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"He may ride forever 'neath the streets of Boston

"He's the man who never returned."

"M.T.A." -- The Kingston Trio

The set-up was perfect for Boston College.

Spring training and the Red Sox were still two weeks away from pitchers and catchers headed to Spring Training.

The Belichick-light Patriots were trying to put a dynasty back together.

The Celtics and Bruins were in mid-season hibernation before getting ready for their spring and early summer push.

At the Garden, the Beanpot, one of college hockey's iconic events was ready to host a semifinal match-up between No. 3 Boston University and No. 1 Boston College.

The only percolating news was the somewhat unexpected search for a new football coach at Boston College.

Jeff Hafley, after four years of failing to push the rock up the hill, had bolted for a job as the defensive coordinator with the Green Bay Packers.

Normally, a BC coaching search would not move the needle much.

Boston is a pro town and unless you climb into the top 10 as BC football did 17 years ago with Matt Ryan at QB or have a Heisman Trophy QB like Doug Flutie 40 years ago, BC is basically irrelevant.

But this week was different.  

The name at the top of every list was Bill O'Brien, a Boston guy whose coaching resume matches or tops everyone else for a bottom tier Power 4 job.

O'Brien's latest stop had been a return to the Patriots and Bill Belichick, which had started with an earlier stop at Patriot Place, where he had played a large part in the development of a QB named Tom Brady

He had also worked with Nick Saban at Alabama and was a playoff quality head coach with the Houston Oilers. He also filled the difficult job of replacing Joe Paterno at Penn State.

When Belichick was fired at the end of the NFL season, O'Brien needed another job, which he quickly got as the offensive coordinator for Ryan Day at Ohio State.

But at 54, with strong Boston ties -- his wife is a BC grad -- O'Brien didn't want to take his family on another road show. He wanted stability, commitment and another chance to be a head coach, something he proved he could do at Penn State.

And suddenly, the opportunity was there.

BC athletic director Blake James had his ready list if Hafley didn't match the expectations (8 regular season wins). And O'Brien was his man.

Contact was made, talks began, including negotiations about how to do the job.

That news filtered to the hockey crowd, which prompted a pre-game "Bill O'Brien, Bill O'Brien" chant from the BC crowd.

The timing seemed perfect. 

O'Brien had met with BC officials over the weekend. Things were in place and talks were progressing.

The deal could have been done Monday morning. He could have been introduced to the crowd Monday night. 

On Wednesday, he could have used National Letter of Intent Day as a springboard fo a new era of BC football, which will begin this season in prime time on Labor Day against last season's Cinderella story, unbeaten and CFP-snubbed Florida State.

BC football could then sprint towards spring football on a cushion of feel-good and goodwill breezes.

It didn't happen.

Not that it couldn't.

BC is still looking and searching and hoping.


The Process.

There is a BC Way.

Nutured by one person -- BC President Father William Leahy, who has been sitting on the throne since 1996. BC did things its way.

There is a BC way, a process of doing things, whether it's hiring a history professor or a football coach.

Get a list of names, find out who is interested, meet with those people. Discuss their merits. Cut the list. Meet with the finalists. Discuss their merits.

This, of course, is well below Father Leahy's pay grade. 

James, BC's fifth athletic director in the past 20 years and third in four seasons, and the Parker Executive Search group in Atlanta handle the details.

That process is likely to conclude on Thursday with the choice.

It should be O'Brien, but it might not be.

Whomever it is must include one prerequsite.

The chosen one must come to The Heights, meet Father Leahy and get final approval.

More than one AD and coaching finalist who has dealt with the variety of openings at BC over the past several years (15 football, men's basketball and AD's in the past 20 years) when asked what happened said, "I didn't kiss the ring."

The sound you hear at The Heights is a rumble, like thunder. The small, but loyal fan base has had enough. It is worried and mad as hell at Father Leahy.

They want a change, not only on the coaching level, but at the top.

All of this could quiet down if  O'Brien is announced as the next  football coach on Friday.

But if not, there will be explanations demanded and probably not accepted.

Arguably, this is the  most crucial period in BC football history.  

College football is on the cusp of a revolution which is basically turning the sport into NFL Light --payment of players through NIL and free agency through the transfer portal. That's an environment BC doesn't like and can not realistically compete in.

There is talk of a breakaway between the haves and have-nots in the sport.

BC backers tell you that BC is part of the elite group.

It is not.

It is close to being the most irrelevant school in terms of overall support and impact among the Power 4 schools.

The Eagles need leadership to take them through what could be seismic changes.

Without aggressive leadership they haven't got a chance

Whether Father Leahy knows this is uncertain.

Whether he cares is not.

By almost every standard, he has been a brilliant President who has turned BC into a world-class university.

On the athletic side, in the main revenue producing sports, football and men's basketball, BC has been a colossal failure for almost 20 years.

The hire is arguably the most important in BC football history, considering the uncertain status of the overall direction of college football and BC's role.'

Hiring O'Brien, which fiinally was confirmed by numerous sources on Thursday night, is a positive step for BC.

And for Father Leahy, who can now  go bacj to dealing with non-athletic matters.