BOSTON — Boston College athletic director Gene DeFilippo said on Friday that he was stepping down after 15 years, a tenure in which he stabilized the program in the aftermath of gambling scandal, led it into a new conference and collected four NCAA men’s hockey championships.
DeFilippo said he had been discussing retirement with his wife, Anne, and came to the conclusion after being diagnosed with a treatable form of cancer.
“In light of my recent bout with melanoma, which is treatable, this decision became clearer to me this summer,” he said in a statement released by the school. “After the intensity of 40 years of intercollegiate athletics, this change will enable me to spend more time with Anne, my three children, and our granddaughter, Katherine. I look forward to this next stage of my personal and professional life.”
DeFilippo took over the BC athletic department in 1997 after 13 football players had been suspended for betting on games — then the biggest gambling scandal in NCAA history. He presided over its switch from the Big East to the Atlantic Coast Conference, a move that led to hard feelings among his colleagues in the school’s longtime league.
But the school also had its successes: BC won four hockey titles during DeFilippo’s tenure and 11 national team and individual sailing championships and had 12 consecutive winning seasons in football, a streak that was snapped last year. BC has also annually ranked near the top of the NCAA graduation rates for athletes.
“Gene devoted himself to building a strong, successful athletics program, one that reflected BC’s commitment to quality academics and institutional integrity,” BC’s president, the Rev. William Leahy, said. “Doing that has been his passion and joy, and the BC community, particularly our student athletes, have benefitted immensely from his care, advice and hard work.”
DeFilippo will step down Sept. 30, and senior associate athletics director John Kane will serve as interim AD until a permanent successor is hired. DeFilippo said he plans to take a short sabbatical and then teach courses in sports management while working as a consultant.
“Gene has been a positive figure in the college sports landscape for a long time — a veteran and highly respected AD and a national leader,” ACC Commissioner John Swofford said. “His contributions to BC, the ACC and nationally are too numerous to name.”
DeFilippo also ushered in improvements to the BC athletic facilities and fields, including a new, $27 million Yawkey Athletics Center that houses the football team offices and locker room. During his tenure, donations supporting BC athletics rose from $5 million a year to more than $20 million in 2011.
“What Gene has meant to Boston College is hard to put into words,” basketball coach Steve Donahue said. “He reinvented the athletics department in his 15 years as AD; everything we have is based on Gene’s vision. It’s very rare that you find someone who has the vision and the guts to follow it. He is going to be missed.”
DeFilippo graduated from Springfield (Mass.) College in 1973, earning three varsity letters as a quarterback, and worked as a graduate assistant football coach at Tennessee and assistant coach at Youngstown State and Vanderbilt. He was athletic director at South Carolina-Spartanburg, associate AD at Kentucky, and then AD at Villanova before coming to BC in 1997.
“I’d like to thank Father Leahy for allowing me to serve as athletics director for the past 15 years,” DeFilippo said. “I will always be indebted to him for giving me the opportunity to work at such a great institution.”