Column: DeFilippo Leaves Strong Legacy At BC
Published: Thursday, September 6, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
On Sept. 30 an era of Boston College athletics will end. Gene DeFilippo will officially end his 15-year tenure as athletic director (AD). While the majority of the current student body sees this news as a victory for Eagles fans, a quick look at the program’s history will show that DeFilippo was a defining figure in the many successes of our athletics program.
Imagine a time, far off from the glory brought by Doug Flutie’s miraculous pass, when the BC football program was plagued with the then-largest gambling scandal in NCAA history. Thirteen players were suspended for betting on games, and the program was in disarray. BC brought in DeFilippo, previously the AD at Villanova, who was tasked with bringing Jesuit values back to the University’s athletics.
Then, in 2005, he orchestrated the Eagles’ move into the ACC. This transition gave Superfans stronger competition in a number of sports than the Big East offered at the time. It also gave the BC athletic program an enormous increase in donations. When DeFilippo began his tenure, the program was only receiving $5 million, but, in 2011 donations rose to over $20 million. This development has given way to renovations to all of the University’s athletic facilities.
On the field, ice, court, and pitch, DeFilippo’s impact led to many successes. Starting in 1999, the football program had a 12-game bowl streak. The men’s hockey team won four National Championships. The sailing team has won 12 individual and team National Championships.
Probably the biggest accomplishment of DeFilippo’s tenure has been the high graduation rate of the University’s athletes. While BC competes at one of the highest levels of competition in the ACC, the focus is still on education, which cannot be said of all Division I schools.
The football team has struggled lately. The basketball team is young and inexperienced. And these things have caused fans and alumni to call for DeFilippo’s dismissal. Yes, some elements of the athletic program have been lackluster and maybe even embarrassing. Sure, there may have been some things that DeFilippo could have done differently. And it probably was time for DeFilippo to step down as AD, not because he was inadequate for the job but rather because he has been involved with college sports for 40 years. He isn’t immortal and his position requires a full investment of energy.
A college audience is definitely a tough crowd, and reasonably so. Students (especially like the ones at BC, who come from all over the world) may not know the history of BC athletics. They may not realize the good that was brought by DeFilippo in the midst of a dark time. All they know are the last few years, in which we’ve witnessed the struggles of our football and basketball programs, our big revenue sports.
I, for one, am just as disappointed in the lack of success we see at Alumni Stadium and Conte Forum. However, I think it is important to respect the career of our former athletic director, rather than kick him out the door—because without DeFilippo, who knows where our school’s athletics would be. It’s impossible to say that we would be anywhere better than we are today, and, even more so, it would be unfair to DeFilippo’s career and the many successes brought about by his work. All we can do is thank Gene DeFilippo for his endless dedication to BC, and ready ourselves for the next era of athletics on the Heights.