BOSTON — New Boston College athletic director Brad Bates is looking for a football coach who “oozes integrity,” someone who cares about the students and someone who wins.
Two out of three wasn’t good enough for Frank Spaziani.
Spaziani was fired Sunday after 16 years at the school, the last four as head coach of a team that lost more games in each successive season.
“This is a very performance-based business,” Bates said at a news conference at Alumni Stadium to announce his first major move since being hired by BC last month. “Ultimately, winning and losing make a great deal of difference.”
The decision was widely expected, and Spaziani all but spoke openly about his understanding that it would be his last year. Asked on Saturday if he would make his case to stay, Spaziani told reporters in Raleigh, N.C. after Saturday’s game, “I do have a case.”
“Obviously this is a sad day for my family and me,” Spaziani said in a statement released by the school. “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.”
Spaziani finished 22-29 as the head coach, including the bowl game he coached at the end of the 2008 season after Jeff Jagodzinski was fired for interviewing for an NFL job. The Eagles finished 2-10 (1-7 Atlantic Coast Conference) this season, wrapping it up with a 27-10 loss at North Carolina State that gave them double-digit losses for the second time in school history.
“It was kind of expected, I guess. We’ve heard the rumors,” said junior receiver Bobby Swigert, sitting in a wheelchair with his right leg in a cast. “You try to ignore them during the season, but we knew this was likely they were going to shake it up in some way.”
Spaziani, 65, spent 12 years as a BC assistant, the last 10 as defensive coordinator, before taking over a team that had made it to the ACC title game in back-to-back years. The Eagles won eight games his first season, seven the next and four last year.
Bates spoke to the team on Sunday afternoon, and then spoke to the seniors as a group to ask for their input on Spaziani’s replacement.
“I have a lot of respect for the guy. He was a huge reason why I came here,” Swigert said. “I love the guy. … He knows the game of football. He gave however many years to BC; you have to respect that, and I do.”
The new coach will be the first significant hire for Bates, who was brought in from Miami of Ohio last month when Gene DeFilippo stepped down after 15 years in Chestnut Hill. Bates said he is looking for someone who can win while also maintaining a strong academic record.
“We want someone that oozes with integrity, someone who genuinely cares about the students, and we want someone who is going to win,” Bates said. “Spaz clearly is a man of integrity. He genuinely cared about his students. The performance, obviously, in the last couple of years, suffered.”
A New Jersey native who played for Joe Paterno at Penn State, Spaziani had three years remaining on a contract that paid him $1.1 million per year. He did not address the team on Sunday, preferring to meet with players individually during the week.
“I’m very appreciative for him granting me this opportunity,” linebacker Steele Devitto said. “He’s been here 16 years. He will be missed. He’s made a significant difference to Boston College and he’s very appreciated. I wish him the best.”
The assistant coaches remain under contract, but none of them is a candidate for the head job, Bates said. He would not comment on potential candidates; Harvard coach Tim Murphy has been mentioned as a possibility.
“This is an incredibly significant hire,” Bates said. “It’s not about me. It’s not about my stamp (on the program). This is about a football program that has a storied history of achievement. It’s about our current and future students.
“I’m really a caretaker of the great things that have happened in the past of this program, and hopefully a catalyst in returning to those standards.”