With the closing of Boston College’s campus and the suspension of all ACC activity until the end of the school year, the words “spring football” have come to mean nothing more than playing catch in a backyard with someone standing at least six feet away.
And with the loss of spring ball, the Jeff Hafley era for BC football has had to come to halt—at least, in person that is.
But though players are no longer on campus and practice in the Fish Field House is nothing but a distant memory, the football program marches on. The Eagles are set to open the season in Alumni Stadium in just over five short months, and first-year head coach Hafley isn’t letting the global pandemic stop him from reaching his team.
“We’ll be able to do some things virtually through the computers where assistant coaches will get to meet with their players each day and continue building our scheme,” Hafley said in a press conference over the phone on Wednesday. “Because that is going to be important as we miss out on this time, so we’re going to have to spend a few hours a day going over that.”
After five on-campus practices between the Sunday and Thursday after a shortened team Spring Break, the players and coaches had to leave campus, and the new staff was left with very little of its scheme installed, leaving lots of work to be done over Skype in the coming months.
“We weren’t all about the X’s and O’s as we were [about] how we were going to practice the fundamentals and technique—how we were going to run with the ball, how we were going to get off the ball, how we were going to get in and out of the huddle,” Hafley said about those first five spring practices.
But what was more important to Hafley in that time than “X’s and O’s” was building a team culture with an entirely new staff.
“You know, we didn’t install a lot,” he said. “We really wanted to build the toughness and the culture and how we run through the ball and how we finish. And the guys were doing such a good job of that. … But truthfully, we barely got into third down, didn’t even start the redzone, so there’s a lot of things we’re going to need to ramp up to prepare ourselves.”
As Hafley has made it clear in past press conferences, his philosophy with BC football focuses not just on the players, but on the entire community surrounding them. Now, with athletes and coaches scattered across the country in their own homes, that community has become much larger.
“It’s about the people around them, and it’s about their families,” he said about the University’s decision to send everyone home. “They need to be home, and they need to stay home. … We’re gonna have meetings, [but] they’re not just gonna be about football. Some of them will just be conversations—does anyone need anything, how are we doing, how’s your family doing?”
He also added that all assistant coaches, including those who haven’t yet made the move to Boston, have returned home with their families for the time being and will be working remotely as well.
With such an unprecedented coaching situation as Hafley finds himself in—working virtually as a first-year head coach due to a global pandemic—the Montvale, N.J. native will surely have to adapt, and he’s already made plans to do so.
“We spent a lot of time as a staff, and we put together a detailed schedule for about the next three weeks, and we’re gonna stick to it,” Hafley said. “I think after every day I’ll kind of sit back, reflect, and modify and change things until we get to where we think it’s the best that we can do.”
When teams will be allowed to return to campus is still up in the air, but BC still has plenty of practice time left to cash in on. The NCAA allows up to 15 spring practices—eight of which can include full or partial contact—and the Eagles have used just five of those.
The NCAA has not yet released a verdict on whether or not teams will be given that time back once they are allowed to return to campus, however.
“I’d love it if the NCAA gave us some time,” Hafley said. “Whether it be if we, God willing, get back in June, and we were able to get an extra mini-camp or an extra few days of practice, I think that these are all things that are gonna have to be thrown out on the table.”
The future of BC football over the next few months is uncertain, to say the least, but Hafley has put in place a plan to get the Eagles ready for their home opener on Sept. 4 against ACC rival Syracuse. But even with the looming chance of not being able to return until late summer, Hafley said he feels sure about his team’s ability.
“If, say, that’s the worst case, and they say we have to be ready from August 1 on, yeah, we’ll get ’em ready.”
Featured Image by Jess Rivilis / Heights Editor