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BC’s next president needs to be the anti-Leahy

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Picture it: Boston College’s version of Christmas Day, otherwise known as the home football opener. Last season, right about this time, tailgating before the Rutgers game and I stumble upon some information.

“This is it for Fr. Leahy,” a source close to the situation said. “Retiring this year.”

I got excited. Finally getting rid of the man who views sports at best as a distraction. You know the rest. He still hasn’t retired. Many BC sports crazies had their hopes flattened, almost as if Leahy pulled the modern day Glenn Close from “Fatal Attraction” and emerged from the water swinging the knife.

But might 2023-24 be the year? This much we know: Leahy is on the back nine at BC, likely the 18th fairway. He’s leaving soon. And when he does, Boston College’s new president needs to have a healthier respect for sports and their perch on campus.

Lest we forget that Boston College didn’t become the Boston College as we know it without sports. Everything changed Nov. 23, 1984 when Brent Musburger yelled “caught by Boston College! I don’t believe it!” The second Gerard Phelan cradled Doug Flutie’s iconic pass like his first born, BC went from modest and regional to national. They still call it the “Flutie Effect.”

It didn’t hurt, either, that nine years later, David Gordon’s kick in the shadows of Field Goal Jesus denied Notre Dame a national title … and four months later, Bill Curley was on the cover of Sports Illustrated.

No one is denying BC isn’t a better place since Leahy’s reign began in 1996. It is still top 40 academically with nearly 41,000 applicants last year alone. The average standardized test score was 1,482 for the accepted. Buildings have sprouted. Aesthetically, the BC campus hits it into the upper deck.

In fairness: Several new athletic facilities have helped BC at least get competitive with its ACC brethren on Leahy’s watch. It’s just that the guy strikes me (and many others) somewhere between aloof and above it all. Leahy’s behavior is symbolic of what bothers me the most about BC. As one writer said, “It’s not anything visible, but that’s the way they like to do things at Boston College, the less people know about their business the better.”

It sure wasn’t that way with Fr. Monan, whose door was always open (even to us snot-nosed reporters from the Heights).

BC’s next president needs to be the anti-Leahy. A visible, personable, de facto cheerleader who embraces the role of sports on campus. Yes, this is Boston College. An institution of higher learning with an athletic department attached, not the other way around. But sports still have their place.

Academia is quick to mock the significance of athletics because the supporting evidence is often anecdotal. But there is no other endeavor on the BC campus that unites the students better than the student section at Alumni Stadium. I mean, is there a cooler campus moment than when the television cameras pan the kids singing “Mr. Brightside?” (Note: They’re not doing that after they finish reading Tennyson in O’Neill Library.)

Sports unite. Hence, the concept of Homecoming. Heck, my six roommates, spread all over the country, gather once a year at a football game. Sports are BC’s kitchen table. The gathering place. And ought to be treated as such.

Even though the Southeastern Conference and Big Ten have more lucrative media deals than the Atlantic Coast Conference, BC’s athletic revenues, somewhere between $30 and $40 million, are solid. The facilities are better. I truly believe the best coaching days are ahead for Jeff Hafley and Earl Grant. There is reason for hope.

But the new person in charge cannot and should not do business as Leahy has. I can’t imagine an institution with a more loyal alumni base than Boston College. We love the place. And the way the place can truly love us back is by winning. And with a president who will hold his coaches and athletic administrators accountable. With a president who engages the students and the fan base.

It’s important. To many of us.

Dear Next BC President: Please enjoy sports more than your predecessor. Be visible. Be happy.

Mike DiMauro, a columnist in Connecticut, is a contributor to Eagles Daily and BC Class of 1990. He may be reached at m.dimauro@theday.com @bcgenius

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Basketball

DiMauro: All in all, a solid year for BC sports

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If you are reading this, chances are your primary means of remaining connected to Boston College runs through athletics.

Oh, and we’ve been tortured souls, too, especially in recent years. We are idealists and fatalists, demanding yet forgiving, loyal and resilient, even if sometimes it feels as though we make the long trek up the cliff to Lovers Leap … only to get shoved.

All of which makes the sports year of 2023-24 a time to celebrate. Boston College did itself proud, no small occurrence given that in this unsteady (perverse?) time of expansion and realignment, schools like BC must always look their Sunday best, with no overt warts or love handles.

Women’s lacrosse, BC’s working definition of pride and joy, capped the sports season with the national championship Memorial Day weekend in Cary, NC. It was the program’s second natty in four years, a three-hour infomercial for the entire institution and more proof that, yes, it can be done at BC with the right coach.

Acacia Walker-Weinstein – you’ll note that only the letter “W” separates her from “Einstein” – not only hung a banner, but helped BC earn a distinction few other athletic programs in the country could trumpet. How many other schools made national championship games (both televised by ESPN) in two different sports fewer than two months apart?

Think about that one: Men’s hockey, during an otherwise memorable season, fell short in the national championship game. But the Sons of Greg Brown did the school proud all season. Not a bad accomplishment to see “BC in the national finals” on the ESPN scroll in mid-April (hockey) and late May (lacrosse). It’s hard to buy that kind of advertising, particularly when and if realignment and expansion happen again.

Football won a bowl game over a ranked team at Fenway Park, returns a dynamo in Thomas Castellanos and then made the splash of a cannonball, hiring Bill O’Brien as head coach. Three other women’s sports showed promise as well: field hockey (11-7, made the ACC Tournament); softball (30-24, made the ACC Tournament) and volleyball, which continues to improve steadily under coach Jason Kennedy, finished 19-13 and made the ACC Tournament.

