North Carolina State has fired football coach Tom O’Brien after six seasons, four of which were good enough to get the Wolfpack into a bowl but none that could get them to the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game.
Athletic director Debbie Yow made the announcement Sunday, one day after the Wolfpack finished a 7-5 regular season with a win over Boston College. During a news conference, Yow said she met with O’Brien on Friday to discuss the future of the program, then notified him of her decision Sunday before meeting with the coaching staff and players.
“I told them it’s really fairly simple,” Yow said. “Coach O’Brien and I agree on the goal of becoming a top-25 program. We just don’t agree on what it takes to do that, how to get there.”
O’Brien went 40-35 after coming to Raleigh from BC following the 2006 season. He took the Wolfpack to three bowl games, but won’t coach in a fourth when N.C. State receives its bid next week. Yow said O’Brien’s buyout would be $1.2 million over four years.
N.C. State says offensive coordinator Dana Bible will be the interim coach for the bowl game. All other assistants are staying to continue bowl preparations.
“I appreciate the opportunity to have coached at North Carolina State University and I feel that the program is in a better place now than when I started,” O’Brien said in a statement issued by the school.
The 64-year-old O’Brien, who went 75-45 in 10 seasons at BC with eight consecutive bowl berths before coming here, said at his December 2006 hiring that it was “N.C. State or bust for me.”
In his statement Sunday, O’Brien said he is looking “forward to life after football.”
His teams were just 22-26 in ACC play and finished above .500 in the league just once, going 5-3 in 2010. He was 1-14 in Atlantic Division road games.
Only three ACC teams — No. 13 Florida State (10-2), No. 15 Clemson (10-2) and rival North Carolina (8-4) — had better overall records this season than the Wolfpack, who were 4-4 in the league.
That was good for third in the Atlantic Division behind Florida State and Clemson — exactly where they were picked in the preseason poll.
But consistency was a problem all season.
They opened with a 14-point loss to a Tennessee team that went on to finish 5-7. They blew a late 10-point lead and allowed an ACC-record 566 yards passing in a loss at Miami. They were routed at home 33-6 by a last-place Virginia team that had lost six straight and they gave up 62 points in a loss at Clemson.
Not even a thrilling upset of then-No. 3 Florida State on Oct. 6 could save O’Brien’s job.
O’Brien also faced some questions in the spring of 2011, when he parted ways with three-year starting quarterback Russell Wilson, who was attempting to play both minor-league baseball and football at the high FBS level.
Wilson transferred to Wisconsin for his senior season, led the Badgers to the Rose Bowl and wound up winning the job with the Seattle Seahawks.
O’Brien’s choice certainly appeared justified when Mike Glennon — who took over for Wilson — led the ACC in passing this season, averaging 304 yards.
The school says a national search for O’Brien’s replacement will begin immediately.
BC fires Frank Spaziani
Boston College has fired football coach Frank Spaziani after four years of progressively worse records and two straight seasons without a bowl appearance.
New athletic director Brad Bates made the announcement on Sunday, a day after the Eagles (2-10, 1-7 Atlantic Coast Conference) finished the season with a 27-10 loss at North Carolina State.
“A personnel decision of this magnitude affects many people and is never taken lightly, but I felt a change was necessary,” Bates said in a news release sent shortly after an email to season ticket-holders.
The decision was widely expected, and Spaziani all-but spoke openly about his understanding that it would be his last year. Asked on Saturday if he would make his case to stay, Spaziani told reporters in Raleigh, N.C. after Saturday’s game, “I do have a case.”
Spaziani, 65, spent 12 years as a BC assistant, the last 10 as defensive coordinator, before taking over when Jeff Jagodzinski was fired for interviewing for an NFL job. The Eagles won eight games his first season, seven the next and four last year.
A New Jersey native who played for Joe Paterno at Penn State, Spaziani had three years remaining on a contract that paid him $1.1 million per year.
Including the bowl game he coached after Jagodzinski was fired, Spaziani had a record of 22-29 at BC.
“It is with gratitude that we recognize the many contributions Coach Spaziani has made to Boston College during his 16 years in Chestnut Hill,” Bates said. “He displayed unwavering dedication and loyalty to our institution and our football student-athletes, while consistently representing Boston College with class and dignity. He and his staff have devoted countless hours to our student-athletes and the BC community. We thank them and wish them well.”
Bates was hired last month to replace Gene DeFilippo, who retired after 15 years. The new AD said he would begin searching for a new football coach — his first major hire in the job — immediately.
“We will be seeking a leader whose vision of our football program mirrors the mission of our university, who values the development of our student-athletes and whose goal is to return our program to national prominence,” he said. “Our fans and the entire University community value the rich tradition of Boston College football, and we are committed to making it a successful program.”