CHARLOTTE, N.C. (AP) – Boston College interim coach Frank Spaziani feels like a substitute teacher.

He’s finally going to be a collegiate head coach for the first time when the No. 23 Eagles (9-3) face Navy (9-3) on Saturday in the Meineke Bowl. But it’s only because his boss and longtime friend Tom O’Brien left to take the head coaching job at North Carolina State.

Spaziani, who served as O’Brien’s defensive coordinator for eight seasons, interviewed for the Eagles’ head job, but it went to Green Bay Packers offensive coordinator Jeff Jagodzinski. He’s still coaching the Packers, so Spaziani will lead BC this week, knowing he’s in an awkward position with the players.

“It’s human nature. ‘We did those spelling words yesterday, Mr. Spaziani,”‘ he said Tuesday after BC finished its first practice in Charlotte. “So you’ve got to say, ‘No, it says here we’ve got to do them, so we’ll do them again. We’ll do them just as the teacher left them and you can tell him when he gets back.”‘

Spaziani wouldn’t say Tuesday if he’ll be back with the Eagles next season or leave for N.C. State with O’Brien, saying only that both O’Brien and Jagodzinski likely will announce their staffs early next month.

It’s a situation that has left his players dealing with uncertainty.

“It’s like when you try to juggle. It’s not easy, but that’s what we’re doing, we’re juggling,” Spaziani said. “We’ve got real good kids and they understand what they have to do. Is it a distraction? Yeah, it probably is. But they’re fighting through it and I think we’ll put on a good show.”

Boston College normally does in the postseason. The Eagles have won six consecutive bowl games, tied with Utah for the longest streak in the nation. But with O’Brien gone, Jagodzinski yet to arrive and Spaziani’s future in question, BC’s eighth consecutive bowl appearance will be unlike any other.

“It’s been interesting and unlike anything I’ve ever encountered in college,” said junior quarterback Matt Ryan, who leads the Atlantic Coast Conference with 2,700 yards passing. “We had a great coaching staff and we worked really well with coach O’Brien. He decided to go and we respect that. During that interim period coach Spaziani has done a really good job keeping us motivated, keeping guys out there flying around.”

While this will be the first time he has been a head coach since 1974 when he directed Raritan (N.J.) High School, Spaziani has 29 years of collegiate coaching experience. He also spent five more years as a defensive coordinator in the Canadian Football League.

One of his stops was his opponent on Saturday, Navy. He coached defensive backs for five seasons under George Welsh, who took the Virginia head coaching job before the Midshipmen played Ohio State in the 1981 Liberty Bowl.

“The only difference there was he wanted to and they wanted him to coach in the bowl game,” Spaziani said.

That wasn’t going to be the case at BC, especially since O’Brien left for a conference rival.

So Spaziani will continue to run the defense on Saturday and offensive coordinator Dana Bible will call the plays. The only difference will be Spaziani will decide whether they go for it on fourth down or kick a field goal.

“Now, whether the (coaches) will listen to me or not…,” Spaziani joked.


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