Q&A: Grad Rates and Conference Calls

Q&A: Grad Rates and Conference Calls

At the mid-point of a successful and highly eventful sports year, Boston College Chronicle caught up with Athletic Director Gene DeFilippo last week for a conversation on, among other things, the Eagles' triumphant visit to San Francisco over the New Year's holiday and why it's a mistake to think BC athletes will have a tougher time handling road trips in the ACC than in the Big East.

Athletic Director Gene DeFilippo
Gene, can you first update us on Boston College's move to the Atlantic Coast Conference?

Recently, there were discussions between officials from the ACC, Big East and Conference USA, which all are affected by the new conference arrangements. And as of now, it looks very likely that we'll officially join the ACC on July 1, 2005. The feeling was that it's best we all go at one time, and the best time appears to be then.

We'll talk more about the ACC, but there have been plenty of exciting things for BC Athletics this year, especially during the holiday break. Right when the football team was preparing for the San Francisco Bowl, the Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sports released a study showing BC and Northwestern having the two highest graduation rates among the 56 schools competing in bowls.

We're very proud of the graduation rate for our football team, and for all our student-athletes. According to the NCAA, BC has the best rate - 95 percent - in all of Division 1-A football [reflecting data for freshmen who entered in fall 1996 and had six years to graduate]. Our graduation rate has been hovering around 85 percent for the last 12 years, which is excellent. Last spring, our 750 student athletes had an average GPA of 3.0.

The results of this latest study are another testimonial to the hard work of our student athletes, as well as the faculty and staff of Boston College. Coming as it did in the middle of the bowl season, the timing couldn't have been better.

So, after that bit of good news, BC went out and won the San Francisco Bowl. You've touted the importance of playing in bowl games - what are some of the benefits?

A bowl is a wonderful thing for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it's a terrific reward for the players who have sacrificed so much during the year. The fact that this was the fifth consecutive bowl game for BC, and the fourth consecutive one we've won - making BC the only team in the country to have won a bowl game the past four years in a row - shows our program is a strong, solid one.

The exposure, the name-recognition opportunity for a college at a bowl game is considerable - remember, the game was televised by a national sports cable network [ESPN]. There also are promotional events that take place while the team is in town, so that means our student athletes have a chance to show they are not only football players, but fine young people.

A bowl also is a rallying point for alumni and friends. There are some 3,300 BC grads in Northern California alone, and this was an ideal chance for them to get out and show their support. [University President William Leahy, SJ] also hosted a special dinner for alumni and friends in San Francisco's Fairmont Hotel. And there was a large tailgate party of some 600 alumni with family and friends before the game at PacBell Park.

Bowl officials take notice of all these things. They want schools that "travel well," that will attract a good crowd and in general make a good public impression on and off the field. And that's what BC's done for the past five years.

What have been some other bright spots for BC Athletics this year?

We have had a heck of a year on the field, as well as academically. Women's soccer and field hockey both made the NCAA play-offs, our cross-country runner Jennifer Kramer '04 made All-America - that's the sixth year in a row BC's had an All-American in cross-country - our men's and women's basketball teams have both gotten off to great starts, and the men's hockey team is once again near the top in the national rankings.

The fact we are competitive and do well in many sports is a credit to our coaches and staff, who help our student athletes get the best out of themselves on the field and in the classroom.

Well, by now you've probably heard more than a few people say that your coaches, staff and student athletes will need to be at their very best once BC makes the transition to the ACC. Now that things have settled down a little since the announcement of the ACC's invitation to BC, what kind of reaction are you hearing?

I'd say that 95 percent of our alumni, and most people outside of BC, are extremely excited about us going to the ACC. They know that this will put us in a league with institutions that have outstanding traditions and are among the great colleges and universities in this country.

Fr. Leahy put it best: It's a great fit for us academically and secures the future of our athletics program. One area where BC needs to make progress is our ability to recruit students from the Southeast. Joining the ACC helps us to put our name out down there, and not just in athletics. We will become the sixth school in the conference that is included in the US News top 40 rankings.

What are the most common misconceptions about the transition to the ACC?

It's very, very important to realize that, whether we left or not, the Big East was going to change. This was a tough decision to make, but Fr. Leahy, as he said, had to consider what was in the best interest of Boston College in this changing landscape.

Let's take a look at the travel aspect, because one concern I hear is how BC players will be able to deal with the road games in Florida, North Carolina, Georgia, Maryland, Virginia. Now, remember, the Big East will be adding Marquette, DePaul, Louisville and Cincinnati - you can't exactly do those in bus trips. In fact, when you look at the mileage, eight of the current nine ACC schools are closer to Chestnut Hill than three of the incoming Big East schools. BC is closer to Wake Forest, Duke, NC State and North Carolina than to Marquette, DePaul, Louisville and Cincinnati; and Pitt and West Virginia are farther away than Virginia and Maryland.

So there will not be a lot more additional travel involved for the ACC. We may fly more charters, but our players will not be missing any more class time.

There've also been questions raised about how we'll "fit in" competitively and culturally with the other ACC schools. From a competitive standpoint, let me just say that we have every confidence in our coaches and players.

As for the "cultural," it will take some time but I think we'll do equally as well as the new additions to the Big East. There seems to be a suggestion that these ACC schools are small colleges in remote, out-of-the-way places, not national universities in major cities. Look, this isn't 1940. There's jet travel, cell phones, the Internet - we're not isolated from one another. People are people, whether they're in Chestnut Hill, or Syracuse, or Atlanta.

There was another recent event with great significance for BC Athletics, the beginning of work on the Yawkey Athletics Center. What will this bring to the table?

The Yawkey Center, once it's completed in the spring of 2005, will be a tremendous asset to BC Athletics. While the center will house the football team and its operations, we will renovate Conte Forum for the Olympic sports, and primarily women's sports programs. This will ensure that our programs have the offices and facilities they need to be successful, and to be able to continue attracting excellent student athletes.


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