College Football

Jagodzinski left just in time

With Boston College struggling now, ex-coach knew when to leave

Staff WriterSeptember 24, 2009 

Athletic director Gene DeFilippo boldly declared the "fun is back" in Boston College football in 2007. Unless futility is a code word for fun, the "Happy Days" are history at BC, or at least on hiatus.

After coach Jeff Jagodzinski took the Eagles to two straight ACC Atlantic Division titles, DeFilippo fired him for interviewing with the New York Jets, but more on Jagodzinski later.

The first ACC game for Jagodzinski's replacement, rookie head coach Frank Spaziani, ended in a 25-7 loss at Clemson. There's no shame in losing at Clemson, but it's how the Eagles lost that should have DeFilippo and the people who care about the program concerned.

Virginia Tech's the only team with more ACC wins (25) than BC (21) since the Eagles joined the conference in 2005, and that's with one coaching change and the NFL departure of superb quarterback Matt Ryan.

Based on the Clemson game, BC won't be able to sustain its conference success. The Eagles finished the game with 54 total yards of offense, its lowest output in 29 years. They didn't pick up a first down until the game was 43 minutes old. Rookie quarterbacks Justin Tuggle and Dave Shinskie combined for five turnovers and 25 passing yards.

Running back Montel Harris, who went into the game with 181 yards on 34 carries, finished with 13 yards on 12 carries.

"A lot of it was Clemson-induced," Spaziani said Wednesday, while also pointing out the flaws in his own inexperienced offense.

Yet Middle Tennessee managed to find 299 yards against the Tigers in the same setting. Even from the unemployment line, Coach "Jags" likely found the schadenfreude in BC's pathetic outing at Clemson. He also saw it coming.

Jagodzinski won with former coach Tom O'Brien's players, including the ultimate gift in Ryan. After two defensive cornerstones, B.J. Raji and Ron Brace, followed Ryan into the NFL, Jagodzinski knew what was left in cupboard. Otherwise he wouldn't have called DeFilippo's bluff to fire him if he interviewed with the Jets.

Maybe Jagodzinski knew he wouldn't get the Jets job but figured he'd done all he could at BC, hence the decision to defy DeFilippo. Jagodzinski appeared to land safely as the offensive coordinator of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, but rookie coach Raheem Morris fired him 10 days before the NFL team's season-opener. No need to pass the hat for Jagodzinski, though: He's still being paid by Boston College, and -- according to ESPN -- will still be paid $1 million by the Bucs.

Whatever Jagodzinski lacked in experience, tact, or perspective, he made up for by hiring Steve Logan, a bright football mind, to run his offense. After getting passed over by Spaziani for the head BC coaching job, the former East Carolina head coach followed Jags to Tampa Bay, where he's the running backs coach.

It could just be one loss, and BC has a history of defying odds -- last year, the Eagles lost their conference opener to Georgia Tech. But this feels like a harbinger for the likable Spaziani.

"Did I see 54 yards coming?" Spaziani said. "No. Did I understand exactly what we have on offense and what we have to do? Yes. The personnel we have is the personnel we have, and we have to get better."

Spaziani was promoted in part for his loyalty to the program after 12 years as assistant but mainly because of his willingness to stay at BC. He could use a wingman like Logan or at least a share of the NFL talent (five draft picks in the past two years) O'Brien left behind for Jagodzinski. He has neither, and that's why this feels like more than just one loss.

Make room for Harris

Three weeks into the season, Miami sophomore Jacory Harris already has unseated N.C. State's Russell Wilson as the ACC's best quarterback.

In a pair of wins over ranked ACC opponents, Harris has thrown for 656 yards, five touchdowns and completed almost 70 percent of his passes (41- of-59). Wilson, ever the perfectionist, still has the edge in interceptions, zero to Harris' two, but Harris has the edge in important victories (a reverse of the interception numbers).

The question isn't where did Harris come from, but what took Miami coach Randy Shannon so long to give him the job? As a freshman, Harris shared time with Robert Marve, who left the program after last season.

Harris led the Canes to a second-half comeback win at Duke in the seventh game of the 2008 season, only to return to the bench. One game later, he led another second-half comeback at Virginia, only to find himself carrying Marve's bag for three more games (two of which were losses).

Harris didn't have the starting job all for himself until after Marve and Shannon had a falling out before the Hurricanes' 24-17 loss to California in the Emerald Bowl, which led to Marve's ugly and protracted transfer to Purdue.

Apparently, there was a method to Shannon's madness.

"The more you can play young kids like that, the following year they'll be a lot better than what they were," Shannon said Wednesday.

Shannon righted another wrong by firing young offensive coordinator Patrick Nix and replacing him with Mark Whipple, a veteran NFL assistant and former Massachusetts head coach.

Anyone would have been an upgrade compared to Nix, who was partially responsible for receiver Calvin Johnson's occasional disappearing acts at Georgia Tech in 2006, but Whipple has been a boon to both Harris and the Miami program.

Quick Hits

It's almost impossible to explain how Washington goes from 0-12 to beating then-No. 3 Southern California other than chalking it up to the beauty of college football.

Washington, by the way, is one of only two teams from a BCS conference to have a winless season this decade. So there's hope for Duke after all.

Oregon fan Tony Seminary sent first-year Ducks coach Chip Kelly an invoice for his expenses for his trip to Boise State, which ended with a 19-8 Oregon loss and its star running back, LeGarrette Blount, punching out a Broncos player.

"I just felt like I needed to reach out to Coach Kelly and give him my two cents about how I felt about the performance," Seminary told the college football blog, "Everyday Should Be Saturday."

Kelly gave him more than two cents back. He mailed the disgruntled fan a $439 check for his expenses. or 919-829-8938

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