My Suggestion for the New Boston College Athletic Director — Start at Kostka Hall
PREAMBLE— Boston College retired the numbers of Boston College Basketball greats John Bagley and Dana Barros on Saturday February 25, 2017. I have a 19 year old Autistic son at home, and my older son is in the United States Navy, so this is simply a fun realization and recollection of my days at Boston College and the trip back to Boston. It is not meant to be too serious.
In the Fall of 1980, my Dad and sister dropped me off at Boston College for freshman year, and my dorm room was on the second floor of Kostka Hall on “Upper Campus”. My Mom had passed away the year before, and as a kid from Philadelphia, this was my first real journey away from my family. I was ready for BC, and Kostka Hall was a magical place for an aspiring athlete. Over the next two years, Kostka Hall housed football (Doug Flutie, Pat Cooney, Bob Beistek, Dennis Scala, Stevie Lubischer, George Radachowsky, and Tom Sheridan), basketball (Jay Murphy, Michael Adams, Mark Schmidt, Stu Primus, Terrence Talley, Andrew Gallivan, and Martin Clark), track (Tim O’Neil, John Kenlon, and Chris Coffey), wrestling, lacrosse (Jeff Keith and Matt Vosler) and even a professional baseball player (Mike Gambeski of the St Louis Cardinals farm system). On the first floor, we had Pat Noone a basketball walk-on, hockey players (Lee Blossom plus others), and Chris Lynch and Harry Briggs were swimmers. The women were on the third floor, and they sort of kept things calm :) There was always a football, baseball, or frisbee being thrown on the back yard of Kostka Hall. I am not sure if Doug Flutie treated touch football games on the back lawn at “Kostka Beach” any differently than Alumni Stadium.
The summer before BC, I ran into Chris Foy at the Jersey Shore, and Chris would soon be the Captain of Boston College Basketball for his upcoming senior season (my freshman season). Chris was also a graduate of my high school, St Joseph’s Prep in Philadelphia, and he told me that BC had a JV basketball team that practiced with the Varsity and played JV games around New England against the Ivies, Naval Academy Prep School, and a number of other prep schools and junior colleges.
When I got to BC in August 1980, I start playing pickup games at The Plex (intramural), and squeezed my way into a few pre-season varsity pickup games with the help of Chris Foy. A number of Boston Celtics also played in those pre-season games, including Kevin McHale and Robert “The Chief” Parish. BC Basketball tryouts started in October and I focused on playing tough defense. Soon, I become a member of “Boston College Basketball” playing alongside 1980–81 Big East Player of the Year John “Bags” Bagley.
Now this was the “start-up” phase of the Big East Conference and the fledgeling television network ESPN that featured college basketball games. It was an amazing time, and Kostka Hall was the center of the sports universe — to me. We don’t have “sports dorms” at BC, but Kostka felt like it was in perpetual motion ranging from playing intramural flag football on Alumni Stadium, watching Red Sox games with Mike Gambeski at Fenway Park, and making my small contribution to the highest levels of college basketball in the Big East. When Spring finally came to Boston after basketball season, a bunch of us would walk with golf clubs on shoulders and play Newton Commonwealth Golf Course. Basketball and golf - BC was my sports heaven.
I played two years for Coach Tom Davis and one year for Coach Gary Williams before moving onto “real world” internships during my senior year with a State Street investment firm and also a job with the new Mayor of Boston, Raymond Flynn. BC was very good to me, and I really appreciated my time and experience at “The Heights”.
“Bags” was the ultimate hoop junkie, and he would literally come to our JV home and some away games to cheer us on. When Jay Murphy called me about John Bagley having his number retired along with Dana Barros on Saturday February 25, 2017, I hesitated to make the NYC to Boston trip for the standard:
- Busy with family;
- Was in Cambridge, MA just last weekend at Harvard;
- I am a has-been “Grey Team” player that never was :)
I am really happy that Murph does not take “NO” for an answer. Saturday night before, during, and after the BC versus Virginia Tech game was like a 37 year flash back to the glory days of Kostka Hall. Chris Foy and Jay Murphy sent me the following:
“Great seeing you and spending time with all those guys. I do know that room cares about the program and we have to find a way to let the school know that and take advantage of that fact.”
