Boston College’s new athletic director, Brad Bates, has officially been on the job for less than one day. In that period, Bates has received shows of support from all across this school’s community. Whether he was your preferred candidate or not, he deserves that welcome, and with it the chance to succeed.
We do not yet know his policies on tailgating or donor-based seating, and he has not had time to hash out anything other than broad generalities regarding his vision for the program and how it will interact with the fans. Today was a day for platitudes. Tomorrow, it will be down to business, but today was for introduction, not policy.
The time for policy may not come for a little while. Bates will take the time to become acquainted with the program and educate himself on what needs attention. In a positive step, Bates has also expressed an interest in getting to know the fans. He said in a mass e-mail to donors this afternoon:
I look forward to seeing you in the stands, meeting you on campus and saying hello in person, once I have settled into my new role. I encourage you to stop by and visit whenever you are on campus. For now, thank you for all you do for Boston College.
It’s unclear if that is to be taken literally, but it is at least refreshing to see some sort of open-door policy. As fans, we have to hope that Bates will put stock in what we think, which would be a refreshing change from his predecessor. If he is as intelligent as he seems, then Bates knows that the fans are the customers, and if we aren’t happy, he’s not going to be happy.
Nevertheless, there is nothing to criticize Bates for today, and there should not be for some time. This extends beyond fan experience issues and into a key area of concern for many alumni: the football program and the future of the head coaching position. After his press conference, Bates gave some general platitudes in the direction of Frank Spaziani and indicated that he would be willing to wait until the season was over to make a full evaluation of his “body of work.”
As much as this blog and a number of fans and alumni want Spaziani gone, this is a totally defensible position and Bates deserves no backlash for it. From his perspective, he just got here. It would not be fair to expect him to have the depth of knowledge about the recent history of the program that we do — the fans have spent the last four years watching this thing crumble every day, while Bates was in Ohio not paying a lick of attention. Bates will get his education quickly, especially if the Eagles do not turn things around, but it would not at all be surprising to learn that he does not yet have a clear idea of just how bad things have gotten. He likely knows by now that this team is 1-4 and is staring at consecutive losing seasons, and may even have been schooled on the broader history of the football program (and where it was before Spaziani), but he has missed out on years of stagnation and losing. He will learn that it is a key priority for the fans, but give him the time to do it.
Many of us would prefer a coaching change now, but Bates has not heard the case yet, so he cannot be expected to issue a snap verdict. That does not change the fact, however, that Spaziani is on the clock and if his team keeps playing the same way every week, Bates will likely not be impressed. Do not look at this from the lens of “He’s keeping Spaz — we’re doomed;” rather, view it as Bates saying to Spaz “I’ve heard some not-so-good things, so I’m giving you a month and a half to prove to me that you should keep your job.” On this current trajectory, he won’t. It is very unfortunate for the seniors, but this season is probably lost, anyway. If Bates wants to study up and observe this team’s performance, then that is his right.
We will only have a problem with football if, at the conclusion of a losing season, Bates decides that Spaziani did a fine job and can stay. In that event, I would be prepared to unequivocally revoke my support for him, but he has not earned that yet. It would not require much more than basic competence to see how badly the football team has melted down since 2009, but we have to have faith that Bates will see it. If Bates is willing to listen to us on this and many other issues, then fans should voice their concerns to him respectfully and thoughtfully.
If we can see the problems, then chances are he can, too. Perhaps or perhaps not with our help, we have to stay calm for now and believe that he will realize where our issues lie and work towards fixing them.