BC is down two heading into Central Michigan game

By Mark Blaudschun
Globe Staff / October 29, 2009

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The first part of the process was over - telling football coach Frank Spaziani that they wanted to leave Boston College. For redshirt freshman quarterback Justin Tuggle and sophomore running back Josh Haden, the next part was more complicated, as they had to sit in the office of associate athletic director Barry Gallup this week as he explained the process of leaving.

First, BC had to officially release them from their obligation to the program.

“I told them that Coach Spaziani had given them that, and we would do everything possible to find another school,’’ said Gallup yesterday. “I told them to give us a list of schools where they might want to go and we would do whatever we could to help them.’’

Gallup then turned to his computer and looked at the screen, which showed the names of several schools - most of them FCS (i.e. Division 1-AA) schools - that had already contacted BC, a common practice since NCAA regulations do not require players transferring from FBS to FCS schools to sit out a year.

“But I also told them they had to stay in school, keep their grades up, or they wouldn’t be eligible to get a scholarship,’’ said Gallup.

A transfer to another Atlantic Coast Conference school seems the least likely scenario, since that would require a two-year waiting period instead of the usual one.

So it went yesterday on a rainy afternoon as BC prepared for Saturday’s game against Central Michigan but also dealt with the fallout of two players leaving in midseason, a move that drew mixed reactions from many players.

“You don’t want guys to jump ship before the ship has landed,’’ said defensive end Alex Albright. “But I wish them luck. Those guys are still good friends and always will be.’’

In the middle of all this is Montel Harris, now the Eagles’ primary running back, but also Tuggle’s roommate and a close friend of Haden. He said it was a tough time, but his friends were moving on.

Tuggle, he said, “was thinking about it for a while.’’

Asked if Tuggle had a destination in mind, Harris shook his head and said, “He and his dad were still shopping around.’’

One possibility for Tuggle could be Jacksonville State, an FCS school that had already contacted BC about the two.

Haden’s case was more complicated than Tuggle’s.

“A lot of things went into it,’’ said Harris. “I can’t go into the details, but it was more personal than football.’’

Haden was dealing with reduced playing time, a challenging academic schedule that used up lots of his time, and an ankle injury that was going to keep him on the sideline for the next two weeks. All of that, plus the success of his older brother Joe, playing a key role on Florida’s No. 1-ranked team, contributed to Haden’s angst. Late last week, it overflowed and he decided to leave BC.

Harris is having mixed emotions.

“My best friend is off the team and I will get more carries, but I can’t let the team down,’’ he said.

Adding to the drama is the uncertainty behind Harris on the depth chart. Freshman Rolandan Finch has been out all week with a virus.

“He is in the infirmary,’’ said Spaziani. “We’re waiting to get the results of the blood tests. It doesn’t look promising right now.’’

If Finch is out, senior Jeff Smith and senior James McCluskey will find their roles elevated.

“It’s down to James and Smitty,’’ said Spaziani, “and after that we will have to bring someone up from Pawtucket.’’

And the Eagles have reason to be concerned about Central Michigan. Led by fifth-year senior quarterback Dan LeFevour, the Chippewas are 7-1, with a victory over Michigan State on the résumé.

“It’s more of a trap game for them than it is for us,’’ said BC center Matt Tennant with a smile. “They are 7-1, they’re trying to get into the top 25. We’ve got a freshman quarterback, guys are transferring. We’ve got nothing to lose. We can just go out there and play.’’