Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Coachpocalypse 2012: Spaz out

I called NC State's firing of Tom O'Brien "surprising-ish"; Boston College's firing of Frank Spaziani was pretty much exactly the opposite. Level of surprise on a scale of 1-10: -12.

The reason: Boston College, which had finished above .500 in all of the previous seven seasons under O'Brien and Jeff Jagodzinski before Spaziani got promoted from D-coordinator, gradually regressed over the last four years to the point of being not even vaguely competitive, going from 8-5 to 7-6 to 4-8 (the program's worst record in, like, a long time) to 2-10 this year. I know. Not good. Spaziani got canned with an overall record of 22-29 despite taking over a program that the two previous coaches had departed from with well-above-.600 winning percentages (and in a blah conference).

To be fair, there was never really much expectation that Spaziani was gonna be a very good head coach, even if he had been a pretty good defensive coordinator for about a decade. The general consensus was that Spaziani got the job in the name of loyalty and stability, which are nice qualities but not as nice as the ones that are, you know, relevant to winning games.

This quote from athletic director Bill Bates pretty much tells the story:
"It is with gratitude that we recognize the many contributions Coach Spaziani has made to Boston College during his 16 years in Chestnut Hill," Bates said. "He displayed unwavering dedication and loyalty to our institution and our football student-athletes, while consistently representing Boston College with class and dignity. 
So nice guy. In other words, he was Boston College's version of Bill Stewart except without the benefit of Pat White and Steve Slaton.

And the cratering was pretty thorough: The B.C. defense was still very good in 2009 and '10, hence the team's relative success at 15-11 overall, but the offense didn't finish in the top 100 in total yards in any of Spaziani's four seasons, a pretty remarkably pathetic accomplishment, and the defense dropped to 73rd overall last year and 100th this year. One of the worst offenses in the country + one of the worst defenses in the country = 2-10 with one win over an FBS team. Upshot: Boston College is not in particularly good shape right now.

There's really not a whole lot else to be said about the Spaz era. It started out OK but was an unmitigated disaster by the end; anything/anyone else will almost certainly be better.

What/who else can Boston College get? Ehhh ... hard to say. Dan Shaughnessy might be a tool but pretty accurately summarized The Boston College Dilemma in this column:
Boston College, the only Division 1 program in Greater Boston, fired its football coach on Sunday. After four disappointing seasons, bottoming out with this year’s 2-10 bomb, Frank Spaziani was relieved of his duties by new athletic director Brad Bates.

And nobody cares. BC firing its football coach is no different than the New England Revolution sacking their head coach. It’s a scrawny birch tree toppling in a forest of mighty oaks. It doesn’t matter. That is the state of college sports in our region.
Yep. And with a lack of interest comes a general lack of money (or at least a lack of money that can be spent on a coach); it's probably not a coincidence that Spaziani was making barely over a million bucks a year, about $200K less than Chad Morris made as Clemson's O-coordinator. Barring some pretty significant contributions from alumni and/or a commitment to spend a lot more money (and some is already being spent on Spaziani's buyout and the 2009 Jagodzinski firing), B.C. won't be swimming in the same pool with NC State and won't even be in the same ocean as the various SEC schools that have openings right now.

Still, Boston College is aiming (relatively) high: The two guys reportedly at the top of the list are Notre Dame defensive coordinator Bob Diaco (HIRE THIS MAN IMMEDIATELY) and Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi, both of whom are among the very best in the country. Either would be a good get and would probably be able to consistently assemble at least a pretty good defense, which was what B.C. had a few years ago when the offense was terrible but bowl games were still doable. Adam Schefter also reported that Pete Carmichael Jr. has been contacted; Carmichael is a 41-year-old B.C. alum who's been passing-game coordinator/offensive coordinator for the Saints for the last six years. All things considered, he'd be a relatively impressive hire from a name/resume standpoint, although the lack of head coaching experience and lack of college experience of any meaningful type would have to be at least a little bit of a concern. Probably worth an interview regardless.

And then there are the other guys, among them Harvard coach Tim Murphy, Browns quarterbacks coach Mark Whipple (a former head coach at various I-AA schools in the Northeast, including UMass), New Hampshire coach (and former Chip Kelly employer) Sean McDonnell and maybe Kent State coach Darrell Hazell (a New Jersey native). There are also references all over the interwebz to potential mutual interest between Boston College and Al Golden, but ... I mean ... I don't think so. The threat of impending NCAA doom is basically the only plausible reason he'd leave Miami for any comparable job (and Boston College isn't even that), and Miami has already self-imposed and served a two-year bowl ban; even if the scholarship cuts are relatively severe, I don't know that it'll be any harder to win at Miami for the next few years than it will be to win at Boston College. So he'd be making a backwards career move and taking a pay cut just to avoid a couple years of NCAA stupidity; I don't see that happening. And if he's interested in leaving, he'd probably have options (Tennessee, perhaps) significantly more enticing than B.C., regardless of his alleged love for the Northeast in general and Boston College in particular (Golden was linebackers coach at B.C. from '97-99).

So the realistic candidates are good (debatably elite) coordinators and MAC/FCS coaches, with Carmichael being the one unknown. I guess that's to be expected given the program's decline over the last couple years, although before Spaziani turned it into a tire fire, Boston College was a pretty widely respected place; the previous three coaches were Tom Coughlin, Tom O'Brien and Jeff Jagodzinski, who was fired for interviewing for NFL head coaching jobs and promptly dropped off the face of the Earth. B.C. has some inherent deficiencies but isn't a terrible place/job. And really, just about any of the aforementioned guys would be an upgrade over Spaziani by default. That's the good news for Brad Bates.

The bad news: There's a big difference between finding an upgrade who can get B.C. to .500-ish and an occasional bowl game and finding a good coach who can make B.C. relevant again in the ACC. He needs to do the latter, stat, because three or four more years of whatever that was would be bad in a lot of obvious ways.


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