top of page

DiMauro: Jeff Hafley deserves some praise

Updated: Oct 6

Among the first lessons in Columnist School goes like this: If you criticize the bad, you should praise the good, lest you get exposed as a fraud with an agenda. There has been considerable bad through the first five weeks of Boston College’s football season, enough to warrant appropriate criticism of coach Jeff Hafley. Example: I wondered last week if his best days at BC were behind him, following the stench of a 28-point loss at Louisville. But the Eagles have also shown spasms of promise, evidenced by Saturday’s rousing second-half rally that gave BC a 27-24 win over Virginia. And so if we are going to question Hafley’s methods in times of peril, we should praise him for BC’s perpetual resilience this season. What happened Saturday before 41,868 at Alumni Stadium is further evidence that Hafley has not, as some have suggested, “lost the locker room.” On the contrary. There is no greater attribute for a team than the ability to withstand and then conquer dire circumstances. A 21-7 deficit at halftime at home to a winless team Saturday qualified as dire. “We have a resilient team. We really do,” Hafley said after the game. “Do we need to play better in some areas? Sure. Do I need to coach better in some areas? Sure. We have a resilient group that could have laid it down and they didn't. Multiple times in the game. I thought they showed that and I'm proud of them and I love them.” Consider the mood at halftime. A confounding season had found another indignity, the completion of a Hail Mary that allowed Virginia another two-touchdown lead. Who among us didn’t think, “here we go again?” Who among us didn’t consult the mental rolodex, contemplating Hafley’s successors? Who among us wasn’t concerned the players might succumb to the frustration? “I don't think we were deflated. I thought we had momentum going until the Hail Mary. I really did,” Hafley said. “I felt it on the sideline and maybe I'm crazy, but I felt it. And then yeah, I guess the Hail Mary did deflate us. Speeches only go so far. So what you're saying to get them all fired up to run out of the tunnel - that doesn't last. It's who they are and how resilient they are and how much they trust and believe in their team.” The Eagles have shown as much all season. And that’s a credit to Hafley and his coaches, for not merely being able to preach resiliency, but to get the players to believe it. It’s certainly fair to wonder why they’ve faced two-touchdown deficits to Northern Illinois, Florida State and Virginia. It’s certainly fair to wonder why they came frighteningly close to losing to Holy Cross. But it’s also true that BC has rallied each time, even when the situations were ominous. The significance of resilience isn’t to be understated, even though it is stated quite often. Athletes at all levels spew cliches about it all the time. But it’s another thing entirely to actually do it. And the Eagles are doing it. “We had a little talk at halftime, just emphasizing how guys have to do their job,” defensive end Donovan Ezeiraku said after the game. “Guys don't have to quit. Adversity comes our way. We're just not going to quit. We’re just going keep on going, keep fighting. We knew that. “We looked ourselves in the mirror (after the Louisville loss), especially on Monday, the off day. We’ve got to change. The defense took ownership of that loss last week, letting up all those points. We had a big emphasis on doing your job and just being playmakers having some fun. Guys not playing to mess up, (but to) just go make a play.” Yet even as the Eagles played their best half of the season, they met with more distress, this the scariest kind: Teammate Ryan O’Keefe motionless on the turf. They eventually rallied around O’Keefe as he was wheeled off the field, unaware of the injury’s severity. And yet they managed the adversity, as they have all season, figuring out a way to win the game using all three phases. The offense drove, the defense held and special teams scored, Liam Connor’s clutch 42-yard field goal. “Our guys rebounded,” Hafley said, alluding to seeing O’Keefe’s injury. “It was pretty emotional for a lot of guys. It was emotional for me to be honest with you. I've never been in a situation on the field like that. And you kind of had to reset yourself because your mind starts going in different ways.” Read those words again: You kind of had to reset yourself because your mind starts going in different ways. This has been the story of BC’s football season. They have found ways to reset, the Eagles have, in spite of making themselves and many of us contemplate whether we need to gulp Mylanta or Maker’s at various times. But if we’re going to criticize Hafley for all the predicaments and penalties, then we really ought to praise him for keeping his team together. Mike DiMauro, a columnist in Connecticut, is a contributor to Eagles Daily and a member of BC’s class of 1990. He may be reached at and @bcgenius

bottom of page