February 22, 2024

Jeff Hafley’s departure from Boston College to Green Bay is nothing more than a coach taking a better job


Perhaps exhausted from the persistent stream of articles, tweets and broadcast opinions expressing panic over 70-year-old mega millionaires retiring from coaching, and how they all obviously were chased from the game by the transfer portal, those who chronicle college sports have turned their anxiety toward a most unlikely candidate.

The head coach at Boston College.

Sorry, the former head coach at Boston College.

I mean, the guy who spent four years at BC and departed four games under 500.

Don’t take that as an implication Jeff Hafley is not an exceptional football coach. He almost certainly is, or the Green Bay Packers would not have been so eager to hire him away from the college game.

Those standing guard over college football are alarmed Hafley, though, would depart the sport for a position in the NFL other than head coach. With the Pack, he’ll only be defensive coordinator.

He will be with the Green Bay Packers, though. It’s a promotion, regardless of the job description.

MORE: Track every CFB coaching change in 2023-24

In college, he was head coach of a program that only four times in its history reached double-digit victories in a season, and not once since 2007. Name/Image/Likeness did not make BC a spectator to the most important games in the sport. It has been their position since legendary coach Frank Leahy followed an undefeated 1940 season by departing for Notre Dame.

Indeed, the “legendary” modifier was earned during his eight seasons in South Bend, not his two in Chestnut Hill.

“CFB in its current state will be seeing more and more coaches heading to the NFL,” ESPN analyst Kirk Herbstreit tweeted. “Without boundaries and regulation that make sense, coaches that get real opportunities in the NFL will be gone.”

That’s already been happening, you know, or the Steelers would not have been stuck with Matt Canada as offensive coordinator during the past three seasons. If saving the Black and Gold from guys like him is Herbstreit’s concern, maybe he’s got a point.

We all know it’s just more complaining about the transfer portal/NIL contagion. Players move because it’s lucrative. If staying is lucrative, maybe fewer will move. Programs can make progress in this regard without needing help from Congress or the institutions comprising the NCAA.

NCAA president Charlie Baker recently proposed a change to how high-major programs operate that would allow schools to directly compensate athletes. It’s probably not a perfect plan, but it is a starting point. But those lobbying to make college athletes employees of their teams or universities might not produce a result that pleases either side.

Especially coaches, who’ll find a way to complain regardless.

Yes, the college coach’s job is more difficult than it was 10 years ago. It’s also far more lucrative. Hafley was earning an estimated $4 million a year to coach the Eagles. That’s a hell of a check for a program that barely was meeting the meager standard to qualify for a postseason bowl game. In 2012, Nick Saban was making $5.3 million to win championships.

Jeff Hafley

Hafley figures to be paid somewhere in the same neighborhood as he was at BC to run the Packers’ defense. He will be expected to help produce Super Bowl contenders. If he does, he likely will get the chance to be an NFL head coach. At Boston College, the standard to reach is to win a few games more than are lost.

Some of the impetus for assertions such as Herbstreit’s were Hafley’s words in a recent interview with Adam Breneman’s “Next Up” podcast, in which Hafley discussed how the roster circumstances at the FBS level are creating issues for coaches.

“We’re going down a road where there’s going to be more imbalance than ever, and that’s the problem,” Hafley said. “We’re getting some teams that can really, really pull away. And then you’re getting some teams that you’ve seen over the last few years have had a lot of success, and you’re going to start to see them fall off. And it’s not because of a lack of coaching, and it’s not because of a lack of effort. But it’s because what others are doing.

“You’re not on the same playing field. You’re not in the same sandbox as some of the other teams.”

All the material I can find indicates Hafley has been working in college football for the past half-decade. How did he miss everything that happened?

Because it is literally impossible to have a college football competition more weighted toward a particular set of wealthy powers than what we just witnessed during the four-team College Football Playoff era.

Alabama, Georgia, Clemson, Ohio State, and Oklahoma consumed 65% of the available bids to the playoff semifinals in its 10 seasons. There were 65 teams in Power 5 conferences during that period, and 72 percent of them never saw the inside of the tournament. That includes such historic powers as USC, Penn State, Florida, and Texas A&M.

If you want to find a more imbalanced competition than this, you need to travel all the way to Germany and the Bundesliga, where Bayern Munich has won every championship for the last 11 years

There isn’t any doubt it will be a greater challenge for teams not inside the Southeastern Conference and Big Ten to compete over the next decade of college football. But how many that will not be housed in those two leagues in the near future regularly had been visiting the CFP?

OK, how about irregularly?

MORE: Big Ten, SEC form committee to address CFB future

After a decade of this charade, the most powerful conferences at last agreed to a legitimate tournament for which qualification need not require impressing a panel of people with tracksuits and per diems. There still will be a committee to select at-large teams and seed the field, but those teams that win the toughest conferences will have the certainty of participation through the automatic bid process.

You know, unlike Florida State in 2023.

Even if we wind up with the same small batch of teams regularly dominating the semifinals and finals of the new CFP, and that is not a certainty, there still will be the opportunity for many beyond that group to take their run at winning the biggest trophy.

There will be no shortage of coaches willing to sacrifice their free time in exchange for six- and seven-figure incomes and living in a world where their working concerns involve protecting a fourth-quarter lead as opposed to fretting about fourth-quarter sales.





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