Applause for DeFilippo's wildcat maneuver

John Clay
John Clay

Kudos to the "Human Hand."

That was the nickname we subversive media types gave Gene DeFilippo during his seven years as an assistant athletics director at Kentucky, first under Cliff Hagan and then C.M. Newton.

Much of DeFilippo's duties involved fund-raising, and he was a glad-hander extraordinaire, incessantly offering a grip-and-grin.

Gene D. left Lexington in 1993 to become the athletics director at Villanova, then switched to Boston College in '97, where now all of a sudden he is front-and-center news for something of a handshake deal, one he believes his football coach, Jeff Jagodzinksi, has broken.

After two years, and two ACC division titles, Jagodzinski is reportedly about to interview with the New York Jets for the NFL team's head coaching job.

But based on what DeFilippo believes was a mutual agreement that Jagodzinski would wait at least three years before exploring other jobs, the Boston College AD is on record as declaring that if his coach takes the interview, he can also take a hike.

Be interviewed, and be fired.

Way to go, Gene.

It's long past time someone in the fantasy world of sports made a coach live not just by a real-world contract, but by the spirit and the intent of the agreement, as well.

Somewhere along the way, the contractual deck has become stacked in favor — too much favor — of the coaches, who always seem to be in need of an extension (have to have it for recruiting), or a raise (better show the fan base you're committed), or the freedom to at least look elsewhere (doesn't hurt negotiations at home).

Coaches want commitments from the institutions. More support. More facilities. More time to build a winner. Coaches want commitments from players. More dedication. More performance. More loyalty. Trouble is, coaches would prefer that commitment thing be a one-way street.

If the student-athlete should decide he or she might be happier or more productive at another school, the coach wants say-so on where he or she can or can't go. Never mind that a coach can break a contract and depart for another job, any job, and it's considered business as usual.

After the 2006 season as offensive coordinator of the Green Bay Packers, Jagodzinski signed a five-year deal with DeFilippo for an annual compensation of approximately $1 million to be the Boston College head coach.

Now, with three years remaining on his deal, Jagodzinski is reportedly on his way to convince the Jets they should be his future employers.

In what real-world profession would that be allowed to happen?

"I wish Jeff would not take this interview and would remain as head coach at BC," said his current employer, DeFilippo.

According to the Boston media, part of the rub is that Jagodzinski was not exactly truthful with DeFilippo about the Jets' overtures, thereby threatening the relationship between the two men.

Yet, the coach's backers have explained that away as just part of how the hiring game is played. Legendary Boston Globe columnist Bob Ryan referred to DeFilippo as "naive," rationalizing Jagodzinski's evasiveness by writing, "Lying makes the sports world go 'round."

Really? That's quite a lesson to teach the Boston College athletes who are (supposedly) there to receive an education.

Isn't it about time someone, even in the fantasy world of sports, actually honored a contract?

So kudos to the Human Hand for taking a stand.

After all, a handshake should still mean something.