Photo: Lee Pellegrini


Barry Gallup '69

After graduating BC a star football player, Barry Gallup spent more than forty years building the program, first as an assistant coach, then as director of football operations. Newly retired, he reflects on the journey. 

For more than forty years, Barry Gallup was synonymous with Boston College football. A star player, Gallup graduated with a number of BC receiving records, then served for eighteen years as an assistant coach with the team. He departed in 1991 to become head coach at Northeastern University, but returned to BC in 2000 and spent the next twenty-two years as director of football operations and, eventually, senior associate athletic director. He retired last July.

Go ahead and branch out a little. It was very unusual to play two sports, but my first two years at BC, I played basketball in addition to football. Bob Cousy, the Celtics star, was the basketball coach. He was here for six years, and BC went to a tournament in five of them—three NIT tournaments and two NCAA tournaments. Back then, freshmen weren’t eligible for the varsity team, so I played on the freshman team. Coach Cousy was great to me, and he saved me a spot on the varsity team the next year. We went to the Elite Eight in the 1967 NCAA tournament. I can’t say I played a lot, but I was on the team that went to the Elite Eight. It was a thrill just being a part of it. I still keep in touch with Coach. He’s ninety-four years old, and every year except the Covid year, we’ve gone out to visit him at his home in Worcester.

Play the long game. After I graduated from BC, the Patriots offered me a contract to play in the old AFL but I turned it down. Pro football wasn’t like it is today, in salary or opportunities. The AFL and the NFL had not merged yet into the modern NFL. They weren’t even sure that the AFL was going to survive. I decided I wanted some stability. It was a good decision. I have no regrets about that. 

Sometimes the short game’s okay, too. I spent a year as a teacher after BC, at the Hadley Elementary School in Swampscott, where I went myself. I was there only one year, but it was a great year.

A coach is a coach. When I started as an assistant at BC in 1972, I coached the defensive line. Everyone laughs about that because I played receiver and tight end and I was always on offense. But that’s where the opportunity was, and Head Coach Joe Yukica felt that a coach is a coach. He was right.

It’s not really about positions, it’s about people. You learn about the game of football. Coaching defense helped prepare me to become a head coach.

You can’t predict a Heisman. I got to know Doug Flutie very well during the recruitment process. Can I tell you that I knew he was going to win the Heisman Trophy? No. But I could see that he was a great competitor, a great leader, and he was a team player. Those are things that young people either have or they don’t have.

Actually, you can go home again. I was the head coach of the Northeastern football team from 1991 to 1999. We played BC that final year, and after the game, I walked across the field to shake hands with BC’s coach, Tom O’Brien. Tom says, “Barry, I want to talk to you about coming back to BC.” It was good timing. I came back to BC in 2000. My wife Victoria and I had three young children at the time, and the position gave me more security. Victoria—we met at BC when she was working with the basketball program—asked if I really wanted to give up coaching. I said, “it’s not that I want to give up coaching. I want more time to be with you and our family.”

Rivalries make the heart grow fonder. Our youngest son, Barry, played football at Notre Dame. He returned kickoffs for them during his junior year right here in Alumni Stadium. People would ask me, “Who are you rooting for?” I would say, “I have a job and I’m rooting for BC, but I hope my son does well.” My wife would answer very quickly, “I’m rooting for Barry Gallup, Jr.”

Every once in a while, things will just work out. My experience at BC was everything I hoped it would be, and even more, as a student, an athlete, and an employee. I met my wife here. I worked for nine head football coaches, raised a wonderful family, and made great memories here. 

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