Seven years later, former Boston College head football coach Jeff Jagodzinski still can’t believe his friend and former golf partner Gene DeFilippo fired him for interviewing for an NFL head coaching job.
But in addition to disbelief, Jagodzinski expressed another emotion last night in a free-wheeling, candid interview with BC Interruption Radio: regret.
“It’s one of the biggest regrets I’ve got. If I could go back and say OK, i won’t [interview] - I’d do it, and i’d still be Head Coach at BC right now. I believe that. And the fans would be having a ball,” he said.
“If I could do it over, professionally, that’s the only thing I would change.”
Jagodzinski said the Jets opportunity came up because Mike Tannenbaum, the GM of the Jets at the time, reached out to his mentor, Packers GM Ron Wolf - the man who hired Jags from BC to work on the Packers staff. According to Jags, Wolf encouraged him to at least interview two of his former staffers- Steve Spagnulo and himself.
“I didn’t even know,” Jagodzinski said. “A reporter called me and said I heard the New York Jets are interested in interviewing you, and I said I don’t know anything about that. As soon as that call was made, I called Gene, because I didn’t want him hearing that second-hand.”
That’s when things took an unexpected turn.
“Gene asked are you interested?, and I said, well, I’d like to go interview,” said Jagodzinski. “He said you shouldn’t, and I asked why not?”
At that point Jagodzinski says he was summoned to DeFilippo’s office in the Yawkey Center for a meeting, where Jags made his case for getting a chance to interview.
“I said Gene, it’s the New York Jets! It’s one of 32 teams. I just want to go through the process on the thing. I didn’t think I was going to get the job, but it was just the opportunity to go.”
Jagodzinski said he was not actually interested in leaving BC, and claims he had other offers after the 2007 season from Auburn and Washington, but said “BC was the only college job I ever wanted.” It was simply the lure of the NFL head coaching opportunity that made him want to interview.
“Then Gene said, well, if you do [interview], you’re fired.”
“And I said, are you serious? Do you know what you just did here? It hasn’t been done!”
He repeated that “all I wanted to do was go through the process,” but Jagodzinski says DeFilippo said he didn’t care — “he said, you better get it because you don’t have a job here. And again I said are you serious?”
When asked if he thought the situation could have been rectified over the next few days, Jagodzinski said no, citing the fact that the report was leaked to ESPN - a leak that he says did not come from him.
While still sounding baffled by DeFilippo’s decision, Jagodzinski again reiterated his regret for how things ended at BC.
“It’s one of the biggest regrets I’ve got,” he said. “I think [Gene] is a really good man. I think he is a really good athletic director. But we got sideways with eachother.”
“The day after that interview, the next morning, we looked at eachother, and it was like your brand new Ferrari just got pushed off the cliff, and it couldn’t be repaired. I think he knew and I knew - this ain’t good for the program, you know?”
When asked if he thought DeFilippo regretted the decision too, Jags said “you’d have to ask him that.”
“But the thing is, nobody won,” he added. “It set back BC football a decade.”
On Frank Spaziani, Jags said he was a great defensive coordinator, but “not a head coach.” He thought Steve Logan could have continued moving the program forward seamlessly, but still firmly believes he would still be at BC if the situation didn’t play out the way it did.
“Imagine if we had Clemson coming in this week! Oh, baby! I don’t think we’d lose!,” he said.
“I hope things [turn around] for BC,” Jagodzinski added, noting that he believes BC is still recruiting the same caliber of student-athlete they had before, but thinks they aren’t being managed properly. “But if they don’t, give Coach Jags a call. I could have that thing turned around in three years.”
He certainly never lacked for confidence and bravado - something that seemed to serve him well, at least until the fateful final decision of his BC coaching career.