Monday, June 22, 2020

Let's hope BC and its fans keep calm if there is a COVID outbreak

BC Football players are back on campus. That's great. The team and staffers are all wearing masks publicly and seemingly taking COVID-19 seriously. That's great. However, given what has happened at Alabama, Clemson and Kansas State, it is highly likely that BC will have players test positive for COVID-19. They are living in a communal environment and getting tested often, so asymptomatics won't slip through the cracks.

BC has a plan for an outbreak. If or when one happens, let them manage it and please avoid the knee jerk reaction of cancelling sports, cancelling school, or cancelling whatever. We are in a different position then when we were in March. Outbreaks amongst NBA players, NFL players and European soccer stars, reinforce that athletes are at an extremely low-risk for any repercussions and most have been asymptomatic. 

I know this is easy for me to say. I don't have a player on the team. But if I did, I would let him go back to campus and play. All three of my kids now are back playing youth sports and the reasons we love sports are even more profound when you haven't had them for months. BC Football is an economic engine and cynically that is most likely why it is back. But I hope what comes of this is how BC Football is also an important part of the community and a life changing opportunity for the players on the team.

Monday, June 08, 2020

Meet Pat Kraft...sort of

Monday was a first for BC fans, as the traditional introductory press conference was moved to a zoom call. Our new Athletic Director Pat Kraft -- still in Philadelphia -- did his best to bring the right sort of energy and emotion to the event. It was awkward, but probably a better test than most press conferences because Kraft handled the predictable and the surprises with ease and did it all without being able to “read the room.”

The hot button issues of COVID and student voices related to BLM both came up, and he provided perfectly appropriate and generic answers. With COVID, he doesn’t know BC’s specific plan but will deal with it immediately. He has been part of the national football planning committee so he has a good feel for what all schools are doing and planning and thinks there will be football this fall.

With regards to student voices amidst the BLM discussion, Kraft said he thinks it is important to listen to students and for students to be heard. Does this mean anything? I don’t know, but he came off as sincere. The guy hasn’t even been on campus yet, so for him to speak with any specificity about what BC student athletes feel, what the university is doing and what the mood among the BC community is would be inappropriate.

He seemed enthused about Jeff Hafley. That is probably most important. If Hafley is going to be special and build something special, he needs an AD who will do everything he can to support him. Kraft has worked with young, first-time head coaches before. He knows what they need and how to make them better.

He says he is committed to all sports. This is going to be a hot topic everywhere as sport after sport gets cut at other schools. I will post for another time, but I think BC needs a diverse and successful sports program as part of their pitch to be an elite residential focused college.

There was no reference or mention of Jim Christian. Christian is one of the few basketball coaches around the country whose job was actually saved by the pandemic. Kraft knows this. After getting the school year off to a good start, this will be top of mind. Is Christian a lame duck? I have no idea, but it was smart for Kraft to not tip his hand in the first zoom.

Finally, Kraft addressed his desire to be at BC. This was a natural segue due to Jarmond’s short tenure. It is sort of the natural over-correction to any hire. People were upset that Jarmond left early, so it makes sense that his successor exclaims BC is his destination job. I am unconcerned. Like Jarmond, I wish Kraft a successful tenure and happy time at BC. If he is so great at his job a bigger school comes calling, that is a nice problem to have.

Press conferences are important in that they often set the mood and expectations. Because this one was so atypical it was reassuring to see Kraft roll with it and still come out ahead. Maybe that ability to adapt to new circumstances and still succeed is the biggest takeaway of the day. Best of luck to him and at this point I have every reason to think he will succeed.

Please stop with the "BC shouldn’t be in the ACC" nonsense

I am breaking my Pat Kraft press conference reactions into two separate posts because the supposed controversy of “BC being in the ACC” has nothing to do with Kraft and everything to do with some BC fans and critics and the Northeast Media who still harp on BC being in the ACC.

Steve Buckley of The Athletic brought up the topic during the press conference and shielded himself (knowing it is a stupid debate) with the preface that criticism is often repeated in the comments section of any article he writes on BC. There is so much stupidity with this debate, I don’t even know where to begin.

First, some reminders. This is our 15th year in the ACC. That is longer than our history in the Big East as a Football Conference (1991-2004). If you want to talk history and ties, BC’s ties to the ACC are now deeper than they were to Big East Football. But for all of those who long for the good ol’ days, I would also like to remind you that fellow Big East members Pitt, Syracuse, Miami, and Virginia Tech are all in the ACC, as well as one of the teams that replaced us in the Big East (Louisville) and Notre Dame shifted its partial membership from the Big East to the ACC. The ACC is the old Big East! Only with more geographic diversity, better TV deals, more access to growing recruiting markets and places our Alumni live. The ACC also helped improve our school brand in regions where 20 years ago people were still confusing BC and BU.

