College Sports

5 takeaways from Boston College AD Pat Kraft’s introductory press conference

He said addressing mental health is of paramount importance.

Pat Kraft is Boston College's new director of athletics. Joseph V. Labolito/Temple University

Boston College director of athletics Pat Kraft called his new position “a dream job,” noting that it’s extremely rare when personal beliefs align with professional aspirations so perfectly.

Kraft, speaking in a virtual press conference Monday, said he loved his time at Temple University and wasn’t planning on leaving unless a “really special” job that “checked every box” appeared. When Martin Jarmond left for UCLA, Kraft inquired about the opening.

The two sides found what they were looking for, and Kraft was full of energy and enthusiasm as he spoke glowingly of the opportunity.

“To me, Boston College is the paradigm for college athletics,” Kraft said. “Tremendously smart and dedicated student-athletes, a group of coaches with incredible dedication and passion for their student-athletes, a commitment to excellence and championships with an incredible history.”

During the press conference, he spoke about his family, mental health, racial injustice, and much more.

He offered a glimpse into his personal life.

Kraft said his family and faith are what inspire and motivate him every day.

“I can tell you right now my father is in heaven looking down with a very, very big smile on his face,” Kraft said. “I know he’s excited, and I know he’s watching down on us.”

He thanked his wife Betsy, his daughter Annabelle, 6, and his son Joseph, 4, in his opening remarks. Kraft called Betsy the rock in the family and said his kids are looking forward to the journey.

“They’re already ready for the fall,” Kraft said. “They have their gear picked out. They’re more excited to meet Baldwin than anybody else on campus. They’re very fired up about that.”

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Kraft, who grew up outside Chicago and attended Indiana University, said his passion for family, school, and sports started at a young age and has guided him throughout his life.

Once he walked onto the football team at Indiana, he knew he wanted to work in college athletics. After working at Indiana, he became the senior assistant athletics director at Loyola University Chicago, and eventually the AD at Temple in 2015.

“I never forget why I do what I do,” Kraft said. “The student-athletes. Period. They are the center of every single decision I make. I always will ask, will this benefit the student-athlete? Will this give them a better experience? Will this help them in life and everything that comes their way?”

He said addressing mental health is of paramount importance.

Kraft said accepting a new job during a pandemic has been a unique experience, but he made it clear he has no complaints.

This past weekend, he and his family drove up to Massachusetts and looked at homes in the area while wearing masks.

“It’s a different time, but it is what it is,” Kraft said. “I’m not going to make any excuses. We’re really excited. You just do it.”

Of course he wishes he could interact with people in person, 1 on 1, but he’ll take any sort of human interaction he can get, and it was very clear over Zoom how much the job means to him and how much he genuinely wants to help shape the lives of others through his work.

He said his top priority is focusing on mental health. It’s always an extremely important issue, he said, and especially right now with so much uncertainty in the world. Kraft said addressing mental health is a major component in everything he does.

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Said Kraft: “It’s the No. 1 thing we have to focus on, to make sure we’re there for them when they stumble, when they’re concerned.”

He believes it’s crucial to have conversations about racial injustice.

He also spoke about the importance of having serious conversations about race going forward.

On Saturday, the men’s basketball team released a statement expressing sadness, anger, and hurt after George Floyd’s tragic death. The release said the team plans to register to vote, participate in involved discussions, and work with the community to make a difference. The team will also hold no mandatory basketball-related activities on Election Day.

Kraft wasn’t asked about that initiative specifically, however he said there’s no better place to have such conversations than in college athletics. He believes teaching is an integral part of his job, and he wants people to feel comfortable talking to him and others during a difficult time.

Said Kraft: “This is an important time in our country and in this world, and I believe we have to continue to talk about this and make it a part of everything we do every single day, no matter how long it takes.”

He’s confident there will be football in the fall.

While Kraft would already have many moving parts to deal with under normal circumstances, his job is much more complicated than it otherwise would be due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Kraft said he’s anxious to speak with University President William P. Leahy to fine-tune the school’s plan in the coming months. He said prioritizing the health of the students is most important, but he’s cautiously optimistic football and other sports will return sooner rather than later.

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He’s a current member of both the NCAA Football Oversight and the Football Competition committees, and he believes the possibility of returning to action is far less bleak than it once was.

“I’m very confident about football in the fall,” Kraft said.

Kraft said he’s not sure quite yet if fans will be able to attend games, however be believes everything is trending in the right direction.

He raved about the Jeff Hafley hire, noting that he’s done “an incredible job” already. He said Hafley reminds him of former Temple coach Matt Rhule, who is currently the head coach of the Carolina Panthers.

“I told him this. These first years are very tough,” Kraft said. “These transition years are difficult without COVID, so you have five spring practices and you’ve got to get up and get going and you’re competing against the best. I believe in where Jeff’s mind is, where he’s going, what he wants to do, how hard he’s going to work.”

Kraft helped revitalize the football program at Temple, and he’s looking forward to taking on a similar challenge at BC.

He’s eager to compete for championships in all sports.

Kraft paralleled his experience at Temple to what he anticipates at BC.

With professional sports, most notably the Eagles, at the forefront in Philadelphia, Kraft worked diligently to help bring Temple into the spotlight. He was able to do so in many ways, including when the Owls beat Penn State in football in 2015 for the first time since 1941.

He anticipates similar special moments in the Eagles’ future, and he believes the department can use the success of Boston pro teams to its advantage.

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“I wouldn’t be here with you if I didn’t think there was an incredible opportunity and an incredible chance to go and win championships and compete at the highest level,” Kraft said. “That’s just how I’m wired.”

He believes fans in the Boston area know sports, and he wants to get them more and more excited about the BC product. Kraft said he’s eager to help take every sport, and the overall success of the athletic program, to the next level.

“There’s no magic bullet,” Kraft said. “You just can’t flip a switch and everything’s great. But if you bring people together who are going to work hard, work together for a common goal, a common purpose, it’s amazing what happens.”

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