10 Years of TOB Part III: the 10 best off the field accomplishments
Part III of the series (Part I and Part II). A head coach is ultimately judged by wins and losses. Yet a college coach’s job entails a lot more than what happens on the field. He has to be part father figure, part salesman, part statesman, part CEO, part teacher, part strategist, and part cheerleader. While TOB certainly has his faults in these off field areas, most would agree he has been very successful when dealing with stuff outside the Xs and Os. So here is my list of his accomplishments. This has even more subjectivity than the other lists, so criticism and feedback are welcome. While the category is “off the field” some of these certainly come awfully close to game related. Ultimately this is a list of things outside of wins that TOB can claim as accomplishments.
10. Leveraging the O-line legacy. I won’t get into the challenges we have at the skill positions, but one thing TOB has done is produce great offensive lines. Part of this was due to the foundation he inherited. Part was due to his background as an offensive line coach. Part is based on the type of kids that want to come to BC. Whatever the reasons, the results are clear -- BC fielded some of the best lines in football under TOB.
9. Being a coaches' coach. For all the gripes fans might have with him, TOB is well liked by other coaches. Professional coaches, college coaches, and high school coaches have all sent their own sons to play for him. We also are a popular destination for transfers (meaning other coaches are comfortable with their players leaving for BC). And our staff turnover has been minimal. Championships are not won based on respect from your peers, but it does show you are doing something right.
8. Building a network at Catholic schools. This seems like such a no-brainer given the school’s affiliation, but surprisingly BC didn’t have the same inroads as Notre Dame when TOB arrived. Now we are a known commodity in Midwest leagues. We also have improved our network in New England, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. These schools have provided some of TOB’s best players including Kiwi, William Green and Brian Toal.
7. Taking a flyer on Paul Peterson. How many coaches found their best quarterbacks through the mail? An under-recruited JUCO slinger, Peterson sent videos to teams with holes at QB. BC was the first to take a chance. While credit is not solely due to TOB for offering him a scholarship, at the end of the day it is his staff and his call. In Peterson he got a great leader and great QB.
6. Dealing with William Green. Green has had a tough life. Left an orphan when both of his heroin-addicted parents died of AIDS. Raised by a man who later became a convicted sex offender. Green has battled his own addictions and been on the receiving end of a kitchen knife from the mother of his child. The most stable, productive and safe time of his life was when he was at BC. TOB suspended him twice, but also provided enough guidance to make him an All-American. When Green’s baby mama cut him, I remember reading about TOB reaching out to do what he could. I don’t know if Green listened, but at least TOB took the time and showed he cared.
5. Cleaning up the gambling scandal. This should be higher on the list. I bumped it down for a reason -- I am tired of hearing about it. I know the team was a mess and the whole program could’ve gone under permanently. TOB came in and righted the ship. For that I and many BC fans are grateful. But it is still being used as a crutch or justification for our current plateau. Some of it is the media’s fault for constantly bringing it up. However, I don’t think you’d hear about it as often if TOB and Gene didn’t seem to work it into every interview. Enough already. BC’s current roster is filled with guys who were in elementary school when it happened. It is no longer relevant. If TOB said “that’s old news” once, this would move up to No. 1.
4. Focusing on Notre Dame. I don’t like the general BC obsession with Notre Dame for various reasons. Yet the majority of fans savor every win over the Irish. TOB has used that game as a focal point for the season, his success and as a rallying point for the fans. And best of all, he’s won. Now he hasn’t beaten the best Irish teams of all-time, but BC fans don’t care. Bragging rights are what counts and TOB has provided.
3. Running a clean program. TOB is stubborn and principled. Unfortunately these qualities are not shared among all college coaches. He has suspended his best players for the biggest games. He has kicked future first round draft picks off the team only to see them excel at other schools. I am sure there have been exceptions over the years, but his guys are well behaved and represent some of the best aspects of Boston College.
2. Encouraging the Super Fans. BC fans are a strange lot. While many care as passionately as I do, we are still in the minority. Most who attend games and watch on TV, want to see BC win and hate to see the team lose, but the game is only part of the “Gameday” experience. Every tailgate is like a mini-reunion. The games are extremely social for the majority of fans -- not life and death events like they can be at some schools. So things like getting to your seats on time were less important than one more beer or one more hot dog. The tide slowly began to turn during the tail end of TOB’s first season. Some enterprisings Juniors started the Super Fan shirts. Now nearly a decade later, the whole student section is yellow and filled at game time. It is now cool for undergrads to care about who we are playing and if we win. While the credit primarily for the Super Fans movement should go to the guys who started it, TOB deserves a big chunk of it too. He encouraged these guys right away and by producing winning football for seven seasons, he gave the movement momentum. The older alums are still a “down in front,” arrive late group, but as more and more Super Fans graduate, the culture will change. Maybe 20 years from now the whole stadium will be loud, packed and yellow. If so, it will be in part because of TOB’s encouragement.
1. Graduating his players. Despite the ongoing debate over paying players, these guys remain student-athletes. While on campus they are expected to go to class, perform like other students, and graduate, all while playing their sport at a high level. Many schools have the high level of football down but ignore the classroom stuff. BC doesn’t. These kids go to class and come away with degrees. Sure there are plenty of “light” courses on these transcripts, but for the most part, these guys are regular students and their BC degrees mean something. BC was graduating players at a good rate before TOB got to Chestnut Hill. Since he arrived, things have only gotten better to the point where BC annually ranks in the Top 10 in graduation rates. O’Brien deserves credit for keeping this a priority and for delivering on the academic promise all coaches make to players but few rarely live up to.