Frank Spaziani will not return as Boston College head coach, the school announced Sunday.
The Eagles finished 2-10 in 2012, the season concluding with a 27-10 loss to NC State on Saturday, and won just six games the past two seasons.
“A personnel decision of this magnitude affects many people and is never taken lightly, but I felt a change was necessary," BC athletic director Brad Bates said in a statement.
“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 in the statement. “He displayed unwavering dedication and loyalty to our institution and our football student‐athletes, while consistently representing Boston College with class and dignity. He and his staff have devoted countless hours to our student‐athletes and the BC community. We thank them and wish them well.”
Spaziani, who had just completed his 16th season with the Eagles -- the first two as running backs coach, 10 as defensive coordinator and four as head coach -- compiled a 22-29 record in his time in the top job.
“Obviously this is a sad day for my family and me,” Spaziani said in a statement. “Boston College has been my home for more than 16 years, and I have been fortunate to work with some amazing student-athletes. I will always treasure my relationships with them and the BC staff. Boston College is a tremendous place, and I am extremely thankful for my time there. I wish the current and future Eagles nothing but the best.”
In the statement, Bates said the search for a new coach will begin immediately.
“We will be seeking a leader whose vision of our football program mirrors the mission of our University,
who values the development of our student‐athletes and whose goal is to return our program to national prominence,” he said in the statement. “Our fans and the entire University community value the rich tradition of Boston College football, and we are committed to making it a successful program.”
Taking over the team in 2009, once former athletic director Gene DeFilippo fired then-coach Jeff Jagodzinski after the coach interviewed for a job in the NFL, Spaziani faced immediate issues. Many of the players Jagodzinski had recruited to the Heights, where the Eagles were coming off back-to-back appearances in the ACC championship game, would decide to leave after the coaching change.
Entering the ’09 season, Spaziani didn’t have a single quarterback on his roster with Division I starting experience. That meant Dave Shinskie, a 25-year-old former minor league baseball player, got the chance to start under center.
The switch also hurt in recruiting, which is crucial for a school like BC. Spaziani was fond of saying that the Eagles had to develop players, they hardly ever got the kind of players who arrived on campus fully formed and ready to play from day one.
And though he had some success as head coach initially, going 8-5 in 2009 and 7-6 in 2010 and extending the school’s streak of consecutive bowl appearances to 12 years in a row, things began to go downhill in 2011.
Offensive coordinator Gary Tranquill retired after the 2010 season, and Spaziani hired Kevin Rogers to replace him. But Rogers coached only two games before taking a medical leave of absence for the remainder of the season, forcing Spaziani to elevate then-tight ends coach Dave Brock to the OC job.
The offense scuffled the rest of the way and Spaziani made another move in the offseason, bringing in Doug Martin to be the fourth offensive coordinator in three seasons.
Just as the offense began to show signs of improvement, though, the defense fell apart. Martin’s system has helped several players set school records in 2012, but the defense hasn’t been able to hold leads late and the team straggled to a 2-10 record.
It was only the second season in school history the team had double-digit losses.
Though it’s certainly not the only factor, the defections after Jagodzinski’s firing may have been a crippling blow for Spaziani. The losses created holes that the Eagles were unable to fill, either because of Spaziani’s own failures as a recruiter (he’s had just five four-star recruits and 34 three-star recruits in the three classes since 2010) or because of injuries to key holdovers from the previous regime.
For example, the Eagles entered the season hopeful that senior defensive lineman Kaleb Ramsey would stay healthy and play a big role on the defense, but Ramsey got hurt in the second game and missed the rest of the season.
Spaziani also dismissed the school’s all-time leading rusher, Montel Harris, before the 2012 season for a violation of team rules. Harris missed most of the 2011 season with injuries and received a medical redshirt for a fifth year of eligibility.
Harris transferred to Temple and has rushed for 948 yards and 12 touchdowns for the Owls in 2012.
There were also some questionable on-field decisions, such as opting to play for overtime against Virginia Tech at home on Senior Day instead of attempting to get into field goal range with the ball at the BC 17-yard line and just less than a minute to play.
Virginia Tech scored a touchdown on the first possession of overtime, Boston College’s offense got stuffed and Spaziani’s critics had another painful loss to point to.
While the on-field results were sorely lacking -- things got so bad this season, a handful of fans took to wearing brown paper bags over their heads at BC home games -- Spaziani was fond of saying that the players never stopped working hard. They always believed in the process, even though the payoff wasn’t there.
“I think it’s how we’ve brought ‘em up, what we try to instill here,” the coach, a career assistant before DeFilippo elevated him to head coach in 2009, said before a recent practice. “They believe in it, they trust it and they understand it. You hate to get too philosophical, but there’s life lessons being taught out here.”
Asked what those life lessons were, Spaziani said, “That it’s a jungle out there and you’ve got to work, and you’ve got to keep working, you’ve got to keep focusing, you’ve got to keep trying to excel. And sometimes circumstances get you.”
The circumstances -- and some questionable decisions of his own -- ultimately got Spaziani.