Boston College Athletics made front-page news at the Boston Globe last week. It shouldn’t come as a surprise that the program was not depicted in a favorable light. In fact, the author, Bob Holer, has few good things to say about BC athletics, from its winning record to its ridiculously priced tailgates.
So what does it mean that BC athletics are on the decline? Well, basically that we don’t win, we don’t earn revenue, and we don’t uphold our own ideals.
If all of this is true, then what’s the use of athletics at BC? Should BC throw in the towel and focus on academics, in the spirit of its presumed Jesuit ideals?
Ever since joining the ACC in 2005, BC’s winning record has suffered, but that doesn’t mean that BC has shifted its focus from athletics. BC has been criticized for joining the ACC, as naysayers claim they cannot keep up with the teams in the conference and joined only for the money.
In an article by the Chronicle shortly after the decision to join the ACC Father Leahy explains his reasons for joining the ACC:
“First, from an academic standpoint, I believe that the ACC is a great fit for Boston College. It has five universities - Duke, UNC-Chapel Hill, Wake Forest, Virginia, and Georgia Tech - that, like us, are ranked among the top 40 national universities, and it is a conference with a balanced mix of private and public institutions.
In addition, the ACC is in a part of the United States with attractive demographics, a great plus for our student recruiting efforts in future years.
Finally and very important to me, the ACC is committed to a program of academic cooperation and collaboration that encourages faculty and student exchanges as well as sharing library resources, something not done in the Big East.
Second, the ACC is a conference that has strength and stability. There are no concerns about its survival, in contrast to the Big East, which every few years has had to deal with questions about its viability. Consequently, membership in the ACC secures the future of our intercollegiate athletics program.
Third, the financial benefits of being in the ACC will help us support non-revenue sports at BC, especially for female athletes.”
So, yeah, money is inevitably part of it. BC’s revenue data is not recorded on ESPN, but to be sure, joining the ACC has favorably influenced the spending budget.
BC claims that the revenue goes to support non-revenue sports at BC, including women’s teams, but the money is also used to improve athletics as a whole at BC. In February, BC released its plan to invest $200 million in upgrading its athletics facilities, including “ a recreational center, athletics playing fields, and an athletics field house.”
Head Baseball Coach Mike Gambino is quoted in support of the investment, stating:
“At Boston College we talk about and believe in cura personalis – care for the whole person. The BC Athletics Department, and specifically the baseball program, strives to live up to that standard by making sure our student-athletes reach their full potential on the field, in the classroom and as people. These new facilities will play a huge role in helping our players develop on the diamond and, in turn, helping our program compete on the national stage and for a chance to go to The College World Series in Omaha.”
Can it really be said that BC is not dedicated to athletics? That depends on what you think the outcome of this dedication should be. Should it mean having the best facilities? Producing the most pro athletes? Producing the most athletes that receive a degree? Providing opportunities to those who might not otherwise have them?
In a lot of ways (but not all) BC has shown its dedication both to athletics and to athletes—at least in terms of its dedication to developing the whole person, not winning machines.
BC is currently ranked number five in the nation in graduation rates, an increase within the last year. Last year, 12 BC teams earned a perfect GSR score of 100. This year, 15 did. And 23/25 teams earned scores of 85 or higher.
It certainly seems that BC Athletics has upheld its mission statement that states that it aims to create well-rounded athletes. BC has not wavered in giving them a high-quality education, even if their chances for going pro after college are not as likely.
All of this talk about the “whole person” seems well and good and has the same Jesuit-y appeal that attracted many BC students in the first place. It also, well, seems like a cop-out.
Here, are all one? BC has taken the brunt of much criticism for its refusal to make statements on the #BlackLivesMatter, and its inaction towards the student group Eradicate Racism.
The Athletics Department mission statement states, “The Athletics Department supports and promotes the University's goal of a diverse student body, faculty and staff. In this spirit, the Athletics Department supports equitable opportunities for all students and staff, including minorities and women.”
Consistent in its inconsistency, BC does not hold up this ideal in practice. Staggeringly, as the Globe article points out,“Every head coach of BC’s 31 sports teams is white, and the university’s 51-member board of trustees does not include any African-Americans.” That’s a problem.
So, while BC isn’t dedicated to winning in quite the same way that it is dedicated to creating a superior athletics program, BC still has miles (and yards) to go before it can claim that it has upheld its goals. In order for BC to justify its spending on athletics, it needs to improve its inclusion of minorities in positions of leadership.
Whether you’re suiting up in maroon and gold, working off that steak-and-cheese in a shiny, new $200M athletics facility, or simply enjoying a hot dog & a Natty at your mod’s tailgate, BC athletics is an integral part of the BC experience-- and identity. It’s time for BC to step up to the proverbial plate. If we did join the ACC for the money, let’s make sure that it’s going to the right places, for the right reasons. We don’t have to win, but we do have to be secure in our BC identity. (Ooh, ah!)