The elephant is not only in the room, he is sitting at the head of the table and he is running the show. Boston College has two games remaining in the 2012 season. The Eagles could beat Virginia Tech and North Carolina State to finish with a 4-8 record. They could lose both to finish with a 2-10 record. They could win one and lose one to finish with a 3-9 record.
None of it matters.
The Eagles can talk about how they will shrug off Saturday’s 21-6 loss to Notre Dame and begin preparation for Virginia Tech on Saturday.
It doesn’t matter.
What matters is what happens when the season is over. What direction does the program take and who will run it?
It will not be Frank Spaziani. Now it is simply a question of how new BC athletic director Brad Bates conducts the business of making the change.
All the critics out there who have wanted Spaziani’s head on a platter can put their voices on mute. All the critics who are more reasonable and simply say that a good man didn’t do a good enough job, can also tone it down.
It is time to move on. In some places, Spaziani would have been fired and either an interim coach would be running the show or a lame duck coach would be finishing out the season.
That is not the BC way. The Eagles don’t fire very many people in midstream. They either resign, retire or take medical leaves of absence. In almost every instance, the silence is golden mentality is rewarded with additional pay checks.
And when they are fired, BC writes checks to pay off the remainder of their contracts
If you check out the list of coaches that BC has funded AFTER they have left their jobs, you could probably fund a third-world country.
When there is the hint of a controversy, such as developed when former BC offensive line coach Jim Turner abruptly resigned only a few months after new BC football coach Jeff Jagodzinski hired him, the reward for keeping quiet is an additional year of pay.
Jagodzinski was one of the few coaches BC actually did say they fired. That was because Jagodzinski simply broke a verbal, if not written committment with former BC AD Gene DeFilippo, who asked for minimum a three-year committment to BC football .
After two years, which produced two ACC Division titles, Jagodzinski did what he had always wanted to do before he was hired. He flirted with the NFL about a head job. He also lied to DeFilippo about what he was doing. He was fired.
DeFilippo then went about the business of finding a replacement and chose Spaziani, whose loyalty to BC and work ethic can not be questioned.
But at 61 he was a rookie head coach. He made some mistakes in coaching. He made some mistakes in hiring. He made some mistakes in recruiting. He also did a few things right. He maintained the integrity of the program with good kids, who fight their way through adversity.
Anyone who says that the latest version of BC football is a team that has stopped playing, stopped trying, is either blind or an idiot or perhaps both.
In a season which has been filled with injuries and mistakes and simply bad luck, the Eagles have not lost their focus. They were trying as hard at the end of Saturday night’s game as they were at the beginning. That is a testament to not only the players, but the coaching staff.
It didn’t get any better on Sunday as the Eagles confirmed that wide receiver Bobby Swigert is done for the season with a knee injury that will sideline him for months and that the team’s leading tackler, middle linebacker Nick Clancy, suffered a concussion against Notre Dame.
The BC medical staff does not fool around with concussions. Clancy’s return date remains iffy at best.
Make no mistakes, there have been obstacles to overcome, many of them created by Spaziani.
Start with the instability of the staff itself. In four years, BC has had four different offensive coordinators, which is not the way to succeed in business even if you are really trying.
A year ago, newly hired offensive coordinator Kevin Rogers took a medical leave of absence that has yet to be explained by anyone at BC.
Rogers has recovered enough to resume his coaching career as an assistant at Temple. But the rumors of a wild physical confrontation in the locker room after a 30-3 BC loss at Central Florida last season continue to simmer. There might have been angry words spoken following the game, but actual physical contact? Please.
Rogers was actually ill–spitting up blood. Maybe it was the stress of working at job where things weren’t working the way he wanted them to work.
For his continued silence on the matter, Rogers was compensated by BC.
Spaziani finally brought unity and domestic tranquility to the staff this season. when he hired offensive coordinator Doug Martin who has revitalized the BC offense and QB Chase Rettig’s career. He also made several other changes. The mood in the coach’s room is much better than it was a year ago in terms of getting along.
Again, this was part of the learning process of a first-time head coach.
Unfortunately for Rettig, a change at head coach will no doubt mean dealing with his fifth offensive coordinator in four years.
So how is all going to play out?
BC will play its final two games. BC officials will talk with Spaziani about a settlement–he has three years remaining on his contract. An announcement will be made shortly after BC finishes its season at North Carolina State on Nov 24th.
Bates will say the usual things about conducting a search for the best coach. He will have a list.
There are some obvious and not so obvious candidates. Bates could go in several directions, but he has to find a coach who can fit BC’s culture as well as its football needs.
The die-hard BC fans don’t want to hear this, but in the grand scheme of football facilities, academic requirements and fan support, BC is a lower tier job, ranking at the bottom of the ACC.
That does not mean that BC can’t win. Tom Coughlin and Tom O’Brien both proved that. And BC can get players who make a difference, whether that is a Doug Flutie, a Matt Ryan or a Luke Kuechly.
But BC also needs someone who can sell the program as well as coach the players.
Who knows what direction Bates will follow. There will be people who whisper names in his ear. He might hear former UMass coach Mark Whipple, who was a finalist four years ago and is now the QB coach for the Cleveland Browns, he could hear names such as Harvard coach Tim Murphy, who certainly knows how to deal with the academic issues, knows how to win and yes, knows how to recruit BC type kids.
Maybe there is a hot young coach from the Mid-American Conference where Bates cut his teeth as an AD at Miami of Ohio. Northern Illinois head coach Dave Doreen seems to be the flavor of the day.
And then there is the hot young coordinator from a major school. Don’t be surprised if you see Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco’s name on many wish lists.
But the best bet would be to check any coaches who have ties to Bates and the name that keeps coming up the most is Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi, who was at Miami of Ohio as an assistant when Bates was the AD in 2003.
There will be other names, but not that many since the pool of candidates who can actually fit is fairly shallow. Don’t expect Bobby Petrino or Jon Gruden to walk through the gates of Alumni Stadium. Don’t expect Miami coach Al Golden to decide that he has had enough at Miami and come north to BC, where he was once an assistant, unless the NCAA decides to shut down the Hurricane program for violations past and present.
BC needs a good coach who can do great things. Frank Spaziani is a good coach. He didn’t do great things. And while his critics have been pounding on him for what he did or didn’t do, Spaziani has maintained his professionalism. He has not embarrassed the school–and stop the blather that the way BC plays football under Spaziani is embarrassing the school. The only thing that BC is doing wrong is not winning enough games. The BC kids and coaches have been and will continue to be class acts. Spaziani has not cried “Woe is me. What should I do.” He has kept his team focused. He has tried to his job.
It hasn’t been good enough. So be it. It is time to move on. While the chatter on Sunday and for the next two weeks will be about beating Virginia Tech and beating North Carolina State, it will be just that, chatter.
It doesn’t mean anything. It is not about football any more this season.It is about how to fix what is broke and who can fix it best.
© 2012, Mark. All rights reserved.