DeFilippo Steps Down, Says It’s The Right Time For ‘New Leadership’
Published: Wednesday, September 5, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
The day the Boston College fall sports schedule began, the man at the helm of the entire department decided to move in a different direction. In a surprising move, Gene DeFilippo officially announced his retirement as director of athletics on Aug. 17. DeFilippo decided it was “the right time” for “new leadership in the athletic director’s position.”
“My wife Anne and I have been discussing this decision for some time and we agree that this is the right time for me to retire,” DeFilippo said in a prepared statement on the day of his announcement. “In light of my recent bout with melanoma, which is treatable, this decision became clearer to me this summer.”
Not wanting to take the spotlight away from the start of the football season, DeFilippo declined an interview with The Heights last week.
DeFilippo will remain as athletic director until Sept. 30, when Senior Associate Athletics Director John Kane will take over as interim director until a permanent AD is named. Leo Sullivan, vice president of human resources at BC, is conducting the search for the new AD.
“Gene devoted himself to building a strong, successful athletics program, one that reflected BC’s commitment to quality academics and institutional integrity,” said University President Rev. William P. Leahy, S.J. in a statement. “Doing that has been his passion and joy, and the BC community, particularly our student athletes, have benefitted immensely from his care, advice, and hard work.”
Though DeFilippo faced criticism throughout his term as AD, especially in the last three years, he certainly left his mark on BC Athletics in an overall positive way. The man known as “Coach Flip” to many of his student-athletes seemed to have run a clean athletic department, as BC is one of just three BCS schools that have never been found guilty of a major NCAA violation.
His most notable accomplishments include moving BC to the Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC), while overseeing four National Championships in hockey and 11 national team and individual championships in sailing during his tenure.
“We have had an outstanding run at Boston College and Gene has been terrific for our hockey program,” said men’s hockey head coach Jerry York. ”We’ve had a remarkable working relationship. I wish him the best of luck as he begins a new chapter in his life.”
DeFilippo also oversaw a largely successful football program during his time in Chestnut Hill, as the team reached 12 straight bowl games up until the 2011 campaign.
Off the field, DeFilippo played a key role in improving BC’s athletics facilities, and helped raise $27 million to build the Yawkey Athletics Center for the football program.
“Gene has been a great boss and an outstanding leader for our athletics program,” said head football coach Frank Spaziani. “Beyond that, he has been a great friend. The school and I will miss him. I wish him nothing but the best.”
Also during DeFilippo’s tenure, BC’s student-athletes have become some of the most successful in Division 1A in terms of graduation rates. Last year, 21 BC teams recorded a perfect Graduation Success Rate (GSR) score of 100, which was the most of any Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) athletics programs across the country.
“What Gene has meant to Boston College is hard to put into words,” said the men’s head basketball coach Steve Donahue. “He reinvented the Athletics Department in his 15 years as AD—everything we have is based on Gene’s vision. It’s very rare that you find someone who has the vision and the guts to follow it. He is going to be missed.”
Many donors and alumni had become frustrated with DeFilippo in the past few years, especially after the football program had its first losing season in 13 years in 2011.
Despite the criticism, it was always evident how much DeFilippo cared about BC and his student-athletes.
“In my time at Boston College, ‘Coach Flip’ not only provided us with the necessary resources to be successful in our sport but he also took the time to individually meet each student-athlete,” said former All-American linebacker Luke Kuechly. “His love for being AD was easily seen in his passion and support of the sports and student-athletes at Boston College. BC will miss the energetic personality of ‘Coach Flip.’”
DeFilippo was recognized nationally as an important AD in the college sports world, and was praised by ACC Commissioner John Swofford.
“Gene has been a positive figure in the college sports landscape for a long time – a veteran and highly respected AD and a national leader,” Swofford said. “His contributions to BC, the ACC and nationally are too numerous to name. Gene is a great friend and colleague. We will miss him around the ACC table.”
DeFilippo will now take some time off to enjoy being with his family, before he plans to teach sports management courses and serve as a consultant.
“After the intensity of 40 years of intercollegiate athletics, this change will enable me to spend more time with Anne, my three children, and our granddaughter, Katherine,” DeFilippo said. “I look forward to this next stage of my personal and professional life.”