By Kevin J. Stone
To say the 2019 Boston College football season has been a roller coaster would be a severe understatement.
After a season-opening win against Virginia Tech back on Aug. 31, the sky was the limit for the Eagles.
A win over an inferior opponent (Richmond) followed, then the Friday night nightmare against Kansas on (fittingly) Sept. 13 followed. The Eagles then briefly righted the ship, earning a win over a hapless Rutgers program. Back-to-back losses by a combined five points to Wake Forest and Louisville — with the loss of starting quarterback Anthony Brown included — didn't help matters and the noise surrounding Steve Addazio's head coaching job grew louder.
An NC State victory quieted those conversations a bit, but a blowout loss in Death Valley where the Eagles looked lifeless against Clemson didn't help. A win against Syracuse in the Carrier Dome was a nice little bounce back, but a loss to a rapidly-declining Florida State program and a blowout loss in South Bend against Notre Dame quickly put Adazzio back on the same hot seat he's seemingly been on the last few years.
The win over Pittsburgh this past weekend to end the season and give the Eagles a sixth bowl berth in seven years under Addazio was nice, but it simply wasn't enough, and on Sunday night athletic director Martin Jarmond announced that Addazio was relieved of his duties.
Despite video surfacing of a jubilant celebration with his players in the locker room following the win against Pitt, it was apparent to many throughout the year that a change would inevitably be coming.
In Addazio's seven years with the program, it was about as average as you can get, going .500 with a 44-44 record. The 22-34 mark in ACC play wasn't ideal, and despite bringing the program back to a bit of respectability after a 2-10 year in 2012, the results just weren't enough in this sports crazed market to retain Addazio.
"We look at the whole body of work," Jarmond said in a press conference on Monday morning. "We evaluate throughout the year, but I started talking with Father Leahy at the end of the season and we connected and we just felt like the trajectory that we were on, I didn't feel like we were making the progress competitively that we needed to. We want to be more competitive in conference and nationally, and I just felt like with the total body of work that we, that it was time to make a change."
As news broke of Addazio's release, stories from former players began to surface on Twitter, some of them putting Addazio in a pretty bad light. While it's hard to know just how good or bad things were inside the program on a daily basis for seven years, it's clear that Jarmond and those in charge of making the changes at BC were not the only ones who felt it was necessary.
Rich Gunnell, a former Eagle from 2006-2009 — the most recent glory days for the program — was named the interim head coach as a national search begins. Gunnell amassed 2,459 yards (13.6 yards per catch), 181 receptions and 18 touchdowns in his days at the Heights, playing with star quarterback Matt Ryan.
Gunnell has been a wide receivers coach for years now and also did a bit of head coaching at the now defunct Marian High School in Framingham.
Now, Gunnell will be tasked with trying to earn a seventh win for the Eagles with one final bowl game remaining.
It is an awkward position, but one that a former player feels like he can handle. Gunnell will not be interviewing for the job following the season, but there's something to be said for leading a group of men into and out of battle one final time in a year that hasn't been easy.
"Yeah, as a prideful, proud BC man, I'm just going to continue to preach what we're all about," Gunnell said at Monday's press conference. "That's toughness and faith and all those good things and high character guys. I'm just focused on winning this game. That's the most important thing to me right now, keeping these kids together. We got great kids in that locker room. And just making sure that they're all on the same page with what we're trying to accomplish and that's winning this bowl game."
As for the future of the program, Jarmond believes is is the best way to move forward in hopes that the Eagles will return to the Heights last scene when Gunnell and Matty Ice were leading the charge.
"No, we're not taking a step back," Jarmond added. "This is all about moving forward. Again, this is a solid foundation. If you look at our team, we have a lot coming back, and lot of talent coming back. This is a launch pad now. I don't really get into the how many wins, I know that's important to our fans, but I look at the momentum, I look at the energy. I look at progress. Are we progressing? If you're not progressing then you're either stalking or you're moving back. And we want to move forward.
"And that's kind of, when you look at everything, I want a program that's constantly moving forward, pushing it, progressing, and that's what we want to do."