When Patrick Kraft was announced as Boston College’s new athletic director in 2020, my general reaction was “this seems like a fine but unexciting hire.” Kraft didn’t have anything major going against him, but there also wasn’t anything that stuck out as being new and different. Two years later, I would say I feel about the same about his time at BC. In fact, it is difficult for me to think of much to say about Kraft at all.
It’s tough to really judge Kraft’s impact on the Heights, as his entire time at BC has occurred during the COVID-19 pandemic. Kraft was thrown into an unprecedented situation, having to steer his new school through a highly contagious pandemic that resulted in cancelled games, bans on fans, and outbreaks across teams. By all accounts, he did handle this pretty effectively, setting clear rules for athletic events, and managing to avoid too many major outbreaks, although there certainly were teams whose seasons were affected by multiple COVID protocols.
During the 2020-21 season, when fans were not allowed at games, Kraft could also frequently be seen on screen supporting the Eagles. However, he certainly seems to have had a much different personality than BC’s previous athletic director Martin Jarmond. While Jarmond was a constant presence at Boston College sporting events, popping in and out of various games to show his face and chat with supporters, I don’t recall seeing Kraft out socializing at games once fans resumed attendance. (To be fair, I can’t speak to football attendance, and it is possible I just always missed him at other games).
This doesn’t mean Kraft wasn’t at those games, but he definitely had a more behind the scenes vibe than Jarmond did. Which isn’t a bad thing - a lot of work to benefit student athletes and athletic programs doesn’t need to be done in the spotlight, and there is certainly something to be said for an athletic director that doesn’t seek the spotlight. But there is also something positive about an athletic director that makes themselves a known presence around campus and events.
The Eagles did have some major successes under Kraft, such as the beginning of construction on the new basketball facility and the 2020 women’s lacrosse championship, but Kraft can’t really take responsibility for either of these things, which are the result of years of work.
Kraft can take responsibility for a few big things that happened recently at BC, including Earl Grant’s hire and BC’s deal with New Balance. Grant seems to be doing a passable job as the men’s basketball coach so far, and the program is hopefully heading in the right direction. The New Balance deal is the bigger success of these two, as it allows student athletes access to New Balance’s resources, including facilities and internships. When we look back on Kraft’s time at BC, this will likely be what people assign him the most credit for.
The main reason it is difficult to judge Kraft’s impact on BC is that (assuming the rumors are true), he was at BC for under 2 years: he was hired in the summer of 2020, and could be leaving in the spring of 2022. Sure, in a couple years you can schedule some football games and get some big donations, but you can’t really label someone a success or a failure after less than 2 years of work.
If anything, Kraft’s rumored departure says less about him and more about Boston College - the last 3 athletic directors have served for 5 years (Brad Bates), 3 years (Martin Jarmond), and 2 years (Kraft), with both Kraft and Jarmond leaving for other schools. This is not an inspiring trend.
The real question for BC isn’t what Kraft did for the school. Instead, it is this: how can the university set future athletic directors up for success, and how can this job become more than a stepping stone?