Former Boston College football head coach, Joe Yukica, passed away over the weekend at the age of 90.
Yukica, who served from 1968-77, departed Chestnut Hill as the winningest coach in BC history, amassing a 68-37 record over those ten seasons including a program defining 14-13 win over Darrell Royal, Earl Campbell and #7 Texas in 1976. He would then take the reigns at Dartmouth College where he led the Big Green to three Ivy League titles in nine seasons. He would hold the Eagle record for wins in a career until 2006 when passed by Tom O'Brien in his final season.
Yukica came to BC from New Hampshire at a time when the program was in a no mans land. The glory days of the 40s were a distant memory and with the return of those serving in the military to college football, the traditional powers had resurfaced and Boston College had struggled to find their way among them. Rip Engle's Penn State teams (soon to be Joe Paterno's) and Ben Schwartwalder's Syracuse teams were really the only Eastern teams capable of competing at a national level. BC not only wasn't at that level, but wasn't playing teams of any stature. The Eagles played just one ranked team in the eight years prior to Yukica's arrival.
In collaboration with BC Athletic Director Bill Flynn, they sought to elevate the presence of football at Chestnut Hill and after an 8-2 season in 1970 and a 9-2 season in 1971, took on a more national schedule, that included home games against programs like Texas (1974 and 76) and Notre Dame's first ever visit to Boston in 1975 when the game sold out then Schaefer Stadium for Irish-Eagles on ABC's Monday Night Football.
Yukica had an ultra-conservative approach to the game, focusing on I formation, pound the rock football. The approach was solid, but with less than spectacular results against those top tier opponents. He was roundly criticized in the 17-3 loss to Notre Dame for not opening it up more, particularly because the Eagles had Mike Kruczek at QB who would set a BC record for completion percentage for a career at 66.8% that still stands today, but never have a 300 yard game.
His high water mark was unquestionably the 1976 season where the Eagles reached the Top 20 (there were only 20 teams ranked) for the first time since 1955 after the win over Texas. They would start the season 3-0 and reach #13 in the country before being upset at home by Florida State under first year coach Bobby Bowden and ultimately finish 8-3
Just one year later, he was let go following a 6-5 campaign and a season ending loss to Holy Cross.
Yukica never reached a bowl game despite records of 8-2, 9-2, 8-3, 8-3, 7-4 and 7-4 on his resume. There were never more than 13 bowl games available to be filled in any single year during his tenure.
Yukica coached some of the greatest players in BC history including running backs like Fred Willis, Keith Barnette and Mike Esposito and linemen like Fred Smerlas, Tom Lynch, Jim Rourke, safety Mike Mayock and LB Pete Cronan.
Inducted into the BC Hall of Fame in 2000, he was named the New England Coach of the Year in 1971 for his 9-2 season.