MEREDITH, N.C. - In the end, you start to think about the beginning.
After Chase Rettig and the Boston College Eagles (2-10) completed an abysmal season with a fittingly abysmal 27-10 loss to the North Carolina State Wolfpack (7-5), I started thinking back to 2008 and the reaction that fans had when it was announced that longtime defensive coordinator Frank Spaziani was going to be the new head coach at Boston College.
The reaction from fans varied from "it's about time!" to "is this the best they could do?" and finally, "what in the world has BC done?", in that order from most to least popular.
Now, after what in all likelihood was the final game in the coaching career of the man affectionately known as "Spaz", it's funny to see how far the reaction has swung back the other way.
His in-game decision making, complete disregard for recruiting and "lots of smoke but no fire" treatment of players and coaches has made him a pariah at Boston College in ways that not even the doom and gloom segment of the Eagles fanbase could have predicted.
When asked whether or not he had earned another year as the head coach at BC, Spaz glumly responded, "It's not up to me". Sounding very much like a defeated man, he also dodged a question about whether or not he and new AD Brad Bates had already scheduled a meeting to discuss his future, indicating they almost certainly have.
The reality, of course, is that regardless of when the hammer drops, it is going to drop, and soon.
Though it would have been hard to believe it while watching QB Chase Rettig play arguably the worst game of his career today, throwing three interceptions and completing only 16 of 45 passes, this team was in the ACC Championship Game in each of the two seasons prior to Spaz's ascension to the head job. Since he took the reins though, it's been almost all bad.
A few of the highlights (or lowlights):
January 2009: Spaz hires the previously retired Gary Tranquill to be his offensive coordinator. Tranquill, known to North Carolina fans as Gary "Nyquill" leads the offense to two MISERABLE seasons, culminating in his termination in 2010.
October 2009: Spaz leads BC to its first loss to Notre Dame in nearly a decade, a 20-16 debacle in which QB Dave Shinskie threw three interceptions.
September-October 2010: The team loses five consecutive games including a humiliating home shutout loss to the Virginia Tech Hokies. It was the team's worst start in nearly two decades.
September 2011: BC opens the season with three straight losses, which include: a home loss to the Northwestern Wildcats in which Spaz says his team was out of shape, a blowout road loss to the Central Florida Knights (more on this in a moment) and a loss at home to the Duke Blue Devils (!!!), after which Spaz coined the phrase, "middle schmiddle" about centering the ball before a failed game winning field goal attempt.
September 2011 (cont.): At halftime of the aforementioned loss to Central Florida, Spaz and newly hired offensive coordinator Kevin Rogers are reportedly involved in a physical altercation which leaves Rogers with a bloody lip. Rogers "retires" due to a reported back issue the next day but quickly resurfaces the next season at Temple. Neither Rogers nor Spaz talk about the incident as the former signed a non-disclosure agreement on his way out the door in exchange for a hefty buyout.
November 2011: The Eagles become bowl in-eligible for the first time in over a decade as they lay down on national television, at home, against a Florida State Seminoles team that finished just 8-4 on the season. The team also loses to Notre Dame for the third consecutive year.
May 2012: After rehabbing an injured knee for nearly a year, Montel Harris, the team's all-time leading rusher, is dismissed from the team by Spaz for a "violation of team rules". The violation? Reportedly voicing his displeasure with the coaching staff and not being willing to play before his knee was 100%. Harris transfers to Temple and rushes for over 1,000 yards with the Owls.
October-November 2012: The Eagles lose a humiliating game to Army in the midst of a two win season that sees them beat only one FBS opponent. The team finishes in the bottom 25 percent nationally in both offense and defense.
The fact that those are only a few of the highlights from the head coaching tenure of Spaz should make it clear to even the most overwhelmingly pro-Spaz fan that the man was in over his head as a head coach at a major FBS program.
Now, to be fair, some of the responsibility of this debacle also belongs to the longtime friend of Coach Spaz and recently "retired" (he was fired, regardless of what the title of the press release says) Athletic Director, Gene DeFilippo.
DeFilippo was the man who hired Spaz over any number of more qualified candidates in 2009, gave him an unfathomable contract extension in December of 2010, a move that will have BC paying him off until 2015 and then pronounced him to be the best coach that BC has had in 15 years following the 2011 season.
When DeFilippo was ousted back in September of this year, the writing was on the wall that change within the Yawkey Center was forthcoming. When new AD Brad Bates said that he would evaluate the program after the season, Spaz might as well have retired on the spot.
