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Seizing the Moment

With Pace-Setting Gift, A Coach Continues to Lead BC to Victory

Heated Battle
In a game that almost never was, the BC Eagles traveled to face national power Syracuse in November 1969, due in part to the quick thinking of assistant coach Bill Campbell, H’12.

On November 29, 1969, the BC Eagles football team marched onto a well-worn gridiron in upstate New York for the most unlikely of matchups. It was the final game of the year, and the squad had made the five-hour bus ride thanks in part to an enterprising young coach and an odd twist of fate.

Just two games into the season, the Holy Cross Crusaders—then the Eagles’ biggest rival—cancelled the rest of their schedule when all but seven of their players and coaches fell ill after drinking from the same tainted faucet. Looking to turn their poor luck into an opportunity for the Eagles, assistant defensive coach Bill Campbell urged head coach Joe Yukica and Director of Athletics Bill Flynn to fill the opening with Syracuse, who had also scheduled Holy Cross that fall.

“For a number of years BC had not been playing the top programs in the East,” recalls Reid Oslin ’68, MA’71, P’01, ’03, BC’s former director of sports information and author of two books on BC football history. “We were trying to get back into the upper level, and fortunately the Orange—a national powerhouse at the time—ended up needing this game as much as we did.”


A graduate of Columbia University, Bill Campbell had joined the Eagles’ coaching staff a year earlier. Flynn and Campbell quickly became friends, with Flynn often inviting the young bachelor to join his family for home-cooked meals. Campbell’s initial bond with Flynn soon grew to include the entire BC community as he and his fellow coaches helped fulfill BC’s athletic aspirations. 

But Campbell had ambitions too, and in 1974 he left to test himself as head coach of his alma mater’s football team before moving on to a career in advertising and technology. His quick reads soon translated from the sidelines to the boardroom as he rose to run Kodak’s European film business. Campbell then served as vice president of marketing at Apple until 1994, when he was names president and CEO of Intuit, where he now serves as chairman. 

Throughout his career, Campbell has followed Flynn’s playbook and mentored many key figures in the IT industry, including Apple’s Steve Jobs and Google’s Larry Page. This combined with his insatiable passion for football, earned him the nickname “The Coach of Silicon Valley.” Campbell embraces the moniker, and hasn’t forgotten his former advisor at the place where it all began. In 2007, he chose to honor his friend by making a $1-million commitment to create the William J. Flynn Endowed Scholarship. 

Since that gift, Campbell has become more involved at the Heights, working closely with University President William P. Leahy, S.J., whose relentless drive to secure BC’s position among the nation’s elite universities reminds him of Flynn.

“I love what Fr. Leahy is doing with the school. There is nobody running their university in a better way. As a chair of the board of trustees at Columbia, I do a lot of benchmarking with the other schools, and I am so impressed with what he’s accomplishing here,” says Campbell.

The former coach also pays close attention to college athletics, in particular the academic achievements of today’s student-athletes. As a member of the National Football Foundation, he has seen his efforts in this area recognized by his peers. Each year the NFF awards the William V. Campbell Award, known by many as the “academic Heisman.”

When BC named Brad Bates director of athletics in 2012, Campbell knew he’d found a kindred spirit in the Michigan alum. Bates was known not only for his program’s victories on the field at Miami University but also for his deep-seated commitment to student-athlete success off the field.

“When I hear Brad talk, and listen to his philosophy, I see a bright man who cares deeply about the full development of his program, his coaches, and his student-athletes,” says Campbell.

In Bates, Campbell recognizes the potential for BC to make strides similar to those made in the ’60s and ’70s, and that is what inspired him to pledge $5 million in 2014 to endow the director’s position. As a result, Bates has the honor of serving as BC’s first William V. Campbell Director of Athletics.

“The generosity Bill Campbell has shown Boston College is truly amazing,” says Bates. “In the last two years, I’ve learned a lot about Bill Flynn and the lasting impact he has had on our department. I have no doubt he would be proud to see that Coach Campbell has not only maintained his relationship with BC, but has become a major contributor to our future success. He was an Eagle in 1969, and he remains one today.”


If all had gone according to plan, Boston College would never have played Syracuse in 1969. But it was no average year, and BC entered the fortuitous faceoff with a 4–4 record, at the tail end of an up-and-down season that saw the Eagles defeat the University of Massachusetts the week before, 35–30.

The snow was swirling onto the sod of Archbold Stadium when BC took the field that late November afternoon. The Eagles faced the fury of a Syracuse team whose bowl hopes had gone wanting—with three of their losses coming by razor-thin margins. The BC offense absorbed the brunt of the storm and sputtered out of the gate, but the defense kept the game 10–7 at the half.

The clamps remained down in the final 30 minutes while the offense caught fire, propelled by three second-half touchdowns by quarterback Frank Harris. The final? Eagles 35, Orange 10.

The Heights dubbed it a “major pigskin upset,” but few fans actually saw the improbable game, first proposed by Campbell and made real by Flynn and Yukica. In the decades since, the matchup has been eclipsed by Flutie’s Hail Mary and other iconic made-for-television moments. But those who were there understand. The most unexpected victories are often the sweetest because they set the stage for greater things to come.


Brad Bates

A Day in the Life
of Brad Bates

William V. Campbell Director of Athletics


7 a.m.

There is no “ordinary day” for Brad Bates, but most begin in his office at Conte Forum, where he works through some of the 200+ emails he receives daily.


9 a.m.

After a brief chat with Deputy Athletics Director Jaime Seguin, Bates heads to the weight room to check on players completing early morning lifting sessions.


9:30 a.m.

Meets with NCAA representatives to discuss changes to the college athletics landscape.


10:25 a.m.

Bates meets with women’s rower Haley Clarke ’16, who recently visited Vietnam with the Coach for College program. He encourages her to share her story at the next Student Athlete Advisory Committee meeting so other BC Eagles can benefit from her experience.


12:40 p.m.

Compares Fitbit stepswith staffers before lunch—his average is a whopping 16,000 per day.


1:50 p.m.

Back in the office to write thank-you notes to the NCAA reps he me met with earlier.


2:20 p.m.

Heads to Alumni Stadium to watch the women’s and men’s soccer teams practice.

2:30 p.m.

Runs into the women’s hockey team and talks with the coaches about how the large number of players chosen for this year’s national team will affect their season. “When you have 31 teams, it’s impossible to schedule regular meetings so you take advantage of these moments to touch base.”


4:30 p.m.

As guest speaker in Professor Warren Zola’s Business of Sports class, Bates examines the impact of the football team’s upset victory over USC, then compares the U.S. and European collegiate athletics models.

7 p.m.

Back in his office, Bates finishes his day by catching up on emails, returning phone calls, and preparing for tomorrow.

Boston College Alumni and Friends