Gene DeFilippo sent shockwaves through the Boston College sports sphere on Friday afternoon when he abruptly announced his retirement, effective September 30. After 15 years at the helm of Boston College Athletics, a new permanent successor will be found in due time. One person who is clearly going to suffer the harshest direct repercussions is DeFilippo’s chosen football coach, Frank Spaziani.
When better candidates were available, DeFilippo made it known in 2009 that Spaziani was his guy. After all, he had been a loyal BC soldier for many years prior to taking the head coaching job, and the two had a good working relationship. As the years progressed, however, Boston College football declined from 8 wins to 7 to 4, winning no bowl games over that period and seeing fan unrest and, anecdotally, fewer season ticket sales. Not many around these parts disagree that the quality of this program is nowhere near where it was four years ago.
DeFilippo declared his intention to step aside in September, which left Spaziani hanging in the breeze. The coach was already considered on the “hot seat” by many college football analysts, but as DeFilippo himself intimated several times, the only fan Spaziani needed was him. Now, that one person above all others who kept Spaziani secure in his job is gone, and the coach is left completely on his own.
People ask me: “How many wins is Spaz going to need to keep his job/impress the new AD for 2013?” The answer, to quote DeFilippo, is “it doesn’t matter.” Whomever the new athletic director is, whether BC fans acknowledge it as a good hire or not, is going to want his or her own coach. Furthermore, to be perfectly frank (no pun intended), no right-thinking athletic director is going to look at a coach, in the twilight of his career, with annually-diminishing returns and say “this guy is the future of BC football.” It is far more likely that they will see him as the foremost symbol of a middling era of Eagles football that needs to end.
Whereas two days ago, the odds of Spaz returning in 2013 were about 50-50, they are probably about 10-90 now. It would not be a surprising development at all if the coach were to announce his retirement at the end of the season or work out a “promotion” to a do-nothing desk job in Yawkey. The only thing that could gum up the works is an internal hire for someone who has an “in” with Spaziani, which for a multitude of reasons would be a bad move. Boston College Athletics needs to open the windows and let some fresh air in, and when they do that, Spaz will be the odd-man out.