Before Steve Addazio did anything — before he faced the administrators and the alumni, the students and the friends of the program, the media members and the cameras — he had to check his new team’s pilot light.
It obviously had gone out.
Two straight losing seasons did it. Going winless against ranked teams for four years did it. A fall from Atlantic Coast Conference grace did it.
Addazio was announced as Boston College’s new head football coach Tuesday night, arrived in Chestnut Hill Wednesday, and before he was formally introduced, he met with a team that had virtually no fire after one of the worst seasons in the history of the program.
Then he started breathing fire.
He told the players they should be hurt and hungry. He told the seniors they are the most critical pieces in the rebuilding process. He told them they would win again.
They had done their research on their new coach. Quarterback Chase Rettig was on Google immediately. Tweets flooded defensive lineman Kasim Edebali’s timeline.
But when the players met their new coach, he made them believers.
“It was a spark,” said Edebali. “You want to get that fire ready, and when he walked in here, boom, that fire got big. He set the spark, and big things are going to happen.”
Addazio was evangelical in his introduction, preaching passion and enthusiasm, tossing buzzwords like “foxhole,” “pain,” and “sacrifice” like grenades. He echoed the sentiment of athletic director Brad Bates that the two of them need to be “joined at the hip.”
Having reached a six-year agreement with the 53-year-old fireball, Bates couldn’t have been more proud, telling the Yawkey Center audience to “buckle up.”
Addazio already has started working to assemble a coaching staff, naming Ryan Day — one of his assistants at Temple who was also a former BC assistant — as offensive coordinator.
“I’m here for the long haul and here to win championships,” Addazio said.
His résumé spoke — two national championships at Florida on Urban Meyer’s staff, success at Temple, and a track record for recruiting and relationship-building with deep ties to Florida and roots in the Northeast — but his message resonated.
“Everyone’s going to have a different reaction, but everyone realizes he’s coming here, he’s bringing passion and enthusiasm, and he wants to do something special,” Rettig said. “He’s a good guy for our head coaching job, because he grabs everyone’s attention. It’s going to rub off.”
Despite the loyalty and work ethic of former coach Frank Spaziani, the program declined in each of his four seasons as head man. Players fiercely supported Spaziani right up to his firing three days after Thanksgiving. But some noted a lack of the constant personal communication critical between a coach and his players.
“To be able to communicate is, I think, one of the most important things, and if there’s one thing this guy can do, it’s communicate,” Edebali said. “The communication between head coach and players, that’s the foundation.
“The way he talked, he really connected to us. So I feel like it’s going to be great because I know there’s going to be no misunderstandings.
“I don’t like to talk about last season, but sometimes I felt last season, there was a little disconnection. But I feel like that’s not going to happen, especially the way this man talks. I feel like he will inspire and motivate this team.
A native of Farmington, Conn. (and a homeowner on Cape Cod), Addazio said this is the job he has always wanted. He applied for it in 2009 while still at Florida when the Eagles were scrambling after the less-than-amicable split between then-athletic director Gene DeFilippo and then-coach Jeff Jagodzinski. When the position opened up again, he couldn’t pass up another opportunity, even though he was just two years into his tenure at Temple.
“This is my dream job,” Addazio said. “In my coaching life, I’ve been at a lot of great places, and everywhere I’ve been, all the friends that know me and the people I’ve worked with knew that I wanted to one day be here at Boston College.
“I want to be here and finish my career here. This is where I want to be. I’m at the most wonderful place I could possibly be at and I couldn’t be more clear about that.”
He left Temple sooner than anyone in that program expected. When Addazio was introduced after taking the Owls job, Temple athletic director Bill Bradshaw said, “We wanted somebody who wants to be at Temple as much as we want him to be here, and to be here for a while.”
So there were inevitable feelings of abandonment.
Temple defensive back Abdul Smith tweeted, “At the end of [the] day these coaches only look out [for] themselves, they’ll sell [you] on a lie that only benefits them once everything is said [and] done.”
Later, Smith said he was happy for Addazio.
Defensive lineman Tommy Haddock, a recruit out of Montour High School in Pennsylvania, told the Philadelphia Inquirer, “I left Kent State for [Addazio] because I knew he was that guy that could change the program. And now, he left.”
Addazio met with his team at Temple at the same time Bates met with players at BC.
“It was very hard,” Addazio said. “You build relationships with players, and you build relationships with people and you’re invested and you feel like you’ve got a great future. You came off a season where you invested in a young football team and you feel like there’s great rewards.
“But the facts of the matter are this is a place that I always wanted to be, this was the job that Steve Addazio wanted to come to. I explained that to Temple, and I loved it at Temple.
“But when I said this was my dream job, this was my dream job. These opportunities . . . don’t come that easily.
“So while it’s very hard to do that — and I know in this world we’re in, coaches seem to bounce around — for me to stand here, I’m just telling you that’s the truth. That’s how I feel, that’s why I came here.
“That’s why I’m pretty emotional about being here, because there’s been a lot of time and a lot of dreams, and I’m here. It’s hard to believe.”Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org