QA with Gene DeFilippo, Part 1: Hockey, Globe, Big Ten
Each spring, EagleAction.com sits down with Boston College Athletic Director Gene DeFilippo to review the year that was and look at some of the big-picture issues facing the Eagles' athletic programs.
Eagle Action: First of all, Gene, congratulations on another national championship in hockey and of course another bowl game in football.
Gene DeFilippo: Thank you. It's been a real good run for us. People who have been at Boston College for a long time tell me that this is one of the golden eras in Boston College sports. Football has had 11 consecutive winning teams, nine of which have won eight or more games, six of which have won nine or more games. It's a far cry from when we arrived here in 1997, when the football had only enjoyed three winning seasons in 10 years.
Since 2001 we've won three national championships in ice hockey. In men's basketball, we've been to the NCAA tournament seven times in 10 years. In women's basketball we've been to the tournament six times in ten years. And our soccer programs have continued to excel. They're consistently top 20 programs. Our women's team has been to Sweet Sixteen four times in the last five years. And so many of our other sports have shown tremendous improvement - women's field hockey, women's lacrosse, baseball. Our baseball team made the ACC tournament for the second time in five years. The ACC only takes the top eight teams to participate in that tournament, so that's quite an accomplishment.
Overall, we've had a great run here, and all of the credit belongs to our coaches and our student-athletes. They have done a terrific, terrific job.
EA: You never get to rest on your laurels in this job. But just for a moment let's revel in what Jerry York has accomplished at BC.
GD: I used to say that Jerry York was the best hockey coach on the planet, but since we've been going into space in the space shuttle and so on, I think there could be hockey somewhere out there on some other planet. So now I tell people Jerry York is the best hockey coach in the universe!
What's he's done with this hockey program is incredible. When I arrived here, the hockey program had had six losing teams in a row. Jerry York came in a couple of years before me and he rebuilt this program. We've now been to the Frozen Four seven times in eleven years and we've won three national championships. Jerry just reloads, he doesn't rebuild. He's the greatest ambassador for our institution. He's a tremendous person, he's a great coach, he's everything you would want in a head coach.
EA: Beating Wisconsin in the title game led to an upbeat column about you in the Boston Globe by Dan Shaughnessy. The Globe hasn't always been a forum where BC has been portrayed sympathetically. I wonder how that column would have read if the Eagles had lost? Would there have been a column at all?
GD: I am sure the column would have appeared. The Globe has been fair, and Dan Shaughnessy, who wrote that column, is one of the most talented sportswriters in the entire country. He actually conducted that interview on Saturday afternoon, prior to the Wisconsin game, so I know that win or lose that column was going to appear in the Globe.
EA: Shaughnessy did throw in a dig about BC not traveling well.
GD: There are a lot of positive things that are written about us, but of course some people disagree with some of the things we do. That just keeps it interesting. We're no different than the Red Sox, Celtics, Patriots or Bruins in that respect. Some nice things are said and some not-so-nice things are said. You just do the best job that you can, and you move on.
EA: Once again, conference expansion is a big subject of conversation. How do you see what's happening with the Big Ten affecting Boston College and the ACC?
GD: I do know this much - I'm thrilled right now that we made the move [to the ACC] we made five years ago. Otherwise we'd be sitting in a very, very uncomfortable position.
It appears that the Big Ten is definitely going to expand. There are all sorts of rumors out there, and I think at this point even the Big Ten doesn't know what they're going to do; if they knew, they'd have done it already. They're still studying the landscape and trying to determine what their best course of action is. It does appear likely that they will expand by at least one and possibly even three schools, going from 11 to 14.
I don't know what the reaction would be if the Big Ten went to 14. That wouldn't mean that the SEC or the ACC would necessarily have to go to 14. But we need to carefully study what's going on out there and stay on the cutting edge, because everyone from John Swofford on down in our conference wants to be sure that we're in the very best position that we could be in. We don't know at this point what will happen, but we certainly intend to watch it very carefully and stay on top of it.
EA: What are the driving forces behind the Big Ten's desire to expand?
GD: Added exposure, and additional revenue. As most college sports fans are aware, the Big Ten has their own television network, the Big Ten Network. They're already televising in over 20 million homes in the Midwest and they receive something like 75 cents per month from each of those subscribers. Comcast and other cable providers are now offering the Big Ten network nationwide - in fact, I have it at my house. Expansion of that network is one of things that would make a school like Rutgers attractive to the Big Ten. There are over 200,000 Big Ten graduates in the greater New York area, and that would be an excellent way for them to grow that network. Notre Dame would also help them grow that network, as would Missouri or Nebraska or any of the other institutions that they're looking at.
EA: More than ever, your decision to move Boston College from the Big East to the Atlantic Coast Conference has the potential to go down as your greatest accomplishment at the Heights.
GD: I'll let other people speak to that. When you're in a position like mine, you make decisions that you believe are in the best interests of your institution and without any doubt at all we knew that [moving to the ACC] was the best move for Boston College. I know a lot of fans and alums did not understand that decision back in 2003, but I don't go anywhere now that I don't have people coming up to me and saying, 'I didn't have all the facts at the time, but that was a great move, and congratulations to you and Father Leahy for making that move and putting us in an enviable position.'