Frank Spaziani is beginning his fourth year as head coach of the Boston College football team and his 16th season overall on the BC football staff. Widely regarded as one of the best defensive minds in college football, he was named head coach in 2009 after a 10-year run as the Eagles' defensive coordinator and two as running backs coach. Spaziani's head coaching record now stands at 20-19 (he was credited with BC's 25-24 win over Navy in the 2006 Meineke Car Care Bowl as he served as interim head coach following the departure of Tom O'Brien).
The son of first-generation Italian-Americans Joseph and Regina Spaziani, "Coach Spaz" grew up in Clark, N.J., and never forgot his roots. The values of hard work, toughness, dedication, humility, loyalty and honesty he learned as a boy have formed the foundation for his coaching philosophy. Spaziani would become the last player recruited to Penn State by a young assistant named Joe Paterno, who went on to become the head coach the next year. Talented in baseball as well, Spaziani was originally recruited as a quarterback but eventually became a defensive end before serving as a graduate assistant for Paterno.
His first season as head coach at Boston College (2009) required more than a few tough decisions due to several key injuries. By mid-summer, expectations were low; at the ACC's Operation Football in July, the league's media predicted the Eagles would finish dead last in the Atlantic Division. But the team overachieved, finishing with an 8-5 record, tied for second in the ACC Atlantic Division, and played in its 11th straight bowl game, giving national power USC all it could handle in the third-most-watched bowl game ever televised on ESPN. True freshman linebacker Luke Kuechly was named ACC Defensive Rookie of the Year after coming out of nowhere to lead the league in tackles and averaging more tackles-per-game than any rookie since the NCAA began tracking the stat in 2003. And the Eagles continued their proud tradition of achieving in the classroom, becoming one of only six FBS programs in the country to receive a Graduation Success Rate score of 90 or better.
The 2010 season followed suit. The Eagles began the season 2-5 and were plagued by injuries to key defensive starters Alex Albright, Wes Davis and DeLeon Gause. Midway through the season, 25 of the 44 players on the team's two-deep were freshmen or sophomores. But led by the nation's leading tackler (Kuechly), the Eagles became the first team in ACC history to win five consecutive games after losing five in a row. In so doing, they became eligible for their 12th consecutive bowl game. The squad led the ACC in total defense and the nation in rushing defense.
Thanks in no small part to a series of injuries to key players, the 2011 team stumbled to a 1-6 start before regrouping to finish the season strong, winning three of their final five ACC games. Kuechly led the nation in tackles for the second straight year and became the most decorated defensive player in Boston College football history. He captured the FWAA's Bronko Nagurski Award as the nation's top defensive player of the year; the Lombardi Award, given to the nation's top interior lineman or linebacker; the Dick Butkus Award, as the nation's top linebacker, and the Lott IMPACT Defensive Player of the Year Award. A two-time consensus All-American, Kuechly was the 2011 ACC Defensive Player of the Year and a first-round NFL draft selection. A number of outstanding freshmen and sophomores saw significant playing time by the end of the season, providing an optimistic glimpse into the future. Three freshmen, in fact, earned Freshman All-America honors, including DT Dominic Appiah, G Bobby Vardaro and LB Sean Duggan.
Spaziani's reputation as an outstanding coach was built upon a decade of producing one of the toughest defenses in college football. In 2008, the Eagles ranked in the top 10 in the nation in seven defensive categories, including interceptions (first, 26); turnovers gained (second, 36); total defense (fifth, 268.14 ypg.); red zone defense (sixth, 72%); first downs allowed (sixth, 14.71 pg.); rushing defense (seventh, 91.2 ypg.), and pass efficiency defense (98.81). The Eagles advanced to the ACC Championship Game for the second consecutive season. In addition, Herzlich was named ACC Defensive Player of the Year.
In 2007 Spaziani's defense ranked second in the nation and led the ACC in rushing defense, allowing just 75.5 yards per game. Senior free safety Jamie Silva was a consensus All-America first-team selection and was one of three finalists for the 2007 Jim Thorpe Award, which is given to the nation's top defensive back. Spaziani was part of a staff that led the Eagles to an 11-3 finish, the first BC team to win 11 games since 1940. The 2007 Eagles began the season 8-0 and were ranked No. 2 in the nation in both major polls. The team won the Atlantic Division of the ACC and finished 10th in the final AP poll, BC's best finish since the 1984 season.
In 2006, Boston College led the ACC with five defensive touchdowns. The Eagles were third in the ACC in scoring defense and Jo-Lonn Dunbar was named National Defensive Player of the Week when he scored two of BC's three defensive touchdowns vs. Maryland. In 2005, BC led the ACC in rushing defense (90.8 ypg.) and red zone defense (25-39, 64.1%) and were third in scoring defense (15.9 ypg.). The 2004 Eagles were ranked in the top 10 nationally in scoring defense, top 20 in rushing defense and top 25 in pass efficiency defense. In 2003 BC was ranked second in the Big East in total defense and rushing defense. During the 2002 season, the Eagle defense was ranked 13th nationally in passing defense, 25th in pass efficiency defense, 23rd in scoring defense and 37th in total defense.
Spaziani joined the BC coaching staff after three seasons with the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League. During his coaching tenure at Calgary, he served two seasons as the defensive coordinator. Prior to his coaching stint at Calgary, he served as the defensive coordinator for two years with the Winnipeg Blue Bombers. Spaziani spent nine years as a member of the Virginia coaching staff, where he was defensive coordinator for his last five seasons in Charlottesville, after having been defensive backs coach for the first four.
Spaziani is a 1969 graduate of Penn State, where he was a star defensive end on the Nittany Lions teams that tied Florida State in the 1967 Gator Bowl and defeated Kansas in the 1969 Orange Bowl. He began his coaching career in 1969 as a graduate assistant to Joe Paterno at Penn State. After three years as an assistant high school coach, he became head coach at Hempstead (N.Y.) High School in 1973, and, a year later, at Raritan (N.J.) High. He joined head coach George Welsh as an offensive assistant at the U.S. Naval Academy in 1975 and went with Welsh from Annapolis to Virginia in 1982.
Frank and his wife, the former Laura Heikel, are the parents of three children, Joseph and twins Avery and Andrew.
THE SPAZIANI FILE Came to Boston College from: Calgary Stampeders (CFL) in 1997 Birthdate: April 1, 1947 Age on Sept. 1: 65 Hometown: Clark, N.J. College: Penn State (B.A. Marketing, 1969); Seton Hall (M.A. Education, 1972) Wife: Laura Children: Daughter: Avery; Sons: Joseph and Andrew
COACHING EXPERIENCE 2009-present Boston College (head coach) 1999-08 Boston College (defensive coordinator) 1997-98 Boston College (running backs) 1994-96 Calgary Stampeders-CFL (defensive coordinator) 1992-93 Winnipeg Blue Bombers-CFL (defensive coordinator) 1985-90 University of Virginia (defensive coordinator/ defensive backs) 1982-85 University of Virginia (defensive backs) 1977-81 United States Naval Academy (defensive backs) 1975-77 United States Naval Academy (tight ends/tackles) 1969 Penn State (graduate assistant)