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A Look Back at the 2012 Search for a Boston College Football Coach

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The past is never dead. It’s not even past.

Miami v Boston College Photo by Jared Wickerham/Getty Images

Frankly, when assigned a “What If” piece on the 2012 coaching search, I balked. Who would care? Seven years is a long time, so why retread old ground? Even some of the staunchest of Daz haters will tell you he wasn’t a terrible hire, that he resuscitated a program on life support and nursed it to stability.

But there are a few benefits to this exercise that hadn’t occurred to me:

1. It’s not simply a “what could have been” lament. Addazio was a perplexing hire at the time, but many of these names cement the case that he was the right choice in 2012.

2. Digging through old articles about that coaching search reminded me that things can change abruptly, and inside information is often unreliable speculation. This ESPN article from Brett McMurphy in 2012 claimed that Brad Bates had narrowed it down to three choices: Bob Diaco, Pete Lembo, and Aaron Kromer. Not so much, Brett.

3. Outside of experienced P5 head coaches, who are difficult for a school like BC to lure in, it’s tough to really know what you’re getting. Does an excellent coordinator translate to a good head coach? What about head coaching experience in a lesser conference? An alumni with ties to the northeast recruiting landscape?

Here’s a look at some of the names floated as successors to Frank Spaziani, what caught BC’s eye, and where they are now:

Dave Doeren

Then: Head Coach, Northern Illinois

Now: Head Coach, North Carolina State

After going 23-4 over two seasons and leading Northern Illinois to the Orange Bowl, Doeren was a hot name on the coaching landscape. NC State scooped him up to replace TOB back in 2012, and he’s been there ever since. He’s compiled a 47-42 overall record, while going 21-35 in the ACC, which is pretty similar to Addazio’s 44-44 (22-34) record over that time frame.

Doeren did put together back-to-back 9 win seasons in ‘17 & ‘18, but the Wolfpack went just 4-8 (1-7) in 2019. Our friends Backing the Pack recently conducted a poll, and just 17% of fans want Doeren fired, so perhaps peaks and valleys curry more favor than sustained mediocrity.

Verdict: It’s pretty close, but I think most BC fans would trade Daz’s consistency for Doeren’s 9 win seasons.

Mark Whipple

Then: QB Coach, Cleveland Browns

Now: Offensive Coordinator, Pittsburgh

Whipple was cut loose when the Browns cleaned house after the 2012 season. He eventually landed the head coaching gig at UMass, where he was tasked with transitioning them into a competitive FBS program. But the Minutemen were pretty much a punching bag over Whipple’s five seasons, going 16-44. After an embarrassing suspension for insensitive language and a lackluster 4-8 record in 2018, Whipple stepped down with two years remaining on his contract.

In 2019, Whipple served as offensive coordinator under Pat Narduzzi at Pittsburgh. The Panthers are ranked 115th in points per game, with 20.1. Pitt put up just 19 points against BC, the third fewest the Eagles have allowed this season after Richmond and Rutgers.

Verdict: Dodged a bullet

Al Golden

Then: Head Coach, University of Miami

Now: Linebackers Coach, Detroit Lions

At the time, he was under contract at the U, but NCAA investigations into the university’s connections to Ponzi schemer Nevin Shapiro led some to believe that Golden would jump ship. Instead, he stayed in Coral Gables, posting a record of 32-25 (17-18) over four-and-a-half seasons. Golden was fired in the middle of the 2015 season, after a 58-0 thrashing against Clemson.

He’s been a position coach with the Lions since 2016. You could make the argument that BC and Golden would have been good for each other back in 2012.

Verdict: Inconclusive

Bob Diaco

Then: Defensive Coordinator, Notre Dame

Now: Defensive Coordinator, Louisiana Tech

Diaco followed Brian Kelly from Cincinnati to Notre Dame in 2010. In 2012, Diaco and the ghost of Manti Te’o’s girlfriend had the Irish playing inspired defense. Diaco won the Broyles Award as the top assistant in the FBS after that season, which he parlayed into a head coaching gig at UConn.

Forever haunted by Lenay Kekua, Diaco struggled mightily with the Huskies, finishing 11-26. UConn ate $3.4 million in a buyout after three seasons just to get rid of him. After one year stints at Nebraska and Oklahoma, Diaco finds himself serving as defensive coordinator at Louisiana Tech.

Verdict: Dodged a meteor

Pete Lembo

Then: Head Coach, Ball State

Now: Assistant Head Coach/Special Teams Coordinator, University of Memphis

Lembo turned some heads when he led Ball State to a 9-4 record in 2012. The Cardinals went 10-3 the next season, seemingly justifying the hype, but they won a total of 8 games over the following two seasons, and Lembo resigned to become the assistant head coach/special teams coordinator at Maryland.

He sports a 112-65 record as a head coach, but his trajectory seems to have peaked with the 2013 season.

Verdict: I’ll take Daz, though given Lembo’s special teams prowess, I guess fewer kicks would have sailed out of bounds/wide of goal posts.

Darrell Hazell

Then: Head Coach, Kent State

Now: Retired

Like Lembo, Hazell drew attention for his success in the MAC. He led Kent State to a 11-3 record in 2012, garnering MAC Coach of the Year honors. Purdue took the bait, paying handsomely for a 9-33 record over three-and-a-half seasons. He spent a year as the Minnesota Vikings receivers coach before calling it quits.

Verdict: The MAC can be deceiving

Pete Carmichael Jr.:

Then: Offensive Coordinator, New Orleans Saints

Now: Offensive Coordinator, New Orleans Saints

The Boston College alum was an intriguing possibility in 2012, and remains so in 2019. Tough to say if he’d be tempted to return to his alma mater. Working alongside Drew Brees and Sean Payton seems like a pretty good gig.

Verdict: Inconclusive