Talk about an odd situation.
Imagine you are a college football coach and a Power Five program gives you a chance to run their offense. You are looking to get a second chance at a head coaching job after a rough previous experience.
You establish a great relationship with the head coach, learning many different things about coaching at the FBS level that would have helped you at your previous spot. You do well and the Group of Five program that you recently left notices, offering you their head coach position.
You accept it, leaving everyone behind. After your first season as a head coach, you find out that mentor has been fired. You continue to stay in touch with him and an idea pops into your head three years later. You follow through and hire him to your coaching staff. As odd as that is for you and me to even imagine, it happens all too often in college football. The latest example is the hiring of Frank Spaziani as the defensive coordinator at New Mexico State.
Spaziani was with Boston College as the head coach from 2009-2012 after a dozen years as their defensive coordinator. While he was there, NMSU's Doug Martin joined the staff. Following a single year (2011) as the Aggies offensive coordinator and QB coach, he joined the Boston College staff for the same role. After a 2-10 season saw Spaziani shown the door, Martin also left, returning to New Mexico State as their new head coach.
Spaziani looked to be done with coaching at the FBS level, in his mid-60s and close to complete retirement from football. That is until he got a call from his former offensive coordinator Doug Martin at NMSU.
The Aggies recently decided to reassign defensive coordinator Zane Vance to a different position. Martin was calling to make an easy sell to a defensive minded coach that wanted to get back into the game. He needed Spaziani to come in and fix a defense that was one of the worst defenses at any level of college football, much less the FBS. Spaziani took the job and a modest assistant salary that many with his experience would not agree to.
The Aggies were one of the worst defenses in the nation in 2015, giving up an astounding 45.0 points per game. The pass defense gave up 280.0 yards per game and the rush defense gave up 242.3 yards per game. As a whole, the Aggies allowed 522.3 yards per game. That total was only eclipsed by Tulsa (536.6), Texas Tech (547.7), and Kansas (560.8).
What does Spaziani bring to the NMSU defense moving forward? Why should the Aggies fan base put their hope in a 68-year old coach that has been out of the coaching game for three years?
Simply, he knows what the hell he is doing on defense.
Spaziani was the defensive coordinator at Boston College from 1999-2008. During that time, no defense under his leadership gave up more than 25.5 points per game. Only four out of ten defenses gave up 20 or more points per game.
His top defense at Boston College was in 2008, with the Eagles finishing #18 versus the pass, #7 versus the run, #5 in total defense, and #17 in scoring defense. That defense included standouts Mark Herzlich, Luke Kuechly and B.J. Raji.
Only once as the head coach (2009-2012) did his defense give up more than 25 points per game, his final year with the program.
He is not a magician, but give Spaziani a couple of years and New Mexico State could have a defense that is among the elite in the Sun Belt.