The night after Boston College was bludgeoned by Clemson, 56-10, back in October, an ominous account popped up on Twitter, stating its mission in its handle: “FireAddazioBC.”
Likely born out of the frustration of watching an Eagles team that had lost 11 straight ACC games, the feelings of the fan-created profile toward the BC coach couldn’t have been more blunt: “Steve Addazio should be fired as the head coach of Boston College football. He is so conservative and the program is horrible right now.”
It wasn’t the first time Addazio found himself in social media’s crosshairs. When he was an offensive coordinator under Urban Meyer at Florida, a fan created a “FireSteveAddazio” account, pleading to “save Gator football before it’s too late!”
Through the peaks and valleys of this season, Addazio became a dartboard.
A couple of prominent players who came through the BC program — quarterback Matt Hasselbeck and lineman Damien Woody — questioned his coaching decisions. Eight years removed from an acrimonious departure from BC, former head coach Jeff Jagodzinski (now an assistant at Georgia State) chimed in after the Eagles took a 45-7 loss to Florida State, tweeting, “Embarrassing. I can’t even watch this. Let me know when you want to be relevant again! You deserve better.”
As the season stretched on and BC’s bowl chances got slimmer, Addazio’s name circulated in the national media as one of the coaches on the hot seat.
When BC ultimately clinched its third bowl bid in four years under Addazio with a win over Wake Forest last Saturday, Addazio steered away from using it as validation in the face of criticism.
“It’s just coaching,” he said.
But his players threw their support behind their coach and his staff.
“It’s just an amazing feeling, just making everybody be quiet,” said defensive end Harold Landry. “Everybody tries to come at our coaching staff, man, but everybody in the program, we all love the coaches here and we wouldn’t have anybody else coaching us.”
The Eagles seemed to be at a breaking point several times this season. Their season-opening 17-14 loss to Georgia Tech was crushing. Not only did it take the air out of a team starting its season in Dublin, but it was a squandered opportunity to immediately put the ACC losing streak to bed.
They dealt with the gut punches of four losses by 30-plus points, but a 28-20 loss to Syracuse in October may have been more painful because it dealt a huge blow to the Eagles’ chances of bowl eligibility.
While the sky seemed to be falling on the program, running back Myles Willis said the people within it held firm.
“We’re all in it,” Willis said. “We also know that it means a lot when you have a coach that’s out there that’s willing to take a bullet for you. He could’ve went out there and blamed execution of the players and all that other stuff, because ultimately players make plays and if we don’t win a game then obviously players have a hand in that, too. You can’t blame it all on the coaches.
“But Coach Addazio, he faced the media and he took the bullet for all of us and he kept believing in us and we were able to pay him back and get that sixth win.”
Quarterback Patrick Towles understood the scrutiny well. In three seasons at Kentucky, the blame for the Wildcats missing out on bowl games fell on his shoulders.
“Going through what I went through at Kentucky, it really kind of puts things in perspective,” Towles said. “Coach Addazio preached the entire season, it’s about us. It’s about the people in the building.
“Everybody always has an opinion. Just because you have an opinion doesn’t mean people should listen to it — as unpopular an opinion as that might seem.
“We’re worried about our team, we’re worried about the people wearing the jerseys, the people that have been working with us in January and all summer and our staff and that’s it.
“We’re so happy for our fans and for our families to do this, because there’s a lot of people that didn’t think we could.”
For all the criticism, Addazio is the only coach in BC history besides Jack Bicknell to lead the Eagles to bowl games in three of his first four seasons.
“We’ve got total faith and trust in Coach Addazio,” said defensive tackle Truman Gutapfel. “Great coach. He really works as hard as he can to support the players here at BC and he does whatever he can to help BC.
“It’s pretty evident for the players because we’re around him all the time. Some of the media guys, they only see him on Saturday when he’s at his most passionate point and they kind of make judgment calls about him then.
“But we’re around him all the time and he’s a great guy, great coach, love playing for him.”