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Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life

"We Are BC": Academic and Athletic Excellence on the Heights


Event Recap

In an era when low graduation rates are the norm among student athletes at competitive NCAA Division I schools, Boston College has consistently managed to combine athletic and academic success. The key, said athletic director Gene DeFilippo at a November 5 talk, lies in careful recruiting, constant academic support, and attention to the university’s Jesuit values.

Since DeFilippo began as athletic director in 1997, the Eagles have enjoyed unprecedented success on the field, rink, and court. The football team recently played its 11th consecutive bowl game; the men’s hockey team has won two national championships and six conference titles; and women’s and men’s teams frequently play in NCAA basketball and soccer championships.

BC student-athletes continue to meet remarkable academic standards as well. In 2006 the NCAA publicly recognized the university for an extraordinary accomplishment: 14 of its teams’ graduation rates ranked in the top 10 percent nationally, tying BC with Notre Dame for the highest total of any Division I university.

So what’s the secret? DeFilippo gave primary credit for the academic successes of student-athletes to careful selection at the outset. “Most of the problems get taken care of in the recruiting process,” he said, when coaches and admissions officers seek athletes who can handle a full academic load and who demonstrate strong moral character. Once at BC, the staff of Learning Resources for Student-Athletes provides crucial academic advising and tutoring.

But the Jesuit call to service also plays an important role in student-athletes’ development, DeFilippo noted. He expressed pride that varsity athletes are such active participants in community service, regularly volunteering at local schools, hospitals, and shelters. Whatever the religious background of incoming players, they—like all BC students—are strongly encouraged to “buy into the mission of being ‘men and women for others.’” It is a primary goal of Jesuit education, and one that fits perfectly into an ethic of teamwork that also wins games.