By Steven R. Lively, ’83 BC Graduate and Football Alum
Dear Boston College Board of Trustee Members, Students, our Student Athletes, Employees, Alumni, and Fans of the University,
Boston College is a place I love almost as much as J. Donald Monan S.J., former Boston College President now Chancellor. Both Father Monan and members of the Board of Trustees then (1978-1982) viewed everyone at Boston College equally. Father Monan and members of the Board of Trustees knew the names of staff working the grounds and even the gentleman riding the zamboni to the staff in dining services. We were all part of a great BC family!
Unfortunately, I have been watching events unfold in our athletic department and within the Office of the President in recent months that are disturbing. The character of a university should reflect its leadership. What is described herein and in communications sent directly to the Boston College Board of Trustees is deeply disturbing.
As a provider of allegations made by so many to the Boston College Board of Trustees, I trust the Board of Trustees will do what is right for humanity and indeed set aside any political loyalties. Very serious abuses are alleged to have taken place within the athletic department. The Board of Trustees must now ask itself are there any civil right abuses here? Is there a threat of retaliation?
It is time to rebuild what was given to President Leahy, an incredible Division 1A sports legacy and a university where alumni later return to play important roles in the development of the future of the university. President Leahy moved away from an incredible success model and in so doing hurt an important social fabric of Boston College. It is time for Boston College to reach out to its alumni and rebuild the character that was the hallmark of an incredibly spiritual and friendly place. It is time to restore the great BC family!
What has taken place in the athletic department should be a wake-up call to our Board of Trustees and to the NCAA. Sports psychologists should study what took place in our athletic department and suggest avenues to avoid such destructive behavior.
While many students of Boston College may not see the stress in the ecosystem certainly BC employees and athletes have witnessed it. What has been simmering within Boston College for some time does not smell right; it is time to gut the kitchen!
The Culture Across BC or Just in Athletics?
How can an athletic director become so powerful both within and outside a university? What role did money play in this? What are the lessons learned thus far from the tragic events that are the underpinnings of the fall of Boston College Athletics? Who gave the athletic director unchecked power? The toxic culture created significant employee turnover! Who is responsible for the health and well being of the employees? Was anyone watching out for Boston College employees? It does not appear to be the case! There was significant turnover. How can the Boston College athletic director curse out alumni who have written substantial checks to the university and cause them to disassociate from the university? Where was the President of Boston College? What are the potential liabilities to Boston College from allegations provided to the Board of Trustees? We need compassion from the Board of Trustees. We need to understand the conditions people had to work under and make sure it never happens again, anywhere!
We need leadership from the Board of Trustees!
The Genesis of the Decline?
Kathleen M. McGillycuddy, Chair of the Boston College Board of Trustees in an undated response and not using Boston College stationary indicated the following, “The Boston College Board of Trustees has delegated responsibility for athletics to the President of the university, William P. Leahy, S.J. and I suggest that you address your questions directly to him.”
As President of Boston College, Father Leahy has strengthened the financial health of the university. However, the extreme emphasis on donor and gift giving has greatly tarnished the university’s image and brand via the athletic department, and significantly harmed long time relationships between the university, its student athletes, its coaches, its Golden Eagle alumni and fan base. Walking around Boston College and seeing many employees of the university and or alumni the discussions all lead to “this place (Boston College) is all about money – it has changed!”
Someone must accept responsibility for what has taken place at Boston College. Our student athletes and many coaches are the victims as well as other employees. The Board of Trustees of Boston College must seek the truth and understand the ecosystem’s culture of fear. People at the highest levels of Boston College had to have known at least some of the many allegations made, in fact, a former Boston College Board of Trustees member stated such.
