It's been two years almost exactly to the day that Brad Bates hired Steve Addazio away from Temple University to become the new head coach of Boston College football. It came nine days after Bates relieved former head coach Frank Spaziani of his duties at the helm of the program, and it came six weeks into his tenure after arriving in Chestnut Hill from Miami University in Oxford, Ohio.
At the time, the hire had its doubts. In his piece reflecting on the move, our blogfather, Brian Favat, wrote the following:
He's a high energy guy that will likely be a breathe (sic) of fresh air from the Spaz era of Boston College football. Addazio is also an offensive mind - the opposite of Spaz - and should be a stark contrast to the Spaz years of anemic offenses under the direction of a revolving door of OCs. He also runs an offense that feels very Boston College-y, a bruising, between the tackles run game with an emphasis on winning battles at the line of scrimmage.
At the risk of simply patting ourselves on the back and agreeing 100%, Brian also expressed some doubts:
Addazio does NOT run an exciting brand of football. So much so that, when he was hired at Temple, EDSBS's Spencer Hall referred to his offense as the "least potent attack to appear in Gainesville since the Charley Pell era, a one man offensive desertification campaign that took fertile green pastures and lay them to waste with the touch of a diving finger, a blood disorder preventing the cells from absorbing Vitamin TD..." The description of Addazio's offense continues on for another paragraph or so in the longest run-on sentence you'll ever read about the "Divemaster." Can't imagine that brand of football is going to help the program solve its attendance issues.
Two years into the Addazio experiment, BC fans would be hard pressed to call it a failure. Despite being frustrating at times, he's a high-energy guy who changed the culture of Boston College football almost overnight. From the word go, this unknown hire out of left field wove himself into the fabric of the university and, more importantly, of a sporting culture built around his traits.
Whenever I do a radio interview with another part of the country, at least one question centers on Steve Addazio and what he means to Boston College football. I usually describe it in the sense that Addazio's rebuild is what it means to be a part of BC. He's done it for the fans, the media, the players, the administration, and so many more. He's emphasized the positive aspects of football, and he's never sold himself out along the way. He's rebuilt BC into a contender, even though they're not quite the level of what a contender probably should be.
Over the last two years, Addazio's completed a 14-11 record with back-to-back 7-5 regular seasons. Last year, he pieced together an offense that was as basic as basic could get. He looked at his offense and realized the number of offensive coordinators over the past recruiting cycle damaged the psyche of all those who played in the scheme. Chase Rettig was a shell of the quarterback he was recruited to be, a guy whose skill set fluctuated with five coordinators in four years, and he had a decided lack of receiving talent. What BC did have, though, was a strong offensive line and a bruising running back who loved contact. Stripping away everything to its simplest parts helped create a Heisman Trophy finalist, the second in BC's history.
But Addazio's strength is his adaptability, and that's something that we're seeing out of BC. This year, we saw even less talent at the wide receiver position, but we saw a plethora of young talent at the running game. So Addazio, with his offensive coordinator Ryan Day, went back to the simplest parts. Even though the formations and play calls were complex, they fit the simplest of ideas: "If we have a bunch of running backs and no wide receivers, why don't we just run the ball every play?" The result was seven wins and another bowl game berth.
The success on the field isn't the only thing, though. Addazio's success can't be measured in just wins and losses or we wouldn't be so happy with a team running the football with the prevalence of a 1940s Army team. Instead, his success, his true success, has been the way he's made all of us embrace the mentality. It isn't without frustrations; take the loss to Colorado State as an example. There are times when you're frustrated because you see what the team could've been and instead see what it is. But that Addazio, Ryan Day, Don Brown, and company make us forget about the future and instead see what we could be accomplishing even right now is a testament to what they've already done. Two years ago we never would've seen this coming. Four years from now we might be wondering how we ever lost games like that.
There are frustrations. Whether it's a lack of talent or an unwillingness to adapt as the season moves on, there are always going to be frustrations. It's hard to identify a team as something we don't want it to be, accept it, and unravel everything about what we believe works in college football. It's even tougher to see the team trying to get where it needs to be and then failing. It's tougher still to watch a mistake made on the sideline that inevitably screws it all up on the field. But in reflecting on two years, it feels like it's simply part of the process now, a mistake made now that won't be made two years from now.
I can't say whether or not Steve Addazio will stay at Boston College to see this through to completion. His name, based on what he's done here, is always going to come up for an opening any time it's at a big time school. But I believe he thinks Boston College can be that big time school and be that opening like a Michigan or a Florida in terms of football prestige. I think he genuinely thinks that, and he knows that to win here is to do something that's never been done before. It's a challenge, it's one he's accepted, and it's one that, two years into a six year contract, has been met. The road ahead will be long and bumpy, and it might eventually lead him to a cliff he jumps off of.
But it won't be the road we used to be down, and that is something we can all cheer for.