Boston College football coaching job profile: Pluses, minuses and candidates

Boston College needs a new head coach. Jeff Hafley left the Eagles for the Green Bay Packers defensive coordinator job on Wednesday, opening another job after the college football head coaching carousel has seemingly completed.

Hafley went 22-26 in four seasons from 2020 to ‘23, including three six-win regular seasons with an additional bowl win this year.

“I loved my four years at Boston College,” Hafley said in a statement. “This is an exceptional place to coach given the caliber of student-athletes we recruit, the facilities, and the support from the University and BC fans. I will miss the players who gave so much of themselves these past four years, and my wife Gina and I will certainly miss the BC community and the many friends we have made here.”

William V. Campbell Director of Athletics Blake James thanked Hafley for his dedicated service to his players and BC football since being named head coach in December 2019.

“We are incredibly grateful to Coach Hafley for his service to Boston College and to our student-athletes,” James said. “He was a true ambassador of our institution, and under his leadership, the Eagles earned three bowl berths, excelled academically, and represented Boston College with class and distinction. We wish him, his wife, Gina, and their daughters, Hope and Leah, all the best in their next steps.”

James said that a national search for a new head coach will begin immediately.

“As a world-class institution with a strong tradition and a commitment to excellence, we are confident that we will find an exceptional new leader for our Football program, and we will continue to do everything we can to support our student-athletes.”

So how good is the Boston College job? What names could get in the mix? Here are the factors to keep in mind.

How will the calendar impact the search?

There are multiple coaches from this cycle who could have been great fits but have already taken other head coaching jobs. That includes Curt Cignetti to Indiana, Fran Brown to Syracuse and Bob Chesney to James Madison. The later in the cycle, the harder it can be to hire a coach, especially with players back in school and going through workouts. Some coaches may not want to leave their teams at this point in the year.

On the flip side, it’s still a Power 4 head coaching job, and there’s no competition on the carousel right now. If BC can identify a coach it wants, it doesn’t have to worry about someone else hiring them. Hafley made a little more than $3 million per year, according to USA Today’s database. That’s still a number that will entice coaches.

The job can win, but how much?

Boston College has played in 16 bowl games since 1999. It’s had just four losing seasons in that span, too. But the Eagles haven’t won more than seven games in a season since 2009. The team has reached the AP Top 25 in just one season since then and hasn’t finished ranked since 2007.

Hafley never won more than six regular season games in a year at BC. After going 3-9 in 2022, he was on the hot seat amid a 1-3 start in 2023, but finished 6-3 and beat SMU in the Fenway Bowl.

Can Boston College do any better than that? It’s been quite a while.

The facilities and investment have gotten better

A $52 million indoor practice facility, the Fish Field House, finally opened in 2018, as BC was one of the last ACC and Power 5 schools to build one. That was part of a $200 million investment in athletics facilities.

The Yawkey Athletics Center is the home of BC football offices and meeting rooms, attached to Alumni Stadium. The locker rooms were renovated in 2015. The facilities are obviously not at the level of Clemson, but it’s on par with the rest of the conference now.

So what names could get in the mix?

Toledo head coach Jason Candle was a finalist for the Syracuse job earlier in this cycle. He’s 20-8 over the last two seasons with a MAC championship and two division titles, including an 11-3 record this year. The 44-year-old has spent his entire career in Ohio between Toledo and Mount Union. He’s been in the mix for Power 5 head coaching jobs and even considered some coordinator jobs. He’s also a really smart offensive mind who has helped develop some of the best offensive players in the MAC over the last few years.

Jason Candle has a 65-35 record as the head coach at Toledo. (Lon Horwedel / USA Today)

Former Florida and Mississippi State head coach Dan Mullen is a Northeast native who was also in the mix at Syracuse. Currently an ESPN analyst, he’s the second-winningest coach in Mississippi State history. Under Mullen from 2009 through 2017, the Bulldogs reached No. 1 in the country in the very first College Football Playoff rankings in 2014. They were a consistent winning program and a tough out before he left for Florida, where he reached three New Year’s Six games with three top-15 finishes but was fired in Year 4 amid diminishing results and poor recruiting. At BC, he wouldn’t face those same kinds of recruiting pressures.

Notre Dame defensive coordinator Al Golden is a New Jersey native who took Temple to two seasons of eight-plus wins in the late 2000s after decades of losing. He was also a Boston College assistant from 1997 to ‘99 and briefly played for the New England Patriots. Golden was a nominee this past year for the Broyles Award, given to the nation’s top assistant coach, and the Irish defense finished fifth nationally in yards per play allowed. He went 32-25 as Miami (Fla.) head coach before six seasons as an NFL assistant. He has head coaching experience, he won at a place with less and he knows the area.

Notre Dame defensive line coach Al Washington is a former BC player and assistant who interviewed for this job the last time it opened. Washington played at BC from 2002 to ‘05 and was an assistant from 2012 to ‘16. He’s since coached a position group at Cincinnati, Michigan, Ohio State and Notre Dame. At ND, Washington has finished in the top 10 of 247Sports’ recruiter rankings in two of the last three years. He knows BC and he’s coached at some of the biggest programs in the sport.

Ohio State offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien just got to Columbus, but he’s been interested in several head coaching jobs over the years. O’Brien is a Boston native who spent six years with the New England Patriots over two stints, including this past year as offensive coordinator. He went 15-9 as Penn State head coach while taking amid sanctions from the Jerry Sandusky scandal, so he’s been a college head coach in a difficult spot. As the Houston Texans head coach from 2014 to ‘20, he won four division championships in seven seasons.

Air Force head coach Troy Calhoun has continued to win in Colorado Springs. The 57-year-old is 29-10 over the last three seasons and has won at least nine games in each of the past four full seasons. Calhoun, who has experience as an NFL offensive coordinator and wouldn’t be tied to the triple-option, is 130-82 in the job since 2007 with 13 bowl appearances. Despite college football’s new rules governing NIL and transfers, which only hurt service academies, Calhoun’s program hasn’t missed a beat. He does not have any northeast coaching experience; his only other stints have been at Ohio and Wake Forest from 1995 to 2002.

Kentucky offensive coordinator Liam Coen has deep northeast ties. A Rhode Island native who played at UMass, Coen has coached at Brown, URI, UMass and Maine before he joined the Los Angeles Rams. He was Kentucky’s offensive coordinator for a 10-3 season in 2021 and helped develop Will Levis into an NFL Draft pick. He spent 2022 as the Rams’ offensive coordinator and returned to UK last season.

Would James Madison head coach Bob Chesney consider the job despite recently joining JMU? Chesney went 44-21 at Holy Cross in Worcester over the last six seasons, nearly upsetting Hafley and BC in a 31-28 loss this past season. Chesney previously coached in New England as the head coach at Assumption and Salve Regina. JMU hired Chesney in early December to replace Curt Cignetti. His buyout to leave is only $1.75 million. We’ve seen Manny Diaz leave Temple for Miami (Fla.) after a few weeks back in 2018, so such a move wouldn’t be unprecedented. But it would put a lot of people in a difficult position. Then again, who was the athletic director who hired Diaz to Miami? Current BC AD Blake James.

Yale head coach Tony Reno is 67-43 with the Bulldogs and 15-5 over the last two seasons with two Ivy League titles. He’s also a Massachusetts native. But moving from the Ivy League to the Power 4 may be a tough jump to execute.

I doubt Bill Belichick is interested in the job, but it doesn’t hurt to make a call, right?

(Top photo: Eric Canha / USA Today)

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