Thursday, January 19, 2012

Lively Letter, BC, Miss Marks

I've taken a little bit of time to try and sort out the Lively mess that is developing on the heights.  My opinion right now is that I think both Lively and the university handled this situation poorly.  Lively's frustration with the direction of the athletic department seems to be long-standing, and his letter smacks of a desperate move to right what he thinks is a sinking ship in Chestnut Hill.  Given the nature of the letter though, there's no question that the university over-reacted with its response, which essentially called into question Lively's mental state.

The bottom line with Lively's letter is that while he clearly cares about the university and wants to see a change at the top, it was poorly conceived.  The letter makes enough specific claims that some alumns are certainly going to be wondering if there are shades of truth to this, but few alumns are going to be persuaded by a rambling e-mail.  The unprofessional nature of the letter likely means that it will almost certainly not be taken as reliable testimony against GDF or any other administrators.  I personally wish that Lively had not sent the e-mail, because it adds little to the discussion of the future of the athletic department and seems unlikely to bring about any positive change whatsoever.

Allegations of BC being racist were, at best, poorly placed, because I am confident that the narrative concerning Skinner's work ethic originated not with BC, but with Globe writers clearly independent from the athletic department.  It's difficult for me to know what Lively hopes to accomplish by playing the race card, but I find it exceptionally worrying that he copied African-American student groups on the e-mail.  In that way, I believe he is playing to some of the past allegations concerning the BC Super-Fan culture in order to gain wider student support.  I vehemently disagree with the notion that BC athletics is racist.  I vehemently disagree with the notion that BC, as an institution, is racist.  The race allegations look like more of an effort to smear the department and less like an effort for constructive change or dialogue .

All this being said, I think that BC's response was also exceptionally poor.  Simply put, I don't think it's ever good policy to call your alumns and donors crazy - even if you think they are.  By saying that Lively's former teammates were questioning his judgment, Jack Dunn publicly communicated public concerns about Lively's mental stability.

This type of response was completely unnecessary.  No one out there read Lively's letter and then was like "Oh, man, I really liked GDF but this letter totally changed my opinion."  While the letter doesn't look good for the university, a simple "no comment" was all that was required in response.  No major news outlet was about to run an investigative piece on BC with Lively as their cornerstone.  BC should have taken the high road on this one.

In fact, by issuing such an extended response, I think the university made a crucial error.  By taking the offensive, Jack Dunn basically dared other football alumns to speak up about the program.  Someone else, who is equally upset at the program as Lively, might send out a similar letter soon in order to let the media know that it's not just those lacking "judgment" who are upset with BC athletics.  If another football alumn sends a well-thought-out, but equally publicized, letter complaining about the football program, BC will look foolish for insinuating that only the mentally unstable are upset with the state of athletics on the heights.

1 comment:

  1. I liked Lively's letter. BC's response bordered on libel: publicly labelling someone mentally ill; holding them up to scorn and ridicule in community are elements of a defamation action. I wouldn't be surprised if Lively sued Dunn and those in the AD's office and administration who approved the letter.
    As for GDF's constant refrain that when he got to BC in 1997, "BC never won much.", consider this: In 1994, BC beat Kansas State (ranked #8 nationally) in a bowl game. In 1993, they beat Virginia in a bowl game, after beating the #1 team in the country, Notre Dame, during the regular season. Coughlin's teams also beat Penn State in Happy Valley. We don't have to elaborate on the success of Flutie's teams--- in the 80s, under Flutie and Halloran, BC went to 4 bowls, and they were 2 and 0 against Alabama; they beat Penn State and Georgia. And here was GDF coming from Villanova, that didn't even have a division I football program, and he's telling us that BC football didn't have winning traditions. Finally, GDF never gave credit to Chet Gladchuck for hiring York, Skinner, Inglese, Tom O'Brien and Coughlin: the winningest coaches in BC history.


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