- The Washington Times - Friday, December 29, 2006

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — When a Navy-Boston College matchup in the Meineke Car Care Bowl was finalized earlier this month, there was some question if both head coaches would be on hand.

After all, Navy coach Paul Johnson was mentioned by various newspapers and Internet rumor mills as a possible candidate for multiple coaching vacancies. Instead, it was Boston College coach Tom O’Brien who accepted another job, replacing Chuck Amato at N.C. State three weeks ago.

So while Johnson and his staff remain intact for the Midshipmen (9-3) as they face the 23rd ranked Eagles (9-3) today at Bank of America Stadium, the team on the other sideline will feature a first-time head coach.

“These past few weeks have been up, down, left right — they’ve been everywhere,” Boston College linebacker Jolonn Dunbar said. “I think we are a close-knit team and we’ve moved past it easily. I think it took about a week for everyone to understand everything and maybe vent or let loose any aggression they had or anything that was bothering them. We’re back together and the coaching staff has done a great job of getting us ready.”

Frank Spaziani, who has spent the past 10 seasons as a BC assistant (eight as O’Brien’s defensive coordinator), was named the Eagles’ interim head coach shortly after O’Brien departed. Jeff Jagodzinski, currently the Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator, will replace Spaziani after the bowl game. While Jagodzinski’s soon-to-be-former team tries to make the NFL playoffs tomorrow, Spaziani will be in control for the Eagles today.

“The Chicago Cubs had eight coaches run their team one year [without a manager] and that didn’t work out too good,” Spaziani, who played defensive end at Penn State in the late ‘60s, said. “You have to have someone there to say vanilla or chocolate ice cream, stop or go. They decided it was going to be me.”

Spaziani’s first full-time coaching position at the college level was at the Naval Academy under former Mids coach George Welsh in 1975. He has spent most of the past 32 years as an assistant to either Welsh (for seven years at Navy and nine years at Virginia) or O’Brien (10 years at BC).

While he can tell his players about his experiences in Annapolis, they already have had plenty of academy-inspired wisdom imparted upon them. O’Brien is a 1971 graduate of the U.S. Naval Academy and a former U.S. Marine.

“That was my first coaching college job. There are a lot of similarities between our program at Boston College and the Naval Academy,” Spaziani said. “Number one — academics is the most important thing. We have the same goals, but we just achieve them in a little different way. The kids are very similar.”

Spaziani’s task is to continue Boston College’s recent run of postseason success. The Eagles have won six consecutive bowl games and a seventh straight would be the longest such streak in the country.

The past two Boston College bowl wins have come on decidedly un-neutral fields. Two seasons ago the Eagles won this game — then named the Continental Tire Bowl — with a 37-24 victory over North Carolina. Last year BC topped Boise State 27-21 on the Broncos’ blue-clad home turf in the MPC Computers Bowl.

Navy has sold 22,000 tickets for today’s game and many of the other spectators — which are expected to approach 60,000 — will be current and former naval personnel who live or are based in the area.

They will all find out if Spaziani is ready for his first game as a college head coach after a three decade-plus apprenticeship.

“The analogy I make is it’s like juggling,” Spaziani said. “Everybody picks up a couple of balls and says ‘Hey, let me see if I can juggle.’ Then they go, ‘Wait a minute, this doesn’t look so easy. This is hard.’

“That is what we have been doing is juggling, and still trying to focus on [the game] and win. That is the hand that was dealt to us and we have no problem with that.”

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