Sports, Football

Jarmond Attributes Addazio Firing to Lack of Progress, Introduces Gunnell as Interim Head Coach

Boston College Director of Athletics Martin Jarmond addressed the media on Monday morning, less than 24 hours after announcing the dismissal of seventh-year head football coach Steve Addazio. He stated that interim head coach Rich Gunnell will not be interviewing for the vacancy, and that, ideally, BC would like to fill the position by the start of the early signing period (Dec. 18), but he didn’t commit to a date of when a hire would be made.

Before delving into the search process, however, Jarmond paid his respects to Addazio, who leaves BC with a 44-44 record after having clinched bowl eligibility six times in his seven years at the helm of the program.

“I want to start off by thanking Coach Steve Addazio for the seven years that he spent here on the Heights,” Jarmond said, per BC Athletics. “He gave his heart and soul to this program, and I appreciate all the efforts and what he has done and the staff has done to help develop our young men.”

The third-year AD’s decision comes one year after he extended Addazio’s contract two years through the 2022 season. The 2018 extension, which Jarmond offered because he “felt really good about the progress” BC was making last year, didn’t include specific parameters that Addazio had to meet this fall, according to Jarmond. 

“Whenever a coach, specifically football, has less than four years, you really want to make sure that they have that continuity cause they’re recruiting a four-year class,” Jarmond said. “And so you’re in a position where either you need to make a change or extend.”

Last year, the Eagles lost three straight games to end the regular season, including a brutal one-score affair at Florida State, and their bowl game was canceled because of lightning—the NCAA’s first-ever postseason weather cancelation. That said, before the end-of-year collapse, BC was playing its best football in close to a decade. The Eagles featured their highest-scoring offense since 1993, cracked the AP Poll for the first time in 10 years, made their first-ever appearance in the College Football Playoff rankings, hosted a College GameDay matchup against No. 2 Clemson that had ACC title implications, and boasted 13 All-ACC selections—the second-most of any team in the conference—four of which were selected in the 2019 NFL Draft. 

Granted, BC lost eight starters on defense, and third-year starting quarterback Anthony Brown suffered a season-ending ACL injury in Week 6, yet the Eagles took a big step back during a year in which the ACC struggled to keep two teams in the AP Poll. While BC was able to maintain its high-scoring offense with Dennis Grosel—a former preferred walk-on—behind center, its defense was historically bad. The Eagles allowed 31.7 points per game throughout the regular season—currently on pace for the most in single-season program history—and reset the BC record for most yards allowed in a single game twice: at Louisville (664) and Clemson (674).

“We look at the whole body of work,” Jarmond said. “And so, we evaluate throughout the year, but I started talking with Father Leahy at the end of the season, and we connected, and we just felt like the trajectory that we were on—I didn’t feel like we were making the progress competitively that we needed to. We want to be more competitive in conference and nationally. And I just felt with the total body of work, it was time to make a change.”

During Addazio’s seven-year stay, BC made the postseason six times, but never finished a season above .500 in ACC play and posted a meager 1-17 record against ranked opponents. As far as the national stage is concerned, things only got worse as time wore on. From 2013-15, Addazio’s first three years in Chestnut Hill, BC lost to ranked teams by an average of 7.4 points. But since the start of the 2016 season, the Eagles have dropped games against ranked opponents by an average of 30 points.

Rather than waiting to fire Addazio after BC’s bowl game, Jarmond made the move a day after the Eagles defeated Pittsburgh on the road to punch their ticket to the postseason. He said he felt that it would have been unfair and unwise to hold off on the dismissal.

“I think if you make a decision, you need to act decisively,” Jarmond said. “I don’t think it helps anyone to delay a decision on either side. I don’t think it’s fair to whoever that coach or that staff is, and I don’t think it’s fair to the institution. … And so I wanted to do that as quickly as we could to move forward, because I think it’s really important to get in the marketplace when you can—when you know you’re going to make a change—and start that process.”

When searching for a new head coach, Jarmond implied that he will stick to P.A.C.E, the vision he first introduced when he was hired back in 2017. Jarmond has a Big Ten background: He served as Ohio State’s deputy athletics director and chief of staff (2009-17) and, before that, as the assistant athletic director for development and director of regional giving at Michigan State (2006-09). But, rather than targeting the Big Ten or another Power Five conference, Jarmond is focused on finding someone with passion and competitive excellence.

“We want a person of high integrity,” Jarmond said. “We want a leader, someone that understands Boston College. We have a wonderful opportunity here. Our Catholic, Jesuit values, ‘men and women for others’—it has to be someone that understands us … a teacher, someone that’s passionate to teach the game but [also] teach the skills that they need for life. And someone that wins. We want to win, and we want to be competitive.”

Jarmond said that he spent an hour with the team on Sunday and described the players as “high character guys” who are driven and “want to be great.” They will be under the leadership of Gunnell for the final month of the season, as the Eagles prepare for their fourth consecutive bowl appearance.

Gunnell, BC ’09, played wide receiver for the Eagles from 2006 to 2009. During his BC career, he racked up 181 receptions, 2,459 receiving yards, and 18 touchdowns. Most notably, though, he hauled in the game-winning touchdown pass from Matt Ryan against Clemson in 2008 to send the Eagles to their second straight ACC Championship game.

Gunnell, who’s worked as BC’s wide receivers coach the past four years (2016-19) declined to answer why he won’t be interviewing for the head coaching job, but he thanked Jarmond for the opportunity to serve as the interim and Addazio for jumpstarting Gunnell’s coaching career. He also emphasized the importance of keeping the players together during this time and reaching the seven-win mark for the sixth time in the past seven years.

“We have a lot of talent coming back, and we want to continue to develop that talent moving forward,” Gunnell said. “And that’s my job. It’s to keep these guys together, keep them focused at the task at hand, and that’s just to win this bowl game. That’s the only thing I’m focused on right now.”

Jarmond referenced the Greater Heights Campaign and underscored his firm belief that BC football can and should be a top-25 program. He alluded to BC’s tradition and history—the Eagles won eight or more games nine times in the 2000s alone—and pointed to the opportunity that the next head coach will inherit. 

“This is not something that’s a rebuild,” Jarmond said. “This is a retool to go for greater Heights, and that’s what this is about.”

Featured Image Courtesy of BC Athletics

December 2, 2019