Boston College football could slowly be slipping down the rabbit hole.
After Tuesday's news that the Eagles had parted ways with running back Montel Harris, the leading rusher in school history, it's hard to be optimistic about the immediate future of this team.
The details surrounding Harris' dismissal are sketchy. Boston College said he was dismissed because of repeated team rule violations and Harris declined to talk about it per the school's request. In any case, Harris was the one national name on the Boston College roster and he carried the hope that last year's 4-8 record could be in the rearview.
Harris played in just two games last season because of a knee injury and his 3,735 career yards were sorely missed. Boston College's offense as a whole struggled last year. It was last in the ACC in total offense and scoring offense with a little more than 18 points per game.
And if the Eagles had improved in the spring, no one was around to see it. Just 200 people showed up for the spring game — the lowest attendance figure in the country. Fan interest in the program is probably as low as it's been since the team struggled in the late 90s (or maybe since the team went winless in 1978) and after this latest move, there doesn't seem to be any relief in sight.
So how did Boston College get here?
Just five years ago, the Jeff Jagodzinski-led Eagles won 11 games for the first time in school history. And while the Eagles lost in the ACC title game to Virginia Tech, optimism was high for the program. The Eagles went back to the ACC title game in 2008 and won nine games. But that's when the wheels started to fall off.
Athletic director Gene DiFilippo fired Jagodzinski after he interviewed for the New York Jets head coaching position. In his two seasons with Boston College, Jagodzinski was 20-8, 11-5 in conference play and led the Eagles to two Atlantic Division titles. He had the highest winning percentage of any head coach since the 1939-40 seasons.
Jagodzinski's dismissal had a ripple effect the Eagles are still feeling. Since Jagodzinski's firing, Boston College has gotten worse every year. And it's not just in the overall record, statistics have fallen off, recruiting has struggled (this year's class was ranked 11th in the ACC) and the defense, which was once the highlight of Boston College's team, has been spotty at best despite highlights from former players Mark Herzlich and Luke Kuechly.
Boston College fans were just getting used to winning when it was abruptly taken away, which is why some are calling for coach Frank Spaziani's head. However, DiFilippo doesn't seem to be persuaded. He said Spaziani, who is 19-19 in his three seasons, is not only safe, but the best coach the program had had in the 15 years the athletic director had been there.
It's hard to believe this program can do an about-face and somehow start trending up. During the spring game, the offense threw five interceptions, four of those by starter Chase Rettig. Rettig, who has been the Eagles starter for the past two seasons, wasn't sharp. He had no touch, passes were sailing on him and he failed to hit open receivers. Part of that was because, according to reports, the offensive line was a mess. Quarterbacks were sacked multiple times and while the running game showed some flashes — Rolandan Finch rushed for 196 on 27 carries — the offense didn't look much better than it did a year ago.
Harris' dismissal put this team in a bad spot, pure and simple. A lot of people will want to blame Spaziani, but Harris isn't guiltless here and if this team struggles again, he'll shoulder as much blame as Coach Spaz.
From 1995-98, Boston College won just 17 games and finished with back-to-back four-win seasons in 1997 and 1998. A similar stretch could be on the horizon for the Eagles. After watching last season and knowing what the team returns, it's hard to believe otherwise.
And if Boston College does have another four-win season, this program could sink into a hole from which it might take years to emerge.