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BC's next president needs to be the anti-Leahy



Picture it: Boston College’s version of Christmas Day, otherwise known as the home football opener. Last season, right about this time, tailgating before the Rutgers game and I stumble upon some information.

“This is it for Fr. Leahy,” a source close to the situation said. “Retiring this year.”

I got excited. Finally getting rid of the man who views sports at best as a distraction. You know the rest. He still hasn’t retired. Many BC sports crazies had their hopes flattened, almost as if Leahy pulled the modern day Glenn Close from “Fatal Attraction” and emerged from the water swinging the knife.

But might 2023-24 be the year? This much we know: Leahy is on the back nine at BC, likely the 18th fairway. He’s leaving soon. And when he does, Boston College’s new president needs to have a healthier respect for sports and their perch on campus.

Lest we forget that Boston College didn’t become the Boston College as we know it without sports. Everything changed Nov. 23, 1984 when Brent Musburger yelled “caught by Boston College! I don’t believe it!” The second Gerard Phelan cradled Doug Flutie’s iconic pass like his first born, BC went from modest and regional to national. They still call it the “Flutie Effect.”

It didn’t hurt, either, that nine years later, David Gordon’s kick in the shadows of Field Goal Jesus denied Notre Dame a national title … and four months later, Bill Curley was on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

No one is denying BC isn’t a better place since Leahy’s reign began in 1996. It is still top 40 academically with nearly 41,000 applicants last year alone. The average standardized test score was 1,482 for the accepted. Buildings have sprouted. Aesthetically, the BC campus hits it into the upper deck.

In fairness: Several new athletic facilities have helped BC at least get competitive with its ACC brethren on Leahy’s watch. It’s just that the guy strikes me (and many others) somewhere between aloof and above it all. Leahy’s behavior is symbolic of what bothers me the most about BC. As one writer said, “It’s not anything visible, but that's the way they like to do things at Boston College, the less people know about their business the better.”

It sure wasn’t that way with Fr. Monan, whose door was always open (even to us snot-nosed reporters from the Heights).

BC’s next president needs to be the anti-Leahy. A visible, personable, de facto cheerleader who embraces the role of sports on campus. Yes, this is Boston College. An institution of higher learning with an athletic department attached, not the other way around. But sports still have their place.

Academia is quick to mock the significance of athletics because the supporting evidence is often anecdotal. But there is no other endeavor on the BC campus that unites the students better than the student section at Alumni Stadium. I mean, is there a cooler campus moment than when the television cameras pan the kids singing “Mr. Brightside?” (Note: They’re not doing that after they finish reading Tennyson in O’Neill Library.)

Sports unite. Hence, the concept of Homecoming. Heck, my six roommates, spread all over the country, gather once a year at a football game. Sports are BC’s kitchen table. The gathering place. And ought to be treated as such.

Even though the Southeastern Conference and Big Ten have more lucrative media deals than the Atlantic Coast Conference, BC’s athletic revenues, somewhere between $30 and $40 million, are solid. The facilities are better. I truly believe the best coaching days are ahead for Jeff Hafley and Earl Grant. There is reason for hope.

But the new person in charge cannot and should not do business as Leahy has. I can’t imagine an institution with a more loyal alumni base than Boston College. We love the place. And the way the place can truly love us back is by winning. And with a president who will hold his coaches and athletic administrators accountable. With a president who engages the students and the fan base.

It’s important. To many of us.

Dear Next BC President: Please enjoy sports more than your predecessor. Be visible. Be happy.

Mike DiMauro, a columnist in Connecticut, is a contributor to Eagles Daily and BC Class of 1990. He may be reached at @bcgenius

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