailed but very succinct... If you really want to help, now’s the time. Obviously everyone wants a million dollar donation, but every person that’s willing to commit and help in this... it builds more and more momentum on top of it.
To me whatever they can give, any sort of contribution is helpful, It means a lot, and could be the difference between keeping a women’s basketball player or losing her. All those donations matter, because if you get enough people participating and buying in to this then it allows us to build a significant amount that we can provide to the athlete and also get them into the community even more. I can’t say enough how invaluable that would be.
Thanks to Scott for spending some time to talk about the fund and for helping getting it off the ground. Check out Friends of the Heights for more information, and see how you can get involved.