Once his dismissal is official, the final numbers on the head coaching career of Frank Spaziani will look like this: 22-29 overall record, 0-4 vs. Notre Dame, 0-2 in bowl games, zero wins vs. the Top 25, an absolutely demoralized fanbase and a massive rebuilding job for his successor.
The last one is the most important thing here.
Nobody doubts that BC has continued to recruit hard working kids who define the phrase "student athlete". However, there are a fair number of players that took the field today against the Wolfpack who simply did not belong on an ACC field.
Previous coaches at Boston College, such as Tom O'Brien and to a smaller degree, Jeff Jagodzinski, were able to find kids who could both succeed in the classroom as well as on the football field. Spaz has been unable, or unwilling, to put in that time and effort to do the same. Thus, largely devoid of ACC talent, whoever agrees to be the next head coach at Boston College will have a long way to go to rebuild the program to its previous heights (no pun intended) as an ACC contender.
Folks expecting the Eagles to chase coaches like Jon Gruden can stop that daydreaming right now. This is not a team that simply needs someone to come in and coach the talent that's already here. This is a team that needs a coach that is willing to put in the work on the recruiting trail and in the community to build BC for the long term. To put it bluntly, the school needs to hire "the right coach" and not just the biggest name it can find.
This is not to say that BC isn't capable of making a home run hire to replace Spaz, they most certainly are. However, this would require the school to open up the purse strings more than they have in recent years for coaches (Spaz makes/made a relatively paltry $1.1 million, the lowest in the ACC, but still far too much). The magic number to draw a name hire that would also be "the right fit" would probably be somewhere in the range of $2 million or as high as $2.5 million.
Who could they land with a salary like that? Glad you asked!
In no particular order, here are the three (realistic) coaches that I would most like to see roaming the sidelines of the Coliseum in Los Angeles when the Eagles open up against the USC Trojans in September of 2013:
1) Dave Doeren. Currently the Head Coach at Northern Illinois, Doeren has been a rousing success in his short tenure. The Huskies won their first MAC Championship last season and are in position to do it again. Known as a good recruiter and, so far, good in-game coach (defense is his specialty), Doeren has major college experience with both Kansas and Wisconsin as a position coach and coordinator. He's also relatively young at 40 years old and makes a shade under 400k coaching the Huskies.
2) Bob Diaco. The young defensive coordinator at Notre Dame is known as one of the best recruiters in the country and looking at the unbelievable amount of talent he's helped acquire in South Bend, it's hard to argue. Diaco is devoid of any head coaching experience at the college level, but fits the bill for BC in the sense that he's accustomed to the high standards placed on recruits, knows the midwest recruiting territory (a BC staple) and helps lead one of the best defenses in America. Coaching acumen is obviously questionable because of the lack of experience, but the potential positives far outweigh the unknown.
3) Pete Carmichael, Jr. Probably the biggest longshot of the three candidates, Carmichael would be a dream hire for BC fans because of his local ties (born in Massachusetts, played at Boston College, previously coached in New England, etc.). He'd be the ideal candidate for rallying the fanbase and generating excitement. Carmichael is currently the offensive coordinator with the New Orleans Saints where, behind quarterback Drew Brees, the Saints have won a Super Bowl and have been one of the top offenses in the NFL for the last four or five years. The reason Carmichael would seemingly be a longshot would be because of his potential candidacy for head coaching jobs in the NFL this upcoming offseason. Also, with the Saints season nowhere near over, it would be at least a few weeks before BC would be able to talk to him and the school might not be willing to wait that long. Carmichael has yet to be a head coach at any level and has only minimal experience as a college coach.
There will almost certainly be many more candidates that will pop up on the radar over the next few weeks, but these would be my top three heading into the opening round so to speak.
Ultimately, the depth of the damage done by Frank Spaziani's tenure as head coach probably won't be known until we find out what type of coach BC can land, what the immediate future looks as far as recruiting is concerned and where BC lands in the next game of conference musical chairs, but it's clear that damage has been done.
From the declining ticket sales to the decline in donations to the schools fundraising arm, the Flynn Fund to the schools attractiveness to potential new conferences and to general fan morale, BC athletics is in perhaps its darkest place since the infamous gambling scandal rocked the school and the football program back in 1996.
The ball is now in Bates' court. This hire will, more than likely, make or break his tenure at BC. For his sake and for the sake of the future of football at Boston College, to bring this program back into the light, he needs to knock this out of the park.
Let the search begin.
Dave Shook is a special contributor to SB Nation Boston. Twitter: @DShookCSL.