The search for a new athletic director at Boston College began almost as soon as Gene DeFilippo announced in August that he was retiring.
Over the course of the next six weeks, BC president Rev. William P. Leahy and vice president for human resources Leo Sullivan reached out to colleagues around the country, sifting through dossiers and holding preliminary discussions.
Ideas and names floated around in abundance. The candidate had to be an executive with an eye on marketing, some thought.
The candidate had to have a track record in major-conference athletics, others said.
Leahy wanted someone with experience who could manage a department as large and complex as BC’s. It wasn’t until two weeks ago that he and Sullivan had their list narrowed to a few viable candidates.
In the final hours before BC was set to announce its decision, conflicting reports circulated. Army’s Boo Corrigan was thought to be the hire.
In actuality, Leahy, Sullivan, and the board of trustees had made their mind up a week ago.
Brad Bates was their man.
“We have a thoughtful person, proven leader, an individual that has significant experience in athletics, someone who not only understands but supports our commitment at Boston College to excellence in athletics and academics,” Leahy said Tuesday at a press conference introducing Bates as the new AD.
Bates undoubtedly has the track record. He has been AD for the last 10 years at Miami (Ohio), after 17 years at Vanderbilt, and has a master’s in education from Michigan, where he played football under iconic coach Bo Schembechler, learning lessons he said he still carries with him today.
Under Bates, Miami went to back-to-back bowl games for the first time in 30 years and won two Mid-American Conference football championships. And the program’s graduation rate grew to 89 percent in 2011.
He previously had been on the radar of a handful of schools, including Kansas and Texas Christian. But when Sullivan contacted him, they sorted through things to figure out how good a fit Bates and BC would be.
“We talked quite a bit, there was shared enthusiasm from both parties,” Bates said. “There’s a lot of great athletic directors out there, there’s a lot of great coaches out there. Not all great coaches and athletic directors are perfect fits for every institution.
“We had to really carve through whether I was a good fit for BC.”
Finding the right fit was just as important to Leahy.
“We said we wanted someone who would fit with Boston College’s culture,” Leahy said. “And along with fit, we said that it would be very important that the person have a level of experience, which would enable him or her to lead a department that’s complex, that’s large, and high-profile in this community.
“Then last, chemistry — with the entire academics area.”
The more they talked, Bates said, the more excited he got.
“This is one of the premier athletic director jobs in the country, in my opinion,” Bates said.
During his introduction, Bates looked out at an audience with student-athletes and coaches scattered through it.
He gave a nod to hockey coach Jerry York.
“I’m very much looking forward to him becoming the all-time winningest coach in college hockey,” Bates said.
He shook hands with quarterback Chase Rettig, who cut through a scrum of reporters to reach over and shake Bates’s hand.
He chatted up running back Andre Williams.
Basketball coach Steve Donahue waited out the crowd to introduce himself.
“I’m excited about it,” said Donahue, who was hired in 2009 by DeFilippo. “Obviously, Gene, he hired me. I explained my vision. I lived it for two years with him, and now to have a new guy in there, I’m excited about what he has to say.
“Obviously, I trust the people that made this hire, that they hired someone that more than anything else fits what BC’s about. I’m excited about having someone else on board and attacking all the challenges that we have as a basketball program.”
DeFilippo wasn’t there to welcome his successor, but Bates said he spoke to DeFilippo about the job opening before BC reached out to him.
“In an age where we look students in the eye and we talk about commitment and dedication, yet watch coaches and athletic directors jump from one school to the other after a year or two, Gene has exemplified loyalty,” Bates said.
He takes on the job at a time when the basketball team is rebuilding, the football team is struggling, and the calls for restoring greatness have been loud. Eventually, he will have to examine budget numbers and attendance figures, come up with marketing plans, and develop a level of trust with coaches, administrators, and trustees.
But for the moment, he was eager to trade small talk with a few of his new student-athletes; he wanted to get across to them that he was there for them.
“At the forefront of everything that we’re going to focus on will be the policy of ‘how does this help our students grow?’ ” Bates said. “How does this maximize our student development?”