[Ed. note -- Front Page'd]
If a team had to make a checklist of a season gone wrong, it would probably look like this:
-- Hang with good team and lose at end of game.
-- Lose to teams with similar reputation
-- Beat extremely inferior team in unconvincing fashion.
-- Lose badly to bad team.
-- Get crushed by good team.
-- Fight reports of locker room divisions.
-- Coach on hot seat.
-- Key leaders suspended or released.
-- Limp to end of season
Most of this happens well before the close of the season, and all of it serves as something that rips apart a fan base, infects it with apathy, and turns a team with a once-proud tradition into a doormat of the worst variety.
Look at what happened to the Boston Red Sox. They hung with some decent teams but lost early in the season, had the seeds of discontent planted before an epic collapse against the New York Yankees. The divisions started to grow as the losses piled up, leading to Bobby Valentine and other players going out of their way to purposely state there was nothing wrong. The reports out of the clubhouse said otherwise, and the question by halfway through the season was if the man at the helm would last the season. And a good, solid leader on the team fell out of favor, saw production dip, and end up off the team.
Likewise, last year’s New York Jets fell into the same trap. They hung with some decent teams at the beginning of the season but ultimately lost, suffered a horrendous defeat in epic fashion against the Denver Broncos and Tim Tebow, then saw the roof cave in as the head coach lost control of his team. All signs showed how Rex Ryan lost the team, and it permeated through in the closing weeks even after public displays of support for the roster. At the end of the year, everything became evident. Ryan kept his job, unlike Bobby V, but he’s on the hot seat this year, especially after the 8-5 team ended up finishing 8-8 when the roof fell in.
That leads us to Boston College. A formula for destruction was created at the beginning of this season, and heading into the Georgia Tech game, the focus on the team isn’t so much on the game at hand as it is on the stuff off the field. We’ve even tried to talk about the triple option, but two days before the Eagles take the field at Bobby Dodd Stadium, the roof is in danger of caving in on a lost season. But we know that no matter what, the personnel issues will come back to the top, something that’s going to cause a deeper, widening chasm as the season drones on into its second half.
We know that Boston College has endured pretty much every scenario on this list. There’s the loss to Miami where they hung with a decent team (one that’s slightly better than them) and ultimately lost. There’s the loss to Clemson where they hung around for the first half before the Tigers remembered who they were. There’s the heartbreaking loss to Army that should never be spoken of again. And there’s the game against Florida State where they were taken behind the woodshed and abused like some of Mike Tyson’s early career opponents.
Even in their lone victory, BC looked like a bad team. They trailed FCS-opponent Maine into the second quarter before eventually blowing them out. Yet there wasn’t a single Boston College fan who left Alumni Stadium on that day feeling any good about what they’d seen. That’s the hallmark of a bad football team.
Usually, though, there’s a personnel issue that rears its ugly head right before a crucial part of the season. With the New York Jets at 8-5 and readying for the playoffs, Santonio Holmes and Mark Sanchez all of a sudden forgot how to coexist, and their rift ripped apart the offense last year. The Jets lost their last three games, limping home in the last game after losing badly to Philadelphia and being beaten against their cross-concourse rivals.
With BC, the personnel issues have finally come up. Over the past three weeks, there’s been a number of reports that players are discontented with the current coaching situation, that there’s growing rifts in the locker room and that head coach Frank Spaziani has, in effect, started losing grip on his team. These reports have been publicly refuted by the Eagles players themselves, backed up by the Spaziani loyalists in the press. But the fact that the stories are out there is casting a pall and a shadow over the already-abysmal season, and the curiosity and willingness to point fingers is not letting it go away.
That brings us to Thursday. Two days before BC plays Georgia Tech on the road, Colin Larmond, a senior wide receiver, is suspended for a "violation of team rules." Spaz gave a very ambiguous answer as to what happened, only saying, "Yeah, that sounds about right" when asked if it was a rules violation. Nobody knows the circumstances, and with reports raging about the coach losing his clubhouse, this is going to do nothing to help the situation.
Spaz looks defeated at times, and answering questions about job security and his situation is probably not helping the situation. But one can’t help but think that two starting safeties (Dominick LeGrande and Okachuku Okaroha) were either suspended or transferred during the Spaz era, and the all-time leading rusher in program history (Montel Harris) is finishing his college career at Temple due to a falling out with the coach. This marks the fourth key player to endure a suspension under ambiguous circumstances, and it comes at the worst possible time.
Anybody who says publicly that there’s no issues in the clubhouse is wrong. There has to be something. A senior leader like Larmond doesn’t go from the top wideout on the depth chart in the first game to suspended by the 7th game. There are issues within that locker room, and we don’t know how deep they go. They’re only serving to fuel the fire that Spaziani is woefully overmatched this year, and this lost season is falling on his shoulders. Replacing Spaz might not help the team, especially in the short term, but at this rate, there are key players who are leaving or getting suspended because of falling outs with the man in charge. When it’s one or two, it’s easy to say it’s the players. When it’s three or four, either the coach is an ass or he really can’t recruit and brought in real pigheads for players.
This isn’t the end either. Deuce Finch has fallen off the planet, and we don’t know what else is going on in there. They can say publicly all they want that the locker room is fine, but it clearly isn’t. And there’s still plenty of time to go.
The Boston Red Sox dumped some of their "malcontent" players towards the end of the season in August. Everybody claimed the bad vibrations were gone, but instead the team just limped to the finish behind guys who weren’t ready for this stage. It’s clear the manager, Bobby Valentine, had issues with the players in the clubhouse, no matter what anybody said in the press or in public. By the time the year ended, a severely fractured clubhouse was left with a manager standing as every player filed by him into the locker room, nobody so much as acknowledging him.
Is this what’s to become of Spaz? Is he due to become a guy who loses the locker room to the point we all know it, even if everyone says everything’s fine? Is he due to become the guy that everyone walks past at the end of the year, not acknowledging, certifying his own coaching green mile? Is this what BC football, with half a season left to play, is going to become when they limp into the Notre Dame game with absolutely no chance of even salvaging respectability? And if so, would it just be better to dump the coach and start fresh sooner, so as to not have the program suffer through the last six games?