Eagles End Season With Sense Of Uncertainty
By Greg Joyce, Sports Editor
RALEIGH — It was never about the game. It was never about what happened on the field at Carter Finley Stadium on Saturday afternoon. It was never about whether Boston College could end its season with a win against North Carolina State.
Instead, it was about the uncertain future of a fallen program.
To many, that meant it was about one man who paced back and forth on the BC sideline for 60 minutes—head coach Frank Spaziani.
The Eagles lost their tenth game of the season, 27-10 to the Wolfpack, but most of the conversation after the game wasn’t about where the game was lost or what personal achievements were recorded.
Instead, the conversation honed in on the uncertainty surrounding the program—who will be the head coach next year? Where does the team go from here? How do you fix what went wrong this season?
Spaziani was first. He entered the room to give his press conference, a white towel around his neck. He was offered a stat sheet, but turned it down, saying he already had it all in his head. He congratulated NC State, talked about how turnovers and penalties killed his team, and answered a few other questions about the course of the game.
Then it got down to what everyone wanted to know: what’s next? Spaziani was asked if he would have a meeting with Athletic Director Brad Bates in the coming days. He paused, then faced the reality of the situation.
“Um, I would think I would,” Spaziani said.
And in that meeting, if he was given the chance to make a case for why he should be kept for a fifth year as the head coach in Chestnut Hill, what would he say? Spaziani kept his thoughts mostly to himself, as he has throughout his tenure, especially this year.
“It wouldn’t be here right now,” Spaziani said. “I wouldn’t be stating it right now for public laundry.”
“I do have a case.”
Beyond that, Spaziani was not up for talking much about his future.
“It is not to be discussed right here,” he said. The rest of the questions he answered by telling reporters they should probably ask Bates directly. That’s because at this point, it’s out of Spaziani’s hands. His work over the last four years speaks for itself, mainly in his 22-28 record as head coach. There are positive intangibles that he brings to the job, but at the end of the day, those will be outweighed by his win-loss record.
And for that, Spaziani days in Chestnut Hill are likely numbered.
Pushed one last time for whether Bates had asked to meet with him, Spaziani deferred the question again, before giving one last answer under his breath.
“I don’t even tell my wife that,” he said.
While Spaziani kept his thoughts on the future close to his chest, his players were more willing to talk about next year, knowing they’ll still be around.
Quarterback Chase Rettig took a beating in the game, but still came out with a positive outlook.
“I can promise everyone that this offseason, I’m going to do a lot to improve,” Rettig said.
Rettig had a tough game, but it did not reflect the leaps and bounds he’s taken this year as a college quarterback. In the second quarter, he surpassed 3,000 yards passing for the season, becoming the fourth Eagle to do so, but the first non-senior to pass that mark.
Yet that record doesn’t mean much for Rettig in a season like this. He had his head down the whole time after the game, clearly emotional after the loss and the end of a trying season.
“It gets emotional for guys,” he said. “We had some opportunities to maybe have a better day today, we just didn’t get it done. But there are bigger things in the scheme of life for those guys that are leaving, and you just got to go tell them how much they mean to you and how much you’re going to miss them.
“You just got to talk to all the seniors. Those are your brothers and your friends. Regardless of the talk, it always ends whenever the last game of the season or postseason is. You just go talk to the guys you’re not going to be around next year and hug them. Everyone worked so hard, it just didn’t happen for us this year. Those are our closest guy friends and you want to send them out with a win. But unfortunately we weren’t able to tonight, so now we got to go and do something next year for them.”
In the end, Rettig left it up to the media to sum up the season. He gave his piece—one of hope despite the plight of the program—but seemed to know it might be painted in a different light.
“I think you guys know how we feel,” Rettig said. “I think it’s pretty obvious. There’s just a million different—I wouldn’t say negative feelings, but … we had a lot of hope this season in different times. You can break down the season however you want. But we had opportunities and obviously we didn’t take advantage of them. However you want to write that, that’s how we feel.”
Another player who set a record on the night was wide receiver Alex Amidon, who became BC’s single-season receptions leader. That achievement does not mean anything to Amidon right now though, as he’d rather have the wins. Despite the tough season, he has a message for next year, and it starts with him and his teammates.
“We’re going to turn it around,” Amidon said. “It’s on the players. It’s on me. I take responsibility for a lot of what happened this year—not being a leader, not stepping up, not holding people accountable. The kids coming back next year—we’re going to change it. We’re all going to change it.”
Amidon talked more about a need for leadership and coming together as a team to hold each other responsible for playing up to their potential.
“We’re not going to let people slack off anymore—not that that necessarily happened, but we need to step up as leaders,” Amidon said.
The one player who won’t be around to see the future unfold is Nick Clancy, the fifth-year middle linebacker who rose to the starting spot in training camp and took full advantage of his opportunity. He was the last player out of the locker room to talk to the media, almost in fitting fashion. He won’t get to suit up in the maroon and gold next year, but he had five years to look back on and think about what he’d change if he had the chance to do it all over again.
“Personally, my leadership role would have been more vocal, in terms of pulling guys aside and letting them know the right way of doing things,” Clancy said. “I feel like that was something we missed this year in terms of leadership, was guys not calling other guys out. That’s just how it is on a team. You can’t be afraid to call somebody out when he’s not doing something right. On the other half, the guys getting called out should be man enough to know that what he’s doing is wrong and he needs to change it for the betterment of the team. That’s one thing I wish I could have done a better job of.”
He won’t get a chance to fix that, but the underclassmen on the team will. They’re planning on it, and Clancy will remind them of it.
“I’m going to definitely reach out to a few individuals,” Clancy said. “It’s going to be the guys that I think have leadership qualities, guys that are going to be older guys next year. What the message from me is, ‘Hey man, you just need to go out there and you need to lead by example. You need to do what’s right. You can’t be afraid to call anybody out because that’s just the way it is.’
“Iron sharpens iron. If you’re going to say you want to be the best, then you have to perform like you’re going to be the best. You can’t just BS people—you gotta be about it, you can’t just talk about it.”
Right now, all the Eagles can do is talk. They won’t get a chance to prove themselves again until September of 2013. Until then, all they can do is go back to work, and take each day to get better.
Who their coach will be next September is uncertain. That’s out of their control, and it’s out of Spaziani’s control. Bates will likely make that decision in the coming week.
But what is certain is that there is a renewed sense of urgency in the locker room. The players are tired of losing. They saw what brought BC to a 2-10 season, and they’re ready to correct it. They’re not playing for the name on the back of their jersey—the records they set meant nothing to any of them. They’re playing for the name on the front of their jersey—Boston College.
They want to win. They want to revive a falling program. And now, it seems they’re ready to hold each other accountable for doing just that.
A little over nine months from now, they’ll get another chance to prove it.