Around the same time Brad Bates was being introduced as the new athletic director at Boston College Tuesday, football coach Frank Spaziani was preparing for team meetings.
But before the end of the day, Bates wanted to make sure they met. When they did, it was brief. Ten minutes. Maybe 15.
There was enough time for small talk, for the two of them to play the name game.
“Ice-breaking stuff,” Spaziani said.
They talked about Bates’s playing days at Michigan under legendary coach Bo Schembechler.
Spaziani went into the way-back machine to recall being on the sidelines at the Big House as a Navy assistant around the time Bates was a freshman.
“It was 35 years ago,” Spaziani joked. “Things get a little fuzzy.”
Eventually, the conversations will get weightier.
The Eagles are 1-4 after a loss to Army last weekend that was jarring to the program. Since Spaziani was named head coach in 2009, BC is 20-23. A team that was once one of the best in the Atlantic Coast Conference when it made the switch from the Big East is trying to keep from tumbling further.
When the season started, Spaziani was on almost every list of coaches whose jobs were in jeopardy, and the calls for change grew the loudest after the winless Black Knights ran for 516 yards and dropped the Eagles to 0-4 against Football Bowl Subdivision competition.
But as quickly as he was introduced to the BC community, Bates made it clear that he had no intentions of firing Spaziani midway through a difficult season, saying he will talk to the coach and evaluate at the end of the year.
“Just like any sport, we will assess it at the end of the year,” Bates said. “We will look at the body of work rather than the emotional roller coaster every week.
“Quite honestly, I’ve been an outsider looking in. There are a lot of data and statistical numbers and research that you can do about it, but until you really immerse yourself in the program, you don’t really know what’s going on.”
Following the Army loss, Spaziani looked as disheartened as anyone. For the third time this season, he watched his retooled offense put up at least 30 points and still lose.
“I take my job seriously and I know what my job is,” he said. “My job is to win football games here at Boston College. That’s what I’m working to do. There’s still a lot of football left to play and we’ll see how this plays out.”
Spaziani, an assistant with the Eagles since 1997, was tapped by former AD Gene DeFilippo to replace Jeff Jagodzinski, who abandoned BC after two seasons to take a job in the NFL.
In 2010, following a 7-6 season, Spaziani’s contract was extended through the 2015 season.
The Eagles went 4-8 last season, scoring the fewest points in the ACC and finishing with the third-worst record. Even with a vastly improved offense, they have found ways to sabotage themselves in losses to Miami, Northwestern, Clemson, and now Army, and the scrutiny on Spaziani has intensified.
“In this job, there’s always pressure to do well,” he said. “If you’re worth anything, there’s pressure to do well and certainly to succeed. That’s where all the energy has to be directed.
“I understand that and I can appreciate that people are entitled to voice their opinions, obviously. We all have the same goal and we’re working to do everything we can for BC.”
Adding to the Army loss was a faux pas at the end of the game when BC left the field immediately instead of staying for Army’s alma mater, which is a tradition at Michie Stadium.
Spaziani said it wasn’t an intentional snub.
“We had planned to stay on the field,” Spaziani said. “Before the game, we had talked about letting our players stay out.
“To be honest with you, there is no excuse. It got chaotic at the end. Everybody was running on the field. It wasn’t just players, it was everybody that was out there. It was very hard to get everybody one way.
“Some guys were going down the tunnel, half of them were down there already. So it was just, ‘Let’s get everybody off the field and go in.’ I don’t have any excuse for it other than that’s what happened.”Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.