“Feels good that so many teammates and former players showed up to support Bags and Dana. It’s pretty neat how those bonds remain.”
I was a walk-on at BC!! Why am I in the conversation?
I believe this “collegial atmosphere” was/is unique to Boston College. I have seen the athletic departments of Cornell University, Yale University, and the United States Naval Academy as a graduate student, neighbor, and parent over the years. They too are impressive athletic departments, but Saturday night was a special time and I would like to see Boston College re-capture some of that magic. Both Bags and Dana made a point of talking about their teammates in their speeches, and Dana specifically mentioned the City of Boston as a “hometown kid”. When we all went to dinner at Cityside in Cleveland Circle, the conversations also included the updated real life experiences of Autism, cancer, and divorce that myself and teammates have seen over the years. No sadness, just really constructive, supportive, and funny conversations about life before, during, and after the “Glory Days”.
I don’t want to dwell on how Boston College basketball and football got to our current place in college athletics. I think the hiring of the next Athletic Director is a very important OPPORTUNITY for the entire university.
Thoughts for the New Athletic Director
- Associate Athletic Directors — I personally would like us to look very closely at women and ethnic candidates for the Athletic Director position. I don’t think we have to have a “BC Guy or Girl”, but we need to address some current holes in the department: 1) Jerry York — I don’t know Coach York, but if he is not named as an Associate AD real soon, this would be a travesty. Sure, let him retire from the ice, but this man is a legend in college hockey, and he needs to be tied at the hip to this next era of BC Sports. Not just BC Hockey, but the entire department. It was great to see Football Coach Barry Gallup on Saturday afternoon at the pre-game reception for Bags and Dana, and we need more of that “BC Touch” in the Athletic Department. 2) Women — One of my best friends to this day in New York City is Kathy Karich who was a swimmer at BC. Deputy Athletic Director Jaime Seguin seems to run an impressive women’s program at BC. Is that correct, and can we see more of her? 3) Ethnicity — All reports from players and fans is that we are very weak in this area of Ethnicity for both coaches and staff. If I am wrong, let’s hear why? 4) Boston and New England — Direct BC alumni as Athletic Director is a “nice to have”, but we “have to have” someone who understands BC, Boston, and New England and who knows how to recruit the right student athletes to BC. That does not mean just New England kids, but rather kids that can fit into the culture of BC.
- Reach back, out, and across — I am the lowest of the low players that returned this weekend for John Bagley and Dana Barros’ number ceremony, and it is because of Jay Murphy who keeps everyone in touch. The new AD needs to reach out, back, and directly to old players and alumni. Bags, Michael Adams, Craig Stockmal, Chris Foy, Murph, Steve Matarese, Mike Sinicki, Vinny Caraher, Danya Abrams, Charlie Micol, and there are so many others that attended and/or want to help. But come on BC, we need a little effort from the Athletic Department. Make some phone calls!!
- New York City — I have lived in Manhattan for 25+ years, and not one college has a hold on this city. It is an event driven city on the college sports level, so let’s grab a piece. There is a huge alumni base here and BC Athletics needs to work the NYC alumni. I attended the BC vs North Dakota hockey game at Madison Square Garden on December 3, 2016, but it was only due to my roommate John Nolan who is a loyal BC hockey fan. I follow BC Sports as much as one can in the modern era of work and family, but one press release and a Facebook post or two is not a determined effort. It was embarrassing that BC Hockey playing in MSG was dwarfed by the North Dakota fans by 6+ to 1. We also played a number of basketball games in NYC this season, and I see nothing. How about a reception for all alumni? How about a NYC package of tickets? I have not seen ONE promotion from BC for the 2017 ACC Tournament in Brooklyn. We are finally returning to NYC for a post-season basketball tournament and I see nothing??? I was away for the Pinstripe Bowl Game at Yankee Stadium, and I understand that went well. Was that due to the Yankees’ organization or BC?
