Welcome to The Heights, Dr. Kraft!
You’re coming to Chestnut Hill at quite a moment in BC history. I don’t think many would dispute that things are on a nice little upswing lately compared to what they had been for a while — football’s got some real excitement surrounding the new head coach, non-revenue sports are doing quite well, there’s been great facility and fundraising progress, and definitely most importantly, men’s hockey is BACK, baby! So you’ve got some momentum to build on.
But I’m not going to lie to you. Boston College can be a tough place to be an Athletic Director. BC may have a fraction of the alumni as the big state schools, but those alums are just as vocal and we have just as many crazies as anyone (no disrespect, crazies; we love you). You have all of the expectations that come with being a Power 5 program, but with more obstacles to get past.
There is one important thing you need to know about taking on the AD job at Boston College: Everyone has a boss, and that includes you. Wide autonomy is just not something the AD gets at the Heights. Father Leahy is a great man who truly cares about this university — but he also is going to have the final say on major changes to how BC runs things.
That’s not to say your boss is going to shoot everything down. Like I said, the man wants Boston College to succeed. But to get a good idea of how things work here, look no further than the two tenure-defining moments of Martin Jarmond’s time here at the Heights — Jeff Hafley’s hiring, and Jim Christian’s non-firing.
We spoke to a high-ranking source from within the BC Athletic department, and it was made clear that the decision to fire Steve Addazio brought with it a seismic shift in the investment in BC football, which came as a direct result of Father Leahy buying what Jarmond was selling. And that goes beyond Martin Jarmond simply being given the go-ahead to chase Jeff Hafley. This new era is marked by an increase in the order of millions more of investment into the football program. The budget for assistant coach salaries alone was a game changer — and we’re not talking a percentage increase in the budget, we’re talking a multiplier. And that’s already paying dividends: According to that same source, it was the hiring of Frank Cignetti, a former NFL quarterbacks coach, that persuaded Phil Jurkovec to transfer to the Heights.
The added investment into football isn’t just throwing in a snack bar — this is a huge shift in institutional priority. Football drives the bus in college sports, we all know what the Flutie Effect showed about it being able to drive university growth, too.
But the other side of the coin is that without Father Leahy’s buy-in, the AD is pretty much hamstrung. A source at Boston College with direct knowledge of the discussions made clear that Martin Jarmond was ready to move on from Jim Christian despite the implications brought on by COVID-19. But Father Leahy did not sign off on the decision, and Jim Christian was brought back.
There’s good news, though, Dr. Kraft. You’re not alone. And that’s why I’m addressing you as well as the fans at BC. To all those alumni who want to see BC continue its upward trajectory, if there is something that needs to get done and it hasn’t happened, don’t immediately direct your ire at the public face of the BC athletics. Chances are, he wants to make the same changes you do. It’s his job on the line, after all.
The man needs backup to get things done. Don’t throw a fit in the comments section: Write to Father Leahy. The Athletic Director is only one man — but if Father Leahy has Patrick Kraft in one ear and a big slice of the BC community in the other saying the same thing, something positive is more likely to come from it.
But most importantly, it’s absolutely critical that Father Leahy’s big bet on BC football pays off. The increased investment in football must translate into improvement not just on the field — that’s a given — but also in donations and fundraising. Success in football with increased investment could be a boon for everyone else. Without it, the incentive at the top to sign off on the same push for success in BC’s long-floundering other big revenue sport will be nonexistent.
And so, Dr. Kraft and BC fans alike, there’s much that has been done, and much still to do. While the AD is the driving force for change within the department, he can’t make it happen without buy-in at the top, and buy-in at the top comes from support from the alumni. If all of that can come together, it really can be — dare I even say it? — beautiful.