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Sunday, November 25, 2012
Updated: November 26, 9:46 AM ET
Boston College fires Frank Spaziani

By Jack McCluskey
Special to

Frank Spaziani will not return as Boston College coach, the school announced Sunday.

The Eagles finished 2-10 in 2012, concluding with a 27-10 loss to NC State on Saturday, and won just six games the past two seasons. His teams got progressively worse each season under his watch.

"This is a very performance-based business," BC athletic director Brad 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."

Spaziani, who had just completed his 16th overall 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."

Spaziani becomes the second head coach let go in the ACC, joining NC State coach Tom O'Brien, who was fired earlier Sunday.

BC's 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."

Frank Spaziani
Boston College fired coach Frank Spaziani after four years in the top job and 16 seasons in the program.

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."

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.

"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."

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."

Taking over the team in 2009, once 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. 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 or because of injuries to key holdovers from the previous regime.

Spaziani recruited just five four-star recruits and 34 three-star recruits in his three classes since 2010.

The Eagles entered this season hopeful that senior defensive lineman Kaleb Ramsey would stay healthy and play a big role on the defense, but Ramsey was 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 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 was 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.

"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."

Jack McCluskey is an editor for and a frequent contributor to Follow him on Twitter @jack_mccluskey. Information from college football reporter Andrea Adelson and The Asssociated Press was used in this report.