Fall, Top Story, Football, Sports

‘You Can Win at a Place Like This’: BC Introduces Bill O’Brien as Program’s 37th Head Coach

Bill O’Brien knows winning. Having made stops at decorated programs like the New England Patriots and Alabama over his professional and collegiate coaching career, O’Brien’s seen it firsthand. 

Boston College football’s newest head coach believes he can bring that winning ethos to Chestnut Hill.  

“You can win at a place like this,” O’Brien said. “This is a place where young men can come and play good football, get a great education, and give back to the community. I think that’s what Boston College is all about.”

On Thursday, BC Director of Athletics Blake James introduced O’Brien as the football program’s newest face. The official introduction comes just over two weeks after BC launched a national search for the replacement of former head coach, Jeff Hafley. According to James, O’Brien stood out from the beginning.

“I talked with Father Jack [Butler] as we interviewed candidates in person, and he grabbed me and said, ‘Blake, this is the strongest pool of candidates we’ve ever had for the football head coaching position here at Boston College,”’ James said. “But one candidate stood out from the rest.”

That candidate was O’Brien, who James hired just nine days after the head coaching position opened up. 

“From the first conversation with Bill, I remember hanging up saying, ‘If it gets better than this, we’re gonna have an incredible coach,’ because Bill was impressive from the very start,” James said.

After James literally handed the ball off to O’Brien to speak, the Andover, Mass. native and St. John’s Prep alumnus addressed the BC community for the first time as the 37th head football coach of the Eagles.

“I always dreamed about being the head coach of Boston College,” O’Brien said. “My career has taken some twists and turns and taken me down roads I never could have imagined. But as I stand here today, I couldn’t be more grateful that the road has finally taken me back home to Boston College.”

Some of those twists and turns throughout O’Brien’s career included stints as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for the New England Patriots, the head coach of the Houston Texans, and the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for Alabama.

But despite O’Brien’s journey between NCAA and NFL programs throughout his lengthy career, when asked if this newest position was his “destination job,” he responded with a resounding “absolutely.”

“I can’t wait to get to work every day,” O’Brien said. “Can’t wait to be here, to be around these guys, to be with our coaching staff, to try to get this thing going in the right direction.”

As he turns toward the task of reshaping the program, O’Brien outlined a no-frills vision for his team. 

“The vision is what I said—this will be a team that will play smart, will be tough, will be the physical team, will be a team that does the simple things well,” O’Brien said.   

In an effort to realize this vision, O’Brien said he already met with 40 players and will meet with 60 more over the coming days. Perhaps the most important of these players is starting quarterback Thomas Castellanos. 

The Eagles’ signal-caller emerged as dual-threat last season, compiling 2,248 yards in the air and 1,113 more on the ground. O’Brien said he looks forward to harnessing the potential Castellanos showed off in 2023. 

“One of the things that’s really important is if you have a guy that can make off-schedule plays,” O’Brien said. “Tommy’s a good passer. He obviously can run the ball, so we’re looking forward to working with him.”

With on-field results and a winning culture, O’Brien said a higher national profile and increased fan support will be natural byproducts. 

“We have to do a good job marketing Boston College,” O’Brien said. “We have to win. We have to do a good job of putting a good product on the field.”

In today’s college football world, however, winning requires more than just strong recruiting or support from fans. While his predecessor Hafley reportedly cited NIL compensation as a reason behind his departure from the collegiate coaching ranks, O’Brien said he is ready to embrace this element of coaching. 

“That’s the way it is,” O’Brien said of NIL and the current state of college football. “You can either complain about it or embrace it. I think we need to embrace it.” 

O’Brien specifically noted the necessity of making the team’s home field advantage last all four quarters of the game—not just the first half.

One of the most important parts of this program is creating a home field advantage, which obviously, the students are a huge part of,” O’Brien said. “And from what I’ve heard, the students come out very well to watch these football games. And like you said, we gotta keep them in the stands for four quarters, so they don’t head back to Shea Field and the tailgates.”

Notably, O’Brien refrained from issuing any lofty guarantees of hardware. But what the 54-year-old head coach did promise was to field a team characterized by discipline and grit.  

“In keeping with the great tradition of Boston College, we’re going to be a smart, tough, physical football team,” O’Brien said. “We’ve already talked about that for five days. We might not win every game, but we will not be out-toughed. We will not be out-competed.”  

February 16, 2024