Jeff: The football team just finished a very disappointing season with a .375 win percentage in conference. Meanwhile, the basketball team is headed for a season where a .375 season would be a small miracle. BC would have to win six ACC games before the ACC Tournament to achieve the in-conference success that the Eagles football team did this year. Yet, we can tell with certainty right now that there will be no one calling for Donahue's job at the end of this season. Donahue is only in his second season while Spaz is in his third, which does play into things, but not too much if there are no signs of improvement.
Spaz became the football program's third head coach in three years while no casual fan can tell you what year or who Coach Skinner replaced before he became BC's all-time winningest basketball coach. Because of that turnover, Spaz had virtually no seniors this season and played almost all freshman and sophomores. Similarly, Donahue is now playing almost all first-year BC guys this season. Donahue had some things to do with that by encouraging transfers like Brady Heslip to Baylor who is now starting for the ranked Baylor Bears.
BC has been historically better in football than basketball. but both programs experienced significant success in the ACC under their previous coach. So, break it down, why is Donahue safe for probably at least two more seasons while there are plenty of people who won't accept the excuses of injuries and personnel for Spaz and want to see a new head coach tomorrow?
Brian: The difference in treatment between Spaz and Donahue boils down to one key fact not stated above -- Spaz has been here since 1997. Donahue is a BC outsider and actually inherited a roster devoid of any talent.
Spaz apologists love to pretend like he just popped onto the scene in 2009 and takes no responsibilities for any perceived recruiting deficiencies of the previous coaching staff. The thing is Spaz was on the previous coaching staff, helped with recruiting and as such, does not get a complete pass for any weak recruiting classes (say, the 2009 class).
Further, if Coach Spaz and Coach Flip saw any deficiencies with recruiting at the time, then they probably shouldn't have retained the services of recruiting coordinator Mike Siravo.
Here's a list of key players from the 2007 (mostly TOB), 2008 (Jags) and 2009 (mostly Jags) recruiting classes.
2007: Lars Anderson, Anthony Castonzo, Ifeanyi Momah, Nathan Richman, Mark Spinney
2008: Emmett Cleary, Donnie Fletcher, Montel Harris, Max Holloway, Colin Larmond, Chis Pantale, Ryan Quigley, Kaleb Ramsey
2009: Kasim Edebali, Rolandan Finch, Nate Freese, Luke Kuechly, Ian White, John Wetzel
That is basically this year's entire offensive line, the school's all-time leading rusher, the school's all-time leading tackler, two quality tight ends that were only recently utilized in the current offense, arguably this year's best WR, our offensive MVP (Ryan Quigley) and this year's leading scorer (Nate Freese).
As for transfers, there were more than a couple transfers of the non-academic, non-disciplinary variety, transfers that Spaz and the current coaching staff should take some responsibility. Using the non-disciplinary transfers of players like Josh Haden, Justin Tuggle, Shakim Phillips, Alexander DiSanzo and Dominick LeGrande, etc. as an excuse rings hollow. It's not like the current coaching staff had nothing to do with these transfers, whether it be a disagreement on playing time, treatment of teammates or another cause of friction between coach and player. Even after you factor out the rash of injuries (every program deals with this) and the disciplinary transfers, the cupboard was hardly bare for Spaziani.
Contrast this situation with Donahue and the situation he inherited and the two situations are hardly comparable.
Even if Donahue had managed to keep Rakim Sanders in the lineup, he would have graduated by now. As for Heslip and Skinner's 2010 recruiting class that never materialized -- Brady Heslip (Baylor), Papa Samba Ngao (Saint Joseph's) and Kevin Noreen (West Virginia) -- one player was not going to make that much of a difference with the way Skinner set up the recruiting classes. Donahue would still have had to recruit a significant number of players for the 2011 recruiting class to fill the holes on the roster left by seven graduating seniors.
Putting personnel aside for a moment, Donahue at least showed some improvement in the W-L department in his first season. He took a roster of players that won just 15 games and six conference games in 2009-10 and helped the team improve to 21-13 and 9-7 in the ACC, including a return to the postseason. Appreciating the fact that the strength of schedule in ACC play varies from year to year, this is still noteworthy.
Spaz, on the other hand, took an 9-5 program in 2008 and has proceeded to win fewer and fewer games at the helm of the football program -- eight wins in 2009, seven in 2010 and just four in 2011. He's 0-8 against teams ranked in the AP Top 25 after his predecessor more or less owned ranked teams (5-1).
Finally, you just can't help but get the sense that Donahue is building towards something good with the hoops program ... at least on offense. BC's offense last year was incredibly efficient. His defenses so far have left a lot to be desired, but I don't think you can claim that Skinner's teams played any better defense during Skinner's last few seasons on the Heights.
You just don't get the same feeling with the football program. Spaz has made two poor decisions in hiring Gary Tranquill and now Kevin Rogers, and as a result, we've seen the offense plummet to one of the worst in the country. Even the one thing that Spaz does well, defense, has regressed this past season. Recruiting seems off and the offensive line continues to regress under Spaz's (and Sean Devine's) watch. Basically, there are no positive trends that fans can latch onto and give them any sense of hope that Spaziani can turn this thing around.
Jeff: I'm surprised you didn't mention different standards for each program. Most Flynn Fund donations are tied to football success, whether it be for parking or just simply people donating to support the program when they see some success. Donations spiked around the Matt Ryan years while hockey national championships and NCAA Tournament berths don't seem to move the needle much. Is it fair to say that not enough fans care about our basketball program or expect enough out of our basketball program to attempt to demand a change -- as some have attempted with Spaz -- if Donahue does not have measurable success next season?
Brian: Football is by far the most visible sports program at Boston College. Not only are Flynn Fund donations tied to football success, but so too are alumni giving to the University and admissions, if you buy into the "Flutie effect." I've read studies that suggest there is, in fact, a slight uptick in alumni giving with an NCAA Tournament berth (and success in the tournament), but those gains are dwarfed by success in football tied to bowl berths. Clearly there's more pressure to succeed in football over basketball, hockey and other Olympic sports as it has a direct impact to the department's and the school's bottom line.