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julian benbow

In his brief tenure, Martin Jarmond ‘was a breath of fresh air’ for Boston College athletics

In his three years, Martin Jarmond raised a lot of funds and reconnected a lot of BC alumni with the program.
In his three years, Martin Jarmond raised a lot of funds and reconnected a lot of BC alumni with the program.Jim Davis

When Boston College announced Martin Jarmond as its new athletic director in 2017, the name didn’t ring any bells for former Eagles quarterback Matt Hasselbeck.

“I just remember how it was,” Hasselbeck said. “His name came up. It was Martin Jarmond. And I was like, ‘Hmmm. Who’s that?' "

But the impression Jarmond made at his introductory press conference stuck with Hasselbeck. He was energetic. He had ideas. He seemed like an antidote for apathy.

Hasselbeck remembers his relationship with Jarmond starting the way most do between athletic directors and alumni.

“He came looking for money,” Hasselbeck said, laughing.

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Asking for money was part of Jarmond’s job. In fact, it was a part of a skill set that enticed BC after he carved out a reputation as a savvy fund-raiser at Michigan State and Ohio State.

Martin Jarmond joined BC in 2017.
Martin Jarmond joined BC in 2017.Jim Davis

“You’ve got to go out and finance all these great ideas that people have to help make your program better,” Hasselbeck said.

Jarmond needed to raise funds for the department. But he also needed to tap into BC’s fan base and alumni for advice and support. Hasselbeck, who remains well-connected with football alumni and also works with a BC volunteer group, was more than willing to offer it.

“We just got in this mode of, ‘All right, we’re excited about where this is going, we’ll support you. Whatever you need from us, we’ve got your back. Tell us what you need,’ ” Hasselbeck said.

In his three years, Jarmond helped rejuvenate a department reeling from nearly a decade of stagnation. But he will leave The Heights behind, after officially being named athletic director at UCLA Tuesday. His departure is bittersweet for a program that already was beginning to bear the fruits of the groundwork he laid.

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“I think everyone was really upset to see him go,” Hasselbeck said. “If it wasn’t UCLA, people were going to keep calling. He did such a great job at BC, brought a lot of energy. I think he was a breath of fresh air in many ways. It’s a big loss for us.”

Building bridges

Running back A.J. Dillon had already burst onto the scene and put BC football back into the national conversation with an explosive freshman season a year before Jarmond arrived. When they met, Jarmond painted the picture of how he would help build a program that served the student-athletes.

“He was more than just an athletic adviser,” said Dillon, who was recently drafted by the Green Bay Packers. “He allowed us to have a voice about all things. We could go in there and talk to him, and I feel like that’s not everywhere.

A.J. Dillon was a big believer in Martin Jarmond.
A.J. Dillon was a big believer in Martin Jarmond.Matthew J. Lee/Globe Staff

"He was somebody I could go to, confide in, and somebody who I knew had power as an administrator, and he was going to use it for a better future for us.”

Dillon would often joke to Jarmond — at least half-joke — about wanting a statue of himself in front of Alumni Stadium once his career was done, a la Doug Flutie.

“I was like, ‘Well, it’ll be aesthetically pleasing. You’ve just got a statue on one side,' " Dillon said. "Martin was like, ‘OK, just chase that greatness.’

"So I went out there and I broke every record I could. I tried to beat every team I could. I tried to make it happen.”

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BC Varsity Club Hall of Fame basketball player Danya Abrams saw how hands-on Jarmond was, not only with the staff and the alumni but with the student body and the fans, and how far it went in building necessary bridges.

“Jarmond had no problem stopping to speak to anyone, whether he was on campus or off campus,” Abrams said. “He was a genuine guy. It’s hard to raise money and be a genuine guy, and he had that ability.

“He’s one of the hardest-working guys that I’ve been around. Every time you look on his Twitter feed or on Instagram, he’s in LA, he’s in Texas, he’s somewhere with a BC Alumni Association fund-raising.”

When Abrams’s son, Danya Jr., a lineman at Thayer Academy, was accepted at BC, Abrams asked Jarmond about his prospects of playing FBS football. Jarmond told him he didn’t have the answers, but he’d find them. Three hours later, Abrams heard back.

“The next thing I know, I’m getting a call from the director of player of personnel for football," said Abrams. "Even though it wasn’t benefiting BC, he was there to help me get the tools to help my son if he wants to pursue a football career in college.”

Key hires

In three years, Jarmond jammed in as much as he could. He was able to reengage alumni and fans, tapping into former athletes to reconnect. He worked to enhance the game-day experience, updating the school’s policies on tailgating and alcohol sales. He launched BC’s first-ever strategic plan in the “Greater Heights” capital campaign, setting a $150 million fund-raising goal in 2018 and reaching more than two-thirds of that as of January.

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He made key hires within the department in senior associate AD Vaughn Williams and senior women’s administrator Jocelyn Fisher Gates. In 2018, he brought in women’s basketball coach Joanna Bernabei-McNamee and volleyball coach Jason Kennedy, who turned around those programs.

Joanna Bernabei-McNamee was one of Martin Jarmond's biggest hires at Boston College.
Joanna Bernabei-McNamee was one of Martin Jarmond's biggest hires at Boston College.Wade Payne/Associated Press

And in December, he made his biggest move when he replaced longtime football coach Steve Addazio with Ohio State co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach Jeff Hafley.

He handled the football search himself, but called Hasselbeck for help.

“I was surprised,” Hasselbeck said. “It wasn’t something I went looking for. He called me and said, ‘Hey, I need ya.’ ”

Hasselbeck, whose fall Thursdays are typically booked working as a college football analyst for ESPN, cleared his schedule for three weeks. Over that span, he and Jarmond saw each other more than they saw their wives.

They turned over every stone looking for the right candidate.

“He told me, ‘I’ve got to get this right,’ ” Hasselbeck said.

The hiring was well-received. In fact, Hasselbeck believed it was so good that it’s what made UCLA take notice. But it was also critical for BC in terms of reestablishing the importance of the football program to the university.

“He helped everyone understand that the football program is kind of the front porch of your university,” Hasselbeck said. “When people think of Boston College, they can think of a lot of things.

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"But it’s sort of the front porch; it’s not what’s inside the house necessarily, but it’s a little bit of your curb appeal and it’s important. I think we probably were slipping away from going where we wanted to go.”

While his departure may feel sudden, Hasselbeck said there’s an appreciation for the work Jarmond did and anticipation for how BC will build on it.

“For BC fans, BC alumni, I’ve seen where athletic directors leave a program and people get a little disgruntled,” Hasselbeck said. “I don’t think it’s that with us and him.

Jeff Hafley remains the most notable hire of the Martin Jarmond era at BC.
Jeff Hafley remains the most notable hire of the Martin Jarmond era at BC.Nic Antaya for The Boston Globe

"I think people feel towards him the way that they feel about Tom Coughlin. Like, ‘Hey, can you come get this thing going in the right direction? Can you take us to the next level?'

"Then if you’re successful and we’re successful, there’s enough credit to go around and enough success to go around. If you move on to a new opportunity, a new challenge, then we’re with you. We’ll root for you. Now we need to find someone who can help take us to the next level.”

“This is a profession where people come and go,” Dillon said. “I left BC a year early, too, for the betterment. I could’ve stayed another year. And it’s nothing against BC, but at some point you’ve got to do what’s best for you and your family.

"I wish Martin nothing but good luck. He came to BC, delivered on his promises, and sent us in the right direction.”


Julian Benbow can be reached at julian.benbow@globe.com.