Fall, Football, Sports

BC Football Is on the Hunt for Hafley’s Replacement. Who Will It Be?

Over four years ago, whispers of then-Texas A&M defensive coordinator Mike Elko’s name floated around the Heights as Boston College football searched for a new head coach in the wake of Steve Addazio’s firing

But instead, then-Director of Athletics Martin Jarmond hired Jeff Hafley as BC’s next head coach. 

While Hafley led the Eagles to a 22–26 overall record through four largely uninspired seasons, Elko went on to spark a dramatic resurgence as Duke’s head coach, before leaving Durham in November 2023 to return to Texas A&M as its head coach.   

Following Hafley’s departure for the Green Bay Packers, current Director of Athletics Blake James has a fresh opportunity to reinvigorate BC’s program with a new hire. While James has experience hiring head coaches—recently hiring baseball head coach Todd Interdonato and women’s soccer head coach Chris Watkins—this coming hire undoubtedly dwarfs the previous two in significance. 

The last-minute timing of Hafley’s departure could work as a blessing in disguise, allowing James to pursue head coaching candidates free from the external competition induced by the end-of-season coaching carousel. 

Here is a look at some potential candidates to fill Hafley’s shoes. 

Bill O’Brien, Ohio State Offensive Coordinator & Quarterbacks Coach

Marrying safety with a bit of sizzle, the name Bill O’Brien would attract national attention and likely stabilize BC’s immediate future. O’Brien directed the New England Patriots’ infamous 31st-ranked offense in 2023, but also earned a 54–52 overall record as head coach of the Houston Texans from 2014-20. 

More importantly, he would bring high-level collegiate pedigree to the Heights. O’Brien conducted Alabama’s offense over two seasons, helping the Crimson Tide make a national title appearance in 2021 and a Sugar Bowl win in 2022. Having brought Penn State back to life as head coach from 2012-13, he also carries experience revitalizing programs. 

A Massachusetts native, O’Brien’s local ties might give him reason to leave Columbus for the commonwealth.

Adam Fuller, Florida State Defensive Coordinator

Adam Fuller’s four seasons as Florida State’s defensive coordinator have yielded winning results. Working in tandem with head coach Mike Norvell, Fuller has shaped the Seminoles’ defense into one of the nation’s best, finishing 18th in the nation in 2023 and 21st in 2022

On the recruiting side, Fuller helped deliver three four-star defensive recruits in Florida State’s 12th-ranked 2024 recruiting class, according to 247 Sports. Fuller’s defensive coaching has also cultivated individual stars, most notably edge rusher Jared Verse. Verse’s eight sacks were good for 24th in the country, and he is projected to be a first-round draft pick in the upcoming 2024 NFL Draft. 

Fuller’s lack of Division I head coaching experience, however, could be a red flag for James. 

Jason Candle, Toledo Head Coach

Though James’ experience hiring head coaches at BC has been relatively limited, a throughline exists connecting both of his hires—previous head coaching success. Both Interdonato and Watkins elevated their respective programs to near unprecedented highs. 

Jason Candle has done the same at Toledo. Since taking the reins in 2015, Candle has turned the Rockets into perennial MAC championship contenders, compiling a 65–35 overall record. 

Candle has also proven effective at developing players—nine Rockets heard their names called in the NFL Draft during his tenure. Candle’s 2024 recruiting class ranks 77th in the nation—only eight spots behind Hafley’s, despite Toledo’s status outside the Power Four. 

Dan Mullen, Former Florida and Mississippi State Head Coach 

Currently working as an analyst and briefly rumored to be filling Syracuse’s recent head coach opening, Dan Mullen would bring SEC head coaching experience to BC. 

Mullen most recently worked a four-year stint as Florida’s head coach, putting together a 34–15 overall record. The bulk of Mullen’s head coaching experience came at Mississippi State, where he led the Bulldogs to seven bowl appearances in nine seasons, earning a 69–46 overall record. In 2014, quarterback Dak Prescott powered Mullen’s Bulldogs to a No. 1 ranking in the AP poll. 

Like O’Brien, Mullen also boasts New England ties.

Brian Flores, Minnesota Vikings Defensive Coordinator

Possibly the flashiest name on this list, Brian Flores would inject life into a program that has not finished a season ranked inside the AP Poll’s Top 25 since 2007. 

Compiling a 24–25 record as Miami Dolphins’ head coach for three seasons, Flores was fired in 2022, setting off an acrimonious legal fallout. After serving on the Steelers’ coaching staff in 2022, Flores rebounded in 2023 as the Minnesota Vikings’ defensive coordinator, fortifying a unit that struggled during the prior season. 

Flores is a long-shot hire. His history as a former BC linebacker, however, could help lure him back to Chestnut Hill. 

February 2, 2024