Playing By His Own Rules
WINNING AT BOSTON COLLEGE is a difficult trick. DeFilippo often jokes that some alumni want the school to be Harvard on Monday through Friday, and Alabama on Saturday afternoon. In order for BC to upgrade its athletic reputation from Notre Dame Lite to something like Duke or Stanford, the school would need to do something that it’s never done under DeFilippo: make it to one of college sports’ truly big-money events, either a major bowl game or a Final Four. But there’s a price to be paid for that type of on-field success. Check the news, and it seems that nearly every NCAA football or basketball title comes bundled with diminished academic standards, out-of-control spending, and embarrassing ethical lapses.
DeFilippo is not that kind of AD. Rather, he is exactly the kind of AD that university president Father William Leahy wants. Famously indifferent to sports, Leahy is likely more impressed by his school’s ability to draw 40 percent more applicants from the South since joining the ACC than by its performance on the field. Thus, DeFilippo can feel free to jettison players who fail to meet BC’s academic standards. This summer, for instance, the Eagles’ presumed starting quarterback, Dominique Davis, failed out. A different school might have fudged Davis’s grades to keep him around—after all, he was the Eagles’ only option at quarterback. DeFilippo didn’t do that. That type of decision-making is probably why, in the wake of the Jagodzinski affair, Leahy signed him to a contract extension through 2014.
Granted, DeFilippo’s overbearing style may mean that Boston College won’t be able to lure the sort of hotshot coach who could vault the school into the top tier of the nation’s football programs. But it also means that BC’s athletic program won’t ever sink to the moral depths seen at places like Memphis and the University of Miami. On the field, the Eagles may be worse for it, but Boston College is better.
Staff writer JASON SCHWARTZ profiled Boston Globe union chief Dan Totten in the June issue.