Mike Lynch on the Championship Culture of Babson Athletics

Mike Lynch poses in front of the NACDA logo

It’s a heady time for Mike Lynch and the Babson Athletics program.

Lynch, the Babson College Pamela P. and Brian M. Barefoot Associate Vice President for Athletics and Athletics Advancement, recently has been collecting hardware for the successes of the athletics department.

For the first time in its history, Babson won the 2023 New England Women’s and Men’s Athletic Conference (NEWMAC) Men’s Presidents Cup. The prestigious all-sports trophy is presented to the top overall men’s and women’s programs in the conference, based on a weighted-points system for regular-season and tournament results. The Beavers won three regular-season titles and three conference tournament championships to secure the Men’s Presidents Cup, which had been won only by MIT and WPI previously. Babson also finished as runner-up for the NEWMAC Women’s Presidents Cup.

Lynch also recently was honored as one of only four Division III recipients of the 2022–2023 Cushman & Wakefield Athletics Director of the Year Award by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics. Lynch, who joined Babson in 2016, previously won the award in 2011 while at Boston University.

The awards culminate a momentous year for Babson Athletics during which Lynch announced the department’s new comprehensive strategic plan and the addition of the women’s golf team for the 2023–2024 season, the first new varsity program since 2001.

Lynch recently sat down with Babson Thought & Action to discuss the state of Babson Athletics, including its new strategic vision and the new women’s golf team.

What are you most proud of since you arrived in 2016?

“It’s really hard to put into words everything that’s happened over the course of the past seven years. It’s been a slow steady march, but we’ve become relevant nationally in a lot of different sports. Now, there’s this real championship culture that we have where every team wants to be a part of it. Every coach who joins our program now has a sense that that’s the type of program that we are, that we chase championships, and we have student-athletes on podiums at the end of the year. That’s probably the most gratifying thing for me is seeing the growth of it over time and how the things that we’ve done strategically have really helped to put us in a good position. And, none of this happens without great coaches and student-athletes that really buy into the program. So it’s all really worked well together.”

What does it mean to make that kind of progress with student-athletes at the No. 1 school for entrepreneurship?

“That’s what’s made this so gratifying is we do have a unique opportunity here. Our coaches have to be very targeted in their recruiting approach. They have to have a firm understanding of what it means to be a Babson student-athlete. So they really have to pick the right kids who cannot only do the work in the classroom but can also expend a great deal of time and energy trying to hone their skills on the playing surface. Our coaches have done a great job of positioning Babson in a unique and creative way. With the ascent of our athletic program, you have athletes coming here who want to be competitive, who want to win, but when they leave, they know they’re going to be in a great position to step into a great job someplace in basically any field that they choose.”

Babson Athletics’ Mission Statement

Babson Athletics delivers a supportive and competitive experience that builds innovators, leaders and champions through an enduring commitment to excellence.

You oversaw the creation of Babson Athletics’ new mission statement and guiding principles. How important is that strategic vision to the program?

“Putting stakes in the ground and saying these are the things that drive our program helps in a number of ways. The plan really provides our coaches with bookend goals that every one of them can repeat to every student-athlete they talk to. It helps clarify for people what the vision of the department is and what the direction of the department is. So it helps our coaches, it helps student-athletes we’re recruiting, it helps our administrators when everybody’s talking the same language and driving toward the same goals. That’s what separates us.”

How does Babson Athletics’ strategic vision connect to the College’s strategic plan?

“We’ve tried to funnel our goals and principles up to the College’s. It’s important to us that Athletics isn’t seen as this entity that operates outside of the College. We’re fully integrated. For example, we’re really working hard at diversity, equity, and inclusion within the department. That’s a goal of ours. What does it mean for Babson Athletics? Frankly, it means hiring more coaches that don’t look like me. It means bringing in student-athletes from different backgrounds. We’re putting goals out there for each of our coaches to try to change that. And, slowly over time, that’s happening. Student-athletes, particularly student-athletes of color, if they’re looking at a place like Babson, they need to see people who look like them. We hired Kendall Elder, who is our associate athletic director for student-athlete success. Part of his job and his role is to present Babson as a more inclusive and supportive place for student-athletes who might come from underrepresented groups.”

“Babson is the perfect place to add a women’s golf program. Our men’s program has grown to become one of the top 25 programs in the country. I think our women’s program could do the same.”
Mike Lynch, Babson College Pamela P. and Brian M. Barefoot Associate Vice President for Athletics and Athletics Advancement

The biggest new development is the creation of the women’s golf team. What does that mean to the athletics program?

“Investigating opportunities for expanding our program certainly was part of our strategic plan, and women’s golf was head and shoulders above any other program. Babson is the perfect place to add a women’s golf program. Our men’s program has grown to become one of the top 25 programs in the country. I think our women’s program could do the same. I think we can be pretty competitive pretty quickly in women’s golf just because of that interrelationship between business and golf. It makes a lot of sense for us. We’re trying to attract more women into college and to the athletic program. I think this presents another opportunity to add 10 to 12 women within our program. It’s something that I think will help us. Plus, you have to have a good coach in place who understands that we’re really going to try to build a champion, and Jeff Page has been awesome at his response to that. Also, Babson is in a financial position unlike a lot of other schools that are dropping sports or adding sports simply to add bodies to their undergraduate population. Babson is in a position of strength right now where we have a whole different set of reasons for adding the program. We actually think we can be good in the sport.”

Congratulations on the Athletics Director of the Year award. How meaningful is that to you personally?

“It’s really humbling, honestly. I’m really happy for our department because I’m just the guy sitting in the chair today, but it speaks more about the type of people that we have here. The people we’ve hired have put us in a position of being as successful as we have been in allowing us to achieve an award like that. It is reflective of the staff and the coaches and the athletes. So, for me, it’s a team award. But, it’s pretty cool. The fact that it’s happened twice now is really special to me, particularly in two different divisions. I’ve been fortunate to be surrounded by some great team members.”

Babson Athletics has made so much progress on and off the field over the past seven years. Where do you see the program in 10 years?

“I’d like to see us get to the point 10 years from now where, when people think about national championships across a variety of different sports, that Babson is right there in their mind.”

Babson Athletics’ Guiding Principles

  • We recruit, develop and compete on a national level.
  • We celebrate a strong tradition of success in the classroom.
  • We ensure a supportive team culture that represents diverse backgrounds and experiences.
  • We provide resources that support each of our student-athlete’s mental health and overall well-being.
  • We foster lifelong alumni connections that help to sustain a high-performance culture.
  • We believe in the power of team and that the whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

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