Some have expressed that Boston College Athletics is headed down the path of Holy Cross when then President Brooks downgraded the athletics program. They say this is the desire of Boston College President Leahy. If downgrading the athletic program is his objective then the student body of Boston College should be made aware of this, what is left of the athletics fan base should be made aware of this, and most important of all our athletes that have received a full academic/athletic scholarship and the wider public should be made aware of this. I don’t think the Board of Trustees will allow anything less than a 100% commitment to Division 1A athletics, but we all want to hear it from the Board of Trustees & clear. To you the students of Boston College, you are the customers of the university and possible future donors demand nothings less than great academics and Division 1A College Athletics to demand anything less diminishes the university and future talking points!
We need leadership from the Board of Trustees!
Ask Those on the Board That Know
It is time for transparent leadership from the Board of Trustees. Perhaps this ultimately is where the problems began. To the members of our Board of Trustees, your tenure on the board cannot be viewed as a resume enhancement. If you do not have the passion of Boston College Alumnus Jack Connors, Peter Lynch, Darcel Clark, Charles Clough and others then please do what is right for Boston College and resign. If a financial commitment to the university entitled you on to the Board of Trustees then please resign.
We need leadership from the Board of Trustees!
There have been common themes produced by President Leahy’s public relations staff. One such theme looked to paint individuals as having mental issues. They tried to paint me in that very light but they made a mistake. I am fighting for the very soul of Boston College. I am part of the foundation of the university along with so many of my Eagle brethren. What my Eagle brethren and I did years ago allows today’s leaders of Boston College to govern over the university. Our football program saved Boston College from going under financially. We did not have much by today’s facilities standards, but we had great leadership at Boston College. We had a very supportive university president, an incredible athletic director, and we even knew the Board of Trustees members because they stood beside us all the way! The hallmark of Boston College then was utter humility, incredible support of our athletes and a clear mission statement of “Ever to Excel!” The focus of Boston College then was on humanity and positive development of the soul!
I received a phone call the other day. That caller described how the now retiring athletic director used a severance package to buy silence after telling people this former coach had mental issues. Character assassination appears to have been the weapon of choice -- just ask Al Skinner, Tom O’Brien, Jack Bicknell, Jr. and myself! Then there was the use of medical issues again to throw focus off of the real issue. A former football coach and fired women’s basketball coach had medical issues is what has been reported. Does this pass the smell test? In announcing his retirement, the athletic director indicated a medical issue as one of his reasons for leaving. Funny thing is he has told many that he will be at BC for a very long time and just told a group of former football Eagles he had a ‘lucrative’ offer at another college but he and his wife wanted to stay at Boston College. True or not there is something lying in the weeds and it is not pretty!
We need leadership from the Board of Trustees!
A Freedom of the Press Concern
I am concerned about our cherished freedom of the press. Is there a First Amendment issue lurking in the background? Should the United States Justice Department be called in to look into ‘potential’ influencing of the media? After contacting Boston College’s public relations staff and being told that there is no story (regarding my public communication to the athletic director) the media simply walks away. In the case of Bob Ryan (now the former Boston Globe sports writer) he kept attacking former men’s basketball coach Al Skinner in the media. Is the control vehicle large advertising dollars buying influence in the Boston Media? We know that both the Boston Globe and the Boston Herald have consolidated print operations and losing market share to blogs. Why was former BC men’s basketball coach Al Skinner tarred and feathered and called ‘lazy’ but the other fired and or forced out coaches did not suffer the same fate. What is at play here? I don’t think it was race it was about revenge on someone who would not “kiss the of the now retiring athletic director butt” as was often requested.
No Racism Claimed but Something Is Wrong
Given what we know the retiring athletic director did to former coaches Al Skinner (3rd most actively ‘winning’ coach at the time in the ACC cannot even get a job interview; mortally wounded!) and Tom O’Brien (recipient of personal attack by our athletic director while at North Carolina State years after he left the BC head football coaching position) why was the retiring athletic director allowed to represent BC Athletics at the self serving induction of Lou Montgomery into the Boston College Hall of Fame at the football program’s opening season game vs. Miami? All of this against the backdrop of African-American athletes transferring out of Boston College, and the removal of African-American staff from the athletic department staff? Why does Boston College afford this retiring employee the luxury to act like nothing is wrong? I cannot speak for everyone affected but regardless of race and or gender imagine the stress, personal hurt and or financial lose people experienced under this Boston College employee!
