Column: A Well-Deserved Farewell
Published: Wednesday, February 29, 2012
Updated: Wednesday, January 9, 2013 18:01
Rumors are starting to circulate that Ben Sirmans, former running backs coach for the Boston College football team, has accepted the same position with the St. Louis Rams. Sirmans left BC a few weeks ago to be the running backs coach at Rutgers, joining another former BC assistant coach, Dave Brock, in New Jersey.
This is yet another odd turn in the recent coaching carousel that BC's football staff has experienced lately. Brock left BC to take a better position at Rutgers, moving from the special teams coach here to the offensive coordinator for the Scarlet Knights. Former wide receivers coach Ryan Day also moved to a better position at Temple, accepting the OC job after being passed over for the position three times at BC. Kevin Rogers, who was BC's OC in the fall until taking a leave of absence due to health reasons, is also working at Temple now as the quarterbacks coach, a strange move that BC still has yet to comment on (if Rogers has fully recovered, shouldn't there at least be a statement expressing relief that he is okay? Isn't that the right thing to do?).
While Day's and Brock's respective moves make sense, the move by Sirmans was a questionable one. Rutgers, one would hope, does not have as prestigious a football program as BC does, so accepting the same position seems strange. This new information that Sirmans might have snagged an NFL job sheds some possible light on the situation.
When Brock and Day received their upgraded positions at Rutgers and Temple, there was no congratulatory statement made by BC, head coach Frank Spaziani, or athletic director Gene DeFilippo.
The only comment made by BC was in a press release announcing the departed coaches' replacements, ending with the statement, "The three [new coaches] replace Dave Brock, Ben Sirmans and Ryan Day, who have resigned to accept positions at other institutions."
Yup, that's it. Now, I know what it's like to have an assistant coach break your heart and leave. When Will Muschamp, the fiery defensive coordinator for my hometown Texas Longhorns and coach-in-waiting to replace current head coach Mack Brown, decided to leave Austin and take the head coaching job at Florida, the entire city and university was disappointed. Everyone loved Muschamp, and people were already thinking about the incredible success that would ensue whenever he took over.
As disappointing as the news was though, Brown made sure to give Muschamp sincere congratulations on a promotion that was impossible to pass up. Brown's example helped Longhorn fans move on, and now many Texas fans, including myself, actually root for Florida to do well because of Muschamp, even after hating them for so many years.
The decision by Spaziani and DeFilippo to ignore the promotions of their former colleagues is one that not only lacks class, but also makes the program look bad. Assistant coaches are almost always searching for a better position, and when they finally get the promotion, even if it is at another program, it is customary for the head coach to recognize his colleagues' talent. It didn't happen with Day or Brock, and it likely won't happen if Sirmans' move to the Rams is made official.
BC football made it clear when Jeff Jagodzinksi was fired that upward mobility is not encouraged. Jags was ousted because he interviewed for the Jets' head coaching position, cementing for good that BC is looking for long-term stability in terms of its head coach. The recent actions regarding Sirmans, Day, and Brock have proven that the same idea applies to assistant coaches.
I'm only speculating here, but it's possible that Sirmans knew of the opening with the Rams while he was still at BC. Worried about his job security at BC if he applied and didn't get the position, perhaps he took the Rutgers job in order to ensure he had something to fall back on if the Rams passed him up.
Again, this is pure speculation, but BC's history with coaches attempting to seek better positions makes this speculation at least a possibility. This mindset of expecting long-term stability at an academic institution like BC from head coaches works fine in sports like hockey and basketball. Jerry York has made BC one of the best programs in the country, and Steve Donahue essentially has his dream job here, being able to work at an Ivy League-level school that faces ACC competition. Also, there is precedent for long-term coaching success and stability at academic institutions in college basketball. Mark Few at Gonzaga, Coach K at Duke, and John Thompson III at Georgetown all come to mind.
This is not the case in college football. Stanford, the most successful academic institution in college football the past few years, lost its head coach to the NFL. It is so difficult to maintain success at a place like BC, Stanford, or Vanderbilt, that it would only make sense for a head coach to jump at an opportunity while his stock is hot. I don't think there is anything wrong with that. It might be time for BC to at least loosen the reins a bit on loyalty and stability when it comes to football. Not doing so could lead to even more chaos further down the line.