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Boston College hires former Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien as head coach

As of Jan. 18, Bill O'Brien was set to become offensive coordinator at Ohio State before reversing course.John Tlumacki/Globe Staff

Boston College has hired Bill O’Brien as its next head football coach.

O’Brien replaces Jeff Hafley, who left to become the Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator. Paul Rhoads served as interim head coach as BC director of athletics Blake James looked for Hafley’s replacement.

“I am thrilled to welcome Bill O’Brien, his wife Colleen, and his sons Jack and Michael to Boston College,” James said in a release Friday. “When we embarked on this search, we prioritized finding a coach who believes in our mission and vision, who has a plan for greatness on and off the field, and who will work tirelessly to elevate BC Football.”

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James called O’Brien a “gifted leader” who has had a “tremendous amount of success.”

“His passion for teaching football and developing young men make him a great fit to lead Boston College to greater heights,” James said.

An introductory press conference is set for 11 a.m. next Thursday at the Yawkey Athletics Center.

O’Brien, 54, was born in Dorchester, grew up in Andover, and played football at St. John’s Prep and Brown University. He started his coaching career at Brown and has extensive experience in both college and the NFL.

He spent 12 years in the Atlantic Coast Conference, holding positions at Georgia Tech, Maryland, and Duke.

From 2007-11 with the Patriots, O’Brien was an offensive assistant, coaching the wide receivers and then the quarterbacks. He then landed the head coaching job at Penn State, stabilizing the program following the Jerry Sandusky scandal and earning Big Ten Coach of the Year honors in 2012.

After two years with the Nittany Lions, O’Brien joined the Houston Texans as head coach from 2014-20, compiling a 54-52 record and briefly serving as general manager. He then became offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Alabama, held the same roles with the Patriots, and was hired to do the same at Ohio State.

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Three weeks after accepting the Ohio State job, he elected to move back home instead. O’Brien’s wife, Colleen, graduated from BC. His son, Michael, is a freshman on the Tufts baseball team. The family has significant ties to the area that could pay dividends from a recruiting standpoint.

O’Brien, who has worked extensively with Tom Brady and Deshaun Watson, inherits a program looking for its first eight-win season since 2009. After notching just three wins in 2022, the Eagles bounced back in 2023 to finish 7-6. They compiled a five-game winning streak along the way and built momentum with a 23-14 triumph over No. 17 Southern Methodist in the Fenway Bowl.

Hafley left BC with a 22-26 record over four seasons. The timing of his departure came as somewhat of a surprise, given the recent success and mix of returning and incoming talent. Coincidentally, Hafley was also an Ohio State assistant before he took over at BC; he was co-defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach in 2019.

O’Brien’s arrival should help the Eagles continue to trend in the right direction and potentially return to prominence.

The news has generated buzz among alumni, many of whom believe O’Brien’s local roots and experience will serve the program well.

Quarterback E.J. Perry, who grew up in Andover and played at both BC and Brown, has met and spoken with O’Brien multiple times. He worked out for O’Brien and the Patriots this past year.

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“It’s been a pleasure to learn from him,” Perry said. “I think he’ll do a tremendous job at BC and am excited to see where he brings the program.”

Alec Lindstrom, an all-ACC center and Dudley native who played at BC from 2017-21, called it an “awesome” hire.

“I think it’s great for the program, showing that BC is willing to put the money and what you need into the program to succeed, especially nowadays,” Lindstrom said. “Bill O’Brien is the most prestigious head coach BC has probably had.”

Lindstrom said he works out regularly with his brother, former Eagle Chris Lindstrom, and former teammate Tyler Vrabel, and they’ve expressed excitement to one another this week. He’s spoken with former offensive linemates Zion Johnson and Ben Petrula as well, and they all agree it’s an excellent move.

Lindstrom, who also noted that he’s excited for Hafley, believes O’Brien’s hiring could have a ripple effect.

“It brings energy to the program,” Lindstrom said. “BC should never lose any Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Connecticut top prospect to any of those other Power Five schools. I think having a local guy, who has these connections, I think it’s going to be great for recruiting.”

Jeremy Trueblood, a star BC offensive tackle in the early 2000s who also played in the NFL, echoed those thoughts.

“I’m pumped up,” Trueblood said. “Big-time hire by BC.”


Trevor Hass can be reached at trevor.hass@globe.com.