Playing By His Own Rules

By Jason Schwartz | Boston Magazine |

AT LEAST SINCE HIGH SCHOOL, Gene DeFilippo has been in control. He quarterbacked Northampton High—situated nearly two hours west of BC’s campus—where he was good enough to go on to start two years at nearby Springfield College. Lacking the athleticism to play at a higher level, he graduated in 1973 and took a job as a lowly assistant coach at the University of Tennessee. DeFilippo earned a master’s degree in educational administration at UT, but, perhaps just as important, forged a strong friendship with Phillip Fulmer, a freshman team coach who would go on to serve as the Volunteers’ head man from 1992 to 2008.

"Phillip Fulmer and I had always talked about, for years, me being the athletic director and him being the coach," DeFilippo says. "Every day when I got up, I said, ‘You got to go in and work, because you’re one day closer to being the athletic director at the University of Tennessee.’"

After making coaching stops at Youngstown State and Vanderbilt, DeFilippo crossed into administration, first as director of administrative services at Vandy, then as AD at the University of South Carolina Upstate and associate AD at Kentucky. From there he went on to Villanova, heading its athletic department between 1993 and 1997. "And then I came to Boston College in ’97," he says. "And by about the year 2000, I was hooked."

Not so hooked, though, that when Tennessee’s AD position came open in 2003, he didn’t consider moving south. Despite publicly denying interest in the Vols job, DeFilippo interviewed for the gig. He ultimately pulled himself out of the running and signed a contract extension to stay in Chestnut Hill, but not before his interest in the position became known to the media.

Six years later, that flirtation allowed DeFilippo’s critics to paint him as a hypocrite in the wake of the Jagodzinski controversy. But a far more widespread complaint is that DeFilippo is an incurable micromanager, especially when it comes to the football team. Greg Barber, a recently retired Boston College trustee and longtime patron of the football program, has been a vocal and persistent detractor of DeFilippo’s. (The two had a falling-out about five years ago.) He says DeFilippo’s tight grip led not only Jags to leave, but his predecessor, Tom O’Brien, too. "When administrators start to do the coaching, you get problems," Barber says. As an example, he contends that after O’Brien’s departure, DeFilippo alienated at least one potential replacement by mandating which assistants he could and couldn’t hire. DeFilippo denies this, saying he only "recommended strongly" some names. One of those strong recommendations, it should be noted, was that then–assistant coach Spaziani be retained.

DeFilippo, of course, ended up hiring Jagodzinski—a move that ultimately led to this winter’s showdown. The reason for the Jags ultimatum, the AD says, is simply that his aspirations were bad for BC football. "Nobody can convince me that when someone’s out there looking for a job, it doesn’t affect recruiting," DeFilippo says.

  • Mark

    not sure i need to go any further than my subject line?? in either case; as the article notes, the FB and hoops team are neither BCS bowl or Final Four calibre. and while BC alums think their academics are on par with Notre Dame; US News says William & Mary have surpassed them….

  • Sea

    From the fan of a team that has never beaten BC on the gridiron nor in academic rankings. Enjoy getting taken behind the woodshed by ND…oops, you already have…nice away, away, not even playing in CT schedule you guys worked there.

  • paul

    The switch (to ACC) was unpopular with some alumni and fans…. Oh really Jason, what alumni might those be? I don’t think you know anything about BC.

  • thezenmaster

    Horrible article. Why would you imply that Flip is a hypocrite and then directly show why he isn’t when you quote him talking about recruiting issues with Jags looking around, a job with ADs do not do?

    The agenda was clear with the Barber quotes, a big check-writer who had a mancrush on coach O’Brien. Flip told him to go pound sand when he whined like a sissy when TOB was allowed to walk.

    95% of BC alums under the age of 90 love this ACC move.

    GDF is guilty of one bad hire in Jags. We’ll see on Spaz.

  • john

    The current Forbes has BC ranked as 16th best college, just ahead of Northwestern, Bowdoin and Vassar.

  • Mark

    really, john? you’re actually going to cite the forbes rankings? the same poll that listed centre college (KY) ahead of BC at #14?? the same poll that listed dartmouth at #98??? at least the USNWR rankings have some standing in the academic world. the best use for the forbe’s poll is in a bird cage or litter box – it is utter garbage. sadly, i’m not surprised a bc student/alum would cite it.

  • Mark

    really, john? the same forbes poll that listed centre college (KY) ahead of bc at #14? the same poll that listed dartmouth at #98??? at least the USNWR rankings have some standing in the academic world. the forbes poll is best used in a bird cage or litter box – it is utter garbage. sadly, i’m not surprised a bc student/alum would cite it.

  • Los

    The only thing that’s obvious, Mark, is your pathetic jealousy of BC. Their students, alumni, and fans don’t have answer to your childish accusations. The school’s application rate speaks for itself.