For those who feel we might have been disloyal, let me remind you that every original member of Big East Football, aside from Temple, voluntarily left the conference. All, aside from Temple, ended up in Power 5 conferences. We did what was in the best interest of Boston College and its student athletes.

For those who long for the days of Big East basketball, I would like to point two things out. First when BC was good in the ACC, the intensity of the games and interest in the product was as good as it ever was in the old Big East. When we finally fix BC Basketball, the ACC basketball will be fun too. Second, the old Big East is not what the current Big East is. Don’t be fooled by UConn’s desperate move back into the conference. As fun as a game against Georgetown or Villanova might be right now, we have zero history with current Big East teams like Butler, Xavier, DePaul, Creighton, or Marquette. Are those the games you long for? Would those games fill up Conte?

If you want that (and I do think we need to play Providence annually), then BC can schedule lots of Big East games. Based on the current trends and speculation, lots of sports are going to revert back to regional non-conference scheduling, so games against UConn, St. John’s and Providence are more likely than they were pre-COVID.

For those who think the old Big East or AAC would be a better fit for our non-revenue sports, I don’t really understand that argument. The current Big East (or even the American Conference) would still require lots of travel. The competition might be weaker making it easier for BC to compete, but we would probably be on a level playing field with those schools if we had Big East budgets instead of ACC budgets. Also, all those sports are less stable outside of the ACC, so you would never know when one of your peer programs would face cuts.

If football is important to you as a BC fan, than the current ACC was always our best home. We are in the only Power 5 conference with more than two private schools. We are aligned with schools that share our values, problems and challenges. While we have not broken through to become a power program within the ACC, I still believe it can happen. It will take the right coaches, incredible fundraising and improved fan support. Look at the difference in Clemson in one decade. BC can have that sort of breakthrough. The first step is to ignore the people whining about the old Big East.

Wednesday, June 03, 2020

Why Pat Kraft makes sense

BC hired Temple Athletic Director Patrick Kraft as its new AD. Although the media floated Kraft early, the process was quiet. A discreet search is BC’s preference under normal circumstance. Running a search during Corona and national civil unrest allowed the whole process to fly under the radar even more so. The fact that this hire was so matter of fact and predictable might be just what BC needs. The school is trying to replace a shooting star in Jarmond and facing incredible uncertainty with the future of college sports and the future of the college model itself. A low risk, solid hire is probably the right move. And Kraft’s track record only speaks to what BC needs and should emphasize in the coming years.

He is a football guy. If it wasn’t clear before COVID, it is certainly clear now that College Football is the only sport that truly matters in college athletic. The sports is critical to the operations, fundraising and marketing of any school playing in a Power 5 conference. (If that is a even healthy is another discussion entirely.) BC has a new coach that needs the full support of the Athletic Department. He needs an AD who can get him every resource he needs, fight every political battle in the conference and at the school, and work with him on everything from scheduling to recruiting. Kraft -- a former Big Ten Football player -- has hands on experience and success doing just that at Temple. Temple’s ability to get better under Matt Rhule and then maintain that success under successive coaches is a great sign. Few ADs have done that anywhere.

He is a fundraiser. We are in the middle of an Athletic Department capital campaign. It will be up to Kraft to help BC exceed its goal and then work to determine how the funds will be allocated. One of the things that Jarmond understood and embraced was the need for the AD to be the face of the program to donors and to be aggressive with the asks. Sales and relationships are a huge portion of the job. Given his track record and what others are sharing, it seems Kraft understands this. His short stint at Loyola Chicago should also give him some insight into raising money at a private Jesuit school versus a big state school.

He needs to fix basketball. BC Basketball is an embarrassment. Everyone has an opinion on why or how we got here, but we can all agree the last decade has been a waste and it is time to fix it. The only person who might not realize how pathetic it has been might be Father Leahy. Although he is a football guy, Kraft is an Indiana grad and worked at Loyola Chicago and Temple. All of those places are “basketball schools.” He understands the importance of basketball and how it can drive plenty of the attention and goodwill that football brings. A change was coming before the sports world got turned upside down. Kraft brings a new set of eyes, a fresh start, no attachment to Jim Christian. He is a new voice to tell Father Leahy: “this needs to be fixed.”