Backstrom: If Jarmond Leaves, That Doesn’t Mean He Wasn’t All in on Boston College

The third-year BC Director of Athletics is reportedly UCLA’s top AD target. If he takes the job, fans should appreciate what he did for BC in three years—not question his commitment to the school.

Thousands of Boston College classmates coated Stokes Lawn on Nov. 10, 2018. It was a wet and cold New England morning, but that didn’t matter. With the adrenaline pumping, television cameras out, and an experience of a lifetime on hand, there was a palpable warmth among the student body.

A cohesion of sorts that escalated when students began chanting “MAR-TY JARMOND” as the second-year BC AD dapped up Kirk Herbstreit during a commercial break.

For just the third time in school history, and first time since 2009, BC was hosting ESPN’s College GameDay—a reality that, for many, felt like a dream. After all, in 2017, BC football won its first ACC home game in three years. And the season before that, the Eagles were pummeled by Virginia Tech, Clemson, Louisville, and Florida State by a combined score of 202-24. Go back another year, and BC infamously finished 0-8 in conference play.

Steve Addazio and his staff developed the team’s talent to the point where the 2018 Eagles cracked the AP Poll for the first time since 2008 and started the season with a 7-2 record. Yet Jarmond was the one largely responsible for getting the GameDay crew to Chestnut Hill. Once they arrived, he made the most of the opportunity, extending tailgating to four hours, providing coffee and donuts to students the morning of the iconic three-hour pregame show, and setting off fireworks at 7:30 p.m. to usher fans into a sold-out Alumni Stadium.

He had already changed the culture of sports on campus, not just as an administrator, but as the face of BC Athletics.

The 38-year-old was a star. And still is.

Jarmond is reportedly UCLA’s top target for replacing Dan Guerrero as the Bruins’ new AD. Except, according to Yahoo! Sports’ Pete Thamel, “there’s still items to work out,” and “BC has made a push to keep Jarmond, who has been well-regarded in his three years there.”

The reports have stirred up an emotional response on Twitter and a number of questions on fanboards, some speculating about Jarmond’s commitment to BC Athletics. The frustration is understandable. 

His biggest hire has yet to coach a game, and the men’s basketball program remains in the bottom tier of the conference standings with a coach that has tallied a 25-85 mark in ACC play and a lone NIT appearance during his six-year tenure, even though he had two NBA guards on his roster for multiple seasons. Jarmond’s reluctance to move on from Jim Christian has been particularly aggravating for fans, now more than ever, after Wake Forest—a similar-sized private school, also struggling in the ACC for years—reportedly swallowed a $15 million buyout to fire six-year head coach Danny Manning in late April.

That said, if the third-year BC AD does in fact leave, don’t assume he’s quitting on the school. More importantly, don’t think for a second that he wasn’t ever all in on BC.

When Jarmond was hired as the youngest AD in the Power Five in 2017, he came to BC with a pillar-like platform that he called P.A.C.E.: passion, alignment, and competitive excellence. Sometimes when administrators, coaches, and even players introduce acronyms or visions, they can be vague and unreliable. Jarmond, however, stuck to his word. Immediately.

In his first year, the Fayetteville, N.C. native created a Fan Council, expanded BC’s beer and wine sales to Alumni Stadium and Conte Forum, negotiated a partnership with the ridesharing company Lyft, and oversaw the completion of Harrington Athletics Village—a baseball and softball complex on Brighton campus—the Fish Field House—a $52.6 million indoor practice facility—and a student-athlete fueling station. If that seemed like a run-on sentence, that’s because it was. Jarmond’s accomplishments as BC’s AD resemble that of a laundry list.

And it just keeps going.

In January 2018, Jarmond hired volleyball head coach Jason Kennedy, who in two years has already transformed what was an embarrassing BC program into an ACC contender. Before the USC associate head coach took the reins, the Eagles had posted a 73-176 record over the course of the previous eight seasons. BC is 35-27 since, and the Eagles are coming off a season (20-12, 11-7 ACC) in which they logged their highest win total since 2004.

Then in April, Jarmond brought over women’s basketball head coach Joanna Bernabei-McNamee from Albany, where she led the Great Danes to the NCAA Tournament and NIT in her two years with the program. All it took was two seasons for Bernabei-McNamee to return BC to prominence in the ACC. The Eagles shattered the single-season program record with 11 ACC wins this year and advanced to the conference tournament semifinals as the six seed. The field of 64 was never released because of COVID-19, but BC had a chance to hear its name called on Selection Monday for the first time in 14 years.

When September of 2018 rolled around, Jarmond unveiled a five-year, $150 million capital campaign, the first of its kind in BC history. Then, in April of the following year, he hosted his first-ever P.A.C.E. event, an open forum for students to share their input about BC Athletics. One of many topics was changing the SuperFan T-shirt, which Jarmond followed through on this spring. Just two months later, he announced that Phase II of the Harrington Athletics Village—a 31,000-square foot indoor baseball and softball facility—would be commemorated to Pete Frates.

Along the way, Jarmond has signed men’s hockey head coach Jerry York and lacrosse head coach Acacia Walker-Weinstein—two of the school’s most decorated coaches—to extensions. Most recently, of course, he reeled in former Ohio State co-defensive coordinator Jeff Hafley to take over the controls of the football program, marking the end to the seven-year Addazio era. Having mentored three first-round picks last year and built a staff with NFL experience and recruiting chops, Hafley appears to be a slam dunk hire for Jarmond.

Some might say that Hafley’s success and Jarmond’s decision to retain Christian despite a dozen transfers and a continued NCAA Tournament drought will determine the AD’s legacy. I, on the other hand, believe that Jarmond should be recognized for more than just his dealings with the revenue sports on campus. He’s helped all 31 varsity teams—by doing the little things.

After starting his own clothing line in the school bookstore, he’s upgraded merchandise and brought back the retro BC logo to the campus community. He’s created fan-curated promo videos, typically beginning each one with his signature phrase: “We heard you.” Every season, he’s come up with original game day giveaways, incentivizing attendance at every chance gets. He connects with fans over social media—in his first month and a half on the job, he sent out 51 tweets, 18 more than his predecessor, Brad Bates, published in his final year (2016-17) as AD.

Right from the get-go, Jarmond established a support system for first-generation student-athletes with meet-and-greets and inclusive panel discussions. Under his watch, several locker rooms have been renovated, including both the men’s and women’s hockey teams’. He drops in on team meetings, workouts, practices, and games, traveling across BC’s three major campuses.

Does Jarmond probably think about taking a job somewhere else down the line? Sure, this is a business, and who doesn’t think about their future from time to time. But if that was his sole motive, he would have captained the ship behind his desk. Not all ADs are out and about talking to students, faculty, alumni, and athletes. Jarmond’s infectious personality, attention to detail, and jam-packed schedule are a byproduct of his love for BC Athletics. You can’t fake that.

It might be now, it might be a few years down the road, but at some point, Jarmond will leave BC. Most stars eventually take their talents elsewhere, especially in sports, but they almost always leave their previous home in a better place than they found it.

Jarmond is no different.

Images Courtesy of Boston College Athletics.