On August 11, 2012 in a BCInterruption.com blog story written by Brian Favat titled "Blaudschun Drops The 'Montel Harris Multiple Failed Drug Test' Storyline." If this story is true, who leaked it from within Boston College? Mark Blaudschun is the former Boston Globe BC beat writer.
On August 21, 2012, BCInterruption.com blog reported that the Philadelphia Inquirer's Keith Pompey sat down with former Boston College RB Montel Harris and asked a question. Do you feel like Boston College painted you negatively? Montel’s response, "Yeah, some people feel like things weren't handled the right way. But I can't let that get me down. Things were said the way they were said. But the people, who really need to know, know what happened and it's not what everyone thinks."
There is a toxic atmosphere that needs cleaning within Boston College. We need leadership from the Board of Trustees!
To the BC Board of Trustees: “Invoke the Leadership of J. Donald Monan & the Spirit of William J. Flynn”
I would recommend the following to the Board of Trustees:
- Publically state the true reason(s) the athletic director is leaving Boston College.
- Recognize and fully appreciate the damage done and the souls hurt by the lack of leadership of President William Leahy.
- MAKE A BOLD STATEMENT: Set a timetable for the departure of President William Leahy; consider all avenues for his replacement, contemplate a non-priest if necessary.
- MAKE A BOLD STATEMENT: End the office of Athletic Development in athletics. Centralize all donor and gift giving to the executive wing of the university.
- Work with the NCAA to put in place new rules around donations: It would make sense to centralize the collection of donations and gifts through the University, and then re-apportioned out to athletics if earmarked as so. The NCAA put rules in place to guard against buying athletes for colleges. You have a situation where donors feel like they are owed something for their gifts. They lose sight of the meaning of the gift. Because BC is so intensely focused on donor and gift giving we have seen what can happen to an athletic program where the quest for money opens the door to disaster and misbehavior at the highest levels of a university! We need to let college athletics be about competition and excellence.
- Establish an outside investigation headed by an individual outside the university of impeccable credentials & report the findings publically.
- A gag order must be placed on executives of the university; they must know their actions are further hurting the effort to fix this!
- MAKE A BOLD STATEMENT: Issue a public apology to the many former coaches that were unjustly fired and or pushed out.
- MAKE A BOLD STATEMENT: Issue a public apology to present employees for the climate they had to work under.
- Provide counseling to employees who had to work under this incredibly demeaning and harsh ecosystem.
- Make those injured by the allegations whole financially.
- Meet with former coaches to begin to heal the extraordinary pain and in some cases suffering they endured.
- MAKE A BOLD STATEMENT: Understand how and why a former BC women’s field hockey coach was unjustly fired and bring her back.
- MAKE A BOLD STATEMENT: Issue a private apology to Men’s Hockey Coach Jerry York for an allegation if true is quite sickening.
- MAKE A BOLD STATEMENT: Set a board level committee to oversee athletics and hire a former Boston College sports alumnus as our new athletic director.
- MAKE A BOLD STATEMENT: Publically state the board’s commitment to NCAA D1A athletics.
- Scale back the amount of athletic teams to 15 (29 currently) concentrate on rebuilding the revenue generators & bring back BC men’s lax as part of the mix!
- MAKE A BOLD STATEMENT: Removal of the retiring athletic director’s name from our Hall of Fame.
(Editor's Note: This letter to the editor was originally sent to Gavel Media by Steven Lively on September 10th, 2012. The views expressed herein are the views of the author and the author alone. We present it here edited only for formatting purposes.)