Despite taking Boston College to three bowl games in the past four years, coach Steve Addazio has faced persistent criticism.
The goodwill he forged after getting the Eagles to bowl games in his first two years on the job went out the window when BC went through an embarrassing winless season in the Atlantic Coast Conference in 2015.
Everything from his play-calling (too conservative, poor clock management) to his recruiting (not enough depth at key positions) to his temperament in postgame press conferences (a lot of talk without the results to match) was scrutinized by a frustrated fan base.
When the Eagles started 4-6 last season, Addazio’s name was on national hot-seat lists. Even when BC finished the year with three straight wins, including in the Quick Lane Bowl against Maryland, the outlook for the Eagles this season was more skepticism than optimism.
A 2-4 start (with three straight 20-point losses) didn’t help Addazio’s case. But after rattling off three straight wins — a stunner at Louisville, a blowout at Virginia, and the beating they handed Florida State last Friday — the Eagles’ season has shifted from seemingly being at a breaking point to being on the brink of another bowl appearance.
The Eagles need just one win in their final three games to qualify for a bowl game for the fourth time in Addazio’s five seasons. With the ship righted, Addazio looks at the criticism with some perspective.
“I think the thing is this: You have a plan, and you drive towards your plan,” Addazio said. “In college football — I’ll speak to that because I’m not involved in any other sport — here’s the good news: there’s so much interest in college football right now, and we all want that. And so fans are passionate, your fan base is passionate, and you kind of get that, you know?
“In terms of what we’ve done, we’ve been to three bowl games in four years, and that’s not where we want to end. But I think the most important thing is we’re continuing to grow and develop our football program, and I think that’s been evident. We’ve got to keep doing that. And I think as a coach what you want to do is just everyday building towards that.
“I don’t think you can ride the roller coaster of the ups and downs of, are you in favor, out of favor. I just think you lump it in a basket and say, we’ve got great fans, everybody is passionate, all everybody wants to do is win, and that’s all we want to do. And I think we’re just trying to build and develop and grow.”
As recently as three weeks ago, there were legitimate questions about Addazio’s job security. Injuries ravaged the Eagles on both sides of the ball with the losses of center Jon Baker and linebackers Connor Strachan and Max Richardson. And young skill players such as quarterback Anthony Brown, receiver Kobay White, and running back AJ Dillon were unproven.
But Brown has developed into a quarterback who can be trusted to run the offense, White is easily the go-to target on tough downs, and Dillon is a legitimate workhorse who’s threatening to break BC’s freshman rushing record. And center Ben Petrula is passing a crash course in the ACC trenches as a cast of inexperienced players have stepped in at key spots and performed.
So while it wasn’t that long ago that you had to squint to see the vision Addazio saw for the future of BC’s program, that picture is now coming more into focus.
“I think while we’re building our program, while we’re developing, I think we’re doing it the right way, and that’s very important to all of us, that we represent this great university the right way, and integrity is really important here,” Addazio said. “So I’m proud of the fact that we’ve accomplished what we have accomplished, and more importantly, we’re continuing to work towards building a championship-level team here.
“In terms of the other stuff, you know, just keep going, and next week is another week. You don’t know what that’s going to bring, and you just want to grind. But I’m proud of the kids, and I’m proud of all of those things. The rest of it’s — you know, keep moving.”Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.