Backseat coaching: the need for transparency in college sports

One of the first things new Athletic Director Brad Bates has stressed in his brief tenure is the need for transparency from the Boston College Athletic Department.  His highly publicized strategic plan will be released within a few months, much to the delight of BC Eagles fans.

This is inversely different to what Eagles fans were accustomed to under former Athletic Director Gene Defilippo, who was known for keeping the Athletic Department under lock and key. The football coaches the two AD’s hired mirror their employer’s beliefs as well.

Former football coach Frank Spaziani was particular about the privacy of his team, Spaz’s trademark on the phrase “respect their privacy” is still pending.

New head coach Steve Addazio has been just as open about his program as his new employer. Bates, Addazio, and the rest of the football coaching staff have joined the twitter world (Coach Addazio’s twitter handle is @BCCoachAddazio), giving brief updates about the program.

Boston College Head Football Coach Steve Addazio increased his presence on Twitter this past week. The results have been a good indication of a transparent, involved athletic department.

Boston College Head Football Coach Steve Addazio increased his presence on Twitter this past week. The results have been an indication of a more transparent, involved athletic department.


Coach Addazio has even broken new ground in getting to know the students not wearing helmets, Addazio spoke to students alongside Brad Bates at UGBC’s “State of the Heights,” and again at the Church for the 21st Century’s Agape Latte.

It is clear that Coach Addazio is committed to the students at Boston College and making this team their program.  Addazio recently traveled to ESPN studios in Bristol, Connecticut to appear on various programs such as First Take, Mike and Mike in the Morning and SportsCenter to talk about the rebuilding process underway at BC. The only time Spaz’s name appeared on ESPN in the past year was leading up to, and losing his job.

The response to this openness has been overwhelmingly positive. Brad Bates has almost 3,800 twitter followers; Coach Addazio has over 2,500. Bates’ town hall meetings for football season ticket holders both sold out, and many students came out for “State of the Heights.”  It is clear that college sports have gone beyond the field of play for many fans. But why is there the thirst for information?


The quick answer is because fans are “backseat coaches.”  Have you ever yelled at Spaz from the Superfan section because you did not agree that the cornerbacks set up 7 yards away from the wide receivers? I know I have.

With a more passionate fan base comes a more critical fan base. Fans want to be the ones in charge, faulting coaches as the reason for losing games. While the idea of a fan taking over as the head football coach is unlikely, fans want to have a sense of what is going on. From a football standpoint it means knowing what kind of offense the coach is going to run--from an overall athletic program perspective, fans want to know the direction of where the program is headed.

What also sets college sports fans apart from fans of professional sports is that, for many fans, the universities they are loyal to are the ones they attended and graduated from, creating a sense of entitlement.

For students and alumni, their school’s team is their team through thick and thin, while professional teams can come and go. Transparency affords fans to see how their teams are being handled.

In the end, fans want to have an enjoyable experience while attending and cheering on their teams. Open access to college sports gives fans the opportunity to see what the athletic department is doing to improve their experience in the stands, and on the playing field.

No one wants to come to a game, find out that their ability to enjoy themselves is restricted, and then go watch a team that doesn’t win many games.  That was a fault of the Deflilippo administration in recent years.

Tailgating restrictions was a constant complaint, complemented with an athletic department that resisted change. The football team under coach Spaziani transformed from a consistent winner, to a team that only beat one BCS team last season under a system that had many fans scratching their heads.

The deadly combination led to a bad fan experience that was in dire need for reform.

Thankfully, the new additions of Brad Bates and Steve Addazio have brought a new era of reform and openness to Chestnut Hill. The backseat coaches will remain, but at least they wont have to wonder why the corners give wide receivers so much room.


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