There was never a doubt Steve Addazio would feel at home. With area roots, family ties, and a list of favorite restaurants dating back to his youth, Addazio’s admission that coaching at Boston College was his quietly held dream left no doubt he would accept the position when it was offered back in 2012.
“This is where I really wanted to be in my career. This is what I had aspired to get to,” Addazio said last week from his office. “The mission of the university, I’m a Catholic, I’m a New Englander, everything about Boston College was special to me. The Mass before the game, the blazers on game day, the pride in that, the fact that education matters here and kids have to be committed to getting degrees. It’s everything I think is cool about college football. I wanted to build this and I wanted to build this the right way, with the right foundation.”
But roots can take hold anywhere, so there was never any doubt Addazio would continue to plant his across the football nation, spreading his BC message to all willing audiences. Where else would a lifelong football junkie be but on the road, fulfilling the demands that define the college game, watching players, meeting families, recruiting kids into joining his mission of building — more like rebuilding — the program in Chestnut Hill?
Yet across these past few months, Addazio has felt his two football worlds meld in ways they never had before, finding himself at home as much on the road as he is in Massachusetts. That’s what happens when your program is riding high. From the magical stretch that saw his team surge through the final portion of the schedule and crash headfirst into a coveted slot in Wednesday’s Pinstripe Bowl to countless days and nights spent with recruits to keep that surge going through next season and beyond, everything’s coming up Eagles.
“The vibe is unbelievable,” Addazio said. “Within our program, among our kids, there’s a tremendous amount of energy, confidence, and excitement about where we are and where we are headed. As we get out and about recruiting — I’ve been on the road for three weeks — the vibe about BC out there is just fantastic. Everyone realizes and focuses on not only the players we have here and now, the talent of our players, but also what it also means for the future. The young, intermediate young talent we have is undeniable, and people see you in a new light.”
The fevered pace of recruiting season hit its annual high point during last Wednesday’s national signing day, with programs across the nation touting their latest signees and analysts everywhere weighing in with rankings. Addazio is no different, talking glowingly Wednesday of the influx of talent to his roster. Yet as loud and emphatic as Addazio can be, he is less interested in shouting about those rankings as the players arrive on campus. After five seasons, he’d rather talk about what happens once they’re here.
Identify. Evaluate. Develop.
That’s the secret sauce for a coach who lost 10 starters to injury — including the quarterback and center — but trusted his process to find replacements. How else do you end up with a freshman running back like A.J. Dillon ready to burst into the national conversation, earning ACC rookie of the year honors after 1,432 rushing yards (15th nationally) and 13 touchdowns?
How else do you take stock after a dispiriting loss to Virginia Tech, one that drops your team to 2-4, and redirect any anxiety or concern into a renewed sense of purpose? With wins in five of the last six games, Boston College changed its story.
“Our players believed because they watched the tape,” Addazio said. “We knew it would happen. We didn’t know when. Then it started happening. Kids started making plays. What we’re seeing right now — no matter what happens in the bowl game, this is still fragile — I don’t think there’s any doubt where the program’s going. That’s not deniable.”
A win at Louisville begat wins over Virginia and Florida State, and a tough 3-point loss to NC State preceded lopsided victories over Connecticut and Syracuse. Next came the invite to play Iowa on Wednesday at Yankee Stadium, a de facto home game for a program with deep Northeast recruiting ties nowhere stronger than across the Hudson River in North Jersey.
“Going through North Jersey for recruiting, that’s all the guys were talking about, was coming to the game,” Addazio said. “It’s a great fit for us.”
College football is transitory by nature. The puzzle pieces are constantly shifting, with coaches moving on quickly after success or getting fired just as quickly after failure. So no, there are no guarantees of Addazio’s long-term tenure at Boston College. But for a 58-year-old Connecticut native who wanted nothing more than to get this chance, for a coach who has now guided his team to four bowl games in five years (the first coach in BC history to do so), the fit sure is comfortable.
“To be around the guys I get to be around, to be around my family, my friends who can come to every game, it’s like a real family event,” he said. “At this point in my career, to have a chance to share these moments with the people you love, that’s a pitch I share in recruiting. It’s no different for me as a head coach.
“I’m a New England guy. I love being in New England. Maybe it’s just as I get older, but I don’t look out there, I look in here and say I’m enjoying every one of these moments as they come. You don’t know what the next day brings, but this is really good.”
PINSTRIPE BOWL AT A GLANCE
WHO: Boston College (7-5) vs. Iowa (7-5)
WHEN: Wednesday, 5:15 p.m.
OF NOTE: BC is 14-11 in bowl games . . . This is BC’s second appearance in the Pinstripe Bowl. The Eagles lost to Penn State in 2014 . . . BC finished the season with five wins in its last six games . . . BC has never faced Iowa in football.Tara Sullivan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.