Boston College was able to salvage its season by winning to become bowl eligible Saturday, but it wasn’t enough for coach Steve Addazio to save his job.
BC decided Sunday to cut ties with Addazio, a day after the Eagles’ 26-19 win over Pittsburgh in their regular-season finale, bringing an end to a seven-year tenure that restored stability after a dark period but ultimately grew stagnant as the program seemed to hit a ceiling.
Addazio led the Eagles to five winning campaigns and six bowl appearances, but he was 44-44 over seven seasons at the Heights.
BC athletic director Martin Jarmond issued a statement Sunday, announcing the change in leadership of the football program with wide receivers coach Rich Gunnell stepping up as interim coach until Addazio’s successor is named.
“We thank Steve for his leadership on and off the field in guiding our football program the last seven years,’’ Jarmond said. “He inherited a program that had a down stretch and led us to six bowl games while recruiting high-character student-athletes that represented BC the right way.
“Our student-athletes have been pillars of the community and in the classroom and that’s a credit to Steve and his staff. We wish Steve and his family well and thank him for his tenure in leading our football program.”
Perhaps seeing the writing on the wall, Addazio was reflective when he spoke to media Saturday at Heinz Field.
“I care about being with our guys,” Addazio said. “That’s the most important thing to me. That’s why I got in this. It’s not about me, it’s about them. I’m a teacher, that’s what I am. We learned some great life lessons and we learned how to overcome unbelievable adversity. When they walk out of this program, when they walk out of this university, they’re going to be a little better equipped to know what loyalty and faithfulness mean and to understand what it means to love your teammate, love your family, love your wife.
“And I believe in that. That’s really what I believe. You probably didn’t want to get all that I just gave you, but that’s really what I believe and that’s important. So all that other stuff really doesn’t mean a whole lot to me. It really doesn’t. I’ve been in this long enough. I’m a big boy. I’ve got it.”
While earning bowl bids became the norm at BC under Addazio for the first time since the aughts, when Tom O’Brien and Jeff Jagodzinski were at the helm, Addazio was never able to push the program past a plateau of seven wins.
The Eagles finished 7-6 five times in Addazio’s first six seasons, and this year the same script unfolded.
The Eagles were unable to break through against top-tier opponents, losing 18 of 20 games against ranked opponents under Addazio, including losses to No. 3 Clemson and No. 16 Notre Dame this season.
But more condemning this season were the Eagles’ baffling losses to beatable teams. In September, they were embarrassed by a Kansas team that finished 3-9. In October, the Eagles squandered a winnable game against ACC rival Wake Forest at home. In November, they did the same against a Florida State team reeling from the midseason firing of coach Willie Taggart.
In that sense, inexcusable losses became as much of a staple in the Addazio era as those bowl appearances.
In 2018, the Eagles played their way back into the national picture, winning seven of their first nine and returning to the Top 25 rankings for the first time in 10 years. They made a splash when ESPN’s “College GameDay” set up shop on campus for a late-season matchup with Clemson. But the energy from that moment evaporated quickly.
The Eagles lost that game, 27-7, then dropped their final two games of the regular season. Their appearance in the First Responders Bowl in Dallas was postponed midway through the first quarter because of a lightning storm. And instead of seizing the opportunity to put together the program’s first eight-win season since 2009, they once against settled for seven.
The biggest blemish on Addazio’s BC résumé always will be the demoralizing 3-9 season in 2015 in which the Eagles went winless in the ACC.
One of Jarmond’s common refrains was that programs either sell hope or winning. Under Addazio, the Eagles had a hard time selling either. In Addazio’s seven seasons, the Eagles were never picked to finish higher than fourth in their division in the ACC preseason poll. While they overachieved dramatically in Addazio’s first season, when they finished third, that was the high-water mark during Addazio’s reign.
The search for Addazio’s replacement will begin immediately.
Julian Benbow can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.