- Boston — Enough of the “we are stuck in a Pro Town” stuff. Reach out to the pro teams, get some cross over, go talk to The Globe, get Michigan to play at The Garden for hockey and get Tom Brady to attend. The point is, Boston is an huge asset. When recruits come to campus they should see: 1) Here are our NBA/NFL/NHL alumni in the Pros. 2) Here are our alumni working in Boston and doing well in the real world. 3) Here are the X number of alumni in Boston/NYC/West Coast that will hire you. 4) We are THE ONLY Division I Football School in a Major East Coast city, let’s use it to our advantage. (Maryland is barely part of DC, and Temple had a nice season but…).
- Newton — Home Games — I have a son at the Naval Academy and it is on record that Navy AD Chet Gladchuck (BC Alum and former BC AD) went door to door to meet with neighbors in Annapolis about expanding the stadium and improving relations. Go meet the neighbors, talk to the cops, firemen, and local officials. Work it out.
- Jesuit — I had a Harvard friend visit BC for the first time last weekend with his son on a college tour. He told me how much we sell the “Jesuit tradition” during the tour. At the Naval Academy, each varsity team has an “Officer Representative” (they use Naval or Marine Officers) that supports the teams in a variety of ways. Let’s have a “Jesuit Representative” for each BC Team. In addition, let’s start a Christmas, yes a Christmas tournament, for basketball with a rotation of Jesuit schools. Year 1 at The Palestra in Philly with St Joe’s, Georgetown, BC and Loyola MD.
- Facilities — Don’t EVER apologize for not having the same facilities as a rural big public university. That is NOT who we are!! We are a kick butt DI academic and athletic school in the greatest college town in America with a loyal alumni base that will hire you when you leave the pros. We need to sell 40 years as a BC student/alumni rather than the 4 year student experience. That said, I know there is a facility update and expansion on the books. Let’s get started.
- Maroon and Gold — This is a silly pet peeve of mine, but can we get back to our REAL colors and no more “Reebok Red and Light Mustard”? The Naval Academy and Yale University are very tradition oriented, and they do a nice job with Under Armour in blending new and old style uniforms. However, they stay true to “Blue and Gold” and “Blue and White”.
Father Leahy versus Father Monan
This appears to be the BIG elephant in Boston, so here goes from the New York based alumnus. I came from the Father Monan and Bill Flynn era when BC Sports was on the rise. Obviously the money is much bigger now and decisions and priorities have evolved from the “Kostka Days” of the early Big East. Every report I hear is Father Leahy does not see BC Athletics as a focus of his vision. I have met Father Leahy only briefly in New York, but I refer him and the Boston College Board to this great article and quote by Father Timothy Healy, President of Georgetown University when the Big East and Pat Ewing were on the rise in 1982:
“In stressing the Jesuit tradition of competition, Father Healy recalls a conversation with John Gregorek, one of Georgetown’s best runners — ‘’I said, ‘John, are you conscious of how beautiful it is to run?’ and John replied, ‘Yes, but the real beauty is in the winning.’ I liked that answer. St. Ignatius Loyola would have liked that answer. Competition is a deep human drive.’’
POSTSCRIPT — Many friends came out of the woodwork, and special thanks to Doug Guyer (Boston College Football) for his feedback and input. Here is a picture of ‘83–85 BC Football from a recent golf outing by BC Football Alumni. Three of Boston College’s former coaches (Joe Yukica, Jack Bicknell and Tom O’Brien) were in attendance and Coach Barry Gallup was the MC.