Otherwise, baseball gets a pass as new coach Todd Interdonato assimilates to the ACC and establishes his culture; the soccer programs (3-9-5 and 3-9-6) were lousy; and I remain concerned about men’s and women’s basketball. Put it this way: Sure feels as though better players are leaving than are entering.

Off the field, “Friends Of The Heights,” BC’s Name, Image and Likeness (NIL) collective, grew massively, keeping BC competitive in a cutthroat environment. Friends Of The Heights also homered into the upper deck, hiring veteran athletic administrator Jim Paquette as its new Chief Development Officer. Paquette will advise the Board on overall development strategies, using his 16 years as an administrator at BC that specialized in fundraising.

BC’s overall cachet also made a splash on social media when Forbes Magazine named it one of the country’s “New Ivies.”

Based on its researchForbes, the century-old national business magazine, reported that American companies are souring on hiring Ivy League graduates, instead preferring high achievers from 20 other prominent universities – “Private and Public New Ivies.”

BC joins private school “New Ivies” Carnegie Mellon, Emory, Georgetown, Johns Hopkins, Northwestern, Rice, Notre Dame, Southern California and Vanderbilt. Ah, to be judged by the company one keeps.

One school year hasn’t produced this much for BC in years. And it’s significant. The idea now is to build, not regress.

Full disclosure: There are many things I still don’t like. I’m told Father Leahy neither attended the Frozen Four nor the lacrosse Final Four. It is disrespectful to the players, coaches and alumni to have a leader who acts as if so much about what makes BC great is beneath him. And we still seem to have these spasms of tone deafness, such as patrolling the parking lots like stormtroopers the day of the spring football game.

But 2023-24 was an encouraging year for BC in many ways. Yes, we always want more. But we were getting less for a long time. Not this year. A tip of the cap to athletic director Blake James, his staff, the coaches and the kids.

We pause now to enjoy summer and await Labor Day night in Tallahassee. Here’s to 2024-25, hollering “Mr. Brightside” again with the kids from the crowded bleachers.

Mike DiMauro, a columnist in Connecticut, is a contributor to Eagles Daily and a member of BC’s Class of 1990. He may be reached at m.dimauro@theday.com or @BCgenius 

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Football

Boston College lineman Kyle Hergel selected 3rd overall in CFL draft

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The former Eagles guard was not selected in last week’s NFL draft, but quickly heard his name yesterday in the 2024 CFL draft, going 3rd overall to the Saskatchewan Roughriders.

Hergel, who spent one year at Boston College after transferring from Texas State. The guard was a huge success in helping transform the offensive line play in 2023, gaining the best PFF pass block grade at Boston College (86.6) with no sacks allowed and two quarterback hits on 402 dropbacks. This was good enough to earn All-ACC honorable mention and a trip to the East-West shrine game.

Recently signing with the New Orleans Saints as an undrafted free agent following the 2024 NFL draft, Hergel will seemingly look to catch on in the NFL this summer before trekking north of the boarder to play for the Roughriders.

John Pupel gets Patriots rookie camp invite

The former safety will travel to nearby Foxboro, Ma as an invite to Patriots rookie camp. After beginning his college career at Dartmouth, Pupel joined the Eagles in 2022. Starting 11 games last year with 81 tackles, a pack break up and a forced fumble.

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Football

Boston College’s Elijah Jones and Christian Mahogany drafted, others signed: Eagles Draft Weekend Recap

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It was a rather successful weekend for Boston College in the NFL Draft, as both Elijah Jones and Christian Mahogany were taken while guard Kyle Hergel inked a UDFA deal. In addition, longtime and former BC notables Jaelen Gill and Josh DeBerry have received UDFA deals.

Jones – The first Eagle off the board this year, Jones went 90th overall in the third round to the Arizona Cardinals. He missed the final three games of the season for undisclosed reasons but had a big year that shot up his draft stock with a conference-best five interceptions while also defending 13 passes. As a member of the 2018 recruiting class, the corner tallied 60 games at BC and racked up a First-team All-ACC selection this past year.

Jones’ 86.9 defensive PFF grade was the sixth-best in the draft class out of corners and he was the 11th cornerback off the board for the Eagles.

Mahogany – Mahogany sat out of the bowl game and had some noticeable buzz surrounding his name entering the draft, but the guard fell to the sixth round to the Detroit Lions. Mahogany missed most of the 2022 season after an ACL injury but came back fully healthy for 2023, posting the 16th-best total PFF grade out of guards in the draft class.

Mahogany fell further than many, with many projections putting him as a Day 2 pick, but given he’s 24 and his scouting reports present some clear downside, it’s not all that shocking that he fell all the way to the sixth round.

Hergel – Hergel didn’t exactly have any buzz surrounding his name but he managed to grab a UDFA deal with the Saints. He was a four-year starter between North Dakota and Texas State before he was a fifth-year transfer to BC, and he put up a solid enough season to get signed.

DeBerry – DeBerry signed on with the Cowboys, as he transferred to Texas A&M for his fifth year after four seasons with the Eagles. He was a big loss for BC’s secondary, as he started seven games this year for the Aggies and grabbed two interceptions.

Gill – Gill put up huge numbers for Fresno State this past year after three seasons with BC. After an initial start to his career at Ohio State, he transferred to the Eagles ahead of the 2020 season and through three years he put up 1,092 yards. He put up basically half of that in just one year with the Bulldogs, tallying 516 yards on 49 catches and six touchdowns.

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