The disappointment of a second straight losing season isn’t lost on Boston College coach Frank Spaziani. He has been the face and the fall guy for the Eagles’ disastrous 2-7 campaign. But in front of his players, that face has remained the same, even as the losses threatened to slowly take the air out of the locker room.
“That’s definitely a hard thing to do as a head coach, trying to motivate guys that are constantly put in a bad situation,” said linebacker Nick Clancy. “He’s always just staying positive. He’s not looking at negatives.
“He addresses the negatives, because I think that’s what you need to do obviously as a head coach. But he definitely focuses on staying on the right path and just encouraging guys to be better in practice. I think he’s proud of the way that we work. Even when we’re losing, we still come out and work every day.
Spaziani started the season on the hot seat, and he knew it. The only way to change things was to win, and his players knew it. But the wins never came.
Last Saturday’s 28-14 loss at Wake Forest officially crushed the Eagles’ dim remaining hopes at making it back to a bowl game — after missing out a year ago for the first time in 12 seasons — and also confirmed a last-place finish in the Atlantic Coast Conference. Throughout it all, Spaziani has kept a poker face.
“That’s just a part of his personality,” said Clancy. “He’s not going to let anybody outside the locker room know how he’s feeling.”That’s just his personality and something that we’ve known about Coach. I think that’s a good thing. I like the way Coach has responded to all the stuff he’s had to face.”
“It’s a really tough thing to do as a head coach to talk to your guys after constantly losing. He’s gone about it the right way. He’s not pointing any fingers.
“He’s not blaming the season on anybody, but he takes responsibility for it. He always says that it starts with him and I respect that a lot, the fact that he’s taken a lot of this on himself.”
There was still a slim chance to piece a shattered season back together after BC lost at Georgia Tech Oct. 20, and that’s what Spaziani tried to tell his team. There were five games left, and he came up with what he called Spaziani’s Five-Point Plan.
“His thing was forget about the stuff we’ve done in the past,” said Clancy. “We’re focusing on the next five games.”
Step 1, beating Maryland, worked out. But the plan fell apart at Step 2 last week at Wake Forest. Now the Eagles are looking at a three-game season, and playing spoiler this week against No. 4 Notre Dame is the closest they can come to consolation.
“It’s hard,” said offensive tackle and senior captain Emmett Cleary. “It was hard last year being the team that broke the streak and it’s hard this year because that’s one of the goals every season. ’’ It was something we kind of had to process and square away with as a team.”
There have been calls for Spaziani’s job, but new athletic director Brad Bates has said that he will wait until after the season to evaluate the football program. Spaziani has absorbed it all, not letting it affect the way he handles himself around the team.
“Something he preaches is stay the course, no matter what’s happening, good or bad,” said Cleary. “He’s been a very graceful example of that through all of this. He’s taking a lot of flak right now. If we make those blocks and tackles, he’s not hearing about it. But I think it’s good for our team to see that and see words become actions.”
Spaziani hasn’t allowed himself or the team to wallow in a trying season.
“It’s one of those things where it’s character building,” Spaziani said. “When I first started coaching, one of the old coaches I respect said, ‘I’d rather build character by winning.’
“But you find out a lot about people in adverse situations and we’ve been in an adverse situation here for a while.’’ We’re going to be fine, but we’re not fine right now.”
Although he hoped to be healthy enough to play this weekend, running back Andre Williams hasn’t participated in any practices this week, nursing the abdominal injury he sustained last week against Wake Forest, which means BC will be thin in the backfield. Freshman David Dudeck, who had largely been a third-down back before stepping in against the Demon Deacons, moved to the top of the depth chart and will assume every-down back duties against the Fighting Irish. After spending a bulk of the season on the sidelines because of injuries and off-field issues and recently practicing with the scout team, Rolandan “Deuce” Finch, the Eagles’ top rusher a year ago, was back on the two-deep behind Dudeck. Spaziani was uncertain whether Williams’s injury could keep him out beyond this week.
Some shuffling will have to be done on the offensive line with guard Ian White out with an ankle injury. X-rays were negative, but White is questionable. Sophomore Seth Betancourt, who filled in last week after White was carried off the field in the second half, will get the start, but without White, who was also the backup to center Andy Gallik, the Eagles will have to deal with depth issues.