BOSTON, MA – Boston College fired coach Steve Addazio after seven seasons in which the Eagles never surpassed seven wins.
Wide receivers coach Rich Gunnell will serve as interim coach, athletic director Martin Jarmond said in a statement on Sunday afternoon, a day after BC beat Pittsburgh to achieve bowl eligibility for the sixth time in seven years under Addazio.
“He inherited a program that had a down stretch and led us to six bowl games while recruiting high-character student-athletes that represented BC the right way,” Jarmond said. “Our student-athletes have been pillars of the community and in the classroom and that's a credit to Steve and his staff.”
Addazio was 44-44 since taking over in 2013, earning a bowl-qualifying sixth win with the 26-19 victory over Pittsburgh. The 60-year-old coach spent much of his postgame news conference talking about the program’s future, insisting, “It’s not about me.”
"All I cared about was getting this team to six wins and getting another month with them. And then watching what I watched,” he said after celebrating with his players in the locker room. “That was the greatest gift that I got. You want to talk about me? That was a great gift."
Addazio lamented the loss of quarterback Anthony Brown and linebackers John Lamont and Isaiah McDuffie, and spoke — in a familiar theme for him over the years — about the program’s youth. The Eagles have 62 players who are redshirt sophomores or younger.
"You know what I'm excited about? I've got a really good football team,” he said. “We've got most everybody coming back. This is going to be one hell of a football team moving forward. And we've got another month to tweak it and turn it and coach it and develop it. That is so exciting. I think this can be something special.”
Asked if he thought he was safe for another season, Addazio said, "It's not about me. I'm fine.”
"I care about being with our guys. That's the most important thing there is,” he said. "It's not about me. It's about them.”
The firing was first reported by Yahoo.com.
Addazio had worked as an assistant at Notre Dame and with the Florida teams that won the national championships in 2006 and 2008 before getting his first head coaching job at Temple in 2011. He stuck around just two years, leading the Owls to 9-4 and 4-7 records, before taking over a 2-10 team in Chestnut Hill
He quickly restored the Eagles to respectability.
But respectability is all they ever got.
BC won seven games in five of Addazio’s first six seasons, but he could never get the Eagles back to the level they reached in the early 2000s, when they were often ranked in the AP Top 25 and occasionally playing for a conference championship. This year, they lost to Kansas — a team that hadn’t beaten a Power 5 opponent on the road in 11 years — and needed to beat Pitt in the final regular-season game to qualify for a bowl berth.
Quarterback Dennis Grosel said he could see how important the game was to his coach.
"He's a pretty reserved and tame guy most of the time. I know he wanted this one badly,” said Grosel, a sophomore who started the last six games after Brown was injured for the second time in three seasons. “We wanted this one for him also. It was nice to see him let some emotion out."
Stuck in the middle of the Atlantic Coast Conference — except for 2015, when they were 0-8 (3-9 overall) and at the bottom — Addazio was perpetually politicking to keep his job. This is the third straight season in which BC officials discussed whether to bring him back; last year, they gave him an extension through 2022 that was more like a restructuring to make it easier to let him go if things didn’t improve.
With much of the offseason focus on elevating the program to eight wins — or more — the program again finds itself fighting for relevance, at 4-4 in the ACC Atlantic Division and four games behind national championship contender Clemson.
Jarmond was asked last week whether a bowl berth was make-or-break for Addazio, and he declined to answer.
It turns out, it wasn’t enough.
AP College Football Writer Ralph D. Russo and AP Sports Writer Will Graves contributed to this report.