Jeff Hafley wasn’t planning to leave Ohio State after just one season, but ultimately, the opportunity to become the head coach at Boston College was one he felt like he couldn’t pass up.
“I never thought that I would leave Ryan after one season,” Hafley said in his introductory press conference at Boston College on Monday morning. “Quite honestly, that’s not what I planned on doing. But when this one opened, it felt special, and it felt right. And that’s why I’m here.”
As he made his first official press conference at Boston College’s head coach on Monday, flanked by BC athletic director (and former Ohio State deputy athletic director) Martin Jarmond, Hafley expressed his gratitude to Day – as well as Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith and the rest of the OSU community – for giving him the opportunity to be the Buckeyes’ co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach.
He also confirmed that for the rest of the season, he will be back at Ohio State and focused on helping the Buckeyes try to achieve their goal of winning the College Football Playoff.
“I have to go back,” Hafley said. “I wish that I could stay here and start working right now, but I have to go win a national championship. I owe it to Ohio State, to Coach Day, to the players, and I’m excited. So I’m gonna go do that.”
Ohio State is scheduled to practice on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, and Hafley said he would be heading right back to Columbus to be a part of those practices, joking that he might not even have time to change out of his press conference attire.
“I literally am flying back and going to run onto a field and coach a football practice,” Hafley said. “I might still be in my suit doing so.”
It won’t be easy for Hafley to juggle the responsibilities of continuing to coach the Buckeyes’ defense and secondary while simultaneously preparing to become a head coach elsewhere, but Hafley feels fortunate to be in both positions.
“I get a chance to fulfill a dream and go work for a national championship, and then at the same time, when I’m done working on that, I get a chance to work on becoming a head coach, putting together a staff at a place that I really want to be,” Hafley said. “My wife might get mad, ‘cause I might not see her very much or talk to her very much, and I might not sleep, but I see it as such a great opportunity and not a challenge, and I’m just really excited to be able to do both.”
“I wish that I could stay here and start working right now, but I have to go win a national championship. I owe it to Ohio State, to Coach Day, to the players, and I’m excited. So I’m gonna go do that.”– Jeff Hafley on finishing the season with Ohio State
A native of New Jersey, Hafley said the Boston College job was appealing to him because of his Northeast roots and because he believes he has a chance to be immediately successful with the Eagles, who went 6-6 this season.
“I’ve known about Boston College for my entire life,” Hafley said. “And then when I started to watch the tape, I saw a good team. This is not a rebuild. This is not something that is going to start from scratch. They’ve done a good job with good players, and it’s our job to get it better, but that’s one of the things that attracted me to this place.”
Jarmond said he was in communication with Smith and Day from the beginning of the process, letting him know that Hafley was one of the candidates Boston College was going to pursue to replace Steve Addazio, because he “wanted to be respectful of what they were doing and not try to be disruptive as they were chasing a championship.”
He acknowledged that he wasn’t sure how Smith, his former boss, was going to take that news, but Jarmond said Smith ultimately gave Hafley his recommendation.
“Gene Smith was great the whole time,” Jarmond said. “When I had to call him and tell him that one of your guys is really high on my list, I didn’t know how that was going to be received, because I know how valuable he is to what Ryan and Gene and Ohio State is doing.
“When I called him, I said, ‘Just as a courtesy, Gene, I don’t know how this thing is going to go, but one of your guys is really high on my list,’ and when I said Jeff’s name, he said, ‘Wow.’ Literally that’s what he said, he said, ‘Wow.’ And then he said, ‘He’s a good one.’ So then it became easier from that standpoint.”
When asked what he was looking for from his new head coach, Jarmond listed off a set of values that are similar to those Smith looks for in coaches – integrity, passion and a drive to compete and teach – and said Hafley checked all those boxes.
“He has a lot of the characteristics that I was looking for, and more,” Jarmond said of Hafley. “I think the distinct thing about Jeff is he has those qualities, but then he also has those intangibles that you kind of look at. He talked about a chip on his shoulder. I like that. I like someone that’s hungry.”
Hafley and Jarmond both referenced the famous Woody Hayes quote “You win with people” during Monday’s press conference, and Hafley believes that what he learned in his one year at Ohio State will help him be successful at Boston College.
“There’s great people there,” Hafley said of Ohio State. “Ryan and Gene Smith and they have a great strength coach (Mickey Marotti) and they have great people there. And they’ve built that culture over time. Urban Meyer did a great job and Jim Tressel did a great job, and there’s been consistency among the coaches and the people there. And when you do that, you allow that to build. And it’s been exciting to be a part of and learn from, because I think I’ll be able to take a lot from that.”