Athletic Director Brad Bates Talks Leadership and Values
Published: Wednesday, October 30, 2013
Updated: Thursday, October 31, 2013 12:10
BC Director of Athletics Brad Bates has been to athletic competitions including Super Bowls, the Olympics, and National Championships, yet the best game he ever attended was a small softball game between Kent State and Miami University in Ohio, a game he attended while serving as athletic director at Miami.
Including Bates, there were 27 people in attendance at the game. For 20 years prior to the game, Miami had finished near or at the bottom of the standings. Now, in the third game of a series against Kent State, Miami’s softball team had to win to continue their season.
Down one run, Miami had two outs in its last out of the last inning with the bases loaded. “This is the way it’s supposed to be,” a Miami player said to her coach during a brief timeout. She then stepped up to the plate, fouled off two balls, laid off the next pitch, and hit the fourth for a grand slam, in the process securing a Miami win.
Bates addressed students in the Fulton Honors Library on Wednesday, Oct. 30 as part of the Winston Center for Leadership and Ethics program, Lunch with a Leader. Bates used the story to illustrate his belief that leadership is both a natural and developed trait. He related the development of leadership qualities to education. “You can be incredibly demanding as a leader if your team trusts you,” he said.
Bates is a childhood educator with many family members who are teachers themselves. “I’ve been surrounded by educators my entire life,” he said. Bates was also a walk-on for the University of Michigan football team in college. “I had an opportunity to go to smaller schools, but did not want to spend my whole life wondering what-if,” he said.
After college and graduate school at Michigan, Bates became a strength and conditioning coach at Vanderbilt University. He later served as a senior associate in the athletics department of Vanderbilt, where he obtained his doctorate in education. “It really wasn’t until I was at Vandy that I decided to become an administrator,” he said.
Still, Bates believes that the seed for sports administration was planted in the eighth grade when he attempted to create a year-long athletics program for his school after the state cut funding for physical education.
In his speech, Bates emphasized the importance of the team. “Collective efforts are more important than individual ones,” he said. “You’re surrounded by really smart people here. We can all learn from one another.”
Bates also talked about the unique nature of combining academics and athletics in American education and why collegiate sports appeal to him for this reason. “The only justification for this combination is that education is the ultimate goal of athletics curricula,” he said. “These athletes must reach maximum development. That’s why winning is important to me. There’s a set of skills and a mindset that comes from winning.”
Bates then told another story from his time at Miami about a 2007 game between Akron and Miami, in which a Miami player made a game-winning shot to win Miami’s conference tournament. “The gift of that shot is a gift that transcends the rest of their lives,” Bates said.
In the Q&A following Bates’ speech, Bates compared and contrasted Miami and Boston College, discussed BC’s switch to the Atlantic Coast Conference, and focused especially on how the athletics department can further the mission of the University.
In a brief pause from questions, Bates asked students to consider a game in which Derek Jeter misled an umpire to believe he was hit by a pitch that in fact only hit his bat. Some students made the conclusion that he did the wrong thing while others said that it was unclear. Still others faulted the umpire.
Bates then posed a question about the incident that he attempted to answer. “Is something like this okay at the college level?” he asked. “In so many ways, sports compromise our values. We must ground our winning in good values.”
Bates’ final thoughts went even broader. “Every experience should promote growth,” he said. “I’m a big believer in liberal arts education, I think there are advantages to more specifically geared educations too, but liberal arts education transcends academics.”